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How to start a car parts shop

Do you dream of owning a car parts shop, but you don’t yet know where to start? Beginning a business of any kind is complicated, but there are specific considerations when you want to sell car parts.

This article will provide all the guidance you need to start your car parts shop. Here, you’ll find information on choosing your target audience, performing the necessary research, car parts to sell, and online platforms you can use. You’ll also learn how to promote your products and manage your business’s reputation.

Who is my target audience?

As you would with any other business, you’ll have to research your target audience carefully to reach them and cater to their specific needs with your shop. Most car parts shops sell to a mixture of private and trade customers, meaning you can expect to serve both motorists and repair garages.

  • Retail customers

    Here are some of the factors you’ll need to consider if you’re selling to retail customers:

    • You’ll have to stock the products that they need. You might consider selling items like de-icer and screen wash. There are two key advantages to selling these products: they run out, so customers will buy them again and again, and customers don’t need advanced mechanical knowledge to use them. This makes them a relatively easy sell.
    • You may also look to cater to people who want to buy automobile-related gifts. Care packs and accessories make great gifts, especially for special occasions like Father’s Day when you might choose to stock more of this product than usual. Bumper stickers and air fresheners are affordable items that customers could also be convinced to add to their larger purchases.
    • Some private motorists have mechanical skills that allow them to perform services and repairs to their own cars. Your shop could target this audience by selling the parts that they need.
    • Other people will contact your shop in an emergency, for example when their battery has failed. You should be conscious of weather conditions where certain products are especially in demand. This way, your shop is equipped to meet your customers’ needs.
    • There is also a car modification culture that your business could take advantage of. How do you do this? By offering a range of wheels and tire trims, for example. Those with a strong interest in modifying their car are usually willing to invest significant amounts of money in these projects. That could mean high-ticket sales for your business.
    • When targeting retail customers, it’s important to consider convenience. If you’re selling online, you should choose platforms that are easy to use and familiar to the general public. Your store location should be in a prominent place to maximise foot traffic and attract shoppers from the street.
  • Trade customers

    The market for selling replacement parts is lucrative. This is good news as it shows there is high demand for the products you’ll be selling. However, you’ll also face a lot of competition from other car parts stores.

    Selling car parts to trade customers is known as “factoring.” For that reason, some people choose to start a franchise rather than build their business from scratch. They benefit from the infrastructure and the reputation of a pre-existing company.

    A good idea is to perform some research about the repair garages in your local area. You might consider contacting them to ask who provides their car parts. Remember, your clients aren’t limited to garages, though. You could also sell to used car dealers.

    To attract trade customers, you’ll have to offer competitive prices, whether you plan to sell to small garages or large chains. You may choose to target exclusively trade customers or you may choose to target a mix of trade and retail. This will have a big influence on the products that you stock.

Competitor research

It’s valuable to research your competitors before you start a business. This will give you a good idea of what your business is expected to deliver and how you can improve on the pre-existing shops in your local area.  

During this research, you should focus on the following questions:

  • How well is your area already served by this kind of shop?
    You can answer this question by checking local directories, asking potential trade customers, and searching online. You may find that there are already many car parts shops in your area. This could make it more challenging for you to attract customers.
  • Is there a gap in the market for a specific service?
    Perhaps you’ll find that there aren’t many car parts shops in your local area. In that case, your business has the potential to fulfil an unmet need. If there are other shops, think about what yours will specifically offer. You might choose to focus on products that your competitors lack.
  • What’s your impression of the local competition?
    This goes beyond the products that they offer and looks at the service they provide and the image that they have. You might find inspiration from this research, but you’ll also see examples of what not to do. Think about what would attract or repel you from each shop if you were a customer.
  • What type of products do your competitors focus on?
    By analysing the stock of competitor’s shops, you’ll gain a clearer idea of the must-have items that you’ll be expected to sell in yours. This way, you won’t fail to meet your customers’ needs. You may also notice that your competitors lack certain products. Could your shop be the one to provide them?
  • Where are your competitors located?
    Before you decide on a location, check where your competitors are. If you’re too close, you risk losing customers to a nearby service. However, you could also study the locations of the most successful car parts shops and see what they have in common. This could guide your decision.
  • What can you provide that an online store can’t?
    These days, you’re not just in competition with the shops in your local area. You’re also in competition with international online businesses. That’s why it makes sense to check out their services and see what extra benefits you could provide to make your shop a more desirable option.
  • What are the current trends in the car parts industry?
    To start a successful car parts shop, you’ll need to know your industry inside out. Look for any predicted changes in the industry. You could be an early adopter and get ahead of the trends. You might also choose to connect with other owners of car parts shops online. They could provide valuable information about what is working for them.
  • How do your competitors promote their shops?
    How you promote your shop is incredibly important. You can look to your competitors as case studies. Maybe they rely on word-of-mouth for new customers. Maybe they have a strong online presence. Comparing the marketing approaches of your competition will help inform your strategy.
  • How could you differentiate yourself from the competition?
    Once you’ve answered all these questions, you’ll have a lot of information about competitor car parts shops. This will equip you to answer the most important question of all: what makes your shop different? You should look for small improvements you can make to ensure your offer is better than theirs. Alternatively, you may choose to specifically target a previously under-served market.

Different services to provide

The best way to differentiate your service from the competition and attract new customers is to ensure that your shop provides a wide range of in-demand services. This also helps you beat the online competition: some services can only be provided face-to-face.

Here are five popular services that you might consider offering at your car parts shop:

  • Advice service

    Why doesn’t everyone just order parts online? Because many people aren’t confident enough in their car knowledge to do so. They need expert guidance: what part is the problem? What part do I need? Is this the right fit for my vehicle?

    If the people at your shop are qualified to answer these questions, it can attract customers. The goal is to win the trust of your customers so they immediately think of you when they need car parts.

  • Free delivery

    Free delivery is especially important for trade customers. They’re understandably keen to cut costs so they can increase their profit margins as much as possible. You could attract new customers away from competitors who still charge for delivery services.

    Of course, delivery can be improved in other ways too. If you’re able to deliver very quickly, for example, this is another attractive feature. When trade customers order parts, they may need them urgently. Your shop could be the one to source and deliver them straight away.

  • Fitting service

    Not every customer has the know-how to handle their services and repairs. If you want to expand your market beyond expert motorists and target the general public, you could offer a fitting service.

    Many customers will undoubtedly appreciate the fact that they can buy a part and have it fitted in the same place. This makes your car parts shop a more convenient and efficient option than competitors that lack this service.

  • While-you-wait services

    When your customers are deciding which shop to buy from, the price will be an important factor. The level of service that you offer will also be important. Most people don’t want to waste more time than strictly necessary buying and installing car parts. This is why some shops offer while-you-wait services.

    Thanks to this service, customers don’t have to leave their car overnight at your shop. They can simply grab a coffee and wait as you work on their vehicle. Making this a pleasant and smooth experience can make a huge difference to customer satisfaction levels.

  • Ordering in parts

    What happens if you don’t have the part that a customer needs? Maybe it is out of stock or maybe you never stocked it in the first place. The last thing you want to do is send them to a competitor’s shop to buy it. Instead, you could offer to order it in for them.

    If you’re able to order in parts on behalf of your customers and receive them quickly, this could impress customers. It shows a willingness to go the extra mile that could give you an edge over your competition.

Car parts products to sell

Your car parts shop could decide to concentrate on spare parts for motorists that perform their own repairs. You might equally choose to focus on car care or motoring accessories. Beyond car accessories, you could branch out into the world of bicycling or other leisure goods.

Another option is to target a niche audience or gap in the market, such as motorists who perform modifications to their cars. People that customise their car will also likely be interested in personalised accessories. If motoring enthusiasts will make up a substantial percentage of your customer base, then you could consider stocking vintage parts too!

This demographic, alongside the broader public, continues to show an interest in car entertainment systems including:

  • DVD players
  • speakers
  • amplifiers
  • kits to connect phones
  • mp3 players
  • conventional car stereos.

Some people still buy standalone satnav systems too, although many new cars include them as standard. Google Maps has also reduced interest in this type of equipment.

If selling parts to the motor trade will be your main focus, you’ll need a wide range of parts in stock to meet your customers’ needs. For this reason, cultivating strong relationships with suppliers will be important. You’ll need a network so you can quickly order parts that you’re missing from the store.

You’ve already researched your competitors. Now, you should research your potential audience. That means paying attention to local motorists. In affluent areas, customers with new cars may be less concerned with performing repairs. Demand for parts may be reduced.

You should also consider products that will only enjoy seasonal demand, such as anti-freeze and ice-scrapers. What could you sell during the hotter months? Some car parts shops have branched out into camping supplies, for example.

Of course, you can also experiment with stock once your shop is up and running. You’ll soon see which products are most popular and which are slow sellers. You can also make up packs for your customers. You could create customised care kits that meet different needs, for example.

Selling online

Some car parts shops operate exclusively online. Whether you choose to have retail premises or not, an online presence is essential. It makes sense to sell online because you expand your potential customer base. People who don’t necessarily live locally are able to order products from you.

Before you start selling online, you should consider which platform is best for you. eBay and Amazon Marketplace are two popular options. You may also choose to develop your own website and build your online shopfront independently.

Recent trends show that online car parts sales are increasing. By opening up an eCommerce store, you can enjoy a slice of this growing market. However, there are many established car parts shops already operating online. As your potential customer base expands, so does your competition!

How much does selling online cost?

If you choose to create an online shop, you should expect to pay some upfront costs to develop this. Of course, a successful car parts shop should recoup these costs with online sales sooner or later.

When you start to develop your store, it’s advisable to think about what you expect from companies when you’re online shopping. If your site looks unprofessional, this could deter potential customers from buying. Your site should be high quality and contain all the information a customer needs to safely make the right purchase for them.

This is why people hire web developers to build their stores for them. There are experts in this field who know exactly what it takes to make a functional, easy-to-use online store. It may be worthwhile to ask for a few quotations and see what a professionally built online store would cost you.

Alternatively, you could sell car parts from a pre-existing platform. Some platforms allow private sellers to sell for free. Others charge a small fee for every sale you make. An advantage of these platforms is that they often offer the option to promote your products through sponsored posts. This can help you reach your target audience without them having to search for your specific company.

Different online platforms

The advantage of using pre-existing platforms is that you benefit from the infrastructure that they already have in place. You don’t need to set up payment systems; you simply open an account and add your products.

You can also benefit from their trusted reputation and in-built payment protection. Your customers probably already know and use these platforms, so they’ll feel comfortable buying items there.

If you have your own website, you’ll rely on customers who either know about your service already or stumble across it through search engines. On pre-existing platforms like Amazon and eBay, people with no knowledge of your shop can search for the products they need and discover your service.

Three of the most popular ways to sell car parts are via your own eCommerce store, using eBay, or through Amazon Marketplace. Each has its advantages and disadvantages. However, you don’t necessarily need to choose between them. You might decide to use all three in a bid to maximise your sales!

  • eBay

    One great aspect of eBay is that it protects sellers by managing payments securely. To get started selling car parts and accessories on eBay, you first need to create a seller account. This is different from your buyer account!

    When you click sell at the top of the account setup page, you’ll be taken to a product listing page. This is where you upload information and images related to your items. Each image needs at least one image.

    Any old image won’t do. You need a clear image with a white or grey background so customers can see the product clearly. This platform enforces certain requirements when it comes to image quality. Observe these carefully so your listings remain active and attractive to potential customers.

    On eBay, the way you categorise your product is essential. Choose “eBay Motors” and “Parts and Accessories.” This way, you’ll reach an audience that’s interested in your items.

    As you continue through the process, you’ll be given opportunities to describe your product using specific categories. This makes it easier for people to search for this product.

    To buy a car part with confidence, customers need to know it’s suitable for their vehicle. Make sure you add accurate fitment data that helps them assess compatibility. eBay has its own Parts Compatibility tool to guide you through the addition of fitment data. This is useful for customers and sellers alike!

    Of course, to enjoy the benefits of eBay you have to pay certain fees. Expect to be charged a listing fee when you add your product and a final value fee when you sell it.

  • Amazon Marketplace

    You might also choose to sell car parts on Amazon Marketplace. Amazon is the world’s biggest eCommerce platform, after all! This opens up a huge potential market for your products.

    To get started, you’ll need to create a Seller Central account. To sell car parts, you’ll need to be a Professional Seller. Car parts is a protected category on Amazon, so there are additional restrictions you need to meet to start selling. There is a monthly fee to subscribe to the Professional plan.

    Your listings will have to meet certain standards to be successfully published on Amazon. For example, there are strict product image requirements. Natural lighting and a white background are essential. If you’re unsure about meeting these standards, you might consider hiring a professional to take your photographs.

    To sell car parts, you also need approval from Amazon. Amazon will check that all your listings and images are compliant with their standards. To successfully list your products, you’ll need to list all major brands with their universal product codes, for example.

    Once you think your listings are compliant, you can complete the “Contact us” form online to request approval from Amazon. Expect to wait three business days for a response. The platform will either approve you or ask for additional information.

    One advantage of Amazon is that they have seller tools designed to make it easier to upload products in bulk. This uses Excel or an inventory file template to transfer information straight to your store.

    Just like on eBay, fitment data is important. Amazon won’t show your listings unless they have sufficient fitment data. This ensures customers receive the right parts, helping you avoid time-consuming returns and negative reviews!

Getting started

Once you’ve set up your online store, it’s time to start promoting it. Depending on the platform you’ve chosen, you have a range of options available. You might choose to post about your page in relevant Facebook groups, for example. This is free to do.

If your business has a social media presence, you can also promote particular products this way. This doesn’t cost, which is an advantage; however, it will only reach people that already follow you. To extend your reach beyond this audience, you might choose to pay to promote your products.

  • Product promotion

    Both eBay and Amazon offer options for promoting your listings. By paying a fee, you can expose your products to a wider audience. You’ll be able to target specific people based on the keywords that they search for.

    There are a wide range of digital marketing options to get your car parts business in front of more potential customers. Google Ads are especially effective and can help your business to appear in relevant terms: e.g ‘car parts shop near me’. There is an auction process involved in using this service. Social media advertising on platforms such as Facebook and Instagram ensure your products appear on the feeds of people who have shown interest in similar products. You can tailor the adverts to certain demographics to increase their effectiveness.

  • Managing online business reputation

    Reputation is incredibly important when it comes to an online store. If you have negative reviews, this could deter potential customers from making a purchase. To avoid this, you should provide as much accurate information as possible in every product listing.

    Don’t make promises you’re unable to keep. Ensure you meet delivery times and advise customers in advance if you experience any unexpected delays. You might choose to take action when you anticipate a negative review and offer a discount or a gift to smooth the situation over.

    If you’ve received a negative review, don’t ignore it. Instead, respond publicly and be both honest and apologetic. Otherwise, your business might appear unprofessional.

    Positive feedback can make a big difference. You might encourage customers to leave feedback when you’re confident that the review will be positive. This can reassure future customers that your company is trustworthy and reliable.

Purchase an existing car parts business

Rather than begin your own business, you could buy a car parts shop that’s already established. Buying an existing business helps you avoid having to source products, attract customers, hire staff, and find premises. Everything will already be in place.

However, there are risks associated with buying a business. It’s important to ensure you have legal and financial knowledge before you commit to a company. You don’t want to pay more than the value of the business, after all!

Before buying a business, it’s advisable to perform thorough research on its history and potential for growth. Find out why the current owner has decided to sell.

Open a car parts franchise

Between buying a business and starting your own is the option of opening a franchise. The advantage of this option is that you’ll benefit from the experience, resources, and reputation of a pre-existing business. You’ll have access to useful infrastructure, and it may be easier to attract customers.

When it comes to the car parts industry, different franchise options are available. The specifics of each vary, but in general, you can expect the following:

  1. To use the branding and identity of the franchisor.
  2. To pay a fee to use this branding and identity.
  3. To meet certain standards as determined by the franchisor.
  4. To receive specialist training before you start.
  5. To enjoy advice and support on certain business matters.

You can double-check the details of your deal in the franchise agreement. It makes sense to compare the terms of different franchisors before you commit to one. This way, you can ensure you’re getting the best deal possible. A solicitor should also check any contracts before you sign them.

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