The car detailing business is a great fit for many entrepreneurs. That’s because you can start up at a level of investment that you can afford, and grow.
The car detailing business operations are changing in two main ways:
- Increasingly, the customer base is seeking a “greener” option. Many people are no longer comfortable with the amount of water needed to wash a typical vehicle, which is about 38 gallons. They want a waterless wash.
- The mobile car detailing business is increasing, with a growing demand for detailing services at a customer’s home or place of employment, instead of a physical location.
What is car detailing?
Car detailing businesses do much more than wash and wax. A car detailing company will also vacuum the interior, as well as clean and polish surfaces such as the dashboard, vents, instrument, and trim.
The work typically also includes window cleaning, inside and outside, as well as cleaning floor mats and tires.
The Auto Detailing Industry in 2023
The successful car detailing business will adapt to its customer base. In 2022, small business owners fed a $14.7 billion industry. In the US, there are about 62,000 auto detailing companies and industry leaders estimate a 4% growth.
A successful business will adapt to the increasing demand for mobile detailing performed at home or place of employment washing. Auto detailing can be among the top garage based business ideas, or you could even travel to your clients directly. Also, as people feel the pinch of challenging economic times, discretionary spending decreases. Having a vehicle detailed is classified as discretionary spending.
Why You Should Start a Car Detailing Business
Will auto detailing be a successful business for you? See if these reasons fit you as a business owner:
- You excel at customer service.
- You are good at selling, especially upselling.
- You love vehicles.
- It’s a competitive business, and there is no or little competition from other local businesses.
- You would take pride in the results of Before and After.
- You can handle physical labor.
How to Start a Car Detailing Business
You’ll need a car detailing business plan that includes how you’ll start, how you’ll cover startup costs, and whether you’ll run a mobile business or business with a physical location – or a mix of both.
1. Get Training and Experience
There are training institutions that you can attend to get a car detailing license and/or auto detailing certification. You can find these centers via the international detailing association. Or, you can opt for on-the-job training. If you choose to buy a car wash franchise, training will be provided.
2. Do Your Research
Do market research. Will your potential customers prefer mobile detailing businesses? If you opt for brick-and-mortar, is your location convenient for people who will drop off their own car? In other words, who is your target market?
3. Create a Business Plan
Every new business should have a business plan. Don’t let this project daunt you. You’ll need a mission statement, which describes the goals of your company. An executive summary will describe your business model, which is how you’ll operate.
Another part of your plan is a description of your business finances – how you plan to fund your start and how you plan to grow. Do you have or do you plan to add business partners?
You’ll need a business plan as part of your submission package if you seek financing, along with documents regarding your business bank accounts.
4. Fund Your Business
Don’t overextend, remember you can start with very little investment capital instead of getting a start with a business loan. Many entrepreneurs start a car detailing venture by working part-time, after their regular jobs, with a garage-based business.
If your personal finances are top notch you may be able to obtain a small business funding loan. You can also establish credit accounts with vendors who supply cleaning products.
5. Gather Your Tools
There is basic equipment you’ll need as part of your start-up costs, whether you’re washing with water or waterless, at a fixed location or mobile detailing setup. Supplying, and resupplying, should be part of your thorough business plan as an ongoing expense. However, auto detailing is among the top low tech business ideas, so you shouldn’t need many expenses devices.
If you’re using water, you’ll need a pressure washer. If not, you’ll need a waterless wash product.
You’ll need a buffer, microfiber towels, buckets, sponges and assorted products such as leather cleaner. You’ll need detailing brushes of various sizes, metal polish and tire cleaner.
6. Keep It Legal
Most small businesses need to obtain business insurance and a local business operating license. To get your business licensed legally, you may have to do so at both the state and local government authority levels. If you’re not confident about doing this, hire a business attorney.
Choose your business structure, which will most likely be a limited liability company or LLC to protect your personal assets from your business entity.
Since you’ll be paying the federal business tax you’ll need a federal business tax id. You’ll also need to collect sales tax. As with many new business ventures, you should consult a tax professional to make sure you don’t make mistakes with your taxes.
You’ll need general liability business insurance and commercial vehicle insurance if you’re operating a mobile business.
7. Open a Business Bank Account
When you open your business bank account you should also get a business credit card, which you can link to the account. It’s just a good idea to keep your business accounts separate from your personal accounts, even if you’re working part-time.
8. Manage Your Finances
Most new business ventures need the services of a professional accountant, especially at start up.
9. Hire a Team
Most businesses in auto detailing start with a sole proprietor, and hire employees as needed to support growth in new customers. When you hire you’ll need to add worker’s compensation insurance.
10. Market Your Services
You’ll need a website and a social media presence. Part of your thought-out marketing strategy should include reaching out to current and past customers, possibly adding special enticement to keep or restore their business. You can offer senior discounts. Try for contracts, such as car rental companies or car dealers.
11. Open Your Business
Schedule your grand opening and make announcements with local media, as well as on your website and social media accounts.
More Tips for Starting a Successful Auto Detailing Business
Launching a successful business takes a continual hustle to grow. Read these 10 tips for starting and growing a business, then check out a few tips specific to auto detailers below:
- Join your local Chamber of Commerce, where you can network with other business owners.
- Strive to create partnerships, which is a foundation for a modern business. For example, local vehicle repair shops can give customers your business card.
- Further your education by learning how to protect vehicle finishes with specialized services such as graphene or ceramic coating.
- Offer more than vehicle detailing – add boats, motorcycles, and RVs.
What materials do you need to start a car detailing business?
You’ll need soap or foam wash, wax, microfiber towels, car buffer tools, detailing brushes, metal polish and tire cleaner.
How much does it cost to start a mobile detailing business?
The needed materials don’t change much whether you’re at a set location or operating mobile. At a basic level, it will cost at least $10,000 to stock the materials. Before you work with someone’s vehicle, you need a minimum business liability insurance and your business should be registered.
If you’re going to make money with your car – such as traveling to mobile appointments or picking up and delivering a customer’s vehicle – you’ll need commercial vehicle insurance. You should be able to find an umbrella policy, called a Business Owners Policy or BOP, to cover your needed insurance.
Is starting a car detailing business difficult?
As small business ideas go, this is a winner. Although competition can be strong, startup costs can be low at the entry-level.
The hardest part of starting a car detailing business may be the decision on whether to operate from a permanent location or go mobile. You can opt for a mix – by picking up and delivering customer vehicles to your permanent location.
Is a car detailing business profitable?
Having a vehicle detailed is viewed as “discretionary” spending. In other words, when economic times are challenging, your customers may opt to stop paying to have their vehicles professionally cleaned.
Still, your material cost is low and the profit market is good. The cost for a minimal cleaning, such as washing and waxing, doing windows, vacuum the interior, ranges from about $65 for small vehicles and up to $160 for larger vehicles.
According to industry leaders, more than 2/3s of customers are concerned about sustainability. Help your vehicle detailing business to be the top choice by opting for green solutions.
Someone starting the car detailing business on a part-time basis can expect to earn about $100 per vehicle. Full-scale sole proprietor car detailing business owners can expect to earn from $30,000 to $60,000 as a start up. Of course, that depends on whether or not a mobile vehicle or permanent location is already owned, or must be leased.
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