Customer satisfaction is the name of the diesel repair game, and satisfaction starts with making things easier for the customer. And the absolute gold standard in making their lives easier is to show up where they are instead of making them come to you.
We’ve written at length about mobile repair services and why starting your own mobile repair shop might be a great direction for you to go. If you aren’t entirely sure you want to commit to equipping a service truck, get your foot in the door by offering some basic services like oil and lube. It’s a way to get your foot in the mobile service door and get a taste for the work. If you think a shop is your best bet, you haven’t lost too much. But if you really like what you do, mobile oil can be a springboard into expanding your mobile service.
The Need for Mobile Oil Business
Every truck on the road needs oil and lubrication changes at some point. Drivers and fleet managers are often juggling intensely tight schedules, which means pulling a truck out of service to get it to a shop – and then leaving it there for a day or two – can be a challenge.
Oil changes are a basic PM. Without them, trucks don’t run optimally, and other problems can arise to cause unscheduled downtime in the end. That’s why there’s never been a better time to start a mobile oil business. If you can go to them, you make their operation run all the smoother!
When you’re a mobile oil tech, you service trucks wherever they are and when they’re not in use. Often, mobile oil techs head to a fleet yard after hours and work on one truck after another so they’re ready to go in the morning. It’s ultra-efficient and practically pain-free for the customer.
What Do You Want?
A mobile oil business is just that: a business. It’s a great way to see if you’ve got the aptitude, so to speak, to run your own show.
We’ve put together a few thoughts and scenarios for you to explore before you start.
What do you need before you start?
Obviously you’ll need a vehicle and the appropriate tools. But you’ll need certain permits and certifications to run a mobile oil business. These will depend on your city and state, but in general you can expect to need:
- Environmental permits: You may need to obtain permits or certification to store and/or dispose of the oil you drain.
- Business permits: You’ll be earning income, which means the city, state, and local government will want a cut.
- Insurance: We don’t just mean health insurance. You’ll likely want (or be required to obtain) insurance specifically for your mobile oil business.
- Training: Since you’re on our site and are considering starting a mobile oil business, we’re assuming you’re already a trained heavy-duty technician. If you’re not, you’ll need to get the necessary education to work on big diesel vehicles.
What will your day look like?
Be warned: if mobile oil is your side gig, your days may be somewhat unconventional. You’ll end up scheduling your hours around your full-time job. As far as those hours go, you can work anytime you want. But in general, you can expect to spend some time conferring with customers and scheduling appointments, as well as a good chunk of hours spent driving to their locations.
Regarding driving: you’ll want to determine a radius for yourself. Are you going to service trucks within 50 miles? How about 100? How much do you really want to drive? Will you mostly be on highways, or will you be on city streets?
How will you get clients?
You’ll need a website to start with, and hopefully good word of mouth press from your customers. Once it’s time to expand, though, you’ll have to turn to marketing. There’s a lot to successful marketing, but you can start with this post or this one. We even wrote an ebook geared toward marketing in the heavy-duty industry if you really want to broaden your skill set.
Your Initial Costs vs. Expected Income
A mobile oil operation generally has pretty low overhead. If you already own a physical location, odds are you’ve got all the supplies you need already. If you’re just starting out, though, you may be looking at anywhere between $2,000 and $10,000, according to Entrepreneur. You’ll need a vehicle – a used van will do – and supplies, and then you’re good to go.
Now, think about the market you’re serving. Big rigs can drive over 40,000 miles per year. That’s approximately 15 million of them on the road. All of those trucks need oil changes. How often they need them will depend on where they operate and how old they are, but on average those 15 million trucks should change their oil every 25,000 miles. What you actually charge for each oil change (which, at bare bones, should include the actual oil change itself, a new oil filter, and a new fuel filter) can range from $200 to over $500, depending on what kind of oil you use.
There is plenty of room for you in that market – and plenty of room for you to enjoy a healthy revenue once you get going.
Upgrading Your Services
If you find you’ve got a taste for the mobile oil lifestyle, you can look into offering additional services. Some of these are free, others will boost your revenue. All of these are infinitely useful to your clients, who will be glad (and lucky!) to have you in their corner.
Start With Inspections
Here’s a quick way to earn goodwill from your clients: as you’re performing the oil change, take this time to inspect the truck. You’re already in there, so take some time to look around. If you find anything wrong, create a repair estimate for the fleet manager, who orders the repair for a convenient time when the truck isn’t scheduled for use. That way, the truck gets fixed before failure. That allows PM issue identification and repair before a port inspection, avoiding delivery delay and a dissatisfied customer for your customer.
Offer PM Work
You know we’re huge fans of preventive maintenance. An oil change is part of that – actually, we’d call it a critical part of any PM work. You can start small, offering regular PMs to your steadiest clients. It’s more work for you – thus you’ll need to become a scheduling master – but it’s a great way to grow your business. If you do decide that you want to go the full mobile repair shop route, transitioning from mobile oil only to mobile PMs is a good place to start.
And by the way, if you decide you do want to broaden your services and maybe even track PMs for your customers – boy, have we got the software for you.
The Sky’s The Limit
If you’ve reached the end of this post and are still looking forward to starting a mobile oil business, let us be the first to congratulate you! We love seeing small businesses get off the ground, and we applaud your efforts to take your services to your customers instead of making them come to you.
Good luck going forward – we can’t wait to see how you do!