Will Someone Please Start This Business - Mobile Oil Changes

For me ideas usually come from something I hate. I really hate oil changes. The time it takes, and the fact I have to do it on the weekend, right after work or during lunch break drive me up the wall. Working full time and being a father and husband, my spare time is an incredibly scarce resource. The last thing I want to do is sit in a dirty lobby, reading an issue of Car and Driver from September 2005. (I do however like the smell of the lobby, they all smell the same, a mixture of oil, grease, and metal.)

As I am sitting in these places, I think about how I would like this to work for me. I just want it taken care of without me doing anything. My first thought was someone coming to my house to do the change, but the issue with that is on the business side. They would spend more time driving than they would changing oil. In any business you want to spend most of your time doing the work that pays. Over time I have refined this idea and think I have a good plan.

Before I go any further, I have no interest in running an oil change company. I fully believe this can be successful, but my heart would not be in it. I am writing this in hopes that someone will start the company and I can be a customer. If you want to reach out to me and ask for my involvement, sure, why not? The worst thing that can happen is I say no.

Company: The company offers mobile oil changes as a subscription service to commuters.

Location: The location is central for both the owner and the customer. The company will go to an office location and set up a mobile changing station. I, like many people, drive to work and park in a garage or large parking lot. It would be best for the customer to drive to work, park, and when they leave for the day have a fresh oil change. For the owner, there is opportunity to do a lot of oil changes in a single location.

Subscription: The subscription model is also beneficial to both the customer and the company. A mobile platform is going to have limited space for inventory, a subscription-based model allows the company to have exactly the right number of filters, oil and other accessories required to complete service. For the customer, a subscription removes having to think about when the change happens and having to pay for the service.

Process: The poorly drawn diagram below shows the crew required and the optimal assembly line methodology to maximize efficiency. There is one guy under the cars draining oil and changing filters, one guy on top filling oil, one driver moving the cars around, and one guy that is for customer service. Customer service can also be used to do extra tasks, like buying a forgotten oil filter.

Expansion: This model also allows for potential expansion opportunities to use the same equipment. Since the equipment will be used primarily during the 8 to 5 working day, the equipment is available to expand to offer the services at a grocery store or shopping mall. The benefits of a subscription service would go away, but there is a premium that could be charged for having a task taken care of while you shop. Also, there are companies that operate fleets of vehicles that are parked at night and need to be serviced while not in use. Future services could be incorporating a car was and vacuum or a mobile mechanic for small repairs.

Obstacles: This whole plan depends on an office building allowing you to operate on the property. With the post-pandemic office landscape, I think there will be a huge market for office spaces looking to offer additional benefits. Allowing outside services to operate inside the office space is a great way to set one office location apart from the others without the office location having to spend any money. There will be quite a few operational questions that need to be answered, proper insurance, liability, waste containment and such but these are all easily solvable. The biggest obstacle is going to be the ramp system. You will need to have something that is portable and fast to set up, but that is a simple enough design, hey maybe that's where I fit in.

Profit: I haven’t put together a business case. But I’ll talk about the back of envelope calculations. First, I assume that the corner oil change business is profitable. This business will offer the same basic services, oil change, filter replacement, and wiper replacement. But the startup cost is significantly lower, you do not need the expensive frontage real estate or the specialized building. With the subscription model you get to practice just in time inventory. You don’t have to stock parts for cars you might not see. Margins and cash flow will be significantly better than the standard shop.

So, what do you think? Can I be your customer?