Just about anyone can start a business as a mechanic because most states don't require mechanics to maintain licenses or certifications. But just because it's not required doesn't mean it's not a good idea.
You wouldn't see a dentist who didn't attend dental school and receive the proper training, right?
Many people feel the same way about their vehicles. Having an ASE certification helps set you apart from the competition. It gives your customers peace of mind, knowing you have the expertise and experience necessary to properly maintain and repair their vehicle.
What is ASE certification?
The National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) is an independent non-profit organization dedicated to improving the vehicle service and repair industry. ASE offers testing and certification to help raise the bar for service provided by automotive professionals.
Being ASE-certified shows you know what you're doing and ranges from entry-level to master technician status.
Entry-level certifications are designed for students training to become a mechanic and are available in three categories: automobile, collision repair/refinish and medium/heavy (M/H) truck. Once you have some work experience under your belt, ASE offers 52 certification tests in 16 different specialties, including:
- Automobile and light truck
- Collision repair and refinish
- Damage analysis and estimating
- Automobile service consultant
- Truck equipment
- Alternate fuels
- Auto maintenance and light repair
- Transit bus
- Advanced engine performance specialist
- Electronic diesel engine diagnosis specialist
- Light duty hybrid/electric vehicle specialist
- Parts specialist
- School bus
- Medium-heavy truck
- Undercar specialist exhaust systems
- ASE military tactical wheeled vehicle
You can take as many exams as you want, earning certifications in one more area. You'll achieve ASE master technician status — the most advanced certification available through ASE — when you pass all the tests in a specific series.
What are the benefits of being ASE-certified?
It's true that you could open an auto repair shop without being ASE-certified, but earning your certifications has some perks that may make the time and effort of becoming certified worth it.
- It shows you're serious about your craft. Because ASE certification is voluntary, it shows customers and potential clients that you take your work seriously. It demonstrates a level of professionalism your non-ASE-certified counterparts may not have.
- It indicates quality. ASE certification exams are demanding. The expertise and experience required to pass help ensure that customers who work with ASE-certified mechanics consistently receive quality service.
- It builds confidence. You've probably heard horror stories from people who took their car to a mechanic who didn't repair the vehicle properly or "fixed" something that wasn't actually broken. When you're ASE-certified, customers are more likely to be confident in your ability to maintain and repair their vehicle correctly the first time around.
- You may be able to charge more. Because customers can feel confident in your ability to properly diagnose, repair and maintain their vehicles, you may be able to charge more if you're an ASE-certified mechanic. Specializing in a specific service may also give you an opportunity to raise your rates.
- It can help you attract top talent. You don't want just anyone working for you. After all, when one of your employees works on a customer's vehicle, your reputation is on the line. If you have plans to expand your business beyond a one-person shop, being ASE-certified may help you attract other ASE-certified mechanics or professionals who want to earn their certifications.
- It keeps you sharp. Passing the certification tests isn't easy. Studying for your exams and keeping certificates current keeps you up to date on the latest developments in the automotive maintenance and repair industry.
- It's a great marketing tool. If at least 75% of your service professionals are ASE-certified, you may qualify for the Blue Seal of Excellence recognition program. Showing off your qualifications to potential customers may help you land more business.
- It can lower your insurance costs. At NEXT, certified auto repair shops that bundle general liability with commercial property coverage can save up to 19% on their premium. To qualify for a premium discount, you must have an ASE, I-CAR (Gold class) or AAA-approved auto repair certification.
How to get ASE certified
ASE certification requirements vary based on the type you want to earn. Most — except the entry-level certifications — require a combination of education and hands-on experience before you can take the exam.
Certification tests are designed to test your knowledge of just about every aspect of the automotive industry. To help you prepare, ASE publishes comprehensive study guides at no charge. They also have practice tests you can purchase for $11.95 to $14.95, depending on how many you buy.
Entry-level certifications are good for two years, and you can't renew them. Other certifications are good for five years. You must re-take the ASE certification test every five years to stay certified.
How much does it cost to earn an ASE certification?
If you're getting certified for the first time, test fees range from $50 to $100, depending on the exam you're taking. Plus, you'll need to pay a $34 registration fee, regardless of the number of tests you take.
Re-certification tests cost either $50 or $100, depending on the exam, plus you'll need to pay the $34 registration fee. ASE caps the total cost of re-certification tests at $150 per order no matter how many tests you order. So, if you want to take five $100 exams, you'll only pay $184 — $150 for the exams, plus the $34 registration fee.
How NEXT helps auto repair businesses
At NEXT, getting the protection you need is fast, easy and affordable with our customized auto service and repair insurance. Our packages are designed to meet the unique needs of your business.
Simply fill out an online application to get a quote, see coverage options and purchase a policy. You can complete the entire process in less than 10 minutes and get instant access to your certificate of insurance when you make a payment.
If you have questions along the way, our licensed, U.S.-based insurance professionals can help.
Get started with a free quote today.