Rocky 72

Restoring cars for a living

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There is an old saying, "If you want to make a little money restoring cars, start out with a lot of money". I don't know where you live, but  in NY, there are so many restrictions, regulations, EPA laws, insurance costs and even the cost of supplies it's almost impossible to make any money.

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I may try to do both for awhile and see how it turns out , I'm sick of the carpenter business and bidding low and the alternative is traveling for work and I'm not into that anymore . Thanks for the replies it gives me something to think about.

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I would NEVER suggest a new shop/person take on a COMPLETE restoration, including paint work.

 

All the BIG boys started out very small, LEARNED as they FAILED, worked their way up so to speak.

 

I have a friend that never takes on a job that he can't finish in a week,  YES, he turns down business, but he doesn't get worn out on a long process.

 

He does ONE at a time, this way the customer KNOWS that he isn't jumping from one job to another, his customers love his work, and his ability to deliver.

 

Nothing makes a customer more happy than his shop delivering on his commitments, and details in writing what he has accomplished.  He Email them daily as to what he accomplished, and the charges, there are NO surprises, customers HATE surprises.  It's called COMMUNICATE. yes, communicate!

 

If you have a good day job, KEEP it, work your way into a business, SLOWLY.......be truthful, if you have doubts on your ability to perform, tell them, NO BLUFFING.  Don't be a KNOW-IT-ALL, no one knows it ALL!

 

Dale in Indy

Edited by smithbrother (see edit history)

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I think Jay Leno once said something to the effect of "old car restorers are the one group of people who take billionaires and make them into millionaires."    He obviously said this tongue in cheek, but the idea was that having cars professional restored can be very expensive.   

Edited by K8096 (see edit history)

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8 hours ago, Restorer32 said:

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?

 Wow , sounds just like The Soviet Union or Germany in the 30's

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1 minute ago, helfen said:

 Wow , sounds just like The Soviet Union or Germany in the 30's

 

Sounds more like the lower 8 counties of New York

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The rules are different here and you do not need to deal with rust. Car and Coffee down in Celebration is hitting 500 cars. At 8 am.

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$12/hr to do carpentry is not worth it, below the cost of living. That is the sort of reason the labor participation rate keeps dropping.

Labor Force Participation Rate, 
(Civilian labor force participation rate)
 

latest_numbers_LNS11300000_2006_2016_all

 

http://data.bls.gov/timeseries/LNS11300000

 

Pennsylvania ................     Percent employed =      53.4

http://www.bls.gov/lau/ststdsadata.txt

Edited by mike6024 (see edit history)

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Rocky72,  remember one thing,  good cars with good workmanship will ALWAYS bring in good money!  

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Anybody not familiar with the regulation costs of running an above the table business I think you would be shocked.   You can get away with backyard painting right up to when somebody spills the beans.  Also, the cost of paint driven by EPA regulations will astound you.

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31 minutes ago, Skyking said:

Rocky72,  remember one thing,  good cars with good workmanship will ALWAYS bring in good money!  

Yeah , when I take my car out everyone always tells me I should start a shop and I have (in the past) turned down a lot of work , we will see maybe it will pan out .

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I know how you feel my friend, I hated to stick the key in the ignition to drive to work, I could not stand it that much. Construction can be boring and repetitive, while dealing with the elements. The difference I had from you was I was financially compensated very well, as well as a General Foreman, and I still hated it. I would find it difficult to tie my shoes for $12 and hour let alone walk out the door of my house. I just can't imagine the quality of work from people willing to do skilled trade work for $12 an hour. Those guys are the ones who killed your market

I say give it a go on the side, tell everyone up front that it is not your main job, so their expectations of completion might be affected. With something going in on the side it might give you some flexibility with carpenter jobs being offered, you don't have to take every job offered now. Do your paint on weekends, don't make noise at night, maybe fix your neighbors cars for free once and awhile and I think things will go pretty easy. Good luck

Edited by John348 (see edit history)

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Once you get going you may be able to buy a booth used.  I have been to a couple dealership auctions and saw some really nice older break down steel booths that sold for under 5000.  I think the one went for 3200. You may also beable to find a paint shop that would spray the cars for you if you got them all ready and all they had to do was shoot them.  Then you color sand them and put them back together. 

Would you also not be able to have the customers buy the paint themselves with a very specific list? That would make it so you weren't buying alot of paint yourself. 

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2 hours ago, John348 said:

I know how you feel my friend, I hated to stick the key in the ignition to drive to work, I could not stand it that much. Construction can be boring and repetitive, while dealing with the elements. The difference I had from you was I was financially compensated very well, as well as a General Foreman, and I still hated it. I would find it difficult to tie my shoes for $12 and hour let alone walk out the door of my house. I just can't imagine the quality of work from people willing to do skilled trade work for $12 an hour. Those guys are the ones who killed your market

I say give it a go on the side, tell everyone up front that it is not your main job, so their expectations of completion might be affected. With something going in on the side it might give you some flexibility with carpenter jobs being offered, you don't have to take every job offered now. Do your paint on weekends, don't make noise at night, maybe fix your neighbors cars for free once and awhile and I think things will go pretty easy. Good luck

Yeah its not worth getting up in the morning for that amount . The company I was subbing off was mostly rate work $35 and up but then all they had is concrete and I'm beat up enough as it is . If I knew that I would live this long I would have been taking better care of my self .  

Edited by Rocky 72 (see edit history)
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1 hour ago, auburnseeker said:

Once you get going you may be able to buy a booth used.  I have been to a couple dealership auctions and saw some really nice older break down steel booths that sold for under 5000.  I think the one went for 3200. You may also beable to find a paint shop that would spray the cars for you if you got them all ready and all they had to do was shoot them.  Then you color sand them and put them back together. 

Would you also not be able to have the customers buy the paint themselves with a very specific list? That would make it so you weren't buying alot of paint yourself. 

 I know , I have seen a few at auction and cheap . So far around here there has been no problem with painting as long as your doing your own cars and not a lot of them so that's good , so far.

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21 minutes ago, Rocky 72 said:

 If I knew that I would live this long I would have been taking better care of my self .  

 

AMEN BROTHER! I had to retire early, I just could not use my hands anymore to be competitive with the 27 year old's graduating the apprenticeship. Most of my years were spent working outside construction doing high rise commercial work in NYC, when the money is good it is real good! When I was at your age a few years ago I felt the same as you do now. Concrete work is a young mans game, athletes would have a tough time doing that work at 50+ years of age. Ask them if they need a foreman, can't hurt 

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I did they already have foreman and they work right with the crew and maybe harder than the crew , I'm sure you know how that goes.

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As someone who goes through A LOT of cars, I am constantly on the look out for someone who can solve problems. "Restored" cars are often just cosmetically nice, but mechanical nightmares, and no offense to the guys around here, but most collector car owners don't realize how bad their cars are because they have no basis for comparison. I drive a lot of different cars and the good ones quickly separate themselves from the bad ones. It is VERY hard to find a shop willing to turn a bad one into a good one, because it involves a lot of diverse jobs: wiring, cooling, gauges, alignments, rattle abatement, drivability issues (fuel or ignition), and things like that which get overlooked during the restoration process and everyone just lives with them because the fix is a pain in the neck. I know one young kid who works a day job as an engineer for an aircraft parts supplier, but his night/weekend job is fixing rattles and odd noises on old cars. Brilliant!

 

I think there is a great demand for a jack-of-all-trades who can solve real problems. Forget bodywork and spraying paint, doing upholstery, and replacing chrome, there are a zillion shops that do that. There are plenty of engine builders and machine shops. But what every hobbyist needs, whether he knows it or not, is a guy who can solve little problems that every car has and most of us simply live with. The horn on my '29 Cadillac doesn't work because the insulation crumbled off the wire in the steering column and it honks constantly so I disconnected it. I can fix it myself but I don't, partly because of time and partly because it's a pain in the ass and partly because it's no big deal living without a horn, so I do. But I'd happily pay someone a few hundred bucks to fix it. That's the kind of thing that has a huge untapped market and I bet you could stay as busy as you wanted to once you earned a reputation as a problem solver, tackling jobs that would take a big shop weeks to get around to doing and which they're not properly geared to do. Better yet, do it better than they do, get the stuff exactly right, and make the cars work better than before. People will think you're a miracle-worker.

 

Just a thought...

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Rocky,

If you are a good trim carpenter, or want to do "light" wood work, Move to rural Colorado where there is work aplenty !!!!!

 

Mike in Colorado

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Car restoration, well if you are a good business person, yes you can make it work.  If you have a job you can make a living, but won't get rich anytime soon.  I have two business's now, one is something I love to do, the other is work, and then I have a full time Engineering Position.  It depends on what you want to leave as your legacy.  I work hard and make a very good living, some people work hard and make enough to eat, others get by and don't work at all.  If you work hard enough and do enough research you can be successful, if you half it, then you will be in worse shape that you are right now. So in the end, what can you do and what do you want to do. 

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5 hours ago, FLYER15015 said:

Rocky,

If you are a good trim carpenter, or want to do "light" wood work, Move to rural Colorado where there is work aplenty !!!!!

 

Mike in Colorado

Isn't it really cold there ? I thought about moving to Tennessee  where its warmer .   

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Running a legal business costs a lot more than expected and the hoops to jump pop up from nowhere. If you don't do it completely legal you are asking for trouble.

 

I own an S corp in New York State, with employees, that is not remotely related to cars. It is expensive and demanding to follow all the rules. There are benefits. Given what I know now, I would have started it in the 1970's Looking back over my life I have few regrets; and those few are regrets for things I didn't do. AND the things I didn't do were things I let someone talk me out of.

 

On the wife thing mentioned a couple of times, the business plan should stand on its own without her input. Unless it's carpenter work and she is holding the nail and you have the hammer. Give her a voice in the business and she''l talk you into holding the nail.

 

I'd say go for it. If you have been subbing you already know how to get along without money from 120 to 150 days.

Bernie

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Bernie your right about going without money for months at a time that's just the norm for me . As for the wife she thinks I should go for it , but she really likes cool cars so that makes it even better. I like all the replies cause it gives me something to think about and maybe even come up with a better plan.

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Working on cars is a tough way to make a buck and hard on your body. Restoration work even more demanding and unless you have a big name, no one wants to pay what the job is worth.

 

I went from working on cars to working on houses because it was so much easier and paid better.

 

If there is no demand where you are for a good carpenter there will be a hell of a lot less demand for expensive restoration work.

 

The best thing to do is move somewhere else. I don't know what you can do to make a living where there are no jobs and nobody has any money.

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