What you’ll learn and discover in this guide:
It’s amazing what people are willing to spend on their cars. And why not? Everyone else gets to invest and entertain their passions. So, if your passion is to maintain the condition of your car, then you should enjoy it. Seeing as you most likely depend on it for your daily commute, it only makes sense to take care of your investment. But in some cases, a passion could extend to bigger things, like starting your own car detailing business. Yep, it’s a very big step with more than a few challenges. However, it is an opportunity worth exploring, especially with so many car-lovers like yourself to stimulate the market.
This complete guide to auto detailing is going to paint a detailed picture of the practice in general. For instance, we’ll explore the best methods to keep your own car looking like you just bought it. And just for good measure, we’ll dig deeper into how you can possibly become a car detailing entrepreneur. Statistics, risks, possibilities, everything you need to know is covered. All that remains is for you to begin the two-part journey.
In light of keeping everyone on board and in the loop, let’s take a moment to define the process of getting a car detailed. Because if you are under the impression that it’s just a good cleaning, you are only partially accurate. The truth is that detailing truly lives up to the name. In other words, every detail of the car goes under the microscope.
From the interior to the exterior, detailing can include deep and thorough cleaning, minor restoration, and a finish worthy of show-room quality. It’s also an industry that reported revenues of more than $9 billion back in 2014, but there are more juicy numbers when you get to the entrepreneur part of the guide. First, you have to build more knowledge about the service itself. Which is why you have to take note of how far detailing goes. For instance, detailing only happens on the surface and not within the mechanics of the car. And secondly, there are limits to what can be restored.
Light scrapes and scratches can be removed through the car detail process, but moderate or extensive damage requires another type of approach in order to repair. At the same time, tough interior stains can be removed but don’t expect the detailer to repair rips or tears in the material.
Your car is vulnerable to the elements. And depending on which side of the world you live, your car might have to endure extreme temperatures and climates. This naturally results in your vehicle not looking as vibrant as it once used to, because the elements eventually seep through the surface. And all it takes is one crack with a little bit of rust to cause an outbreak.
There are two main purposes for auto detailing. The first is to provide your vehicle with an added layer of protection. For example, the most common techniques for detailing include wax, paint sealant, or a ceramic coating (more details provided later). The second purpose is to literally put the shine back, inside and out.
There is no set answer for how often you should get the car detailed. But as a common rule among experts, every four to six months seems like a safe bet for keeping the surface shiny and protected. Although, experts also suggest that you take into account your driving habits.
If your car spends more time in the garage than in the street, you obviously don’t need to push detailing more than you need to. But if you spend hours in traffic every day, consider detail appointments on a regular basis, especially when you notice damage to the paint.
How Much Does Professional Detailing Cost?
The cost of using a professional detailing service will be influenced by several variables. For instance, how big is your car? And what type of package do you want? Usually, you will be offered three options ranging between basic service, an upgraded package, and additional services.
Basic detailing can cost anything between $50 and $125 after including the variables mentioned. And it will typically cover a good wash and wax, interior vacuum and polish, as well as mirror, tire, and rim cleaning. When you move to an upgraded package, you can expect to pay $150 and upwards, so make sure you know what you are getting for the additional money.
Finally, the service might offer special services or products that usually start at about $50. Car collectors that require more specific treatments with classic models will likely look into these.
If you are serious about detailing your car like a professional, here is a list of what you will need.
Towels or sponges are basic necessities for washing a car, and they should be at the top of your list. Although, you have to be careful when choosing and using a sponge. While they are super absorbent, they can be aggressive and possibly cause light scratches. Towels, on the other hand, are perfect for overall detailing, even at the more sensitive areas of the car.
– Leather Chamois
The professional alternative to towels will be leather chamois. In fact, you will be hard-pressed to find a professional auto detailing service that uses something else. Not only are they super absorbent, but they are durable and can quickly dry the surface of the car as well.
– The Right Cleaning Products/Treatments
When you look at your cleaning products, keep the 3-step process in mind. Firstly, the treatment should effectively remove tough dirt. Secondly, it should be gentle enough for the surface of the car. And finally, a layer of protection should be added, like those mentioned earlier in the guide. Unfortunately, testing products after researching the ingredients will be your best bet in terms of discovering the ultimate detail treatments.
The same type of thinking goes for detailing the interior of the car, which can get tricky. Given that different cars have different interior materials, more experimentation is definitely recommended.
– Brushes For Stubborn Dirt And Grime
You could be facing a patch of dirt or grime (interior or exterior) that does not want to give in to the towel or chamois approach. This is when you require a brush for the right occasion. For instance, you get different brushes to clean different areas of the car. From the rims to the interior, your options are wide open.
– Quality Wax/Sealer
You can’t detail your car without quality wax or sealer to serve as the layer of protection. And as you can guess, there are loads of different types you can look at. The point is to use a product that actually does what it is meant to do – which is to preserve the surface of the car.
– A Vacuum Cleaner
For interior cleaning, think about getting a special vacuum cleaner for the job. Nothing is stopping you from using the same vacuum that is utilized for the house. But how bulky is the vacuum and does it have attachments to get into tricky places? Keep in mind that a car interior comes with many “risk” areas where dirt can pack on. For this, you need a powerful vacuum with the ability to get into these sneaky areas.
– Pressure Washer
It is not mandatory for an auto detailing service to use a pressure washer. Just having a flow of water should be sufficient. But the added support of a detailing water hose can make things go a lot quicker. Plus, the pressure helps to remove even more dirt where you can’t reach with a towel.
– A Polisher
In order to get that professional finish, think about getting a car polisher. Because with a polisher, you can buff the surface of the car and really bring out the color.
– Air Blower
An air blower has two main functions. The first is to quickly dry areas where you can’t reach with the towel or chamois. Because constant wanter in these areas can become problematic. At the same time, an air blower speeds up the detailing process, which is useful if you want to start a business.
Once again, a lot of variables come into play before a straight answer can be given. These include the size of the car, the detailing methods along with the equipment, and even the package you choose. That means a detailed process can last anywhere between 30 minutes and a whole afternoon.
Before you buff new life into your old car, take note of sensitive areas. Approach these sections with more caution, and make sure all the dirt is removed from the surface of the car before you start washing, hence the reason for the pressure washer. Otherwise, you run the risk of scratching your car and only seeing it afterward. It is also recommended to wash in a shaded area and out of direct sunlight.
Now that you have a much better understanding of what car detailing is all about, we can start with the business options. And the best place to begin is to look at the condition of the current detailing market. For example, the International Car Wash Association revealed that 84% of Americans take a lot of pride in their cars, specifically the appearance of the vehicle. With 64% of these willing to say they consider the appearance as fairly critical, it is not surprising that the revenue for this market has grown to $38bn. This is quite impressive when compared to the stats in 2014, which proves that 97% of American car owners are likely to use a professional detailing service at least once.
What does all this mean to you? Well, in very straightforward terms, the car detailing is a booming business even during tough economic times. And while this information alone is not enough to launch a successful service, it shows there is potential if you do things right.
It is fundamental to start a business prepared and informed, and this section is all about giving you the initial building blocks for creating and sustaining a car detailing business of your own.
A mobile detailing service makes it easier for clients in several ways. For starters, the service goes to the client instead of the client going to the professional. This means clients can be at work while having their cars detailed, or they can even be at home.
In a challenging economy where starting any type of business requires very smart use of your money, it is definitely recommended to think about offering mobile services. But the comparison between mobile and office locations are discussed a bit later.
As mentioned at the beginning of part 2, there is a very big market share available and it keeps growing. So, the quick answer is yes, a mobile auto detailing service can be profitable. But a lot is going to depend on how much you put into the business. If you have the confidence and determination to make it work, there is no reason why you can claim a piece of the market.
Basically, the equipment covered in part one can serve as the same list for starting a professional detailing service. In addition, you’ll need transportation that is equipped for the process. For example, do you have a water tank and generator for the pressure washer? While gathering the necessities for doing a good job, take into account how you will get the job done.
In reality, it is more important what you buy than where you buy it. Sure, getting a good deal should be in the mix. But if the products and equipment you purchase are sub-par, your clients are not going to be happy or call on your services again.
It’s in your own best interest to show around, compare prices, and take note of what the experts are saying. Just because an ad for a pressure washer looks impressive doesn’t mean you should get it. Read some reviews first and make sure each piece of equipment will eventually pay for itself, and some.
When you offer an auto detailing service, you want to focus on the “details”. In other words, are you going to offer a wax detail or a sealant? The former is usually more affordable, effective, and gets the job done. But the latter option lasts longer in terms of protecting the paint. And then you get ceramic coatings, which are better than conventional sealers.
If you want, you can offer all three treatments as different packages. Or you can stick to one approach until you build a bigger client list and break some ground. Just remember that you want clients to be impressed every time they leave you with detailing responsibilities. And this requires a professional finish.
Mobile Car Detailing Versus Running A Drive-Through Establishment:
– You don’t pay rent for an office location
Business owners that pay rent on locations will tell you how draining this expense can be. The worst part is that the rent never goes down. But this is not a problem when you have a mobile detailing business, and you don’t need to carry that financial burden during months when things are slow. Instead, you park your “office” in your garage while marketing from your home. Why add the extra pressure when you don’t have to?
– More affordable to get off the ground
If you don’t have a big budget to get your detailing business off the ground, the mobile option is hands down more affordable. Forget about scouting locations while you can be focusing on making drivers aware. Because in the modern world, you have to be an active marketer. That means if you don’t put your business out there, nobody is going to notice.
– Allows for a good pitch to new clients
It’s already been established that Americans love car detailing services. But you get to make it even better by taking the service to them. Of course, you can still operate a fixed location service if you want. But in light of working with a strict budget, play on the convenience clients are getting. Remind them about missing traffic, or that they don’t have to cut a valuable hour from their day to wait for the detailing to finish. With simply a fixed location service, you can’t really utilize this edgy advertising campaigns.
– Easy to start on your own without complications
The fewer complications during the initial stages of the business the better. Especially if you are going to be the boss and employee for those first few months. Because if you have to be honest with yourself, paying a salary when you still have to generate business is a combination of certain failure. Establish a client base first and make some profit before thinking about hiring employees.
Additional Advice For Potential Entrepreneurs
This guide ends with some important considerations for aspiring entrepreneurs. Whether you are about to launch a car detailing service or another type of venture within the service industry, always remember the following:
– Study Your Competition:
Never take your eyes off the competition and their tactics, especially if they prove to be effective. More importantly, check out your competition before selling your mobile detailing service in a local area. What does the driver/service ration look like and is there a gap you can take? Seeing as several services in the same region can make it much tougher to bring in clients.
– Start Small:
Crawl before you run, which is very important when working with people. And roughly translated, it means taking on clients without overwhelming yourself in the process. Yes, you want as many clients as possible. But if all of them want their cars detailed on the same day, you are looking at a big problem. You either do a poor job and get through all the cars. Or you keep the clients waiting while doing a good job.
This is not a situation you want to put yourself in, and it will damage your reputation as a professional. So, be organized and always prioritize if you want to avoid tough situations. More importantly, don’t overwhelm yourself when you know you don’t have the capacity or time.
– Try To Stand Out
There are bound to be other car detailing services around. And if they aren’t operating yet, they will be in due time. Now you can either take this as a reason to quit before you start. Or you can take in your stride by standing out from the rest. You want clients to talk about your detailing services with other drivers, and you want their referrals. And the best way to stand out is our last piece of advice for the guide, namely to provide a memorable detailing service.
– Focus On Providing A Great Service
There is a saying that you can save a bad meal with great customer service. But you can’t save bad customer service with a good meal. People remember interactions even when they don’t do it consciously. And out of all the strategies you should use to promote your mobile detailing business, leaving the client with a big smile needs to trump them all.
For those who just want to properly maintain their cars, don’t forget that too much of a good thing can have negative consequences. So don’t detail too regularly when a simple wash will do the trick. And for the entrepreneurs that are reading, take some time to digest all this information, then start planning how to make your particular mobile car detailing service a success.