Shop Smart: What You Need to Know When Making Large Shop Equipment Purchases

Whether you’re just now opening your automotive shop, you’re upgrading your equipment, or you’re expanding, you’ve got a lot of money on the line. It’s vital that you make smart, informed decisions when it comes to the equipment you buy, particularly those large shop equipment purchases. How do you guarantee that you’re making the right choices?


We’ll start our discussion with the topic of applicability. What does that mean in relation to large equipment purchases for your automotive shop? Actually, a lot. It means that you need to ensure that the equipment you’re buying will be applicable for use with most of the vehicles that you will need to service.

For instance, suppose you were considering the purchase of a new vehicle lift. You find a two post, swing-arm style lift for a very reasonable price. On the other hand, there’s a four-post, drive-up style lift available, but it costs a significant amount more. You know that you will be servicing not just subcompacts and compact vehicles, but also full-sized trucks and SUVs, so the most applicable type of lift would be the four-post, drive-up style, rather than the two-post swing-arm style, despite the price difference.

You need to make this consideration with every major piece of equipment you consider purchasing. Is the alignment machine you’re looking at capable of working with the vehicles that you’re likely to service? Do you anticipate doing a lot of high-speed tire balancing, and is the balancer rated to handle the size and weight of the tires you’ll be balancing?


Investing in major pieces of equipment for your automotive shop should not leave you worried about what you’ll do if and when something goes wrong. You’re putting a lot of money into that equipment, and you deserve a little peace of mind that the manufacturer, or the retailer you buy from, will stand behind the product. Make sure that there is a substantial warranty on all of your major equipment purchases, including lifts, tire mount machines, tire balancers, alignment machines, air compressors, diagnostic tools, brake lathes and the like. The longer the warranty, the better.

You also need to compare warranty length and coverage to upfront price to make sure you’re really seeing the big picture. A cheaper lift might save you some money now, but what if it fails just a year or two down the road and there’s no warranty to protect you?

Financing Options

Outfitting your shop can be very, very expensive. Most shop owners simply don’t have the financial wherewithal to pay for the equipment they need outright, which means you need to seriously consider the financing options available from the manufacturer or retailer.

What sort of financing packages are offered? What’s the interest rate? Is your business credit sufficient to qualify for a low rate? Would it be better to lease the equipment you need, rather than purchasing it, even with financing? What sort of down payment is needed, and is there any interest-free period available?

Support and Service

All equipment you purchase will need a little TLC over the years. Wear and tear from normal, everyday use will take its toll on everything from alignment racks to vehicle lifts. Without proper maintenance, service and support, that equipment will eventually fail. What are your options for service, maintenance and troubleshooting if a problem arises? Does the retailer offer the help you need? Is it free with purchase, or must you pay extra?

Is service available through the manufacturer only, or are there other service providers that you can contact for cheaper rates or faster service times? Are you responsible for all service and maintenance needs with the equipment? If so, does the retailer/manufacturer provide you with any type of maintenance guide or other materials to help ensure that you’re able to keep up with it?

Multiple Options from the Same Source

A successful automotive shop needs a lot of equipment. Buying that equipment piecemeal from multiple suppliers costs you a lot of unnecessary time, and causes a great deal of frustration. It’s a better option to work with a supplier that can satisfy most, or even all, of your equipment needs. In many instances, you may find that you save money on the equipment you need due to bulk purchase discounts, or are able to take advantage of other incentives offered, such as in-house financing, free installation and the like. Look for a company that can provide you with car lifts, tire changers, wheel balancers, alignment machines, A/C machines, heavy-duty presses, ceiling-mounted hose reels, compressors and everything else you need.

Industry Certification

While the warranty on the equipment you purchase offers important peace of mind, you also need to consider whether certain items are industry certified or not. For instance, buying car lifts certified by the Auto Lift Institute offers quite a few benefits over buying lifts that are uncertified. Certification means that the lift has been fully tested and complies with a set of rigorous standards set by a third party. It’s about quality, performance and even safety while using the equipment. It’s also important that the certification comes from an accredited organization – again, the Auto Lift Institute is a good example, as they are accredited by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI).

Future Proof

As a final note, make sure that the equipment you purchase is as future proof as possible. This means that the equipment will serve your needs for a long time to come, but also that it embodies technology that will not be outdated in the next few years. Doing otherwise is simply a waste of money, as you need modern equipment to ensure that you’re able to serve your customers properly.

In the End

If you follow the tips laid out in this guide, you should be able to make informed, savvy decisions when it comes to the equipment you purchase for your shop. Shop smart, compare your options, and buy with an eye toward not just financial savings, but quality, support and durability.