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Would you buy a membership to a DIY auto shop?

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#1
Steve Scheifler

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My new shop is slowly shaping up and I still haven’t decided exactly how to use it. Truthfully I’ll be perfectly happy just keeping it as a personal hobby garage I can share with a few friends but part of me would enjoy trying something different. I’m posting about it here first even though few of you live in my area because those who still visit this site are generally the kinds of people I hope to attract, so I value your opinions and input.

At the moment there are four lifts, a frame rack, tire mount & balance machines, scales & string alignment setup, a professional paint booth, a “machine room” with workbenches, grinders, drill press, hydraulic press, cutoff saw, vice, etc., mig & tig welders, various test equipment (electrical, compression, leak-down, Whistler, coolant system, etc.) and more to come. There’s an air conditioned break room with a decent sim racing rig with VR headset and an 86” TV on a stand to watch racing videos, movies etc. and can be rolled out into the shop. Pretty much all that would be available to members 24/7 and obviously things like the lifts and paint booth would need to be reserved with limits on usage if others are wanting them. And there’s a bay dedicated to the chassis dyno which of course would not be DIY for most without paid training/certification. Some demonstration of proficiency may be required on a few things but the general theme is BYOE (Bring Your Own Expert). Some basic consumables and hardware would be available but such stuff would not be a “profit center”.

There are COUNTLESS details to consider and work out but let’s put those aside for the moment and just consider the basic concept. If you are a DIY type or would like to learn and know people who would help you work on your race and/or street cars, would you consider joining such a place? If yes, how much per year would make it tempting? Is there any equipment not mentioned above that would be important? Would there be at least two tiers, one that included some amount of dyno time at a huge discount and one that didn’t?
I’m trying to figure out if there is a sweet spot between annual fee and number of members that would even make sense without over-selling and everyone fighting over the best time slots. Clearly I would need to start small and add members as trends develop, and I’m under no pressure to hit revenue targets or turn a profit, I just don’t want it to cost me more long-term than not doing it.

One more thing, I have space to put up another building that could be long-term rental or “condo” bays which would then include membership to the hobby garage but that’s a year off if it happens.
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#2
Jim Drago

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I think that would be an excellent opportunity for someone. if I was close and doig my own stuff, i would be in. Especially knowing wjat all of that stuff costs

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#3
gerglmuff2

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someone had a DIY autoshop locally here, it closed after 1.5 years. so it didnt turn out to be economical. it was nice, when i lived in apartment. 


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#4
TylerQuance

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I think it's a great idea at first glance, but remember the market... 3 types of people we race with:

-Enough money and no mechanical aptitude who pay for the work
-Loves racing to their financial demise, or they figure out how to offset/manage cost just enough.
-Has money and likes to tinker, or Dad likes to tinker. These kind generally have their own place set up.

I have racing friends near me who my lifts and shop is available to for free or for beer and they prefer to work out of their home garages.

#5
Steve Scheifler

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someone had a DIY autoshop locally here, it closed after 1.5 years. so it didnt turn out to be economical. it was nice, when i lived in apartment.


Yep, awhile back I searched for basic DIY garages around the country, noted rates etc. and spoke to the owners of several. Some were struggling, some were expanding, but ultimately I realized that’s not what I’m interested in particularly given the property I ultimately purchased. What I want is something closer to a club atmosphere with a limited number of vetted members who are trusted with full access to the building. Similar to the old Sauget location except that people with access were full-time renters/occupants or close friends or teammates.
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#6
Steve Scheifler

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I think it's a great idea at first glance, but remember the market... 3 types of people we race with:

-Enough money and no mechanical aptitude who pay for the work
-Loves racing to their financial demise, or they figure out how to offset/manage cost just enough.
-Has money and likes to tinker, or Dad likes to tinker. These kind generally have their own place set up.

I have racing friends near me who my lifts and shop is available to for free or for beer and they prefer to work out of their home garages.


All true, though the third type is probably square in the middle of my target demographic because they don’t typically have a lift, or tire machines and maybe not properly leveled scales and tools used only occasionally. The old shop was 20,000 sf and in the 18+ years I was there a slot never sat unoccupied for more than a month, and the few of us with our own lift had a lot of “friends”. Importantly, I don’t need or want hundreds of members and couldn’t accommodate them. It’s fine that it just doesn’t add up for most people if I can find the right mix of people who see enough value in it. It may be that the solo/autocross folks are a good fit. The burden of loading, transporting and unloading a race car is often enough to persuade a person to just suck it up and do a clutch on jack stands, but most solo guys/gals drive their car to events. And they aren’t in so deep as to have a well equipped home shop.

I don’t know, we’ll see. I don’t have deadlines or pressure of any kind so I can float ideas and try different things, or do nothing at all if there isn’t enough interest. Right now I’m still equipping the place and busy winterizing the building. I’d like to host a couple small events over the winter geared to prospective DIY types wanting to learn basic setup and scaling or data systems, and maybe a tech day early next year.
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#7
Dave D.

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Owning a repair shop that I have let friends use at night/weekends, I'll be the one looking at the downside........

What/how will you deal with the liability insurance? Will a company cover a "non employee" in the facility. You have already been through my worst nightmare with your property being destroyed at the other facility by someone else's incompetence/carelessness.

   in my shop, no one but me uses a welder or torches at all, especially without me there. I cringe at what can happen(to either persons or property) when someone doesn't set a lift correctly, bad things happen to "professional" techs who do it every day. When I have had enough of this biz and look at my exit strategy( been turning wrenches professionally for 34 years), I will sell the building as opposed to renting out to someone else just because I don't want to see the place get damaged by neglect/abuse/carelessness.  



#8
Steve Scheifler

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Owning a repair shop that I have let friends use at night/weekends, I'll be the one looking at the downside........
What/how will you deal with the liability insurance? Will a company cover a "non employee" in the facility. You have already been through my worst nightmare with your property being destroyed at the other facility by someone else's incompetence/carelessness.
in my shop, no one but me uses a welder or torches at all, especially without me there. I cringe at what can happen(to either persons or property) when someone doesn't set a lift correctly, bad things happen to "professional" techs who do it every day. When I have had enough of this biz and look at my exit strategy( been turning wrenches professionally for 34 years), I will sell the building as opposed to renting out to someone else just because I don't want to see the place get damaged by neglect/abuse/carelessness.



Yes, all definitely major considerations. Liability insurance was my first big concern and also a common complaint from the DIY shops I talked to. I had two different brokers working on it between offer and close after finding this place but did get a policy I think I can live with. I can’t see the point owning this place unless I can allow people in and around the dyno and at least close friends to use whatever they want, so realistically I need solid coverage for non-employees to be in the shop and actually working on cars regardless of what more I do with it. As for fire risk, there is no sprinkler system but it’s a steel building with large open spaces, high ceilings and nothing flammable but the contents, and a lot of fire extinguishers. And yes, I will still probably lose some sleep worrying about it.
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#9
mdavis

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I think it's a great idea at first glance, but remember the market... 3 types of people we race with:

-Enough money and no mechanical aptitude who pay for the work
-Loves racing to their financial demise, or they figure out how to offset/manage cost just enough.
-Has money and likes to tinker, or Dad likes to tinker. These kind generally have their own place set up.

I have racing friends near me who my lifts and shop is available to for free or for beer and they prefer to work out of their home garages.

 

Fair assessment of racer types (I'll put myself into category 3). 

 

The shop I have does have extra space which others rent on a co-op basis however the thing that most folks ask about is outdoor storage space for their trailers/cars. 

If I had more of that it'd work out even better for everyone.  Didn't see that as part of your calculous but something to consider.


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#10
Steve Scheifler

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Fair assessment of racer types (I'll put myself into category 3).

The shop I have does have extra space which others rent on a co-op basis however the thing that most folks ask about is outdoor storage space for their trailers/cars.
If I had more of that it'd work out even better for everyone. Didn't see that as part of your calculous but something to consider.


Definitely. It was an important factor for many at the old shop where we were allowed one tow & trailer slot for each bay we rented. My new location is on 2+ acres but the layout is not ideal for both another building and reasonably secure trailer parking out of view from the road.
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#11
Dave D.

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Be careful with regard to storing trailers belonging to others.  If the trailer belongs to someone listed as "employees" or "owners", the insurance may not cover them for theft. I had two of my trailers stolen in one night and my shop insurance was not going to cover personal vehicles or trailers. I had to pressure them with the fact that my LLC owns the building(not under my name) and the trailers were there registered to "Dave D" (as a customer), so they reluctantly covered them. Get that cleared up up front with the company!



#12
nballard76

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This is a great idea.  There are five of us out here in the North Bay Area near Sonoma Raceway that have a similar setup although we only have one lift and no paint booth or frame rack.  It works really well and as a beginner mechanic, it's been wonderful having helpful shopmates who are eager to teach someone like me how to work on the cars.

 

We each pay just under $500 a month, but our warehouse rental rates are extraordinarily high here.

 

This has been one of the best additions to my racing hobby and I would highly recommend it to anyone else who is racing or looking to get into racing.



#13
FTodaro

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Steve i think with the right formula and people it can work. If I did not have my own shop i would be actively looking. I was able to afford my own gig, but i love working on cars so it was right for me to build my own shop, but not everyone has the property or means to do it. Plus, there is the camaraderie factor which may be the most rewarding. Having said that you would want to be pretty selective. If you can make it on your own without renters but are now just looking at your options, you should have the flexibility to make it work for you.


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#14
Martinracing98

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I think it depends on the goal. If you are trying to make a solid business case for putting a shop area together that can make a return on investment that is comparable to other small business, I think it is questionable. If on the other hand you are going to have a shop for yourself and you are wondering if setting it up to share space can you get enough membership to cover that cost and help subsidize the cost of the shop you want anyway. I think you can definitely do that. And I think if things go right it may grow in a true profitable business venture 



#15
Steve Scheifler

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Frank & Todd, in short, this is purely a hobby thing. I bought the shop outright and am equipping it partly with insurance money and the rest out of pocket as I would for my personal use. So there’s zero debt and I’d be satisfied if revenue covers the utilities and insurance, property taxes would be gravy. Likewise if I add a building for long-term renters except that I’d like it to cover the tax increase since it is not something I need for my own use. I’m perfectly content treating the real estate as an investment even though it may not be a wise one on paper because I fully expect it to be part of my estate when I die. That gives me a lot of freedom but of course I’d like to do it well the first time so I’m spending awhile kicking it around. If it looks like it will be more work than fun I’ll just leave things as-is and enjoy the place with some friends.
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#16
Mitch Reading

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Not needing to be "profitable" is major as is the no debt... just depends how much you're willing to put up with the BS and noise of others to promote the camaraderie.   The amount of equipment you have is more than many 'for profit shops.'  Impressive.  If I were in your shoes I'd simply invite my buddies that I knew wouldn't have issue (and understand) supporting the habit $$ wise.  

 

Geography makes this a no go for me, but if not I'd be all over something like this... all about the storage for me, personally.  The hanging with others/bench racing purely a bonus.  

 

I'm in the late 30s demographic where I can justify a few extra $$ if it helps me solve the 'lack of time' obstacle.  


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#17
FTodaro

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Frank & Todd, in short, this is purely a hobby thing. I bought the shop outright and am equipping it partly with insurance money and the rest out of pocket as I would for my personal use. So there’s zero debt and I’d be satisfied if revenue covers the utilities and insurance, property taxes would be gravy. Likewise if I add a building for long-term renters except that I’d like it to cover the tax increase since it is not something I need for my own use. I’m perfectly content treating the real estate as an investment even though it may not be a wise one on paper because I fully expect it to be part of my estate when I die. That gives me a lot of freedom but of course I’d like to do it well the first time so I’m spending awhile kicking it around. If it looks like it will be more work than fun I’ll just leave things as-is and enjoy the place with some friends.

Let me just add one more data point for you. If your investing in property, I think its hard to go wrong long term. In 2010 I built a detached garage 2.5 bays. Its where my spec miata magic happens. I have a 4 post lift, tools welder, tire machine balance parts cleaner. have fabricated cars and rebuilt many trans and do my alignments. It has paid for itself many times over and what it cost me to build in back then. 

Two years ago, I bought a car condo in a community that is all a bunch of guys with toys. I Park my enclosed trailer and motorhome there.  When i bought it new two years ago the cost was 90.00 a sq ft. They are sold out now and there is a long wait list to get in. They are selling for 160 a sq ft. With inflation, the lack of labor and cost of materials what it is today, i will never lose money on the condo. My point, I would not hesitate especially with the boomers retiring and looking for some place to park and play with toys. IMO.


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