5 Cornerstones of a Profitable Business Plan for a Mobile Auto Detailing and Car Wash

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Updated on:

June 8, 2023

5 Essential Components of a Successful Business Plan for a Mobile Auto Detailing and Car Wash

You want to start a mobile car detailing business. After all, the time is ripe as people are concerned about keeping their vehicles clean and eliminating dirt, germs, viruses and the like from the interior and exterior of their cars, trucks, boats and any other type of transportation that they may have. However, you don't have the money needed on hand to start your business. Where do you get it: a bank loan, investors or something else?

Wherever you choose to solicit funds for your business idea, you'll need a business plan to help you get the money you need to start your mobile detailing business. Your car detailing business plan should convince bank or credit union executives, along with any potential investors, that your business will be viable, and most importantly, profitable. Writing a business plan takes time as you need to do your homework on how much equipment and vehicles will cost, your market and location, types of services offered, cash flow needed and the like. Here's how you can get started.

Key Takeaways:

Table of Contents (Show)

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  1. Creating a Business Plan
  2. Purchasing Vehicles and Equipment
  3. General Business Plan Information
  4. Marketing Your Mobile Car Detailing Business
  5. Industry Information
  6. Other Considerations
  7. Bonus: FREE Business plan for Mobile Detailing business

‍1. Creating a Business Plan is an important Step in Establishing Your New Business

Writing a sound business plan can be a key indicator of future success. Use it as a foundational document to help you grow and thrive and update it occasionally to incorporate new ideas and opportunities. When writing your business plan, keep the following tips in mind:

  1. Don't be long-winded, as long plans are less likely to be used as intended
  2. Let your passion come alive in the document
  3. Know and address your audience
  4. Provide supporting documentation and reference data like appendices, customer personas and product demonstrations
  5. You can never do enough research
  6. Clearly demonstrate why your business is different from the auto detailer down the street
  7. Be objective when doing research
  8. Avoid jargon and language that customers won't understand
  9. Don't be afraid to change it when the industry changes

2. Purchasing Vehicles and Equipment to Start a Car Wash Business

The biggest outlay of money you will have will be the vehicle or vehicles you need to transport your automotive detailing equipment, accessories along with yourself and any employees working for you.

For transportation, you'll need either a cargo van, minivan or a pickup truck. A cargo van is your best choice as these vehicles are manufactured for hauling equipment and supplies. Using a pickup truck can be tricky, as getting the necessary steam cleaning equipment into the flatbed can be tricky. You'll also have to buy a hardtop or a locking tarp to keep your equipment safe when not in use.

Cargo vans or minivans are more accessible, especially when you use a device like the Fortador Cargo Slider, which helps slide your heavy equipment easily in and out of your van. Minivans must also undergo a conversion, either as a DIY project or have professionals convert it for you, adding to the expense.

Mobile Auto Detailing Business Van
Mobile Auto Detailing and Car Wash Van

2.1 Selecting Your Small Business Work Vehicle

Many new businesses want to save as much money as possible in the initial stages, which is a good idea for an upstart as you'll need money for marketing and advertising. Consider buying a used van that is only several years old, as you can often save $10,000 off the purchase price.

The Ford Transit, Ram ProMaster and Mercedes-Benz Metris are the most popular and widely available cargo vans used to haul mobile car wash cleaning equipment and supplies. New Ford and Ram vans start at about $26,000, while the Mercedes-Benz is much pricier, starting at $34,000. A less expensive new alternative is the Nissan NV200, with a base price of about $24,000. However, you should note that the Nissan van is much smaller. If you are going the used route, try to find vans only a few years old with 40,000 miles or less so the vehicle will still be reliable.

A sound vehicle will also set the stage for the long-term branding of your company via graphics on the side of the van.

2.2 Budgeting for Equipment and Supplies

Car Steam Cleaner for moile auto detailing
Mobile detailing BUsiness needs right plan and equipment

The next biggest outlay for your mobile car wash business will be steam cleaning equipment. Consider purchasing a machine with multiple functions like the Fortador PRO Max or PRO Max Deluxe, starting at $10,999. A machine with multiple functions and hoses saves money in the long run. The Pro Plus has both a steaming function and a shampooing/extraction function, along with three hoses to allow use by multiple operators. A less expensive option is the Fortador PRO and PRO Deluxe, starting at $7,499. Upstart small businesses may also consider the Fortador Volt Electra, starting at $7,350.

Other products to consider include the Fortador Cargo Slider at $2,250 or at a discounted $1,750 when purchased with a steamer. Adding a Kevlar Coating kit that will help protect car exteriors and interior seats, carpets and hard surfaces will give your mobile detailing business another service to offer. New business owners should also budget for a starter set of detailing shampoos and other chemicals.

If you ask for funding as part of your car detailing business plan, knowing your exact needs at the startup time is crucial to help investors understand how you intend to make money, and more importantly, where profits will come from and how you intend to pay it back. Don't forget to include the price of insurance, both for your vehicle and for general liability, as well as for health insurance and benefits for employees.

Check our recommended equipment for mobile detailing list

2.1. 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 microfiber towels you will need to detail your car

3. General Business Plan Information

All business plans must have certain information that will convince investors that your mobile detailing business is worthy of support. You'll need to include your goals, direction and future planning and should include market research competitor analysis, financial documentation, an overview of your marketing strategy and the cost of licenses and permits. Essential components include:

  • An executive summary that briefly introduces your business and its purpose
  • Company description along with a wider description of the mobile detailing industry
  • Market analysis and opportunity, describing how you will differentiate your business
  • Analysis of your mobile detail competitors
  • Operations, development and management personnel
  • Your marketing plan
  • Financial history and projections

3.1 Profitability of Mobile Car Washing

All business plans require that you show that your intended company will serve a need in your area of operation. Owners can do this by showing how they will fulfill services that consumers need or maybe even don't know they need. One way that you can do this is by coming up with services that no one else provides. If you know of direct competitors in the area, you can counteract their services by packaging them differently.

3.2 Demonstrating Mobile Detailing Profitability

Before starting your new business, you need to organize the types of service you will offer. Create special offers and packages that will make sense to customers. For instance, you may want to offer different packages for customers with cars, recreational vehicles, motorcycles and boats. Developing a professional service program will give your customers an easy way to understand your services, but it is also an essential element of your car detailing business plan.

You can offer exterior and interior services as separate packages, or as full-service detail, or express detail packages. Things to think about include specifying a price range for different size vehicles and extra charges that will apply when a vehicle is extremely dirty. Some services can also be priced separately as add-ons.

3.3 Building Your Menu

Performing market research to determine what competitors in your service area are doing will also help you build your services menu and its pricing. By pricing your packages correctly, you will remain competitive in your market. When you offer services that competitors do not, you give new customers another reason to engage your services while also offering the potential for greater profitability.

Higher-level services like paint restoration, Fortador ceramic coating and stone chip removal are excellent add-on services. Give your audience options for taking care of their vehicles. Bundle services into packages that make sense and offer a la carte services for something specific.

3.3.1. Exterior Detailing

Include the following with descriptions:

  • Exterior detailed wash, nothing that you use a steam cleaner and why you use this method
  • Paint correction and shine restoration, which lets customers consider if their vehicle looks faded
  • Wax services with an express spray or by hand or machine for a long-lasting shine
  • Paint sealant as an alternative to wax to protect the vehicle's exterior
  • Engine wash and detail with a steamer to remove grease and grime
  • Tire and wheel wash and polish to remove brake dust and other build-up
  • Headlight wash to remove insects and dirt
  • Headlight detailing to remove clouding from headlight lenses
  • Running board detailing to remove soil from shoes and the road

Offering Ceramic Coating for Paint Protection

ceramic coating is essential for moile auto detailing
Fortador Ceramic Coating System

Vehicles fresh from the manufacturer are prime candidates for professional ceramic coating. New paint is an ideal surface for adherence of ceramic coating. Also, your detailers will have less prep work to do. Offering Fortador's Ceramic coating to maintain that fresh factory look is a great selling point for new car buyers. Ceramic coating will also restore the paint of older vehicles to like-new condition. Sell customers on it by noting its protective benefits like:

  • Ultraviolet rays, which cause oxidation and fading
  • Dust and dirt
  • Insect guts
  • Tree sap
  • Road chemicals
  • Rain
  • Flying debris, such as stones and other hazards

Offering Engine Detailing via Steam Cleaning

Get a step ahead of your competitors by offering engine detailing, as many vehicle owners don't think of cleaning engine components. Keeping the engine clean can maintain a high level of vehicle performance, not to mention increasing fuel performance and overall longevity. Dirt, oil and grease build-up to affect functionality. These substances also work together to hide problems like leaks. Cleaning engine components allows your customers to look for hidden problems, thus saving them money in the long run. Clean engines work in conjunction with overall detailing to give cars overall higher resale value.

3.3.2. Interior Detailing

Steam Shampooing of Seats
Steam Shampooing and extraction with Fortador PRO Plus

Cleaning the interior will provide owners with a better overall feeling when riding in their vehicles. Deep cleaning through detailing can transform the interior of a car, making it smell good once again in addition to making it clean. You can also add Kevlar services for the interior packages in your mobile car detailing business. Include the following on your list of interior services as you build your mobile auto detailing business plan:

  • Thorough vacuuming of upholstery, carpets, mats, vinyl protectors and cargo areas to remove loose debris
  • Seat cleaning with a steamer, shampoo and other materials
  • Console cleaning
  • Cell phone holder, cleaned by hand or with a steamer
  • Door panel detailing, with the opportunity to offer protective coating
  • Clean and protect dashboards from UV rays
  • Remove and clean car mats with a steamer or a shampooer/extractor, depending on the material

4. Marketing Your Mobile Car Detailing Business

Marketing strategies are an essential part of your new business plan. Among the elements you will want to use are online media through your company web page, social media and pay-per-click (PPC) advertising. Frequent online postings should be part of your business plan, along with traditional media that includes flyers and mailings to advertise your business locally. Don't forget to include the little details like the cost of business cards and other handouts that you may want to give to prospective customers. Note that some customers, particularly those who are older, need to have something physical in their hands to decide on whether or not to use your detailing service. Brochures and flyers are also a great tool to leave at auto dealerships, repair shops and the like to entice people to contact you to learn more about your detailing packages

5. Including Industry Information

Anyone writing a mobile car detailing business plan should note that the car wash industry has recently increased significantly because of environmental and public health issues. Make sure that you include the latest industry information on your location. One of the most important considerations to note is that mobile car washes provide customers with flexibility and convenience, which is all-important in today's world. The mobile car wash detailing industry is also an easy one to enter, which will be of particular interest to banks and investors. It also needs one of the lowest amounts of capital for a startup business. The more you show that you will have a high chance of success, the more favorably your auto detailing business plan will be received.

6. Other Considerations to Start a Car Wash Business

Don't forget to include all the mundane information like who owns the business, management, the number of technicians needed and what everyone's duties will be. While these details may seem boring, no auto detailing business plan is complete without them.

Most importantly, use your car detailing business plan, as it's not a document to stuff in a drawer once you have funding. Keep your business plan close at hand and refer to it when you need to make decisions about your company's long-term future.

Jobber app for managing your autodetailing business

If you want to start your auto detailing business and streamline all invoicing, scheduling and field mamangement, try to implement Jobber platform into your business flow from day 1. It allows you to schedule appointments, manage customer information, and send invoices, all in one place. The platform is user-friendly, with a mobile app that makes it easy to manage your business on-the-go. With real-time reporting, you can track your performance and make data-driven decisions to increase efficiency and profitability.

7. Bonus FREE Business Plan for Mobile Auto Detailing

About the Authors

Lev Tretyakov
With over 25 years in the industry, I bring extensive sales expertise in heavy equipment across diverse sectors. Pioneered the first CAD/CAM school in CIS countries. Proud owner of Miami's premier auto detailing hub, Totaal Steam Detailing, hailed as the finest in Miami-Dade by Google.
Wesley Marshall
Wesley: From Maui to Arizona grad. Now a Phoenix consultant, 7 years in finance, linking businesses to tailored solutions. Enjoys family, sports, arts.

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