The windshield repair industry offers many valuable opportunities to entrepreneurs who are detail-oriented and comfortable working with cars. Learning to repair windshields is a relatively easy skill to acquire, meaning that someone who hasn’t ever repaired a windshield before could still go into business quickly. Starting up a windshield repair business of your own is also highly affordable, making it a great opportunity for many entrepreneurs. Read on to see what’s involved with this type of business and to determine if this might be the right opportunity for you.
Windshield repair businesses specialize in repairing (and sometimes replacing) windshields that have been chipped or cracked. Often, these businesses are mobile businesses that will travel to customers, since driving a car with a damaged windshield can make that damage worse. A business’ van is outfitted with everything needed to make repairs in a customer’s driveway or in a parking lot.
While a business can offer strictly repair services, many also cross over into windshield replacement, offering a full-service option in case the damage is too severe to be repaired. Some businesses also offer complementary services, like window tinting, headlight restoration, or auto detailing.
IBIS World reports that the auto windshield repair industry experienced growth from 2013 through 2018. In 2018, the industry brought in $5 billion in revenue. There were 18,612 businesses in operation in 2018, and they employed 44,360 people.
Multiple factors affect the industry’s profitability, and they can affect it in different ways. As per capita disposable income increased during that five-year period, more people were able to buy new cars. With more cars on the road, demand for windshield repair increases, but there’s another side to this trend. As consumers have more disposable income, they may choose to buy vehicles that are brand-new, rather than used. These newer vehicles are now made with laminated glass, which is less likely to break under an impact, resulting in fewer repairs. Though multiple factors are affecting industry demand, IBIS World predicts that revenue for the windshield repair industry will continue to increase.
The windshield repair industry is often affected by the evolving trends when it comes to auto glass manufacturing and use. According to Glass America, windshield repair companies need to be able to keep pace with these trends so that they can still service customers’ new cars. Advanced Driver Assistance Systems have become more popular, and these systems help drives to avoid accidents by alerting drivers or stopping the car when an obstacle is in the path. These systems are usually positioned on windshields, so repair technicians need to understand how to repair or replace windshields in vehicles with this technology.
Smart glass is another current trend. Windshields made of smart glass are more durable and stronger than traditional windshield glass. Windshield repair technicians need to be trained and knowledgeable when replacing smart glass products.
New and evolving technology poses many benefits for drivers, but windshield repair businesses need to constantly stay aware of and receive training in working with these new types of technology. If a business lags behind, it may find that it has to turn away customers who have these newer cars with advanced technology.
Most windshield repair businesses market to vehicle owners who need windshield repair or replacement. In some cases, businesses will also market to commercial vehicle owners. A mobile windshield repair business’ target market includes customers who are busy or who are looking for the convenience of a come-to-you service. Some businesses build relationships with auto insurance providers, so those providers refer their customers to these windshield repair businesses.
Skills, experience, and education useful in running a windshield repair business
While a windshield repair business owner doesn’t need to have a business degree, there are certain skills and experiences that can help to make that business a success.
Automobile knowledge. A general knowledge of automobiles is helpful in this industry. Awareness of current automobile glass technology trends can also help a business owner to keep their training and service offerings up to date.
Experience with glass repair. A business owner who has experience in automobile glass repair will understand the challenges that can come with this job.
Physical strength. Windshield repair technicians need to be physically strong, and they’ll need to be able to repeatedly lift and position windshields by themselves.
Networking talents. A business owner who is a skilled networker will be able to capitalize on relationships with auto insurance companies, local garages, and mechanics, potentially driving customer referrals and building the repair business’ customer base.
Customer service skills. Good phone and customer service skills can help a business owner to make a great first impression. Arriving at appointments on time is also important to building the business’ reputation.
Attention to detail. A business owner needs to do quality work, both for the customer’s safety and for the reputation of the windshield repair business.
Costs to Start a Windshield Repair Business
The startup costs for a windshield repair business are relatively low; often, buying and outfitting a business van are the largest costs. Plan to spend about $20,000 initially to get a business up and running; startup costs will be higher if you plan to also offer windshield replacement and need to stock a wide variety of inventory.
Common startup costs include:
- Van and renovation
- Repair supplies
- Inventory, including replacement windshields
- Branding materials, including a logo, uniforms, and van signage
Steps to Starting a Windshield repair business
Step 1. Write your Business Plan
After coming up with the idea, the next step in starting your business should be to write a business plan. Not only will a bank require you to have a business plan, but multiple studies have shown that a business plan helps increase the odds of starting a successful business.
Step 2. Form a Business Entity
A business entity refers to how a business is legally organized to operate. There are four primary business entities to choose from which include the sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation and LLC. Each type of entity has its own pros and cons such as liability exposure, costs and administrative requirements.
Related: Comparison of Business Entities
Step 3. Select your Location
Most windshield repair businesses are mobile, operating out a van, but if a business expands to the point of hiring multiple technicians and running multiple vans, it may be necessary to rent garage or warehouse space. Rent costs will vary depending on the location and the amount of space needed.
Related: Choosing a business location
Step 4. Apply for Business Licenses and Permits
There are no licenses required specifically for windshield repair businesses, however there are local, state and federal registrations depending on where the business is located such as a sales tax permit, Employer Identification Number, and Occupancy Permit among others.
Step 5. Find Financing
Coming up with a good business idea and having the skills to run it are one thing, but getting the funding to start a windshield repair business is another. Funding to start a windshield repair business can be difficult. In order to get a loan, the borrower(s) will need to have good credit and be able invest 15-25% of their money towards the total start-up costs.
Step 6. Get your Marketing Plan in Place
Ongoing marketing will help a business to expand its customer base, especially since customers in this industry tend to be only occasional returning customers. Marketing techniques may include social media marketing, print advertising, radio advertising, and online advertising. Marketing costs will depend on the type of activity being performed, as well as the volume of the marketing.
Step 7. Get Insurance
A windshield repair business will need to be covered by several types of insurance:
- General liability insurance protects the business if a customer is ever injured by the business’ work.
- Commercial property insurance protects the business against the financial loss it would face if its equipment and inventory were ever destroyed in an event like a fire.
- Workman’s comp insurance helps to cover expenses like medical bills or lost wages that can occur if an employee is ever injured while on the job.
- Commercial auto insurance helps to protect the business from financial loss if a business vehicle is ever involved in an accident.
Many factors affect the costs of these insurance policies, including where the business is located and the value of its vehicle and equipment. To get the best idea of what to budget for insurance costs, request quotes from multiple providers. Then, compare those quotes, paying attention to variables like coverage limits and exclusions, premiums, and deductibles.
Step 8. Hiring Employees
While a business owner may be able to staff their business themselves during its startup years, if that business grows, it may be necessary to hire additional technicians to help keep up with the demand. According to PayScale, auto glass technicians earn an average salary of $49,132 per year. Salaries range from $28,000 for entry-level technicians all the way up to $68,000 for late-career technicians with extensive experience.
In addition to budgeting for salary expenses, the payroll budget also needs to include workers comp insurance, paid time off, and health insurance contributions for employees.
Related: Hiring your first employee
Every state has specific requirements and regulations when starting a business. Select your state below to find the guide to starting a business in your state.
How much can you potentially make owning a windshield repair business?
Windshield repair businesses can be highly profitable. Trinsic Glass states that windshield repairs average about $50 each, and additional repairs to that same windshield can add $10 to $15 onto each appointment. By those figures, a business that makes five repairs each day would earn about $65,000 in income. With an out-of-pocket cost per repair of about $1, most of that would be profit.
Things to consider before starting a windshield repair business
When starting a business, do careful research into any competing businesses that already exist in the area. If you’re in an area with a well-established business that multiple car insurance companies already refer their customers to, it can be difficult to break into the industry locally. You may find yourself having to extend your service area repeatedly to bring in enough customers, which will eat into your profits and time.
If you are competing against existing companies, you’ll need to heavily focus on your marketing. Establishing an active online presence with a website that ranks well in search engines is important. It’s also helpful to build up your online business reviews so that customers who search for your business will instantly see that you do good work and have satisfied customers.
Becoming a direct repair vendor for insurance companies can be lucrative and provide consistent work. Signing up as a vendor will be tedious as finding the contact for each insurance company can be difficult. You can also begin networking with local insurance agents who can help show what the claims process looks like on their end and may be able to help make the connections to become a vendor.
Depending on the climate where you live, your ability to work on vehicles outdoors can be limited in the winter, or during periods of rain, unless customers have access to a garage. In areas where temperatures are very cold in the winter, or where the winters see a lot of precipitation, having your own garage space that customers can travel to can help to keep you working when the weather isn’t cooperating. While customers often love the convenience of a service that will come to them, they may be willing to travel to you if it means that they can get their windshield repaired sooner.