Owning and operating your own auto shop can be liberating and rewarding since it allows you to be your own boss while also having the freedom to determine how much you earn by setting your own prices and taking on more or less repairs. While it can take thousands of dollars to open a brand new shop in a prime location with new equipment and supplies, you can start smaller with almost no money by learning how to start an auto shop from the ground up.

Have experience. Complete an educational program to become an auto mechanic or spend a few years learning on the job if you can find an auto mechanic willing to teach you. Work in an auto repair shop or facility for at least one year prior to starting your own auto shop even if you have education. This gives you experience you can use to attract customers as well as get certification through the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE). Meet the certification criteria and complete written exams to become ASE certified.

Write a business plan. Outline the steps you need to take to start an auto shop, and determine how you'll do it on a minimal budget. For many this means working out of their garage or backyard while getting customers through word of mouth referrals. Incorporate goals into the business plan to help you grow and expand your start-up. To gain assistance in writing your business plan, seek out free business seminars and classes offered by the Chamber of Commerce or economic development department in your community.

Register your business. Fill out the form online on the website of the Internal Revenue Service to obtain your federal tax identification number, which is also referred to as your employer identification number (EIN). Apply for a local business license from your city and pay the small licensing fee charged for it. Register with your state and local department of revenue to collect and pay sales tax on the services you provide if applicable in your area.

Use the tools you have. Start your auto shop by using the tools you've acquired as an auto mechanic. Purchase and upgrade your tools as your customer base grows and you make more money.

Work out of your garage. Set up your tools and equipment in your garage to work on vehicles from your home. Lease or purchase a commercial garage space after you have enough business to pay the cost of the monthly lease or mortgage as well as utilities.

Utilize free advertising methods. Encourage family and friends to spread the word about your auto shop to people they know. Provide discounts on service and repair for people who make a solid referral. Post information for free on social networking sites such as Facebook, MySpace and Twitter. Incorporate other avenues of advertising once your business is making a profit such as hanging flyers, advertising in neighborhood newsletters or running promotional ads on local radio and television stations.

Hire staff. Add additional mechanics when you consistently have too many repairs to do on your own. Save yourself time and hassle and hire a receptionist to answer the phone and schedule appointments once business picks up. Consider outsourcing bookkeeping to a freelance bookkeeper or accountant to save you money from hiring a full-time employee.