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What Licenses Does An Auto Body Repair Shop Need?

What Licenses Does An Auto Body Repair Shop Need?

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What Licenses Does An Auto Body Repair Shop Need?

Starting a successful auto body repair shop takes more than knowing how to make a car look like new again. One important aspect of successfully starting a business is researching and applying for the licenses and permits that are needed to operate legally.

The question, “what business license do I need to start my business” is a common one, but in reality, a business will often need multiple licenses, permits, and registrations from federal, state, and local agencies.

Related: Guide to starting an auto body repair business

While we have researched what licenses and permits your business may need, please be aware that there is no way for us to have uncovered every state and local requirement.

To not miss any important licenses and permits, we recommend also checking with your local Chamber of Commerce, economic development agency, or use a business license service like Incfile or LegalZoom.

What Licenses Do You Need to Start an auto body repair business?

Federal Requirements

This isn’t a license per se, but it is important for an auto body shop to know, is the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has requirements for paint stripping and surface coating operations.

State Licensing

Every state regulates auto body businesses a little differently, and it can be complex finding what requirements there are, but all require some sort of state licensing or registration.

Here are a few examples:

At the state level, for example, In California, you will need to be registered with the Bureau of Automotive Repair (BAR)

The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency requires the filing of the Motor Vehicle Refinishing Initial Notification form, in addition to continual compliance certification of a motor vehicle refinishing operation.

The State of Michigan has requirements related to air quality, water quality, and waste handling that apply to auto body repair shops.

Local Licensing

If the thought of researching the federal and state requirements wasn’t enough, many cities also regulate body shops.

For instance, the City of Chicago has auto repair licensing requirements.

The city of Houston also requires licensing.  In order to be permitted as an auto body repair shop, a business license application, criminal background check, and certificate of occupancy is required.

As you can see from the state and local requirements that it’s vitally important to research the requirements so your business is legal to operate from day one.

After getting specific licensing for your auto body repair services, you will be well on your way to starting your business.  Keep in mind that there will also be some general licensing requirements for starting your shop.  Here are a few of the common licenses and permits to watch out for:

General Business License or Permit

Depending on where the business is located, a general business license or permit may be required. A few states require a business license;  however, they are more commonly found at the city level.

Learn more: Business license requirements by state

Federal Employer Identification Number

The Federal Employer Identification Number (also referred to as a FEIN, Employer Identification Number, EIN, or Federal Tax ID Number) is a unique nine-digit number that identifies a business with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

Any business with employees or those that form as a partnership, Corporation, and in many cases an LLC, the business will need to get an EIN.

Learn: How to get an EIN

Sales Tax Permit or Number

In order to sell parts and/or offer certain services, a state sales tax permit (or tax ID number) may be needed.  This permit creates an account number with the state’s Department of Revenue or a similarly named state taxing agency.

Additionally, hiring employees will also likely require a state tax number.

Learn: How to get a sales tax permit

Resale Certificate

When buying products such as bumpers, fenders, and paint that the customer pays for after the vehicle is repaired, the business can purchase these items tax-free. A resale certificate allows a business to purchase inventory, and instead of paying the sales tax to their vendor, they charge the sales tax to the end-user of the product.

A resale certificate only allows a business to not pay sales tax for items being resold, and sales tax will still need to be paid for supplies or equipment.

Learn: How to get a resale certificate

Certificate of Occupancy

In most communities, a retail business will need to secure a Certificate of Occupancy (CO) before opening.  This certificate is typically obtained from the city, but sometimes from the county, and allows a business to occupy and operate from a building provided the building complies with zoning regulations, building codes, and any other local requirements.

A Certificate of Occupancy  (also referred to as a home occupation permit) is also sometimes required for a home-based business.

Before starting your auto body repair business, be sure to check with the local zoning department to ensure the business can legally operate out of the chosen location.

Business Name Registration or DBA

While not necessarily a business license, it’s worth noting that in order to use a name for a business, many states require the registration of that name. Making matters more complicated, the process of name registration is different by state and the type of business entity.

For instance, sole proprietorships and partnerships generally need to register a business name (also referred to as a Doing Business As, DBA, fictitious name, or assumed name).

Learn: How to register a DBA

Corporations and LLCs register are a little easier in that their name is registered when forming the entity.

Related: What is the difference between a sole proprietorship, partnership, Corporation, or LLC?


In addition to licensing, auto body repair businesses can also obtain certification to gain additional skills and industry-specific knowledge. A few marketing certifications include:

What Licenses Does An Auto Body Repair Shop Need?

What Licenses Does An Auto Body Repair Shop Need?

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