Shrinking profits got you down? Adding a spray-on bedlining service can give your business a much-needed boost. This husband and wife team in Alabama added bedliners to their shop, and now they’re making a 50 percent profit on every liner they spray. by Debbie Briggs
Imagine making $50 to $100 an hour as a collision repair shop owner. Yes, it is possible. In fact, Michael and Cindy Landers – owners of Superior Auto Paint & Body, Inc. in Rainbow City, Ala. – are doing just that.
About three years ago, they started spraying bedliners. Now, even if they’re bogged down with vehicles waiting to be repaired, they’ll make the time to spray a bedliner.
“Sometimes I’ve put off scheduled insurance jobs to do bedliners that week because I can make more money,” says Michael Landers. “For every two [trucks] you do, you clear one.”
A bedliner costs a truck owner anywhere from $400-$475, depending on the size of the vehicle, leaving the Landers with a tidy profit: around $250 per job after the cost of materials.
“I don’t know where you can make $250 in three hours,” Landers says. “You can’t do it in a body shop working on wrecked cars. With a $1,500 insurance job, you’re talking three to four days to fix one of those, and there might be $500 profit in it. You could actually spray two bedliners a day for the next couple of days and make more profit.”
While the profit margins are attractive, Landers says he doesn’t recommend jumping into this add-on business. There are a variety of spray-on systems on the market, and he recommends investigating several. The Landers selected their manufacturer after 21/2 years of on-the-job research.
As more and more trucks with spray-on bedliners came through the Landers’ shop for repairs, they paid close attention. Landers says they were impressed with some, unimpressed with others. As they narrowed down the field, they began requesting samples from various manufacturers and testing them in the shop for durability. Cost was secondary.
“If you’re going to [spray bedliners], you really need to look around,” he says. “It’s like buying a frozen steak off of the Swan’s truck and then going to a custom meat place and getting you a real filet mignon.”
There also are the initial start-up costs to consider once you do select a spray-on bedliner system. Landers says about $7,500 bought them the equipment, marketing literature and training materials they needed to get started in the franchise. But because they had four trucks waiting to be sprayed when their first shipment of materials arrived at the shop, the Landers were already well on their way to recouping their initial investment. And they’ve never looked back …
No doubt about it. Being a franchisee does have its advantages: You’ll go 75 miles before you find another authorized dealer of the product Landers uses – which is why business is good.
“Right now, we’ve got 10 to do, and we can’t really get them in the shop,” he says. “It might go two weeks and you [don’t] sell one, and then [you] turn right around and they’re lined up here in the door. We’ve done as many as two a day and had three or four sitting here.”
Adding spray-on bedliners definitely is something to consider – especially if you’re looking for an additional source of revenue that’s free of insurance-company involvement.
From start to finish, including prep time, a spray-on bedliner for an older truck takes about five hours, with a new truck taking only about three. According to Landers, the process is a good time filler for technicians who are waiting for the next wrecked vehicle to come through their department.
“Instead of them standing there and you paying them,” he says, “give them a truck bed to sand and get ready.”
In addition, using the process on wrecked vehicles also can decrease the number of all-over paint jobs done at the shop – and the number of dissatisfied customers.
“[When] you have to go back in and repaint inside the bed, a lot of times you might get a little run because there’s so many tight corners,” Landers says. “People want the beds to look good, and it’s more economical … to put the bedliners in them.”
In the Landers’ system, the bed is sanded and blown out and the whole truck is masked. An adhesive promoter is sprayed on the bed, and the components are mixed and then sprayed on with a sheet rock finishing gun – which Landers describes as a “paint gun upside down with a big funnel.”
The process can be a bit messy, and the operator has to wear protective gear since the stuff doesn’t smell so good. But the main challenge is simply fitting in bedliner jobs since the shop’s plate is full with collision repair work.
“It puts us out just a little bit, but I make room to make that kind of money,” he says.
But perhaps the biggest advantage to any spray-on bedliner system is that it isn’t just for trucks – or vehicles for that matter. Recently, a man who had hit a stump and wrecked the back of his boat brought it to Superior for repairs. Rather than re-carpet the interior, Landers says they suggested lining it with bedliner material – it was cheaper for the customer and more durable in the long run.
“We’ve done just a little bit of everything. We’ve done everything from bumpers to those big four-wheel-drive hitches,” he says, adding that they’ve even sprayed a complete Jeep – red on the exterior and black on the interior.
But the list doesn’t stop there. Wheel barrels, lawn mowers and even farm equipment are all fair game. Landers says they even sprayed a manure spreader for a local chicken farmer, and the spreader’s lasted far longer for the farmer than usual. (I bet they definitely wore a mask for that job.)
Since making his shop part of a spray-on bedliner franchise, Landers says the response has been great and his marketing investment has been minimal – thanks to a few strategically placed brochures at other businesses throughout the area. Landers has stands at a car wash, a tire shop he does business with and at a local dealership.
“We haven’t advertised a whole lot because right now, our shop’s running wide open with the body repairs,” he says, adding that despite his shop’s jam-packed repair schedule, doing more bedliners is tempting. “I wish I could do about three a day, and I’d quit working on cars. It’s a whole lot easier and less stressful.”
Writer Debbie Briggs is managing editor of BodyShop Business.