Start a mobile oil change by following these 10 steps:
You have found the perfect business idea, and now you are ready to take the next step. There is more to starting a business than just registering it with the state. We have put together this simple guide to starting your mobile oil change. These steps will ensure that your new business is well planned out, registered properly and legally compliant.
Check out our How to Start a Business page.
STEP 1: Plan your business
A clear plan is essential for success as an entrepreneur. It will help you map out the specifics of your business and discover some unknowns. A few important topics to consider are:
- What are the startup and ongoing costs?
- Who is your target market?
- How much can you charge customers?
- What will you name your business?
Luckily we have done a lot of this research for you.
What are the costs involved in opening a mobile oil change?
The startup costs to open a mobile oil change business are fairly low because these businesses don’t have a brick-and-mortar location. It’s possible to open a business with between $2,000 and $10,000. This capital goes towards:
- Oil and other fluids (e.g. windshield washer fluid, antifreeze, etc.)
- Oil filters and other parts (e.g. lug nuts, air filters, etc.)
- A vehicle (a van, or a truck and trailer)
- An oil-dispensing system (hoses and pumps)
Business owners that are on a limited budget can reduce their vehicle expenses by purchasing a used van. They also can forgo the oil-dispensing system, instead manually opening bottles of oil and pouring them. Finally, business owners can limit their oil, fluid and filter expenses by purchasing the supplies they’ll need each morning before they begin driving to customers’ sites.
What are the ongoing expenses for a mobile oil change?
The ongoing expenses for a mobile oil change business aren’t outrageous, but they also can’t be ignored. Fuel, vehicle maintenance, oil and parts must all be paid for.
Who is the target market?
The target market for a mobile oil change business is both private and commercial automobile owners. Rental car companies and fleet owners are especially lucrative customers, for working on their cars reduces how much time is spent traveling between locations.
How does a mobile oil change make money?
A mobile oil change business makes money by charging customers for changing the oil in their vehicles. Most oil changes also include a few basic other services (e.g. topping off fluids, inspecting brakes, etc.).
How much can you charge customers?
Most oil changes cost between $20 and $55, depending on where they’re done. Mobile businesses can charge on the higher end of this range because of the convenience they provide. Business owners might, however, want to offer a slightly lower price (e.g. in the middle of the range) when multiple vehicles need oil changes.
It’s common for businesses in the industry to offer additional basic services that increase the total cost of an appointment. Some such services include brake repairs, fluid top-offs and air filter replacements.
How much profit can a mobile oil change make?
A fully booked oil change business can earn an annual profit of six figures. For example, assume a business does two oil changes per hour and charges $50 per oil change. Working 40 hours a week, 50 weeks a year the business would bring in a revenue of $200,000. Not all of that is profit, but a lot of it is because there’s no building to maintain.
How can you make your business more profitable?
There are multiple ways a mobile oil change business may increase its profitability. Businesses can get into basic auto repairs, heavy equipment oil changes or farm equipment oil changes. It’s often cheaper for construction companies and farmers to pay a mobile service that will come to them than to drive large equipment to a garage.
Some businesses also earn a profit by receiving referral fees for recommending local auto repair shops to customers who need more significant work done on their vehicles.
What will you name your business?
Choosing the right name is important and challenging. If you don’t already have a name in mind, visit our How to Name a Business guide or get help brainstorming a name with our Mobile Oil Change Name Generator
When registering a business name, we recommend researching your business name by checking:
- Your state's business records
- Federal and state trademark records
- Social media platforms
- Web domain availability.
It's very important to secure your domain name before someone else does.
STEP 2: Form a legal entity
Establishing a legal business entity such as an LLC or corporation protects you from being held personally liable if your mobile oil change is sued.
Form Your LLC
Read our Guide to Form Your Own LLC
Recommended: You will need to elect a registered agent for your LLC. LLC formation packages usually include a free year of registered agent services. You can choose to hire a registered agent or act as your own.
STEP 3: Register for taxes
You will need to register for a variety of state and federal taxes before you can open for business.
In order to register for taxes you will need to apply for an EIN. It's really easy and free!
You can acquire your EIN for free through the IRS website, via fax, or by mail. If you would like to learn more about EINs and how they can benefit your LLC, read our article, What is an EIN?.
Small Business Taxes
Depending on which business structure you choose, you might have different options for how your business will be taxed. For example, some LLCs could benefit from being taxed as an S corporation (S corp).
You can learn more about small business taxes in these guides:
There are specific state taxes that might apply to your business. Learn more about state sales tax and franchise taxes in our state sales tax guides.
STEP 4: Open a business bank account & credit card
Using dedicated business banking and credit accounts is essential for personal asset protection.
When your personal and business accounts are mixed, your personal assets (your home, car, and other valuables) are at risk in the event your business is sued. In business law, this is referred to as piercing your corporate veil.
Additionally, learning how to build business credit can help you get credit cards and other financing in your business's name (instead of yours), better interest rates, higher lines of credit, and more.
Open a business bank account
- This separates your personal assets from your company's assets, which is necessary for personal asset protection.
- It also makes accounting and tax filing easier.
Recommended: Read our Best Banks for Small Business review to find the best national bank, credit union, business-loan friendly banks, one with many brick-and-mortar locations, and more.
Open net-30 accounts
When it comes to establishing your business credit, net-30 vendors are considered the way to go. The term "net-30," which is popular among vendors, refers to a business credit arrangement where the company pays the vendor within 30 days of receiving goods or services.
Net-30 credit terms are often used for businesses that need to obtain inventory quickly but do not have the cash on hand.
Besides establishing business relationships with vendors, net-30 credit accounts get reported to the major business credit bureaus (Dun & Bradstreet, Experian Business, and Equifax Business Credit). This is how businesses build business credit so they can qualify for credit cards and other lines of credit.
Recommended: Read our guide on the best net-30 vendors so you can start building business credit now, so you never have to worry about cash flow in the future. Keep in mind that poor cash flow is the #1 reason businesses fail!
Get a business credit card
- This helps you separate personal and business expenses by putting your business' expenses all in one place.
- It also builds your company's credit history, which can be useful to raise money and investment later on.
STEP 5: Set up business accounting
Recording your various expenses and sources of income is critical to understanding the financial performance of your business. Keeping accurate and detailed accounts also greatly simplifies your annual tax filing.
STEP 6: Obtain necessary permits and licenses
Failure to acquire necessary permits and licenses can result in hefty fines, or even cause your business to be shut down.
State & Local Business Licensing Requirements
Certain state permits and licenses may be needed to operate an oil change business. Learn more about licensing requirements in your state by visiting SBA’s reference to state licenses and permits.
Most businesses are required to collect sales tax on the goods or services they provide. To learn more about how sales tax will affect your business, read our article, Sales Tax for Small Businesses.
For information about local licenses and permits:
- Check with your town, city or county clerk’s office
- Get assistance from one of the local associations listed in US Small Business Associations directory of local business resources.
To avoid liability and potential lawsuits, oil change businesses should have their clients sign waivers.
STEP 7: Get business insurance
Just as with licenses and permits, your business needs insurance in order to operate safely and lawfully. Business Insurance protects your company’s financial wellbeing in the event of a covered loss.
There are several types of insurance policies created for different types of businesses with different risks. If you’re unsure of the types of risks that your business may face, begin with General Liability Insurance. This is the most common coverage that small businesses need, so it’s a great place to start for your business.
Learn more about General Liability Insurance.
Another notable insurance policy that many businesses need is Workers’ Compensation Insurance. If your business will have employees, it’s a good chance that your state will require you to carry Workers' Compensation Coverage.
STEP 8: Define your brand
Your brand is what your company stands for, as well as how your business is perceived by the public. A strong brand will help your business stand out from competitors.
If you aren't feeling confident about designing your small business logo, then check out our Design Guides for Beginners, we'll give you helpful tips and advice for creating the best unique logo for your business.
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How to promote & market a mobile oil change
The two most effective ways to market a mobile oil change business are by including a sign on the business’ vehicle and cold calling. Just one successful call to a corporation that has many vehicles or employees (who have their own vehicles) can a sizable amount of repeat business.
How to keep customers coming back
Mobile oil change businesses set themselves apart from quick lube places by offering unsurpassed convenience. To keep customers coming back for oil changes, the level of service and the convenience provided must not be compromised.
STEP 9: Create your business website
After defining your brand and creating your logo the next step is to create a website for your business.
While creating a website is an essential step, some may fear that it’s out of their reach because they don’t have any website-building experience. While this may have been a reasonable fear back in 2015, web technology has seen huge advancements in the past few years that makes the lives of small business owners much simpler.
Here are the main reasons why you shouldn’t delay building your website:
- All legitimate businesses have websites - full stop. The size or industry of your business does not matter when it comes to getting your business online.
- Social media accounts like Facebook pages or LinkedIn business profiles are not a replacement for a business website that you own.
- Website builder tools like the GoDaddy Website Builder have made creating a basic website extremely simple. You don’t need to hire a web developer or designer to create a website that you can be proud of.
Using our website building guides, the process will be simple and painless and shouldn’t take you any longer than 2-3 hours to complete.
STEP 10: Set up your business phone system
Getting a phone set up for your business is one of the best ways to help keep your personal life and business life separate and private. That’s not the only benefit; it also helps you make your business more automated, gives your business legitimacy, and makes it easier for potential customers to find and contact you.
There are many services available to entrepreneurs who want to set up a business phone system. We’ve reviewed the top companies and rated them based on price, features, and ease of use.
Recommended: Find the best phone system for your business; check out our review of the Best Business Phone Systems 2021.
Start A Mobile Oil Change In Your State
Select your state below for an in-depth guide on completing each of these steps in your home state.
Is this Business Right For You?
Anyone who is passionate about cars and enjoys working with their hands may enjoy spending their days working on customers’ cars. It also helps to have people skills, for business owners regularly talk with customers about the condition of their vehicles.
This is a business that people can start part-time, while working another job. Appointments can be scheduled during evenings and weekends, or whenever not working at the other occupation.
Want to know if you are cut out to be an entrepreneur?
Take our Entrepreneurship Quiz to find out!
What happens during a typical day at a mobile oil change?
A typical day at a mobile oil change business consists of:
- Scheduling appointments
- Driving to customers’ locations
- Changing the oil on customers’ vehicles
- Performing other automotive services
When not engaged in these activities, business owners place orders and restock supplies.
What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful mobile oil change?
Mobile oil change business owners must possess a knowledge of how cars work. They at least need to know how to change the oil in different vehicles, and having a more robust automotive knowledge is beneficial.
Business owners who don’t have experience working on cars may want to enroll in an automotive course at their local community college or vocational school. Online courses, such as those offered by Ashworth College and Bergwall, can also be helpful.
Alternatively, business owners can work in the industry prior to opening their own business. Many mechanics have primarily on-the-job training, although these mechanics normally don’t have any certifications to demonstrate their expertise.
What is the growth potential for a mobile oil change?
A mobile oil change business can remain a small operation with just one or two people. Or, it can grow to become a large company that offers services in multiple geographic areas.
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Take the Next Step
Find a business mentor
One of the greatest resources an entrepreneur can have is quality mentorship. As you start planning your business, connect with a free business resource near you to get the help you need.
Having a support network in place to turn to during tough times is a major factor of success for new business owners.
Resources to Help Women in Business
There are many resources out there specifically for women entrepreneurs. We’ve gathered necessary and useful information to help you succeed both professionally and personally:
If you’re a woman looking for some guidance in entrepreneurship, check out this great new series Women in Business created by the women of our partner Startup Savant.
What are some insider tips for jump starting a mobile oil change?
Customers who use a mobile oil change business do so for the convenience. They don’t want to be kept waiting for appointments, so it’s important to show up on time.
Business owners should avoid over-booking themselves. While it’s tempting to fill a day full of appointments, this can make owners run behind schedule and aggravate customers. For a new business, upset customers can devastate growth.
How and when to build a team
While it’s possible to run a mobile oil change business with just one person, hiring an employee from the outset can help the business grow. An employee can schedule appointments while the owner focuses on servicing cars. When not scheduling appointments, the employee can help with oil changes to speed them up.