Last Updated: May 17, 2023

Why Steel Buildings are the Best Choice for Auto Repair and Body Shops: Costs and Benefits

Traditional construction is expensive, especially when first starting your auto repair or body shop business. What's more, it's time consuming.

Whether you're just getting started or are looking to expand or remodel an established business, a steel building shop can be the quickest, most cost-efficient route to take. Not only does it cost a lot less, getting up and running quickly means you're making money sooner.

Why Steel For My Auto Repair Shop?

As a raw material, steel offers amazing durability at a lower cost than traditional construction. For example, properly engineered steel buildings, such as Quonset huts, withstand hurricane force winds.

Choosing a prefab steel model is an especially quick option, getting you up and running in a few days versus the months traditional construction requires. Once you're up and running, you have fewer worries about pests, such as termites, or dangers such as fire. Features like this keep steel structures comparatively inexpensive when it comes to insurance.

Maintenance costs are also minimal, as the material resists rust, mildew, and decay. Finally, as the most recycled material on Earth, steel is environmentally friendly, especially compared to wood.

Cost to Build a Steel Mechanic Shop

What are the Cost Variables?

Due to differences such as geography and the unique needs of every project, there is a lot of variability in the cost of erecting a steel auto repair/body shop. First, the price of steel itself fluctuates, typically increasing. Though the 2020 Covid pandemic saw a huge increase in the price of steel, it's since begun to stabalize.

For some, it makes sense to move forward with a building project sooner rather than later, since the cost of the raw materials nearly always goes up over time. Building size also dictates cost per square foot, as most companies charge a lower square foot rate for a larger building (think of it like buying in bulk at the grocery store).

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What are the Average Costs of a Steel Auto Repair Building?

Remembering that costs vary, expect to pay between $15 and $25 per square foot total for a basic steel building, but up to $40 per square foot for customized buildings.

If erecting a prefab steel building, the building itself averages in the $15 to $20 per square foot range, and an additional $5 to $10 per square foot for the concrete foundation. Adding insulation increases the price tag between $1,000 and $3,000, on average. However, this increased building cost leads to decreased utility costs. The cost of an auto lift is additional costing between $2,000 and $3,500 each on average.

Rigid frame steel buildings cost more than their arch frame counterparts. Even these differences vary widely, though. Some examples:

Rigid Frame Repair Shops

  • 20 by 20: $10-12,000
  • 40 by 40: $16-20,000
  • 100 by 100: $70-80,000
  • 200 by 200: $275-325,000

Arch Frame Repair Shops

  • 20 by 20: $6-8,000
  • 40 by 40: $14-16,000
  • 80 by 80: $40-50,000
  • 80 by 200: $80-100,000

You'll notice that not only does price per square foot vary, so too do the sizes available for each frame type.

None of these totals include the cost of the land itself. If you're expanding your business, this isn't an issue. However, if this is a new business, you need to factor in the cost of land, which varies not only by state/city/county, but also by urban versus suburban versus rural. Expect to pay an average of $12,000 per acre of land.

What are My Must-Haves?

Before building, research the building's utilities and piping needs, including septic and water supplies. Consult with the utilities themselves to learn requirements for power and water. In addition, research code. It's always easier to match code before building than after.

You need a concrete foundation for your steel auto shop. This requires a hard concrete sub-base measuring at least 120 mm, as well as a mixed concrete layer of 120 mm or more. In addition, consider strengthening your concrete foundation with steel bar reinforcements.

What are Secondary Considerations for Steel Auto Repair Buildings?

Insulation doesn't fall under the "must-have" column, but if your location experiences extreme temperatures, either hot or cold, you'll likely wish you'd considered this extra expense worth the cost.

In addition to the comfort of people working inside the auto shop, humidity may cause the building to "sweat." Steel holds up well against moisture, especially compared to wood, but repeated exposure may cause damage over time.

Look also at your area's construction seasons. Specifically, which are the "slow" seasons? This is likely your best time for building, as you tend to get the lowest quotes from contractors during their slow period. The slow season changes according to location.

If you live in a cold climate, consider building late spring or later, when the ground is drier and more conducive to laying your concrete foundation.

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Video: Steel Auto Repair | General Steel Building Types 101

Watch this video to learn more about the pros and cons of steel auto repair buildings.

Pros of a Steel Auto Repair Shop:

  • Durability
  • Low maintenance
  • Customizable
  • Cost-effective
  • Fire-resistant

Cons of a Steel Auto Repair Shop:

  • Limited natural light
  • Poor sound insulation
  • Cold in winter, hot in summer
  • Permits and zoning
  • Industrial look

Overall, steel auto repair shops are durable, low-maintenance, customizable, and cost-effective, but may have limited natural light, poor sound insulation, and require additional permits and zoning considerations.


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