Everyone wants to start a business to become financial freedom, but finding the right business idea and breathing life into it is easier said than done. Starting a mobile car detailing business is a good idea with huge potential to help you establish a successful brand.
Car detailers in the United States earned $27,735 per year and an hourly wage of $15.92 in 2020. Since then, the market has grown and is currently estimated to be worth $14.7 billion.
Despite competition for customers, the high demand for professional mobile car detailing services keeps the industry booming and thriving. It’s not too late to venture into the industry and start your own mobile car detailing business. Here is a detailed guide to help make your dream a reality.
What is Mobile Car Detailing?
Mobile car detailing entails thoroughly cleans a car’s interior and exterior to make it look as brand new as possible. The service is offered by a team of professionals with vast hands-on experience and a proven system and products to restore the car to factory freshness.
Unlike the conventional auto detailing service, mobile car detailing services are rendered wherever is convenient for the customer. That is, the client specifies where they want their car to be detailed depending on their schedule and convenience.
Some may opt for the car to be detailed at their homes or business premises garage – the choice is theirs. As a mobile car detailer, your goal is to take note of client specifications, drive to their location, and offer a top-notch car detailing service within the agreed timeframe.
What’s the Difference between Mobile Auto Detailing vs. Automotive Detailing Shop?
Most people use the terms mobile auto detailing and automotive detailing shop interchangeably. There are glaring differences between the two; mobile auto detailing involves the car detailer service provider going to the client’s location to offer the auto detailing service.
They don’t need a physical facility that the clients can drive their car into for an auto detailing service. Customers enjoy the convenience of their car being detailed at their preferred location and specified day and time.
On the other hand, an automotive detailing shop is precisely what the name means. It’s a shop equipped with modern equipment and personnel whose role is to offer detailing services such as exterior car cleaning, engine checks and cleaning, paintwork, and more.
The clients often have to schedule an appointment beforehand and drive the car or have it transported to the auto detailing shop for the service.
The main difference is that mobile auto detailing services are offered at the client’s preferred location. In contrast, automotive detailing shop services are done at a specific brick-and-mortar facility owned and run by the detailer.
Benefits of Starting a Mobile Car Detailing Company
Before starting any business, it’s imperative to consider the short-term and long-term benefits to determine if it’s worth investing. Here are the top four benefits of starting a mobile car detailing company.
- Low Starting & Operating Costs
Well, this is subject to debate, but starting and operating costs of a mobile car detailing business are lowered compared to an auto detailing shop. All you need is training, a trailer, an auto vacuum cleaner, and other hardware and cleaning supplies.
The only recurring costs to keep in mind and budget for are the cost of new supplies, repairs, and equipment maintenance.
- High-Profit Margins
Simply put, lower business operating costs result in high-profit margins. Customers are willing to pay top dollar for a professional mobile car detailing service offered at their preferred location.
Most of the start-up costs associated with kind of business are one-time fees. Once you get a firm footing in the industry, you will quickly earn money back and start lumping profits.
Convenience is one of the factors that clients consider when looking for car detailing services. The fact that you personally or have a team that goes to the client’s location and offers the car detailing service on the spot will give you a higher cutting edge.
You can customize the service packages to suit the needs and preferences of your customers. This will, in turn, spur growth and enable you to expand your clientele base fast and without breaking the bank.
In addition, consistent provision of quality car detailing services will cement your brand in the market and prove yourself as an authority in the auto detailing business. Word-of-mouth from clients and a robust digital marketing strategy will enable you to grow the business tenfold within a short period.
- Its Recession-Proof
Not so many businesses are recession-proof. The covid-19 pandemic and the harsh economic environment have forced hundreds if not thousands of companies to close shop.
Luckily, mobile car detailing is one of the reasonably recession-proof businesses today. The services are on-demand, and vehicles will always get scratches and dings. Interior and exterior will fade over time.
The target customers are always looking for professional auto detailing services that are affordable and convenient – that’s what you will be offering as a mobile car detailer.
In addition, the average auto detailing customer detailers the car at least once or twice per year. Some high-end clients seek the service every few months. Thus, you won’t be under constant pressure to find new customers.
The repeat customers will help meet operating costs and keep your business afloat. Be sure to use the feedback from satisfied customers to expand your reach. You could also give the customers a discount for referring other clients to you.
What Do You Need to Get Started in the Mobile Auto Detailing Industry?
Like other businesses, there are steps that you need to take to start and establish a successful mobile auto detailing business. Here is an overview of everything that you need to get started.
- Get Proper Training
Knowing how to detail a car correctly will go a long way to establishing your brand as the best mobile car detailing provider. Today, there are more than ten auto detailing techniques, and they will keep increasing as new technologies and equipment are introduced into the market.
Staying abreast of these techniques and continuously polishing your skills will place your business miles ahead of the competition. With the many online and offline training facilities available, finding the right one is usually a daunting task for most new mobile auto detailers.
Not anymore; for several weeks, we scoured the internet and interviewed industry leaders. Here are our top four online auto detailing course providers today.
Most classes are conducted online, but some, such as Detail King, also hold in-person training sessions. These provide plenty of learning materials from eBooks to PDFs and YouTube videos on how to do various car detailing processes.
The cost of the course ranges from anywhere between $20 and $2,000. It depends on the learning platform, course, duration, and content. We recommend starting with the beginner techniques to learn the ropes before trying your hand at the advanced detailing methods.
- Choose a Business Name
Finding the right name for your mobile car detailing business will significantly impact your success. The wrong name will make it difficult for potential customers to connect with you. Here are tips on choosing the ideal business name for your auto detailing business.
- Follow your state guidelines: Every state has regulations governing business naming. Virtually all allow entrepreneurs to search online to know if the name is available. You can also reserve the name to prevent other people from using it as you prepare to launch the business.
- Make it memorable and meaningful: Your business name should be memorable so clients can easily remember it when looking for mobile auto detailing services. It should also be meaningful. That is, it should be relevant to the services you intend to offer.
- Include location: If you plan to offer the services in specific locations, it’s recommended to include the area’s name in the name. Doing so will also come in handy when doing local SEO for your website and running marketing campaigns, as it will make your brand more relatable to the target customers.
- Choose a web-friendly name: You will most likely have a website and market the business via social media platforms. Research to find a name with a matching domain to get the much-needed online visibility. Longer names with unusual spelling will make it difficult for customers to remember you or type the name on search engines.
- Choose a name consistent with your brand: What do you want to be known for? A fast mobile detail service or a cheap auto detail. Regardless of the goal, pick a name consistent with your brand. The name should give customers a hint of what you’re good at even before they visit your website or contact you.
On the surface, choosing a business name may seem straightforward. But, it’s one of the most critical steps of starting a mobile car detailing business. Take the time to do extensive research, consult widely, and adhere to the state laws.
- Find Out the Requirement Permits to Operate a Mobile Car Detailing Business in your Area
Like other businesses, you need a permit to operate a mobile car detailing business in your area. The permits vary across states, so it’s recommended to contact the town, city, or county clerk’s office for details of the specific permits.
For example, you may be required to collect sales tax on your auto detailing services. Failing to file tax returns could result in your license and permits being canceled. We found an article that describes the sales tax for small businesses in the country. Check it out!
- Obtain Licenses & Insurance
You need to obtain a license from the state government to offer mobile car detailing services. As earlier mentioned, the licenses vary from one state to another. Be on the safe side by visiting the county government offices for details of the required business license. Usually, the county clerk has to see and verify the business license once it’s granted.
In California, the municipality licenses mobile car washes and detailing businesses. You must be registered with the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE) for your successful business license application.
You also need insurance policies to safeguard your business from different eventualities. The insurance policies required are;
- Garage Keepers Legal Liability Insurance
- Business Auto Insurance
- Business Owners Policy
- Worker’s Compensation
- Commercial Umbrella Policy
Most insurance companies offer these policies. Before buying, take time to compare the policy documents and the compensation the company offers for each policy. Other factors that you should consider when selecting an insurance company for your business are;
- Legal accreditation
- Monthly or annual policy payments
- Quality of customer service
Network with other people who have in the past sort a policy from the company to get a clear perspective of the quality of insurance policies offered. Steer clear of companies with a negative reputation as that could be a sign that they don’t honor their promises and commitment to customers.
- Register Your Auto Detailing Company
Your business needs to be registered with your state’s Secretary of State office. You must also pay a filing fee to secure your business name. To operate as an LLC, you must file Articles of Organization. However, if the business will be a corporation, you file Articles of Incorporation.
Once you complete the registration process, apply for an Employment Identification Number (EIN) from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The EIN is your mobile car detailing the business number, similar to your personal identification number or social security number. You will be using it to file business taxes with IRS.
- Get a Business Bank Account
You can now open a business bank account with the employment identification number, license, and permit. Your personal account should differ from the business bank account for more accessible tax filing, account, and personal asset protection.
Go the extra mile to apply for a business credit card to help you build your business’s credit history to raise money down the road. This credit card will also separate your business and personal expenses by putting all the business expenses, such as transport costs, all in one place.
- Select Your Location
Even though you will be offering mobile car detailing services, you still need to have an office that clients can walk into to inquire about your services. The right location will catapult your business to the next level of success.
Here are some pointers to help you select the best location for your business.
- Rent and Land Rates: The location should be within your budget.
- Safety: Consider the security of your personnel, belongings, and clients.
- Accessibility and Visibility: It should be easily accessible from the main roads and neighborhoods you intend to service.
- Competition: Locate your auto detailing business in an area that doesn’t have many similar companies to keep competition low.
- Neighborhood Attractions: Your business is reliant on other companies. So, choose a vibrant area with significant traffic to get your brand name on the map.
- Growth Potential: Choose an area with high growth potential.
Please don’t be in a hurry when evaluating the different options. Take time to compare the above factors and anything else that may directly or indirectly impact your business.
- Discover Who Your Customer Base Is
Carry out extensive market research to know the characteristics of your ideal mobile auto detail customers. Defining their personas will enable you to create robust marketing strategies for each segment of customers.
Some of the factors that you should consider when creating a customer avatar/persona/profile are;
- Challenges or pain points
- Geographic location
- Financial capability
- Previous spending on car detailing services
Social media is one of the best sources of this information. As the business grows, be open to tweaking the profiles to match changes in the market. You will also need to adjust your marketing strategies to continue generating and attracting qualified leads to your business.
- Creating a Marketing Plan
A marketing plan is an operational document that acts as a blueprint of how the mobile car detailing business intends to advertise and market its services in a target market. The plan should have seven primary elements, namely;
- Product & Services: The auto detailing services and products you will be providing.
- Price: The cost of the products and services
- Promotion: The advertising and marketing strategies you intend to use to connect with potential customers.
- Place: The locations you will be offering the car detailing services
- People: Who will you be offering the auto detailing services to?
- Process: Details of how you intend to engage with the customers, offer the service, and receive payment.
- Physical evidence: Receipts and other documents you will issue to customers to validate their purchase.
There are many templates online you can use to write a marketing plan. However, using them is not advisable as most are outdated and don’t match the current market trends and needs.
INERO Digital is best known for providing professional marketing plans to automobile detailers. Over the years, they have helped thousands of entrepreneurs like you establish successful auto detailing businesses.
Their commendable reputation and credibility are a true reflection of their commitment to providing nothing but the best business marketing plan services. Get in touch with them for more information.
- Build a Website
You definitely need a website to market your mobile car detailing services in different locations. With Google regularly updating its algorithms and introducing new requirements, hiring a reputable agency is recommended to create a professional and responsive website for your business is recommended.
INERO Digital is a reputable agency specializing in developing quality websites for auto detailers at competitive rates. The web developers and designers have years of experience and will stop at nothing to ensure that your website needs are met amicably. Get a custom website that clients will love browsing through by contacting them today.
- Set Up an Account System or CRM
Invest in robust account software to enable you to track payments, invoices, and expenses. Here are the top three accounting management software for auto detailers available today.
Compare and contrast the features of each software to identify one that best suits your business model. Gauge the support team’s responsiveness by sending an email or calling them to inquire about the software.
On the other hand, a robust CRM (Customer relationship management) software will help you manage and establish cordial working relationships with your customers. We did our homework, and here are the top CRM software for your car detailing business.
- Zippity: Best suited for customer service
- management: Best suited for accounting
- detail POS: Best suited for inclusivity
- Orbis: Best suited for modern offering
- OctopusPro: Best fit for innovation
- Shop monkey: Best suited for primary offering
- RoadFS: Best fit for inventory tracking
Some of them, like ManageMart and DetailPro POS, have accounting and CRM features. Consider using such tools to save money that you would have spent purchasing two different software. Use the trial version to confirm that it matches our business requirements before subscribing to the paid plans.
- Get Proper Detailing Equipment
The equipment you purchase will determine the quality of your car detailing services. Thanks to advancements in technology, there is a plethora of new generation equipment for just about any detailing procedure.
Though some of the equipment may be expensive, the long-term benefits you will derive from them make them worth buying. The basics you require are;
- Microfiber mitts
- Car wash and car wax
- Headlight cleaner
- Tire shine
- Auto vacuum cleaner
- Leather conditioner
Start with these basics and increase your arsenal of equipment as your business thrives and grows. Ensure that you train new personnel on how to use them to deliver quality detailing services consistently.
- Start Scrubbing Cars!!
If you have made it this far and followed our advice, you are set to start scrubbing cars. Go out there and prove to the world you are the best auto car detailer. Continuously market your services online and offline and monitor your financials to know which protocols need improvement. Good luck!
How much does it Cost to Start a Mobile Car Detailing Business?
After carefully analyzing estimates from different reputable sources, we can confidently report that the average initial investment in a mobile car detailing business ranges between $5,000 and $25,000. Most car detailers we spoke to started with a little over $9,000.
Use the above figure to make the necessary financial plans before starting. It’s also important to note that the cost of starting this kind of business is dependent on the type of services you will be offering and the detailing equipment already in your possession.
Apart from the initial investment, you need to consider recurring expenses to stay afloat. Below are things you should include in your monthly budget.
- Vehicle maintenance
- Supplies replenishment
- Tool and equipment repair and maintenance
- Labor costs
Hire a reputable accountant to help you manage your finances well to avoid plunging the business into financial turmoil. Be open to adjusting the budget to match changes in prices of different products and equipment.
Is Auto Mobile Detailing Profitable?
Yes. Automobile detailing is one of the recession-proof businesses in the country. With over 90% of households in the US owning at least one vehicle, you can be sure that demand for professional detailing services will always be high.
How Much Can You Make With a Mobile Car Detailing Business?
Let’s use this simple example to help you estimate your annual income if you were to start a mobile car detailing business today.
In 2020, if you spent $20,000 on start-up costs and $1,300 in recurring monthly expenses, you would make a profit of $88,400 in the first year based on the average annual revenue of $124,000. Since then, the amounts have changed, and some successful mobile detailers earn over $100,000 yearly.
Starting a mobile car detailing business is your best bet to finally becoming financially stable and offering a service you love. The demand for car detailing services is at an all-time high, and this trend is expected to continue for many years. Make sure you strategize, take calculated risks, and hire professional detailers to help you offer quality and timely auto detailing services. Good Luck!
We usually get many questions about mobile car detailing business from our readers. Here is an overview of the 13 most frequently asked questions. Feel free to contact us if you need further clarification.
How profitable is a car detailing business?
As earlier mentioned, you can earn well over $100,000 per year offering mobile car detailing services. However, the profit margin depends on your services, locality, pricing, and the size of your clientele base.
Is starting a car detailing business worth it?
Yes. With most households in the US owning at least one vehicle, you can be sure that demand for mobile car detailing services will always be there. Clients in the top social class detail their vehicle every three months, while the middle class seeks the service at least once yearly.
How do car detailers get clients?
Social media and email marketing are the main ways car detailers get clients. Most brands also employ offline marketing strategies such as distributing flyers, roadside billboards, TV and radio advertisements, events, etc.
How do I start my own detailing business?
Starting a detailing business is possible, but you need to plan properly. The key steps you should take include;
- Getting proper training and certification
- Choosing the right business name
- Obtaining permits, licenses, and insurance
- Registering the company
- Opening a bank account
- Purchasing equipment and supplies required
- Marketing and promoting the business to target customers
Seek help from a professional business advisor if you encounter hurdles along the way to succeed. More importantly, have the right mindset, learn from your mistakes, and continuously strive to grow and improve your business.
How do you start a car detailing side hustle?
Car detailing can be a side hustle during weekends or when you are free. The first step is getting training, purchasing the equipment and supplies required, getting licensed, doing market research to know your customers, and marketing your services.
Since you will be operating alone, you need accounting and CRM software to help you keep track of expenses and payments and manage customer relationships.
What do you need for detailing a car?
The kind of supplies and equipment you need to detail a car depends on the service or procedure. Here are the essential items that you require.
- Car wash hand mitt
- Brushes and applicators
- Foam cannon
- LED auto detailing light
- Vacuum and blower
- Plastic razor blades
- Drying tools
- Auto detailing belt
- Rolling work seat
All these items are available online. Buy them from a reputable store with affordable prices and preferably ship on the day to get started as soon as possible.
Is mobile detailing a good side hustle?
Yes. As a mobile car detailer, you don’t need a brick-and-mortar facility or office. You will connect with clients and go to their location to offer the service. However, you need a CRM to help you book and manage schedules. However, as the business grows, you will need an office and a few staff to help run the business.
What equipment is needed for a mobile car wash?
Like car detailing, the equipment required to offer a mobile car wash depends on your budget and the additional services you intend to provide. They include;
- Electric-powered pressure washer
- Cold water pressure washing system
- Rotary buffer
- Air compressor for pneumatic tools
- Polishing equipment
- Steam cleaners
- Upholstery cleaning machines
- Steam pressure washer
- Washing tools such as towels, cleaning reagents, and brushes
- Cleaning products such as glass cleaners and carpet shampoos
Purchase them from a licensed and renowned car accessories store online. Be sure to check the features of the advanced equipment such as the air compressor and pressure washers to get value for money. You are better off purchasing an advanced model of the equipment than an old model as the latter is susceptible to damage and less reliable.
How can I promote my car detailing business?
A few years ago, car detailers would get clients through offline marketing strategies such as flyers, radio, TV adverts, and billboards. These strategies still work but to get qualified leads and stay ahead of the competition; you need to embrace digital marketing strategies such as;
- Email marketing
- Social media marketing
- Google Ads
You also need a professional website that clients can visit to learn more about your car detailing services, book appointments, and contact you. The site should be responsive, SEO optimized, and accessible in all areas you service.
How many cars can you detail in one day?
The number of cars you can detail in one day depends on the equipment and personnel. Ideally, you can detail 4-6 vehicles per day with the help of two personnel and two bays. However, if you only have one bay, you may have to take shortcuts and compromise the quality of service to detail more than three cars.
Thus, take time to set realistic daily milestones or goals to offer top-notch car detailing services without compromising the quality. You are better off starting small and increasing the number of cars as you get a firm footing in the industry and hire more personnel.
How long should it take to detail a car?
The duration depends on the detailer, detailing procedure, and equipment used. On average, professional car detailing takes anywhere between 5 hours and 10 hours. Consequently, a quality car detail can last 4 – 8 weeks.
Who is the target audience for car detailing?
Anyone who owns a car is a potential customer. This includes not only individual car owners but also companies, corporations, and even the government. When starting your business, decide the target audience and focus on them to get the ball rolling.
Once you have a reliable clientele base, you can expand to other customer groups. For instance, you can start offering the service to car owners in your municipality before expanding to other regions in the state. Desist from biting more than you can chew to avoid compromising your reputation and credibility.
How do you market a mobile car wash business?
One sure way to market a mobile car wash business is by using offline and online advertising strategies such as social media marketing, paid ads, and email marketing. Consider sponsoring local events and distributing flyers with details about your services to connect with potential customers. Keep in mind word-of-mouth is super effective in attracting customers, so strive to offer the best car wash services to all customers to get referrals.