Starting Your Own Auto Glass Repair Business vs Franchising

By 2023-08-27 No Comments

Thinking of running your own auto glass shop in the United States? No matter how you slice it, there’s a lot of work to be done and a lot of choices to be made. One of the biggest decision points about running your auto glass shop will be whether you want to go it alone and run as a sole entrepreneur (e.g. sole trader or LLC) or if you want to join a franchise offering corporate auto glass services.

Both avenues can lead to success and profits, since the auto glass industry is a booming multi-billion dollar industry with no signs of slowing down. But just as both franchises and independent businesses can both reap the rewards of their hard work, they also have some key differences, advantages and disadvantages.

Starting Your Own Auto Glass Repair Business vs Franchising myWindshield

Auto glass shops at a glance

Auto glass shops are businesses that provide auto glass services such as body glass and windshield replacement, windshield repair, ADAS calibration and more. The majority of auto glass shops in the United States are small, independent businesses competing with one another as well as with bigger, national corporate franchises.

Typically, auto glass shops employ only a handful of employees and serve customers with mobile auto glass services within their service radius. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 171,000 Automotive Body and Glass Repairs employed in the United States as of 2021.

For the remainder of this post, we will be assuming that you already know how to become an auto glass technician and want to put your skills and expertise to work for you as either an independent small business owner or under a franchise agreement with one of the bigger national chains of auto glass shops.

Starting your own auto glass business

As with just about any other business, opening up an auto glass shop as an owner can bring great risks but also yield great rewards. The auto glass industry in the US is largely dominated by small, independent auto glass shops that operate either as sole proprietorships or as LLCs.

As such, the market is generally decentralized and fragmented with a handful of big national franchises being the main competitors. This provides small business owners with a lot of opportunities for leverage but with some drawbacks as well.

PROs of starting your own auto glass business

The main benefits of starting your own auto glass business are:

  • Full control over business decisions as well as the goals and vision of the business over time;
  • Complete flexibility for working hours, service area, customers, areas of specialization, prices and much more;
  • Highly adaptable to changes in the market and to local circumstances;
  • Unique company branding and the freedom to build a distinct brand identity;
  • Potentially higher profit margins since there is no need to pay franchisor fees or royalties;
  • Positive public perception for independent small businesses that build a positive reputation in the community.

CONs of starting your own auto glass business

Some of the drawbacks of starting your own auto glass business are:

  • High risks initially, similar to many other small business risk profiles;
  • Potentially higher start-up costs and capital expenditures, e.g. need to purchase your own supplies, leases, and products from suppliers all by yourself;
  • Steep learning curve and high entry barrier unless you have ample experience both as an auto glass technician and as a business owner;
  • Building a reputation and a customer base can be time-consuming and challenging;
  • No market recognition and no marketing presence – all must be built from the ground up;

Joining an established auto glass franchise

While there is a great possibility for freedom and profits for independent small business owners, there are still many that err on the side of caution and seek reasonably stable returns on their investment by operating as auto glass franchisee businesses.

Some of the most notable franchises operating in the United States include Safelite AutoGlass, Glass Doctor, NOVUS Glass and Speedy Glass (although they are far more well-known in Canada). While Safelite does not operate a franchise model, Glass Doctor, NOVUS and Speedy Glass offer various franchising opportunities.

By leasing out your business model as a franchisee (in effect), you may be able to avoid or mitigate many of the drawbacks common to independent auto glass shops at the cost of being constrained to the franchise agreement and its terms.

PROs of starting an auto glass franchise

Some of the key benefits of becoming a franchisee auto glass shop include:

  • Instand brand recognition in towns and cities all across the United States;
  • No need for marketing or advertising as the franchisor typically does all of this and charges the business a nominal fee;
  • Use of tried and proven techniques for business operations;
  • Access to corporate resources such as training and support for a wide range of common issues;
  • Generally trustworthy so long as the corporate office makes good decisions for the company.

CONs of starting an auto glass franchise

Some of the drawbacks of franchising an auto glass shop include:

  • High initial capital investment, e.g. Speedy Glass charges a $30,000 initial franchising fee and it typically costs $100,000-$300,000 to open a Speedy Glass franchise location;
  • Ongoing fees and royalties, e.g. Speedy Glass charges a 5% royalty fee and 2% advertising fee;
  • Very little control over business operations as you will be bound by the terms of the franchising agreement and their corporate rules and decisions, for better or for worse;
  • Restrictions on selling the business or transferring ownership, depending on the franchising agreement;
  • Possibly neutral or negative community perception as a faceless corporate franchise brand.

How to decide which is better: starting your own business or franchising

The decision over whether to go it alone or join as a franchisee is, rightfully, a big one with no clear-cut better choice for every single circumstance. For example, 2016 film The Founder biographically dramatized how successful McDonald’s could be if turned into a franchise compared to the original McDonald’s in San Bernardino, CA, where the owners remained recalcitrant to sly businessman Ray Kroc’s (played by Michael Keaton) efforts to franchise it. We all know the golden arches today largely due to Ray’s efforts, but whether the ends justified the means is highly questionable.

Starting your own auto glass shop vs franchising might not be so dramatic as a Hollywood film, but nevertheless there are serious considerations for and against both depending on your circumstances and preferences. Do you want to be in full control over the growth and direction of the business? Do you like a safety net of support if things aren’t working out as expected? Do you want to build a successful business from scratch or do you want to ride on the coattails of success of bigger, more well-known companies? These are personal questions you should ask yourself when starting your own auto glass business.

Afterwards, the big questions you should be asking yourself revolve around financial considerations and market dynamics. You don’t need to have a small fortune amassed to open your own auto glass shop, but you certainly do (or will need to secure a loan) to afford franchising your business as the costs can be hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Regarding the market, small businesses may have a harder time getting noticed among competitors in a big city when compared to franchises. Still, the (often) high overheads that franchises run present an opportunity to compete on price and often on quality. To get noticed online, you’ll need to invest in digital marketing by having a website, social media profiles, purchasing ad campaigns and joining a reputable network such as myWindshield.

Before making your decision

While we certainly support small and independent businesses in their pursuits, we realize that not everyone is willing to take the risks involved and that’s why franchising tends to be a popular choice. For those that do and work hard at building an outstanding reputation, however, the freedom and competitive sprit can be extremely rewarding, personally and financially.

It’s always strongly advised to do your own due diligence and plan out your business goals in detail. This may or may not involve retaining a lawyer to help with business structuring, tax accountants to structure taxes and optimize cash flow, and/or hiring employees to meet demand in your area. There’s no one-size-fits-all answer as to whether or not going the franchise route is better or worse than going it alone, so plan and decide carefully.

myWindshield is your number one choice for building your online presence

Small and independent auto glass shops need to compete with one another and with big national franchises for business, and one area where they’re outgunned is often in digital marketing. Whereas the big corporate brands can afford marketing budgets of millions of dollars, your small auto glass shop likely cannot. That’s why effective digital marketing is so essential to gain leads and convert them into happy and satisfied customers.

myWindshield is your ideal choice for building quality leads from vehicle owners in cities and states across the United States. Join the myWindshield network today.