Rocky 72

Restoring cars for a living

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Hey guys ,

 Wanted to know if any of you buy and restore cars for yourself and then sell as a business ?  I really don't want to deal with the customers and around here I doubt you would find many because the economy is so bad

The reason I'm asking is I'm a trim carpenter here in Pa. and the last couple of years work has gone from bad to worse , now the company I sub off of wants me to do concrete all the time and I said no , I'll be 54 in just a few weeks .  Most construction companies around here want you to supply your truck , tools , fuel for a whole $12 an hour so that's out .

 I have been messing with cars since I was 15 and have built some nice cars and really enjoy it , I have a lot of the tools I need already and plenty of garage space so I'm already set up and I do all my own work from top to bottom .

 So can you make any money doing the cars this way ? I'm not looking to get rich just make a living.

Thanks  

Edited by Rocky 72 (see edit history)

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Several collectors I know flip cars to fund their projects.  But the $$ comes intermittently and is typically not enough to make a living on your own.  I suggest you look for a guild or established restoration shop to work for...

 

 

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Restoring a whole car will take too long for a one man operation.  And if that first car does not sell, and you are forced to sell at a loss, just to buy food?

 

The cars we had good luck in flipping 10 years ago, are not hot sellers now, Those buyers are older and downsizing, or also hurt by the economy too.

 

Things have changed so much in all businesses and hobbies over the last decade, that you can't foresee how bad it will be in even the near future.

 

At your age and where you live, I'd say you need to do all sorts of things, rather than just buy one car and restore it. 

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It depends on what you expect for a wage and the level you will perform at. The upside is that you are selling a car as-is and without any expectations placed on you by the customer during the build.

 

Will you have the funds to purchase the car and do the work to a level that will sell for enough of a profit to satisfy you?

Do you have the place, tools and most importantly, the skills to do this?

 

What are the laws in your area regarding this type of business? I know a guy in Canada who does this but without the required certifications. If anything goes wrong, he will be held responsible personally. He already had to buy back a car he restored due to some safety issues and not having the proper certifications and the owner was an attorney so that was not a help to him.

 

Lots to ask and anticipate. It can be done, but is the downside a deal breaker? 

 

I can say that the only way to make money restoring a car is to restore other people's cars but then you have to deal with .... (drum roll) people! I just spent $4000+ on an attorney to force a crap customer to take their car back mid-restoration and lost 10 years of storage fees in the process. I took on the job 13 years ago and stopped and started the job many times by customer request. Now he is at end of life and his wife who had NOTHING to do with the job (was never there, never asked a single question) demanded that I complete the job for the same price I quoted 13 years ago. Not happening for m,any reasons! These are the things to consider and I'm sure more from other readers in this forum.

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If you are doing speculation cars that are easy to sell, unfortunately they will have to be painted red with a small block Chevy engine.

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Thanks for the replies guys . As far building cars here no problem as far as laws go , as is cars are just that . I find some good deals on projects around here because people run out of money so I think I could make a profit on these cars . Its a big decision with little choices . I'm finishing a 60 t bird now so this maybe the deal breaker .  

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11 hours ago, Rocky 72 said:

Hey guys ,

 Wanted to know if any of you buy and restore cars for yourself and then sell as a business ?  I really don't want to deal with the customers and around here I doubt you would find many because the economy is so bad

The reason I'm asking is I'm a trim carpenter here in Pa. and the last couple of years work has gone from bad to worse , now the company I sub off of wants me to do concrete all the time and I said no , I'll be 54 in just a few weeks .  Most construction companies around here want you to supply your truck , tools , fuel for a whole $12 an hour so that's out .

 I have been messing with cars since I was 15 and have built some nice cars and really enjoy it , I have a lot of the tools I need already and plenty of garage space so I'm already set up and I do all my own work from top to bottom .

 So can you make any money doing the cars this way ? I'm not looking to get rich just make a living.

Thanks  

If you want to make more money than cars for less turn around time your best bet is home and commercial renovation. Buying fixing and selling. You will also need a good sense of market strategy /  timing,  plus location location location. 

Edited by helfen (see edit history)

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The problem around here as far renovation works goes is every time a company goes out of business 90% of the guys turn into carpenters . They will work for $8 to $10 an hour under the table plus their unemployment check and you just can't compete . As far as flipping houses there are so many empty houses here it's unreal , nobody wants to move here cause there are no jobs . In the last I'll say 6 months in the county I live in about 4000 mining and related mining jobs were lost . Remodeling used to be a good business (I've been doing it for 36+ years) but no more .

 

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Sold my body shop doing mostly insurance work. Have always had hotrods for when work got slow, but work never really got slow and today body guys hate them, and would good home. So i have started doing the hotrods at the house. It basically turns in to a part time job.  The wife has hunny dues. So you have to be discipline with you time. There alway stuff to do at the house. That is really hard to do. So kiss her good bye and go to work and don't go back in the house till lunch etc. I'm not tied to a business 6 days a week for the first time in 30 yrs which is great. The funny thing is the owners want to HELP!!! Free labor and I charge them the same price, and they get to realize why body work cost so much, but if done right will last for 20 yrs. my customers always keep there cars inside and l preach don't get them wet, and I'll stand behind them. I want my car products to look good at car shows. And that's is always small touch up stuff which is easy to do. To make real money I'd find a couple of high school kids that love hotrods and train them. All my cars get stripped and blasted to bare metal. It's just labor intensive so get a kid or the customer the car to do that, in my case. I do the technical stuff and it works for me. All I do are rolling chassis. Most of my customers do there own motor etc. So many ways to build a car, only one way to do bodywork....that being said there are a bunch of old cars that can't find a bodyshops in my area of Texas. So the work is there. If I'm the only one doing the work I have work right know for about a year maybe 6 cars. But if you had help thats 4 months of work. 

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If you are going to flip them it helps to have a line of credit, but you still need cash flow, thus the customer, can't put all your eggs in one basket

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I hear you on the honey do list  my house and yard have never looked so good  , it makes the little women happy and that's always good.

 I do build hot rods but around here most guys build there own cars because they can't or won't pay anyone . About 4 or 5 years  ago when carpentry was good I turned down more cars to build than I can count because I couldn't do both , maybe I should have build the cars .

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 I have to give you guys an example of how things work up here , A few years back I had a guy call and wanted a 57 Chevy done was a really nice car and solid , he asked me what I'd charge per hour to restore the car I think I told him $20 an hour plus materials just for extra money , but he said that was to much and got the car done for something like $12 an hour . 

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1 hour ago, Mark Shaw said:

Several collectors I know flip cars to fund their projects.  But the $$ comes intermittently and is typically not enough to make a living on your own.  I suggest you look for a guild or established restoration shop to work for...

 

I think Mark is right, the money is probably too unpredictable compared to a regular shop where you get a check every week (if there is one available).  You mentioned the economics of the unemployment check plus cash under the table, that seems like it would be the cash flow here too, plus you would also have immediate cash outlay for parts and supplies needed to perform the work.  And doing full restorations would be out of the question, you could only do quick flips and an old car is a non-essential luxury in a soft economy unless you have an active target market nearby (although old car ads reach farther than they used to), good luck, Todd C

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23 minutes ago, Rocky 72 said:

 I have to give you guys an example of how things work up here , A few years back I had a guy call and wanted a 57 Chevy done was a really nice car and solid , he asked me what I'd charge per hour to restore the car I think I told him $20 an hour plus materials just for extra money , but he said that was to much and got the car done for something like $12 an hour . 

 

I don't think I'd want to drive a car that was restored for $12/hour.

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I hear you , I never saw the car buy they said it turned out nice but who knows what they consider nice.

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55 minutes ago, Fuzzybear said:

Sold my body shop doing mostly insurance work. Have always had hotrods for when work got slow, but work never really got slow and today body guys hate them, and would good home. So i have started doing the hotrods at the house. It basically turns in to a part time job.  The wife has hunny dues. So you have to be discipline with you time. There alway stuff to do at the house. That is really hard to do. So kiss her good bye and go to work and don't go back in the house till lunch etc. I'm not tied to a business 6 days a week for the first time in 30 yrs which is great. The funny thing is the owners want to HELP!!! Free labor and I charge them the same price, and they get to realize why body work cost so much, but if done right will last for 20 yrs. my customers always keep there cars inside and l preach don't get them wet, and I'll stand behind them. I want my car products to look good at car shows. And that's is always small touch up stuff which is easy to do. To make real money I'd find a couple of high school kids that love hotrods and train them. All my cars get stripped and blasted to bare metal. It's just labor intensive so get a kid or the customer the car to do that, in my case. I do the technical stuff and it works for me. All I do are rolling chassis. Most of my customers do there own motor etc. So many ways to build a car, only one way to do bodywork....that being said there are a bunch of old cars that can't find a bodyshops in my area of Texas. So the work is there. If I'm the only one doing the work I have work right know for about a year maybe 6 cars. But if you had help thats 4 months of work. 

 

 

When I retired in 97 I got busy doing what I like in building hot rods.

I am now turning work away daily. When I do take a job I charge $50.00 an hour and I could work as much as I want to.

I just don't want to.

I do take a lot of pride in my builds and I must do pretty good work as I could go into business easily.

When I do take a job I keep track of time down to the minute and make notes of what I did in that time.

Clock in and clock out so to speak. Billable hours add up pretty quick.

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If you are buying and selling cars check on the local laws .

Here if you sell more than 2 cars a year you need a dealers license and all the restritions that go along with it.

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Federal EPA regulations now make it illegal to paint cars or parts for profit except in an approved paint booth. And they will find you, likely when your neighbor rats on you or when they audit your paint supplier's records. What part of PA are you in?

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As a carpenter to a carpenter, I would stick with the trade. If you are skilled at other forms of carpentry try branching out. A good, reliable honest tradesman is always in demand. I live in one of the most depressed areas in the state and my son, who has his own construction business, is going great guns and only having been in business for 4 years! I also have my own remodeling business and we both make a fair hourly wage and get most of the jobs we bid, but there is always someone out their who claims they will do it cheaper! The antique car business is saddled with a lot of problems today I.E high parts and car prices, too many laws concerning paint and chemicals and a failing market. I know several restorers who have been in business for many years and are well respected in the industry who would probably chuck it all if they had the chance!

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I see your from j town  I'm surprised that you guys have much work at all but good for you  . I did a lot of work down that way years ago mostly for lawyers in the mid 80's .

I still get calls to do remodeling so maybe I'll just do cars on the side . 

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2 hours ago, 28 Chrysler said:

If you are buying and selling cars check on the local laws .

Here if you sell more than 2 cars a year you need a dealers license and all the restrictions that go along with it.

 

That is if you title them in your name. I leave it as an "open title" so who has title in hand, owns the car. 

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2 hours ago, jpage said:

As a carpenter to a carpenter, I would stick with the trade. If you are skilled at other forms of carpentry try branching out. A good, reliable honest tradesman is always in demand. 

 

I agree with jpage, I am a retired electrician, I pretty much never liked it and would have much rather done something else to make a living. I was good at it and I was lucky I made a very good living, my wife never had to work and she always had a new car every 4 years.  Problem is as I am sure you know with a trade is sometimes we have to follow the work and travel to it. At 54 it is hard to reinvent yourself. With all of your years in the trade maybe start looking for a supervisors job with one of the GC's you have worked for. I remember when I was in my mid-thirties a good friend of mine and fellow electrician told me when you get to be 50 it is a lot easier to tell someone else to do the job then it is to tell your own body to do the job. I always did work on cars on the side to offset my hobby costs, but as a full time job we would have starved to death. A hobby is fun, when it becomes a job, then it is work! and we all know what work is. I thought about doing the same 

I would advise you to dabble on the side and stay within your trade. I know concrete carpenters have it tough and that is a young mans end of the trade, right next to sheet rock and roof's  

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Might consider a slower start. I found a shop that does work on old cars only (not sure what his cut off is but would guess 70s). He advertises that he does not do high end show restorations just good drivers. He does everything from jobs the owner doesn't want to do (he just did king pins on my Ford F1) to fairly complete restorations. Seems to do a lot of jobs that are a day or two and stays as busy as he wants to. It is his retirement job and it allows him to justify a nice shop with a paint booth, lift and other expensive extras. He said he farms out full engine rebuilds and automatic transmissions, but most of the rest he will do in shop. You can furnish the part or he will charge his cost on the parts he supplies. He charges $35/hour.

 

Several people in our local region uses him and he mostly gets jobs by word of mouth.

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I used to specialize in finish Carpentry,  I also did Docks and Decks , basically whatever came along.  Scratch built a Kitchen for one customer.  I got sick of the constant crunch and bidding on jobs I didn't get because I was higher than the cheapest guy (it always showed when the job was done why) Most people go with strictly price. When things got slow I stripped a car and sold it piece by piece on ebay.  (it was the right car at the right time)  I also straightened and polished all the stainless, blasted all the raw metal parts and polished/ cleaned the death out of every part I sold and made good money on it.  

Since then it has been a real rollercoaster and finding new inventory is getting tough.  You can't pay retail for wholesale lots.   You also end up with alot of junk that's hard to throw out.   It would be nice to do as a side business but 12-15 items a night 7 days a week starts getting old especially when the sales really start tanking like lately.  

I probably could have made more in Carpentry but I do like not being in the carpentry crunch and trying to outbid the cheapest guy so you will lose your shirt.  

If nothing else I would try a little blend of the two if possible.  That's what I did for a while until i totally transitioned to selling parts.

Maybe the same with restoration/ building will work for you.  

If you have really good skills at diagnosing problems that's a good route to go.  Alot of guys buy and build cars but never get them right.  A guy who can fix those problems, usually 1 - 2 day jobs will probably get a good following fast. Most modern repair facilities don't want anything to do with old cars.  If it doesn't have an OBD port they walk away. Especially the younger generation that has no knowledge of how to fix an old car but wants to own one. 

 

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