Fix yourself up as a mechanic

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Do you fancy the idea of becoming a mechanic? This article explains how to enter the profession and what you need to know to set up your own business.

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Being a mechanic is likely to involve working in a noisy, dirty environment and you’ll need to be aware of safety issues at all times.

Many of us rely on our cars and the mechanics who keep them running safely and efficiently. If you have an interest in cars and enjoy tinkering under the bonnet, working as a mechanic could suit you perfectly and lead to a rewarding career. 

Mechanics repair, maintain and service cars, vans and other vehicles. You can work in a range of settings, from small or large garages to car dealerships. Alternatively, you can be self-employed and set up your own garage or become a mobile mechanic.

How much can you earn as a mechanic?

According to the National Careers Service, the starting salary for a mechanic is £18,000, rising to £35,000 for an experienced mechanic. You would typically work 38 to 45 hours a week and could be based in one place or travel around. Evening and weekend work is sometimes required, but while these may seem like unsociable hours, you may enjoy the flexibility and not having a rigid routine. 

Being a mechanic is likely to involve working in a noisy, dirty environment and you’ll need to be aware of safety issues at all times, so you need to consider whether you’d be happy working in such conditions when deciding whether to pursue garage work as a career.

How to become a mechanic

To learn the skills needed to be a mechanic, you can take a college course, become a trainee, or do an apprenticeship.

Courses include a Level 2 Diploma in Light Vehicle Maintenance and Repair Competence and a Level 3 Diploma in Light Vehicle Maintenance. You’ll need two or more good GCSEs or the equivalent to get onto a level 2 course and four or five for a level 3 course.

You could also do a T Level in Maintenance, Installation and Repair for Engineering and Manufacturing. T Levels are the equivalent of three A Levels but are designed to be more practical. As with a level 3 course, the entry requirements for a T Level are four or five good GCSEs but these will need to include English and maths. 

An apprenticeship, such as a motor vehicle service and maintenance technician apprenticeship, takes two or three years. As well as on-the-job training, you’ll spend at least 20% of your working hours learning with a training provider, such as a college. 

You’ll need some GCSEs (or the equivalent), usually including English and maths, to do an intermediate apprenticeship and at least five good GCSEs for an advanced one.

Qualifications required to be a mechanic

You don’t have to have formal qualifications to be a mechanic but it will certainly help you learn the skills you need, especially as cars are more advanced than they used to be and MOTs have become stricter over the years.

GCSEs are the first qualifications you need to start training, as you need them to apply for college courses and apprenticeships. You also usually need a driving licence.

Mechanic job specification

As well as qualifications and work experience, having the right soft skills is important if you want to be a successful mechanic. These are the personal qualities that make you suitable for the job. 

They include good communication skills, as you’ll need to interact well with colleagues and customers, the ability to problem-solve and be analytical, particularly when you’re trying to diagnose what’s wrong with a vehicle, and administrative skills, as you may need to speak to customers on the phone and schedule work, especially if you’re self-employed.

You’ll also need technical knowledge and ability, attention to detail – especially when it comes to making sure vehicles you work on are safe to be on the roads afterwards – good customer service skills and physical fitness. You’re likely to need computer skills too.

Starting out as a mechanic

Once you’ve trained to become a mechanic and gained the relevant technical skills, you’ll be able to apply for jobs or start your own business.

If you’ve been studying at college, it’s worth getting some relevant work experience either during or after your course. One way to do this is by volunteering with organisations such as charities or motoring groups that need mechanics' skills. You may also be able to do paid or unpaid work experience at a garage or work as an assistant in one. This will also help you get valuable contacts in the industry.  

There are a number of advantages to going down the apprenticeship route versus doing a college course alone. First, you’ll get paid while you’re doing it and will get more hands-on experience. 

Second, according to government figures, many apprentices are kept on by their employers once they’ve completed their apprenticeships, which means they benefit from higher rates of employment compared to those who gained their education and skills in other ways. Third, former apprentices also tend to earn more.

Freelance mechanic rates

According to the tradesperson recommendation site Checkatrade, mobile mechanics charge an average of £45 an hour (up to a high of £60), depending on the mechanic and where they are in the UK. Mobile mechanics may also charge an average callout fee of £65, rising to £85 in some cases. Garage mechanics tend to charge less – an average of £60 an hour up to a high of £80 – but if you’re an employee you may not actually get paid this much.

Setting yourself up as a self-employed mobile mechanic means you can choose your hours and set your rates, so you can potentially earn more and have a better work-life balance. 

Costs involved with becoming a freelance mechanic

However, it's essential to consider the various expenses associated with operating a business, such as travel costs and equipment. Marketing your business by placing local newspaper ads, delivering flyers to homes in your area, setting up your own website and getting listed on business sites will involve further expense. 

If you have your own garage instead of being mobile, the overheads will be higher. You might need to take out a business loan to get started or grow your business.

You may also need a business bank account, business credit card and business insurance if you’re setting up your own mechanic business.

These unsecured and secured loans could help you grow your business, cover running costs or even fund a new company.

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