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Autobody/Paint - Is it worth learning to earn a living?

Discussion in 'The Hokey Ass Message Board' started by themotherbrain, May 18, 2012.

  1. colordeluxe
    Joined: Feb 26, 2011
    Posts: 31


    Is this worth learning to earn a living? in a word no. This is a shrinking business. There is no decent money to be made in restoration work and collision work income is controlled by insurance companies that try to beat you out of every penny and greedy body shop owners and managers. If you like this kind of work thats one thing, but I do not recommend to do it for a living.
  2. Roger Walling
    Joined: Sep 26, 2010
    Posts: 1,144

    Roger Walling

    I have been doing body work for over 50 years. I own a shop and have been in the office for the last 20 or so years.

    I am not a greedy shop owner who wants to cheat his employees out of their pay; I just can't pay them what they should be paid.

    <O:pThe insurance companies have taken over control of most the shops and dictate to them how much they get paid, how to do the work, when to do it and what profit they are "allowed" to make.
    <O:pThe rest of the shops are having a difficult time trying to make a profit because of the cut rate conditions the insurance companies have imposed on the trade.

    <O:p<O:pThere is probably only one true "body man" per shop that is required for difficult jobs, the other ten men working there are only parts changers with no skills. <O:pThere are painter's helpers that only sand and mask, and one good painter per shop.

    <O:pI defiantly recommend that you DO NOT BECOME A BODY MAN!. The trade has declined to a mass production job with low paying positions.

    <O:pI am not a just pissed off shop owner. I follow the trade news daily and I know how the insurance companies are trying to save as much money on their losses as possible, the customer’s cars and the body shops be dammed!

    <O:pA true body man, with all of the tools that he is required to have should be making at least $40 to $50 per hour. This does not happen, and never will as long as their shops are controlled by the insurance companies who limit the labor rate that they pay the shops to $34 to $40 per hour of which they have to pay over head out it.<O:p
  3. Lild
    Joined: Feb 22, 2010
    Posts: 260


    I worked in two shops year ago. Worked my way up from the detailer/clean up guy to painter. I enjoyed painting but didnt like the staying after hours because the body men took to long and the forman promised next day delivery. Not sure if its common but happened at both places I worked at. I did small jobs at home for a few years after and enjoyed that too.
  4. imperialman67
    Joined: Dec 29, 2008
    Posts: 42

    from minnesota

    As someone who is a rank amateur with body work I can see where this would be a tough thankless trade to make a living at.
    Funny that about 70% of the negitive comments could have _____ inserted as the trade being talked about and still apply.
  5. nailhead terry
    Joined: Mar 23, 2008
    Posts: 1,455

    nailhead terry

    HELL NO !! There are better ways to make a living I quit doing bodywork after 30 years and became a door to door gynocoligist !! no the work will wear your body out and its all toxic nothing good. Try commercial anything, but body work. The painters make more than bodyman does now that sucks ! Well you make your own mind up but everyday I wake up I feel all the bondo I sanded and now its mostly bolt on not much metal work I did frame work now no frame to speak of shit metal and more shit metal Hey its fun when it's an old car the new econoboxes suck !!
  6. evs1
    Joined: Oct 3, 2010
    Posts: 160


    I told my parents I was a piano player in a whorehouse because I didn't want them to know I was working in a body shop!
  7. goatboy
    Joined: May 9, 2009
    Posts: 617

    from kansas

    as for me, after 35 years of part time garage jobs i'm givin it up ! love it but too old to care anymore and dont need it to pay the bills anymore, besides that i always liked custom work more or erstorations over collision. these new cars suck , way too much plastic and bull to fit for me. yea its worth it to enter into the field if you have a good work ethic, you have to be able to bust your ass to get onto the next job. hope you have fun but i'm only gonna do my own from now on, FINALLY !
  8. A good upholsterer is a hard find these days. I think they even dropped the course at the local trade collage. Upholsters are artists in my opinion. At least a good one. I would go that route and it would probably satisfy any artistic traits lurking in you.Save you health to.

  9. That's funny but sums it up. I read in BODY SHOP MAGAZINE that the body shop is the FLEM of the dealership. So....where do you think you stand on the ladder.
  10. GYROE-1
    Joined: Aug 22, 2011
    Posts: 17


    Wow!! all these guys pretty much hit all the pros and cons of becoming a bodyman. I am currently an "AUTOBODY TECH" and have been for 13 years now. I started as a detailer in a dealership and then worked as apprentice for 2 years before I went on my own as a commissioned bodyman. There was alot of money to be made in this business years ago but not any more. Insurance companies have the shops by the balls. If you do want to pursue this profession dont waste your time going to a tech school cause they dont teach you what really goes on day to day in a bodyshop. I see it all the time...WYOTEC, UTI, their graduates always show up in a real time bodyshop and are LOST. You either have it or you dont! I would suggest looking into the paintless dent repair. Its clean work, you get to travel, you dont have to buy so many tools and you make killer money!!! Goodluck!
  11. godswill
    Joined: Jun 14, 2009
    Posts: 37

    from san jose

    Ive been doing my own hustle for ten years now. I would definitely not recommend it. the hours are long , the work isnt easy and the customers are a pain in the ass to deal with. To top it off , most shop owners will pimp u like a 40 dollar trick. My advice, get into upholstery or detailing. Start up is cheap and it goes hand in hand with seeing cool rides come in and out.
  12. The comments , both positive and negative , about the auto repair industry are spot on . What hasn't been mentioned is the auto repair industry is having the same financial difficulties as many of the other manufacturing and service related jobs . Our country and many of its people are still trying to find their way through this "Great Technology Depression " and global redistribution of wealth that is a direct result of these unprecedented changes .

    What I would say to you is to begin with the end in mind. What lifestyle do you want to live and how much income do you need to live the lifestyle? Now factor in what you like to do and are good at. At your age its good that you are reevaluating your past decisions related to work and the future but time will run out before you know it. Just be careful , Think hard and plan well . The best plans can fail on their final day.
  13. My opinion is you are coming to a career decision late in life.
    If you are a trained graphic artist, that is where you should be making a living.
    I don't know where people get the idea they can acquire the talent and knowledge to be a journeyman instantly. The apprentice system has disappeared and the is the only true way to learn a skill.

    If you are not in a profession that will provide benefits and insurance, you are on a course to disaster.

    Out of curiousity, what is a trained graphic artist?
  14. Dog Dish Deluxe
    Joined: Dec 23, 2011
    Posts: 778

    Dog Dish Deluxe
    from MO.

    DON'T DO IT!!!! doing body work and paint sucks. I hate it with a passion from doing it for a living for years. To the point that I won't even do it on my own car at home anymore. It's pure hell and the guys that do it earn every penny and more. NOT WORTH IT.
  15. I learned bodywork through friends. I can do anything from welding, bondo flinging, fill primer, sand, fill primer ,sand, fill primer, sand, fill primer, sand, fill primer, sand, and paint to wet sanding and buffing.
    Word of advice, don't do bodywork for friends who want stuff done'll become enemies. Always charge a lot, because you're worth it.
  16. Kona Cruisers
    Joined: Feb 4, 2007
    Posts: 1,074

    Kona Cruisers

    Have a degree from wyotech in it.

    I'm a service advisor.
  17. 1time
    Joined: Dec 5, 2009
    Posts: 88

    from minnesota

    it sounds odd to say but at thirty your past your prime for this industry, if you start now with a two year program, figure 4-5 years in the shop before you have any idea what your doin, next thing you know your 40 & the demands of this job are to much for your body to take, Im a twenty five year master technition, own my own business & the rewards have been great, but at the ripe old age of 42 Ive fuckin had it, I can work circles around anyone thats ever worked for me but I also know in my heart how much faster i used to be, I recentlly lost the best tech i ever had due to millitary transfer so now Im back in the shop takin up the slack & every day i wonder how much longer can i continue to do this, or more importantly how much longer do I want to do this, My advice to you bro, find somethin else to do for a livin & make a hobby out of this, Autobody work is truly an art form it takes years to master, granted some are quicker than others, but for you my friend, you may have already passed your best producing years & simply dont have enough time to establish yourself, Best of luck to you bro whatever path you choose,
  18. I grew up working in my dad's fiberglass repair shop. I learned how to shape things with fiberglass and glass fillers and finish work with gel coat and good old fashioned bondo & primer.

    The work is very hard, labor intensive, and extremely messy. I don't even want to think about what some of the chemicals may have done to my long term health.

    But the sadist part of me loved it in some f-d up way. There is clearly something wrong with me.

    Would I choose to do it for a living? Probably not. I already have a good paying job and there's no way I could make the same money doing body work.

    Hell....Do it if it makes you happy.
  19. 1949*john
    Joined: Jul 27, 2010
    Posts: 56


    please read ROGER WALLING'S post twice .

    I've been in it for 47 years and the auto body industry is not a good choice to get into now .

    in my area the shops labor rate is 45.00 per hour and the ins. co. has preferred shops that cut the other shops throat .

    mechanical garages and dealers are at 95.00 per .

    you must understand that the neat old cars rolling out of some of these shops are not done by a production shop .

    thanks ROGER
  20. BISHOP
    Joined: Jul 16, 2006
    Posts: 2,571


    Honestly, I think coal miners make a better life for themselves..
  21. 19Fordy
    Joined: May 17, 2003
    Posts: 7,011


    As you are a graphic artist, find a job where you can utilize those skills. Once you hit 30, it's too late to start over in a trade.
  22. Pat Pryor
    Joined: May 28, 2007
    Posts: 1,871

    Pat Pryor

    go for it. its needed in life. and your real money aint gonna be made untill you do it on the side. or you can just sit on the unemployment line with all the college kids.
  23. Blue One
    Joined: Feb 6, 2010
    Posts: 10,865

    Blue One
    from Alberta

    That is true, and thank God the apprenticeship system is alive and well here in Alberta.
    We have many certified trades that take years to learn.

    As far as being a trained grapic artist goes, there will still be some work left, but much of it is now being done by computer programs.
  24. Blue One
    Joined: Feb 6, 2010
    Posts: 10,865

    Blue One
    from Alberta

    And that is far from the truth. We have many students over 30 in the apprenticeship sytem in a broad range of different trades.

    It is never too late to start anything in life. I know many people who have earned university degrees or RN certifications into their late 40s and early 50s who now have great jobs in the medical industry as well as other places.
  25. falconsprint63
    Joined: May 17, 2007
    Posts: 2,359

    from Mayberry

    my dad taught me to have a "trade" (paint and bodywork--I added panel work later) early on--I started doing collision repair on the side for friends in high school and always made some extra cash that way. at one point I turned to it full time, but don't be fooled it's hard work. my back couldn't handle doing it full time so I went back to my education as my primary income, but I still do work on the side. I did ok, and was just getting to the point where I was consistantly busy--the majority of the time it was feast or famine. I will also say that making your hobby your job is, in my experience, not a good idea--you loose the hobby. You've also got to like monotony--that's why I started the panel work. I enjoy the problem solving in that much more than the tedium of hours and hours of sanding. my humble oppinions.
  26. HRSPWR
    Joined: Mar 28, 2012
    Posts: 12

    from Olympia WA

    I did collision repair for 32 years as both a painter and bodyman. Don't think I would advise someone to get into the business. It's hard on your back and body, and then there's the constant exposure to toxic chemicals. I was lucky to always be paid hourly but there are very few shops that do that. It's great to have the skills to build cars though.
  27. nrgwizard
    Joined: Aug 18, 2006
    Posts: 1,272

    from Minn. uSA

    Hey, tmb;

    Good advice here. But there's nothing wrong w/learning metalworking/etc, for yourself, & as a hobby. Which would allow you to speculate, if you wish, on rusty/damaged panels that others fear. Metalfinish them, & sell them w/o primer/paint. & while working to that level, you could do patch panel work, & sell them also "close-finished", needing skin-coating & primer/painting. If you can beat the cost of bodyshops, you'd do well. Could even get to the "core/exchange" idea w/say, early ford sheetmetal. Although beating the quality repops may be hard, but it could be claimed that it was/is "real" Henry tin. If it really matters, & to some folks, it does. We have a few guys around here who do to "to primer", & charge lower $$$, as it's only for the extra coin - not their living. & then, you can be choosy about who & what you do. Just be real careful about burnout. It'll come real quick-like, if things ever get to "I gotta do this", tight deadlines, or even approaches a job.


  28. Unless you have these qualities do not even consider it.......
    unlimited patience with an equal dose of work ethics and people skills........
    ability to respect and follow all the directions on products label and safety warnings followed to the letter.....
    last but not least-the ability to say- NO-when you know it should be said......
  29. Cali4niaCruiser
    Joined: Aug 30, 2005
    Posts: 490


    I quit the body shop life and got a city job. The best decision I ever made. I still get to weld and wrench, I sleep soundly at night, and when my face falls off I can go to the doc because I have benefits

    Your converse are not shop shoes. Buy boots.
  30. themotherbrain
    Joined: Feb 12, 2011
    Posts: 47

    from New York

    Thanks for the advice guys. Really. It's been helpful to hear from those in the know. I was on the fence about it from the get-go, but I'm motivated to take on a new challenge. I may just take a pass on this field of work as the experienced folks advise, except maybe as a hobby. It's not that I don't think I can do it, but more that I can't live on table scraps.

    A few people mentioned doing upholstery and it was actually my first real consideration as I have a bit of experience doing some entry level kind of upholstery work. The application is similar to my tinting and graphic experience (work from the center out). There is no real outlet to learn professionally around my way, but I have a little direction online and understand the concept pretty well. I'm looking at a decent commercial sewing machine and I may even just pull the trigger on today and get going it. Doing the interior in my 61 coupe deville is a personal challenge I'd already set for myself long before this conversation anyway.

    Also, somebody earlier asked what a "trained graphic artist" is. What I meant was I went to a vocational school for computer graphics and design and also have working experience with gerber omega software and machinery as well as the more common programs (some may be outdated at this point, haven't been in the field for 6+ years) like Photoshop, Illustrator, Pagemaker, Quark Xpress. Sounds cool and all, but I'm a blue-collar guy at heart and sitting at a desk manipulating lines on a screen gets quite boring quick.

    Seems like the upholstery could truly be a nice balance of thought and application, which is exactly what I need. I joined the social group here and will let you know how it goes. Thanks for everything.

    -Rob aka themotherbrain

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