How to Set up an Auto Repair Shop

woman working under car hood in auto shop

If you're a motor vehicle enthusiast of any kind, you might wonder how to set up an auto repair shop at some point. But the answer to this question involves lots of different steps, even when you’re setting up a casual shop at home you can use to work on your own hobbies.

Creating an Auto Repair Shop

Starting an auto repair shop at home is a great way to work on vehicles you love in your spare time or maybe even to make a little extra money. Whether you run it as a person whose hobby is mechanics or you want to run it as a business, an auto repair shop is a great addition to any home.

Setting up an auto repair shop does take a lot of steps. But if complete them all, you will have a beautiful shop you can use for all sorts of new projects.

The initial expense in money and time of setting up the shop will be large, but the shop will pay for itself in time thanks to all you will be able to do with it. The many projects you complete here and the hours of enjoyment you spend here are truly priceless.

Too bad the auto shop is not!

man working beneath car

Before You Start Your Auto Shop

Before you begin setting up an auto repair shop, you need to take care of some red tape issues. You will need to obtain permits and get certain permissions before any actual work can start to happen, even when you’re working on your own property.


Think about what you will need to set up an auto repair shop. Do you need an entirely new building or will you convert an old one?

Think about what you'll need in the auto repair shop, the type of equipment you want to have. Will you have the space to hold all of this and do you have the necessary electricity and outlets and lighting you need to work in the space efficiently?

Don't forget to consider plumbing. You might need new piping to be run and new fixtures installed, such as a sink.

You will need some access to water. If there is already a hose bibb (faucet for a hose) nearby, this might suffice, but you should consider adding more convenient plumbing if the budget allows.

Also remember storage space. You will need plenty of it to hold tools, equipment, and everything you're going to need in the shop.

You'll also want to have extra storage spaces and extra room to work. If you're going to pull a motor, for example, you certainly need a place for it!

Consider carefully the size of your space and how much room you need from a practical standpoint to make this space work for your shop.

Permits and Licenses

Many state, county, and city governments have specific laws and ordinances regarding construction projects in residential areas. Before you do any construction work, contact your local permit office and find out what you need to obtain.

You don't want to end up paying fines and playing catchup because you failed to get the necessary permits before your construction.

The permit requirements vary from state to state and city to city, so you need to find out about specific construction permits where you live. You should also check with your local homeowner's association, if present, as this group will have its own restrictions on building and construction.

two men looking at a computer


Wouldn't it be great if you could fund this entire project and get every single thing you want? Buy all the equipment and tools you've dreamed of having?

The reality is, you probably have to work within a certain budget. You need to know exactly how much you can spend and then put together a list of the essentials you have to have for your shop.

That list will probably change a few times after you start to price the items you want to have in your shop and really start thinking about the cost, but it's best to create this budget and get a good idea of what your costs will be so you don't spend much, much more than you can afford to spend.

Building an Auto Shop

What does it take to create a space for an auto shop? There are some construction and infrastructure considerations to think about.


You need room to move and to work in the shop. You will also need room for at least one vehicle and possibly more.

Depending on what kind of work you hope to do in your shop, you will likely need room for a hydraulic lift, as well as all the storage space and working room associated with working on vehicles. You'll also need space for all your equipment.

Plan the design out and be prepared to enlarge spaces as needed, so you don't feel too cramped in your shop.

small garage with car that has its hood open


Don't forget about running water, electricity, and lighting. You will need plenty of this if you're going to have a successful shop.

Infrastructure is incredibly important. You want to make sure you have all of this in place before any other work on the shop is done.


Whatever you do, think about heating and air conditioning. You don't want to freeze or swelter while you're working in your shop.

Add a space heater and a window air conditioner unit, or an entire HVAC system, or find a way to connect the shop to the HVAC system in the house if possible. But consider the environment, because you can't work in dangerous temperature conditions.


If you're working on engines and mechanics, there will be a lot of fumes in your shop. You need windows or doors, preferably both, to allow for ventilation.

Airflow is necessary for your own safety, so do not neglect this.

What You Need for an Auto Shop

Of course, all your work doesn't amount to much unless you have the necessary tools and equipment to have an auto repair shop that is fully functional. Get together the essentials, so you can get a wide range of work done.


In addition to a hydraulic lift, you need to have multiple jack stands on hand. There will be plenty of tasks that require you to hoist a vehicle up but not necessarily on the lift, so keep these around in an accessible spot.

Hand Tools

You need a range of hand tools to complete even basic automobile repairs. You will need wrenches, ratchets, sockets, screwdrivers of various sizes, and a few hammers.

Keep protective gear handy, too. Stock the shop with several pairs of safety glasses and gloves.

hands using tools on car engine

Testing Tools

If you want a truly well-equipped auto shop, you need to have electronic diagnostic tools, a tire pressure gauge, and a cylinder compression tester as well.

The diagnostics machine is a large and expensive purchase, but this will save you a lot of time and in many ways, pay for itself in time.

These testing tools can be costly but they are a needed addition for your shop and will help you diagnose engine problems and treat them very effectively.

Air Pressure Tanks

An air pressure tank will get used a lot in an auto repair shop. This is a large, usually cylindrical container that holds compressed air.

You will need to have this in the shop and you'll need to have the space for it.

Shop Vac

If you get a shop vac right in the beginning, you'll be glad you did. There will be tons of times you end up using this machine.

They don't call it a shop vac for nothing, after all. Keep in mind that shop vacs are somewhat large and you will need yours to remain easily accessible, so consider this when you're looking for a place to store it in the auto shop.

How to Set Up an Auto Repair Shop

Once you have the space prepared and your tools and equipment installed, your auto shop is set up...but not necessarily completely. The secret of how to set up an auto shop is that it will continue to evolve.

As you work on various projects, you will find other items that you need and new ways to store items that you use.

No plan is set in stone. You will continue setting up your auto repair shop and it will continue to change over time.

The evolution of your auto shop is part of the fun of it. Who knows how your shop will change as it evolves to fit the projects you like to work on?

The possibilities are endless once you have your own auto shop, and that’s why this is such a great project to take on. The time and expense you put in will come back to you in big dividends.

auto shop with cars on lifts

Home Auto Repair Shop FAQ

Is a hydraulic lift essential for an auto repair shop?

For some, the cost and size of a hydraulic lift may make it impossible to include this piece of equipment in an auto repair shop. You can get by without one, but you will need several jacks, including at least one transmission jack.

Some projects will be more difficult without the list but nothing is truly off-limits, so you can get by without one in the shop.

Do you need a special license to run a home auto repair shop?

If you plan on performing paid services in your auto repair shop, you will need to obtain a license. You may also have an issue with zoning, depending on the zoning in the area where your shop is set up.

Licensing requirements vary by state and often involve paying fees, filling out applications, and sometimes even obtaining letters of recommendation or submitting financial reports. Be sure to meet all of these requirements and get all the necessary licensing to sell your services from your shop, or you could be facing some hefty fines.

How long does it take to set up an auto repair shop?

How long it takes to get your auto repair shop set up depends on how much construction work needs to be done. Adding new plumbing and electricity can usually be done in a few days, depending on how much work there is to do.

Erecting an entire building, on the other hand, can take several weeks. Performing construction on an existing building can take several weeks, too.

Purchasing and installing equipment also takes a few days, depending on how quickly you can get items transported to the shop. Some large items might even need to be ordered and could take weeks to arrive.

Depending on how much work needs to be done, setting up the shop could take anywhere from a week to several weeks. You may choose to work slowly to make money as you go and add to the shop over time.

How much does it cost to set up an auto repair shop?

Though the cost of setting up a repair shop depends on how much equipment you buy and what you buy, along with how much construction you need to do for the space, you can expect to spend $20,000 or more on this project.

The tools and equipment you need for the shop are expensive, and the work will have to do to prepare the shop to function will also cost you.

Once these expenses are paid and the shop is up and running, however, you can indulge in working with vehicles as much as you like and possibly make some money by doing work for others, too.

Further Reading

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