If you are thinking of starting a service that would provide affordable car repair to low income people in your area, there are many things to consider.

First

You will want to do a needs assessment. Are there any similar programs in your community already? How readily available is public transit? Are there car donation programs that may be willing to expand and include a repair program?

Who else can you bring on your team? Mechanics/shops? Local automotive schools? Social Service agencies? Government officials? Members of the business community? This is a big undertaking and you should bring together a diverse and committed team of people that have a variety of skills.

Second

Once you have decided to move forward there are many other things to decide:

  • Do you want to be a 501c3? Or do you want to operate under an existing 501c3 (such as a social service agency, a church, school, etc.)
    • If you want to be a 501c3 you will likely need to raise money first because even applying for that status costs several hundred dollars. Thus you may want to look at finding a fiscal agent to be your money holder until you have your own legal status.
    • To apply for 501c3 you will need to have a Board of Directors, by-laws, conflict of interest policies and many other things in place. You may wish to seek assistance for a local law school for help with completing the application.
  • Do you want to be a regular for-profit business that uses some of its business time to help low income people or to give all of your profits back to the work of providing low cost car repair?
    • There are many business models out there that do things like this. They are often listed as social entrepreneurships or socially conscious businesses. An example of this is Finnegan’s beer: finnegans.org
  • Perhaps you want to partner with a city/county repair facility to use their space and volunteers in the evenings?
  • Where will you get start-up funding?

Third

Next phase considerations include:

  • Space: will you rent or buy repair space? Will anyone donate space to you?
  • Insurance: worker’s comp, liability and unemployment insurance are all things to consider.
  • Volunteers or staff?
  • Equipment: lifts, hand tools (such as sockets and wrenches), shop tools such as an air compressor, torch, spring compressor and much more
  • What will you charge?
  • Who will do your bookkeeping?
  • What will your requirements be for people to qualify for your services?
  • Will you do all types of repairs or only brakes? Or brakes and suspension?
  • Hours/days of the week will you be open?
  • What permits will you need (business license, hazardous waste permits, fire inspections)
  • Long term fundraising and grant writing plan?

That’s a good start!

There are many, many other considerations but these are some questions and thoughts to help move you forward to the next phase.

If you have read through this page and still have more questions, send an email to Cathy with your specific questions at cathy@theliftgarage.org.