InstaMek’s national expansion rolls into Vancouver

But on-call contract mechanics could pose legal problems for consumers, company

Former WrenchPatrol owner Iain Rogers (left) with automotive technician Omar Abbas | Chung Chow

When Uzair Ahmed looks at the Vancouver landscape it’s not the oceans or the mountains that catch his eye.

“Traffic sucks there, I know that,” said the president and co-founder of InstaMek, who describes his company as the Uber for auto repairs.

The company hires contract mechanics to do auto repairs at customers’ homes instead of making customers bring vehicles into repair shops.

“We want to be the guys who make auto repair really convenient,” Ahmed said.

Since launching in Edmonton in March 2015, the on-call vehicle repair company has expanded to Calgary and Greater Toronto.

The June acquisition of former Vancouver-based competitor WrenchPatrol marks the company’s entry into the West Coast market. With the acquisition, InstaMek increased its roster of mechanics to 75 from about 50.

Ahmed said the only regulatory issues InstaMek has faced are municipal bylaws in southern Ontario’s Peel Region preventing at-home auto repairs.

But lawyer Elizabeth Reid, an associate at Vancouver-based Boughton Law, said bringing contractors to do auto repair work has the potential to become a “legal nightmare” if a mechanic is injured on a customer’s property or else damages a customer’s vehicle further.

“If you’re in control of a property – your home – and something goes wrong, there are times you can be liable,” she said.

Reid said there is an exception in the Occupiers Liability Act for independent contractors but the one caveat is that the work has to be considered “reasonable” for it to be done in someone’s home.

“It’s reasonable to have a cleaner come in and clean your house. Is it reasonable to use sophisticated auto-mechanic tools?” she said. “If they’re using some sort of welding torch, I don’t know if that’s reasonable to do at somebody’s home.”

Ahmed said there are exceptions to the kinds of repair work InstaMek contractors will do: no roadside repairs, no engine or transmission replacements.

But Reid said beyond liability issues, customers using such a service should have guarantees from InstaMek about the competence and personal characteristics of the contractor before they come to someone’s home.

Ahmed said all the contract mechanics are Red Seal certified.

Meanwhile, WrenchPatrol co-founder Iain Rogers said the new parent company is investing big in technology, with plans to roll out a mobile app in the coming weeks.

“They [InstaMek] are expanding quickly across the country, so having a turnkey solution to be able to come in and start up here with a large and established customer base … was appealing to them rather than trying to outcompete us,” said Rogers, who now works for InstaMek’s business development team on a contract basis.

The company is averaging revenue growth of 25% month-over-month after servicing 7,500 cars since launch, according to Ahmed.

He said much of the growth comes from its competitive rates – lower overhead costs mean repairs are 30% cheaper on average.

Ahmed said while some independent mom-and-pop shops offer repairs at people’s homes, there’s a major market gap for the service in Canada.

InstaMek has 15 people working out of its headquarters, four of whom were hired in the last four weeks.

“We’re one of the few Alberta companies which are hiring and hiring quickly,” Ahmed said.