Ever more garages are turning to alignment for extra income. Profits, we are told, are easy to come by and equipment can pay for itself within a matter of months. Indeed, Pro-Align reckons wheel alignment has some of the highest profit margins in the garage business.
Surely there must be a catch. CAT wanted to hear it from the workshops themselves.
Barry Higgins is Operations Manager at Thame Service Station. Heâ€™s managing to turn over an extra Â£6000 per month just from doing wheel alignment checks and related repairs. Higgins charges customers Â£35 for a front alignment check, while a Â£75 charge covers the full checks needed on more advanced vehicles.
â€œItâ€™s rare to have a piece of equipment pay for itself so quickly,â€ says Higgins. â€œThey told me it would happen, but I didnâ€™t think it would come so quickly.
â€œItâ€™s helped the business a lot, itâ€™s made us more rounded. We were spending a fortune with outsourcing all of our alignment work. That was Â£1000 a month being spent on tyre fitting and alignment elsewhere. Itâ€™s now a key part of what we do.â€
At Â£36,000 to put in, the equipment wasnâ€™t cheap. Thame Service Station is hampered by a low roof so an extra pit had to be dug to support the alignment lift. Installation took a total of two months to complete.
Alignment has become an integral part of Higginsâ€™ business and heâ€™s now considering expanding: â€œIf the tyre business continues to grow, weâ€™ll think about putting in a second bay. Weâ€™ll probably do more checks a day, and will need extra staff. Iâ€™m advertising at the moment for a tyre fitter and an alignment specialist.â€
For further proof, we turned to Grayâ€™s Tyre Serviceâ€™s Ian Hutchinson. After business owner Kenneth Gray decided to invest in a Hunter wheel alignment unit, heâ€™s seeing an increase in work: â€œItâ€™s a big earner for us. I know wheel alignment is a good money spinner, it goes along with the tyre services we already do here.
â€œWe bought the machine and our wheel alignments effectively doubled. We had the whole unit paid for within three months. Itâ€™s been turning over profit since.â€
With 11 bays (not including MOT and wheel alignment areas) and over 30 technicians, the business is sizeable indeed. As well as the main service centre, Grays also has a retail site, parts department, bodyshop and tyre centre.
Grays charges more than Thame Service Station for alignment work, with prices ranging from Â£40 + VAT for a front alignment to over Â£100 for a full multiple point service.
Like Higgins, Hutchinson is also thinking of purchasing a second lift.
If you need even more proof, consider that ABP Motorsportâ€™s Chris Meredith has also just invested in a top of the range wheel alignment ramp and unit. Through efficiency savings alone, Meredith reckons heâ€™ll pay off the Â£25,000 investment within 20 months. Heâ€™ll be charging at the lower end of the scale for both front and four-wheel alignment checks, pricing work at Â£30 and Â£55 respectively.
â€œI think weâ€™ve got to a point now where this generation of unit canâ€™t be beaten â€“ itâ€™s future proof,â€ says Meredith. â€œWe can now do a check in under three minutes, where previously it could take anything up to half an hour.
â€œItâ€™s not just having the right equipment. Youâ€™ve also got to have the right people who understand alignment and have had the training to do the work.â€
Opening their business up to wheel alignment, has clearly been profitable for these three.