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Mobile Auto Service – The Pros and Cons

Brian England, Mon, Sep 17, 2018

Not too long ago, I was testing a car down Berger Road when I saw a man working under a school bus! He was changing the oil on the street! This got me thinking about mobile vehicle services. Some mobile automotive services are already common, such as mobile detailing and mobile windshield and glass repair; but what about mobile mechanics?

Mobile mechanics have increased in popularity over the last 8-10 years. This trend has likely been influenced by economic necessity stemming from the recession as well as the shift towards customer convenience.

A few companies in Columbia and throughout Howard County offer mobile mechanics. It’s easy to see what attracts people to this service, but how do the pros weigh against the cons?

Let’s take a look.

PROS

1. Price: Mobile mechanics do not have the added overhead of a facility and associated equipment. The resulting lower costs can save customers 20-30%.

2. Convenience: Mobile mechanics come to you at home or at work. This eliminates the need to take time from work, school, or other responsibilities in order to service your car, and can save you a significant amount of money.

3. It makes sense: This mobile option is ideal for certain preventive maintenance jobs that don’t take too long.

CONS

1. Limited access to the larger equipment needed to service vehicles: 

Lifts: Mobile mechanics may not have access to the lifts that allow for inspection of a car’s underside.  This step is very important, so ask if they have a professional quality lift rather than a jack and stands as with the mobile mechanic featured in the photo below. A jack and stands  can be dangerous on uneven surfaces especially on the side of a road.

Mobile Mechanic

Professional grade balancing equipment: This equipment for balancing tires and aligning vehicles cannot travel with the mechanic.

2. Fewer resources: There is no one around to provide help if the mechanic needs a second hand or a second opinion. (Though with smartphones this is not such an issue now.)

3. Lack of more complex tools: Some factory equivalent scan tools cost so much they are out of reach for mobile mechanics.

4. Limitations based on job size: Larger jobs- those that require removing the interior of a car, for example- would be impossible to do in a driveway.

5. Limitations due to weather: Limitations in emergency situations.

6. In general, mobile mechanics are a good option for consumers who are looking for convenient and affordable car servicing rather than repairs.

When searching for a mobile mechanic, remember to:

  • Check for certifications like ASE.
  • Read reviews on Google, Angie’s List, and Consumer Report.
  • Ask for references.
  • Confirm that the parts and labor have a warranty.

 

7 responses to “Mobile Auto Service – The Pros and Cons”

  1. I like how you specified that mobile mechanics might not have a lift in order to properly look at the underside of your car while on the side of the road. I think it would be smarter to only call a mobile mechanic when you have problems with the parts that are under the hood of the car. Otherwise, it would be better to take your car to a normal mechanic so that they have all the right tools to repair it.

    • Brian England says:

      Thanks for commenting. Sounds reasonable David but often it’s not easy to determine in advance if you need to get under the car. Having worked both ways with lifts and jacks and stands I know it’s a lot easier and more efficient with a lift. That being said I was looking at photos of a so called high tech Tesla repair facility and they only had jacks. There was also a comment about not needing lifts?
      Brian

  2. I like how a mobile mechanic can come to you so you don’t have to take your car anywhere. I would love to have a mechanic like this where I live. It would make my life os much easier especially because my car wouldn’t start his morning so I don’t know how I’m going to get it to a mechanic.

  3. Matt says:

    I like out how you outlined the pros and cons. However, I will have to disagree with price. I read this while studying marketing. cheap, good, and fast. This is called the triangle maxim:

    1. Good service fast wiil not be cheap
    2. Fast service cheap will not be good
    3. Cheap service good will not be fast

    I think it is very hard to even achieve two maxim. The mobile mechanic does not have the overhead of a building, but they have the overhead of transportaion (fuel, insurance, and vehicle cost). The clock for the mobile mechanic starts when they get in their vehicle not on the job. The mobile mechanic is not going to be able to get as many jobs as a shop could do in a day. Here is a good example I see this many times. A mobile oil change company charges $49.95 to change oil on a small vehicle. My prices for cost might be slightly higher, but I am just trying to get my point across.The cheapest you can get oil and filter is $12 and misc shop cost is around $3.00. Material cost is around $15.00. You drive a total of 20 miles to get to/from job site. Your vehicle cost is $.50/mile. Your vehicle cost for this job is about $10.00. Total expenses not counting labor is $25. You pay your tech or yourself $15/hour. Your operations is effecient, so it only takes an hour. Your total cost is $40.00.and you net $9.95 profit. A 20% return which is not bad. You can only get to five jobs in a day, so your daily profit total is 5 x 9.95 = $49.95. Making less than $50 bucks in a day is not worth it to me. In my opinion, mobile mechanics should chargemore than a shop.

  4. Ian hart. says:

    I run a mobile mechanic business and I can say that technology has come a very long way. If you have the option to invest in what is knows as quickjack it is ideal for a mobile lift. They have different variations. When it comes to scanners autel is your go to scanner. If you want to service tires you have to invest in a trailer enclosed preferably. If you are smart on your budget it’s very lucrative. I have 2 customers I saved a fortune. One I saved 4000.00 on a transmission due to a major name shop misdiagnosing the vehicle. And just finished a job that would have cost the customer around 1500 to replace his clutch and hydraulic system. And I use a portable lift and get a low profile transmission jack. There are resources out there that can help those starting out. Only major draw back I seem to have is In my area mobile mechanics have a bad reputation in. Ripping people off. So it’s best to make sure you are certified and licensed. And make sure your prices beat out the competition. I do this 2 days a week and I have a full time job. And this is just coming from my experience.

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About Brian England

 

Brian England, the current president of BA Auto Care (formerly British American Auto Care) got his start with an auto apprenticeship in a small town in the northwest of London. He came to the U.S. in 1972 to work for a Land Rover dealer in Rockville, MD, and a few years later, started British American Auto Care with his wife, Jennifer. A big believer in preventive auto maintenance, Brian's philosophy is to encourage and educate drivers on the benefits of adhering to a regular maintenance plan.