Vehicle Parts Operative

The Job and What's Involved

Vehicle parts operatives are responsible for ordering, selling and managing stock for a wide range of vehicle parts and accessories.

Duties may vary from employer to employer but will typically include:

  • Advising customers on how to solve a problem with their vehicle.
  • Taking orders from customers, both face to face and over the telephone.
  • Maintaining an ordered stock room and finding parts from stock.
  • Ordering parts from suppliers.
  • Raising invoices for parts which have been sold.
  • Liaising with other members of staff.

Customers may include members of the public, the service department of a dealership or garages in the area. Operatives have a good general knowledge of motor vehicle technology so that they can advise customers effectively.

Stock control is one of the main tasks, and is usually done with the help of a computer package. This automatically maintains stock levels by re-ordering parts as they are sold. Audits or stock-takes are held regularly to ensure that the stock on the shelf corresponds with the information recorded on the computer system. All incoming parts must be checked and recorded before being stored in the correct location in the stockroom.

To find the correct items, vehicle parts operatives may have to use a range of devices including microfiche, computer databases, catalogues and increasingly the internet.

All operatives are expected to be aware of health, safety and security issues and work as part of a team.

Full-time posts are typically around 40 hours a week, normally between 8.30am and 6.00pm, Monday to Friday. Weekend and evening work is quite common, either on a rotation basis with time off in lieu, or as part of a contractual arrangement. Part-time work may be available.

Working conditions vary widely between garages, shops and dealerships, but most are reasonably clean, well lit and airy.

The job may involve a large amount of lifting and carrying. A driving licence may be useful. Employers often provide a uniform.

An apprentice operative may earn £6,000 to £8,000 a year whilst training. When trained, an operative may earn between £10,000 and £15,000 a year.

Additional overtime and shift allowances may be available. Some employers also offer performance-related bonuses.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

Vehicle parts operatives are employed by many areas of the motor trade, including:

- Vehicle parts and accessory shops
- Large and small dealerships
- All types of garages, from local garages to car supermarkets
- Specialist repair centres

Jobs are available nationwide, and with a current shortage of skilled trades people for the retail automotive industry, there is a big demand for highly skilled individuals. Vacancies are advertised in the local press, and on company and specialist automotive recruitment website's.

Education and Training

Formal qualifications are not generally required for entry to this role, however there are a range of qualifications in vehicle part operations which cover the underpinning knowledge and the hands-on skills required to carry out the job.

Employers may look for GCSE grades in English, maths, IT and science or equivalent qualifications prior to entry. Most importantly, employers look for a positive attitude and the desire to do a good job. A genuine interest in practical work, demonstrated by having a relevant hobby is also important.

Apprenticeships are a popular route into this area of work. The technical certificates available through these programme's give entrants the required knowledge and skill to do the job to a high and recognised standard. Apprenticeships lead to an NVQ in vehicle parts operations at Level 2 or 3.

Apprenticeships and Advanced Apprenticeships provide structured training with an employer. As an apprentice you must be paid at least £95 per week; you may well be paid more. A recent survey found that the average wage for apprentices was £170 a week. Your pay will depend on the sector in which you work, your age, the area where you live and the stage at which you have arrived in the Apprenticeship.

Entry to Employment (e2e) can help to prepare those who are not yet ready for an Apprenticeship. In addition, Young Apprenticeships may be available for 14- to 16-year-olds. More information is available from a Connexions personal adviser or at

There are different arrangements for Apprenticeships in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

For further information visit My World of Work, Careers Wales; and for Northern Ireland contact

There is no upper age limit for training as a vehicle parts operative. Experience in a related field such as vehicle servicing work may help. Good product knowledge and IT skills may also be required. Applicants may be able to get into this area of work after taking a full or part-time NVQ, BTEC Diploma or Certificate in vehicle maintenance and repair, or automotive servicing and repair.

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The Apprenticeship option involves training for several years while at work. Apprentices follow a structured programme which will help them achieve NVQ Level 2 or 3 in vehicle parts operations. They achieve this by working alongside colleagues and attending college on a day-release basis.

There are many training providers' courses which can lead to nationally recognised technical certificates. There may be opportunities to go out on work placements for individuals who have yet to secure full-time employment.

Some companies run short courses for their employees, covering relevant skills such as customer service, IT, health and safety, security and product awareness.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

A vehicle parts operative should:

  • Communicate well with customers and members of the team.
  • Have a good technical knowledge of how vehicles work.
  • Have confidence in using their initiative in solving problems.
  • Be willing to keep up with changes in vehicle technology.
  • Be accurate when processing payments.

Your Long Term Prospects

The ever-changing technology in the retail motor industry means it is vital to keep skills and knowledge up-to-date. The larger organisations tend to offer greater opportunities for promotion to supervisory or managerial roles.

As customer service is a large part of being a vehicle parts operative, there may be opportunities to enter a more customer-focused role.

Get Further Information

The Institute of the Motor Industry (IMI),
Fanshaws, Brickendon,
Hertford SG13 8PQ
Tel: 01992 511 521

Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders,
Forbes House, Halkin Street,
London SW1X 7DS
Tel: 020 7235 7000

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