Detailing Business Success Formula: Essential Strategies for Launching and Growing Your Auto Detailing Startup

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Updated on:

July 26, 2023

Ultimate Guide to Starting a Successful Auto Detailing Business: Key Tips and Strategies

A car detailing business can be a very satisfying and a financially rewarding business. Customers are looking for a great service with plenty of cars and other vehicles to clean. There are a few things that will be important to starting a successful car detailing business. Your personal work as the owner, the variety of car detailing services you offer, the quality of your car detailing steamer and your marketing will contribute to your businesses’ success.

The information below will give you tips, guidance and ideas around starting a car detailing business.

Key Takeaways:

Table of Contents (Show)

Table of Contents (Hide)

  1. Detailing Services
  2. Equipment to get for detailing business
  3. Local marketing
  4. Building your awareness

1.Work as the Owner at your car detailing business

mobile detailing business van

You need to decide what activities you plan to do as the owner. This can change short and long-term. As an example, many owners start out by doing the majority of the car detailing themselves. As the business grows, they add staff and spend more time quoting new jobs and coordinating schedules for detailers. If you have a passion for detailing and providing a needed service that helps car owners keep their cars in showroom condition, then read more.

2. Detailing Services Offered

A car detailing business is not just about making the exterior look great. Car owners take pride in every aspect of their vehicles. Below is a small list of services you can include and market.

Exterior washing

Engine cleaning

Ceramic coating

Paint correction

Glass cleaning

Fortador Ceramic coating

Interior detailing

• Tar and bug removal

• Foggy Headlights restoraion

Tree sap removal

Complete sterilization and mold removal

Oil stain removal

Moto detailing

Car shampoo

Fabric protection

There are a couple of terms that are basic in the car detailing industry.

Interior and exterior shampoo – You will use a professional car detailing steamer for cleaning and extracting carpets, seating and upholstery. You will use the same steamer to rinse snow foam and remove the dirt away on the exterior.

Paint correction – This is the process of restoring and rejuvenating the paint surface on a car. The process removes paint contaminants with clay bar, the oxidized paint, swirl marks, fine scratches and other surface damaging contaminants. Paint correction is a three to four step process that provides a long-term ceramic coating to keep the owner’s car protected.

Car owners will search on the internet for general car detailing or the specific need they have. Offering a comprehensive suite of services allows you to effectively serve the needs of the market. Creating your car detailing menu is a mandatory task to be solved

You are not limited to just cars. A successful car detailing business can provide interior detailing and related services to trucks, recreational vehicles, boats, airplanes, and much more. The cleaning concepts, procedures and practices are generally the same across the transportation spectrum. Cars will provide the majority of your volume. Many new owners begin with cars and then expand to other types of vehicles.

3. Open a Business Bank Account

Most businesses will open business bank accounts in preparation for taking money and transacting with customers. Opening a business bank account is not that difficult if you are prepared with the proper documents and information.

You can often apply on line. Doing so should take you under 20 minutes. Banks can vary on the time they take for approvals and the actual opening of the account. If you do personal banking at a specific bank, you can contact them and inquire about a business account. Generally, it will take a bank one to seven days to review your application. It will take approximately one to four weeks for your account to be open.
You could call a local bank to see what documents they require. Some of the most common documents include, the certificate of incorporation, employer identification number (EIN), business formation documents, and your business license. If you are working on your own, your social security number may serve the same purpose as an EIN. Requirements will vary based on your business set up as a sole proprietorship, a limited liability corporation or other.
Minimum deposits can be as low as $25.00.

4. Credit Card Processing for a Mobile Small Businesses

credit card processing service providers for auto detailing

Technology is your friend because it enables you to take mobile payments. You can set yourself apart by offering this convenient and affordable means of payment processing. Customers have come to expect it. You can accept payments on your smart phone with or without a card reader. You will link your bank account to your payment processing company, and have your money quickly. You can easily email the receipts to your customer. Some companies allow you to create a marketing message in your emailed receipt.
There are many great choices for your mobile payment partner. Square and Clover are two popular companies, but do your research and choose the best one that matches your needs. Take time to read and understand the terms. You only want to do this once, so get and be comfortable with the information.

You can even offer payment in crypto to your customers and start collecting payment to your digital wallet.

5. Licenses and Permits for a Mobile Detailing Business

A business license allows you to perform your service and operate your business in a certain state, city, county or other designated geography. Some states require you to have a home office license and a business license. Some may only require one.
You may be required to obtain a specific mobile car wash license. This can depend on the exact services you plan to provide. Your local county clerk’s office, often located in the courthouse, can help give you direction on the licensing and permit requirements. The Small Business Administration (SBA) also has resources in this area.
Many cities and counties have specific car wash regulations on the discharge water as well as the chemicals you can and cannot use. Often the Department of Environmental Protection for the state will have this information.

6. Liability Insurance

General liability insurance is about covering business risks. You should not clean or detail cars without liability insurance. Liability insurance protects you from many risks including customer injury and customer property damage. The insurance will protect your mobile detailing business from the high costs of lawsuits.
There may be other business advantages. If your business grows and you gain a large customer, such as a limousine company, they may require you to have liability insurance.
Applying has never been easier. You can apply online and have a quote in minutes. Consider the size of your business in the amount of insurance you get. You can always change the coverage amounts at a later date.

7. Detailing Equipment for car detailing business

mobile car wash van
Mobile car wash van | Auto detailing van with steam cleaner

A car detailing steamer will be the center of your business. The steamer will provide the high-pressure and high-temperature steam to clean cars. Below is a list of considerations when choosing a steamer.

• Warm up time
• Number of guns
• Steam pressure
• Steam temperature
• Extracting capabilities
• Portability
• Detergent capability
• The technology of the steamer
• Accessories
• Brand name
Service and Tech Support

best car wash nd auto detailing steam cleaner with vacuum
FORTADOR PRO Max High Performance Auto Detailing Steam Cleaner with Vacuum

Fortador’s line of steamers gives you choices based on your business plans. You will find diesel and electric-powered options. Additionally, Fortador’s line of steamers are powered by Lamborghini, which gives you unique marketing opportunities. This respected and well-known name will be yours to market your service with.
Check our list of recommended equipment for mobile auto detailing and carwash

7.1. What equipment is needed for a mobile car wash?

  1. Auto Detailing minivan, Car Wash trailer or pick up truck to carry
  2. Auto detailing steamer
  3. Power source like generator or powerbank
  4. Water tank
  5. Dry vacuum for prelimenary cleaning
  6. Light source
  7. Set of brushes
  8. Set of microfibers towels for glass, interior, exterior, wheels and engine, coating and waxing
  9. Set of detailing chemicals with spray bottles
  10. Extencion power cords
  11. Polishers for offering paint correction service
  12. Air compressor
Learn more about Complete list of detailing equipment and supplies
You can download equipment list as PDF
mobile van for auto detailing and car wash with sliding platform
Sliding platform for mobile auto detailing to save time

8. Making Marketing for Detailing Business

social media accounts needed for your auto detailing business
Social networks for marketing your bussines

When marketing your business, digital is the way to go. You will have choices, and you want to do it right. Marketing will be an ongoing part of your business. Learn from your successes and the things that did not produce customers. Make changes for an even better campaign going forward. Think of your campaign from the eyes of the customer. What would motivate him or her to have his or her car detailed by you? The following are areas and ideas to market your business.

8.1 Facebook marketing for car detailing business

When marketing on Facebook, be sure to set your geographic radius. You want customers in the markets you serve. You can set demographics, such as age. On Facebook, you can post videos that will motivate customers to get their car cleaned and detailed.
Idea: Instead of posting a video of a foam cannon and a rinse, post a video of paint overspray or bugs that have hit and baked on a car. Although the foam cannon is impressive, potential customers will only watch it so long. Showing the overspray and bugs lets you solve a problem.
On Facebook you want your customers to be engaged; you want interaction. Ask and inspire your audience to leave a comment or ask a question. The more interaction your page has, the more Facebook will share it. Facebook’s algorithm is designed to promote pages with high levels of interaction.
Myth: “Likes” will get you noticed more on Facebook.
Likes will not help you get noticed, interactions will. Ask viewers questions to inspire interaction.  

8.2 Your Detailing Company Website

Customers will search on the web for car detailing services. You want a web site so you can sell your services. You can do this on a small budget. Website design can easily be done with web-based software. Search on the Internet for that, and choose your best option. Your website should tell a story, feature your team, equipment and how you solve people’s car cleaning problems.
Idea: Highlight your car sterilization services on your website. Regular customers and ride-sharing operators need this service.

google maps for auto detailing business

8.3 Google My business and Search

Customers are not going to Google your business name. Customers will Google for words or phrases that describe what they need. Below is a list of phrases that may lead potential customers to your site:

• Car detailing in (city)
• Pro car washing
• Car detailing
• Boat detailing
• Mobile car detailing

The list could go on. There are professional companies that will handle the key words and manage what is called search engine optimization (SEO). If you have the money and choose to use a company as such, that can be a good investment. If you have the interest, Google provides you many tools through AdWords. Some business owners have a family member or friend manage their AdWords account. It is an inexpensive and potentially effective way to have a good online presence.

review for local marketing

Local SEO marketing

Local SEO ensures high visibility in search results, driving qualified leads. Car Care Boost offers exclusive discounts and services for Fortador customers, including a free SEO-optimized website and comprehensive Google Business Profile setup.

With their expertise, Fortador customers can dominate the local market and achieve remarkable growth. Invest in a strong online presence to succeed in the detailing industry.

8.4 Google Maps Reviews

Google reviews are a very effective tool to market your car detailing business. Google reviews allow your customers to rate the service and enter free text on the great car detailing service you performed. You want reviews. Ask customers to review your services.
Idea: Have a card on the dash or steering wheel after you complete a job in your car cleaning business. Thank the customer on the card and have a Quick Response (QR) code on it. This QR could lead the customer to a Google review. Positive Google reviews lead to more customers.

8.4.1 Responding to Negative Reviews

If someone writes a negative review, everyone will see how you do or do not respond. You need to respond. Responding to understand what the specific concern is, and resolving it publicly or privately is the goal. People take pride in their cars. Handling customer concerns efficiently and effectively will show your current and potential customers that you stand behind your car detailing work.

8.5 Follow up Emails

There are many economical services, such as Constant Contact, that will handle your emails and your customer relationship management (CRM). A follow up email after your service shows professionalism, and gives the customer an opportunity for a review. You realistically will not have the time to effectively follow up with every customer. Using a CRM service provider allows you to ask for reviews and potentially gain regular scheduled car detailing.

streamline of car wash business

8.6 Manage your field activity smart way

You can integrate booking system with easy scheduling and invoicing to your website, or even automated all customer relations, invoicing and team field management for your business. this helps auto detailing business owner streamline their operations and improve customer satisfaction. You can use Jobber that makes it easy for auto detailing businesses to manage you day-to-day tasks and keep their customers informed about their services. The app also provides valuable insights into business performance, allowing owners to make informed decisions about their operations and stay ahead of the competition.

9. Business Image and Representation

Aside from your work performed, your business name, logo, and people will define your business locally. When you create your name, be creative. Many people recommend letting your name explain the services that you perform. Examples of this include AnyCity Car Detailing or Sunrise Car Detailing.
Create a logo. Have this logo on your business cards and your auto detailing employee shirts. Having a uniformed team projects a professional business image and promotes a high-quality service.
Associate yourself with high quality local and national organizations. The International Detailing Association (IDA) is the leading industry organization for detailers and suppliers. The organization promotes the value of professional detailing, plus other services. Consider joining the IDA to learn and add credibility to your new business.

10. Getting Started

fortador hd media kit or small business
Fortador helps you with HD marketing content

Starting your own car detailing business can be satisfying and financially rewarding. The opportunities are there for great business operators. Below is a short list of things to consider when starting up your business:

• Project how many detailing jobs you can do per week and per month, create you service menu, prepare Vehicle Inspection Forms
• Purchase a high-quality steamer, air compressor and other detailing tools, that can handle the volume of jobs now and in the future
• Open a business bank account, use vendor financing if available and necessary
• Determine your payback period on the steamer
• Project your costs and profits, get credit card processing service like Square, Zelle or Stripe
• Get licenses and permits, liability insurance, research your competition on the web
• Create a marketing plan, open different types of social media accounts for your small business
• Complete a business plan for your detailing business

This is a short list of things to consider up front. As you get started and provide a quality and complete car cleaning service, your business can grow exponentially.

11. Commonly asked questions about starting auto detailing business

Q. Is a car detailing business profitable?

A. Yes, detailing business can generate $40k-$120K/year for owner operator, and $80-$300k if yoou will fet 4-6 employees

Q. How much does it cost to start up a detailing business?

A. You can start your detailing business as low as $200, but if you want to be a full time detailer expect $1500 - $20000 investment into equipment and $6000-$45000 on working vehicle

Q. Is it worth starting a detailing business?

A. Definetely yes, you can start as a weekend warrior to get extra income and then you will become busy get your full time detailing business

Q. What is better trailer or minivan for mobile detailing

A. Depends on area you will operate: big cities need you be mobile so compact van will be easier to drive, if you will work in country side - trailer will let you hold more equipment and supplies

Q. What else I can do besides car detailing

A. You can offer steam cleaning for commercial customers, like gasstations, restaurants and offices, sanitizing and disinfetion services, sidewalks and roof pressure washing if you have equipment

About the Authors

Yvan Lacroix
With 40+ years in detailing, I've been a Brand Ambassador, VP, and Global Director. Founder of Répare-Brise franchises. Globetrotting to spread efficiency, quality, and profit insights. Let me elevate your detailing career for enhanced quality, profits, and time management.
Darren Priest
Proud owner of AutoFetishDetail, where the emphasis lies in the finer points. Passionate about instructing, guiding, and providing expert consultation for all things related to meticulous detailing.

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