How to start a car inspection business

Turn your knowledge of cars into a profitable business as a vehicle inspector.

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Do you know your way around a car like the back of your hand? If you enjoy working with vehicles and have some experience as a car mechanic, a car inspection business could be your next move towards financial freedom.

Read on for your step-by-step guide on the essentials of setting up a car inspection business.

What does a car inspector do?

A car inspector examines all kinds of vehicles either before purchase – in the case of second-hand vehicles – at the end of warranty, or after a road accident or mechanical problem to ensure they are safe enough to return to the road.

Essentially, a car inspector is authorised to undertake a thorough examination of the vehicle and issue a certificate of inspection once it's deemed roadworthy.

What skills, knowledge or requirements do I need to start a car inspection business?

As an inspector, you and your team will be regularly checking vehicles to ensure they are roadworthy, so you'll need to know your way around a car. Ideally, you'll have extensive experience or training as a motor mechanic so you can gain the required authorisation to inspect vehicles. A background working with a large range of motor vehicles will increase the services you can offer to customers.

Inspection techniques, understanding vehicle components and supplier specifications, writing reports and completing documentation as well as meeting occupational health and safety requirements are all necessary skills.

To ensure your car inspection business gets off on the right track, you'll want to have a sound business plan in place. Marketing your business effectively will also help you establish a solid brand and reach a broad customer base.

Courses or qualifications to complete

automechanic inspecting a car

Qualifications and certificates

Before you can be authorised to inspect cars, you'll have to meet certain training or experience requirements for each type of vehicle you want to inspect. These requirements will vary state to state, so you'll need to check your state government legislation for the necessary approved examiner qualifications.

Whether you plan to inspect motorcycles, light vehicles or heavy vehicles, in most cases a Certificate III in Automotive Mechanical Technology or a Certificate III in Light Vehicle Mechanical Technology will be required.

Fees for the Certificate III in Light Vehicle Mechanical Technology typically range from around $12,000 to $15,000. You may be eligible for a government subsidy if you are receiving benefits or could undertake the training as part of an apprenticeship.

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    Licences

    First and foremost, you'll need to gain the necessary authorisation to examine and test vehicles for your state. This is required by the Roads and Maritime Service and is known as the Authorised Inspection Scheme (AIS). It's a good idea to get this sorted out first up because heavy penalties apply if you conduct examinations without the authority to do so. Special training in vehicle inspection beforehand is often also necessary to gain your AIS certification.

    As well as your qualification, you may also need to provide evidence of at least 12 months' experience in repairing and maintaining the vehicles you want to get examiner approval for.

    Equipment and software you'll need to get started

    If you plan to run your business as a mobile safety check provider, you'll naturally need a good size vehicle or van to carry all your equipment and easily get from job to job. The tools of the trade will be a key aspect of running your car inspection business successfully.

    There are a range of diagnostic inspection tools you'll need, which you can find in outlets like Supercheap Auto.

    Some of the equipment you might like to add to your toolkit include as follows:

    • Dial gauges
    • Inspection mirrors
    • Feeler gauges
    • OBD2 scanner
    • Inspection camera
    • Infrared thermometer
    • Magnetic telescoping pick up tools
    • Magnetic parts tray
    • Battery and electrical testers
    • Automotive oscilloscope kits
    • GPS-enabled brake test machine for mobile safety.

    When it comes to filling out reports and documentation, there's a range of apps and inspection software available to make your life easier. You can cut out the need for paper with apps such as iAuditor by Safety Culture, which has over 100,000 templates or lets you create your own. This kind of app helps you conduct your inspection all from the palm of your hand with your mobile phone.

    Other apps to consider are Fleetio, which has a free trial and video tutorials, and Australian app VIRA.

    What business structures do I need to consider before starting a car inspection business?

    Your first step in setting up your business as a legitimate entity will be deciding on a business structure. Take some time to think about your long-term vision and whether or not you want to run your venture by yourself or work as a partnership.

    Below are some of the most common business structures that you may choose for your car inspection business:

    • Sole trader. Essentially a one-person business, a sole trader is a good option if you want to manage everything by yourself. It doesn't mean that you have to necessarily work completely alone, as you can hire external contractors or work together with your spouse or partner. However, all responsibility will be yours including any debts and losses.
    • Partnership. If you decide to open your business with a friend or family member, you can register it as a partnership which means you'll both share equal responsibility.

    It's a good idea to start your business on a solid legal footing by getting all your legal documents in order. You may want to seek out some legal advice to help you through this process.

    For a car inspection business, you'll typically want to look into the following essential documents:

    • As mentioned earlier, a car inspection authorisation specific to your state will be essential in most cases.
    • You'll need to make sure you get a national criminal history check issued within the last three months.
    • To ensure you and your customers are protected, you'll need to have public liability insurance.
    • If you're going to take on extra hands in your business, it's a good idea to use employment agreements.

    If you're going to be operating your company as a mobile car inspection business, keep in mind that you'll need to make sure you comply with Fair Trading requirements for operating a mobile workshop in your state.

    Name Product What's offered? Starting price to become a member Annual Fee from Free legal documents available?
    Lawpath
    Legal documents and templates, Access to lawyers, Legal guides, Legal advice
    $79 per month
    Essentials: $288, legal advice: $828
    You can view samples for free and you can create your first document for free.
    Choose an annual plan from just $288 and get unlimited revisions to your legal or business documents. Plus, unlock exclusive partner offers.
    LawDepot
    Legal documents and templates, Legal guides
    $4.99 per month
    $59.88
    Free one week trial available which gives access to hundreds of documents.
    Customise and download legal documents in as little as five minutes. Plus, LawDepot offers peace of mind with two service guarantees.
    Legal123
    Legal documents and templates, Legal guides
    Varies per template
    N/A
    No
    Legal123 offers a range of individual templates or document packages for consultants, app developers, personal trainers and more.
    LegalVision
    Legal documents and templates, Legal guides, Legal advice
    $49 + GST per week
    $2,548 + GST
    No
    Your business can take advantage of unlimited lawyer consultations, fast turnaround times and free legal templates with LegalVision.
    Law Central
    Legal documents and templates, Legal guides
    Free for the Silver membership
    Gold: $99
    You can view samples and create your own document for free with the Silver membership.
    Law Central offers a large number of legal templates for super, trusts, estate planning, employment and commercial uses.
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    How can I build up my customer base?

    To get the ball rolling with your business, you can quickly find customers through online marketplaces such as Airtasker. These are one-stop platforms where you can register your business and pick jobs that suit your schedule. These sites are a straightforward way to get started and can save you on advertising costs while you build a customer base.

    Here are some popular sites to look into:

    • Airtasker. Browse tasks, make an offer and get paid easily through the app. Find a discount code with Airtasker.
    • hipages. A respected platform for tradespeople where you can provide quotes for your services.
    • Oneflare. Register your business and find verified customers every week.

    To ramp your business up to the next level, some other ways of reaching customers include:

    • Setting up a website where people can book and pay for your services.
    • Advertising with signs on your business vehicle.
    • Creating social media profiles and regularly sharing photos, videos and posts.
    • Using paid Google Ads, Facebook ads or print advertising such as magazines and newspapers.
    • Getting some flyers made to place in post boxes and at public venues.

    How much should I charge my customers?

    There are a few different types of car inspections you may offer and your pricing will vary accordingly. Car inspection businesses in Australia typically charge between $130 and $300 for a pre-purchase or end of warranty inspection. You can often charge higher fees for specialist vehicles and those over 10 years old.

    For re-inspections, the fees are often a little lower and range from $117 to $130 according to figures from NRMA.

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    Frequently asked questions

    How long does a car inspection take?

    A standard car inspection usually takes between 60 and 90 minutes to complete.

    Is running a car inspection business profitable?

    It certainly can be, yes. If you market your business well and offer a high-quality service, you're sure to make a profit as you grow your enterprise.

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