How to Start a Car Detailing Business
Starting a car detailing business can be a great way to earn extra income or build a full-time business.
It is an excellent way for detailers who are already working in the industry to get out there on their own, build their client base, drive sales, and control their own schedule.
It’s also an attractive option for those just getting started who want to run their own business on nights and weekends while holding down another job during the day.
If you don’t have any experience in the field but know that you want to start your own business this can be a great option if you are detail oriented, love cars, enjoy working with people, and want to start your own business.
As with any business, it takes careful planning and work to build the foundation on which to grow your new car detailing business and we hope this guide provides you with what you will need to get started and grow yours.
Find out everything you can about the car care industry
Step 1. Build Your Car Care Knowledge
The first step is to make yourself knowledgeable about the car care industry. You should read as many books written by experts as you can find, join some discussion forums for car enthusiasts, watch every video tutorial available online, and network with car care professionals.
There are thousands of blog posts, YouTube videos, and forums out there dedicated to car detailing and you need to consume as much as you can to build that base of knowledge.
Learning about the industry is important, but to ensure you do an amazing job for your clients you will want to learn as much as you can about the different equipment, supplies, and approaches to detailing as possible.
You will find a very passionate group of enthusiasts out there and there is no shortage of amazing information that will help you stand out with the latest gear and skills to deliver the highest quality service you can.
The more knowledge you can gain about the car care industry and detailing cars, the better you’ll be able to position your detailing business and serve your clients.
Step 2. Write A One-Page Business Plan
The second step is to develop a business plan. This document will outline all the important aspects of your business, including what services you will offer, what your target market is, what your pricing strategy will be, how you will market your business and your financial goals.
This does not need to be any more than a single page at this point. Open up a Google Doc, a Word Doc, or pull out the the trusty pen and paper and just start putting it together based on what you already know. If you find yourself scratching your head when mapping things out, then you now know what you need to do a little more research on.
Here is what your one-page business plan will consist of:
The Problem: What problem are you trying to solve? In this case it is simple, you know that there are people out there who love their cars, but simply do not have the time to wash them themselves. You can also expand on this a bit, perhaps there are no car detailing companies in your area and after talking to a few friends you confirm that they would love to have someone come to their home or office to wash their car for them.
The Solution: How are you solving their problems? This is also pretty simple, you are washing a dirty car for them without them having to life a finger other than to hand you the keys.
Business Model: In this section you will focus on how you will make money, what you will charge, and what your expenses will be. There are going to be several things you will end up paying for that you simply cannot foresee so don’t worry about anything that does not come to mind right away or you didn’t come across in your research.
The idea here is simply to get down some rough numbers so you know what you are doing, who you are doing it for, how you’re going to do it, and how much you are charging and spending per client.
Target Market: Who are you going to sell your services to? This may seem obvious, you may think that everyone that owns a car is a part of your target market but that is not the best approach. You can start with a broad market like that but you will want to spend more time narrowing your focus.
For example, not everyone cares about their car enough to pay someone to detail it for them. They would rather just use the $10 drive-through car wash at the local gas station. So you will likely be targeting people who drive nicer cars, have disposable income for that ind of luxury, value their time, and appreciate the attention to detail that someone like yourself will deliver.
Competitive Advantage: This is all about how you stand out from the competition. What is the key differentiator or differentiators that will make someone want to hire you versus your competition. This could be anything including your attention to detail, your professionalism, you traveling to them while they work from their office, or a number of things that your competition is ignoring or not capable of.
Your Team: Now you want to map out your team. This obviously includes you but if you plan on partnering with anyone or will have someone managing finances, marketing, sales, or anything else you want to include them here as well.
There is a fantastic book called the E-Myth Revisited that maps out the three critical team members of any successful organization. Those roles include the CEO/entrepreneur, the technician, and the manager. When you first get started you will likely be wearing all three hats but the sooner you start filling those roles with people who are best suited for them the more likely you are to still be in business in the next several years.
Financial Summary: This is where you outline the key financial elements of your car detailing business including profit and loss, cash flow, balance sheet, and your sales forecast.
This can be difficult to put together before you have any real numbers to work with but there is plenty of research you can do online to find out what your competition is charging. You can also determine how much money you will need to spend on equipment to get started and how much you will be spending on supplies for each car wash.
This does not need to be an exact science, it simply needs to be an educated and researched guesses as to what you expect to spend and make per client, per quarter, and per year.
Funding: this is a more detailed look and what you should’ve already mentioned in the financial summary. If you plan on using your own funds this is less important because you aren’t pitching investors. But you still need to clearly outline how much it is going to cost you to get started and sustain the business if you don’t get all the customers you need right out of the gate.
If you do plan on bringing on investors, you will definitely want to spend plenty of time ironing out the details here so that you know exactly how much you need to get started.
A well-written business plan is an essential tool for any new business and can help you make sure you have covered all the necessary bases before starting your detailing company.
Step 3. Create A Website & Social Media Accounts
The third step is to create a website and social media accounts for your car detailing business. You will want to establish a strong online presence as most people will want to do their research before handing over the keys to their beloved car.
You should definitely start with all of the free accounts including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and setting up a Google for Business account. These are all free and can help you establish the basics of a strong online presence.
The next thing you’ll want to check off your list is building a website. To get started you will need to write out descriptions of your Business and the services you offer in detail. You will need this to fill out the website so it is not just a bunch of pictures and a mission statement.
You also need photographs of you and some of the work you’ve done. If you’re not there yet, you can simply use stock photos from many of the stock photo libraries out there. We personally recommend using WordPress but others such as square space and wicks are also an option.
Once your foundation is established you want to be sure to update everything frequently. Facebook and Instagram especially should be updated every single time you wash a car. Take before and after photos and get really good up close shots of some of the detail work you are capable of.
Don’t be shy, you could never post enough on these platforms and you’d be surprised how much attention posting regularly can get you. Be sure to use local hashtags and ones that include car relevant hashtags.
The same goes for your website, be sure to update it frequently if you have built one. To be honest though, if you are just getting started and I don’t have a lot of time on your hands just stick with using your social media accounts as your temporary website until you have more time or money to pay someone to help you establish a stronger online local presence through a website and SEO.
Step 4. Establish A Name For Yourself
You should always remember that you will still be a small business, even though you won’t have to pay rent or worry about stocking shelves at a retail store. As such, you should maintain a professional reputation by providing great service, turning out high-quality work at reasonable prices, and being on time every time your customers make an appointment with you.
Make sure you also get involved with car care communities online and in your local area. When people know who you are and what you do, they will be more likely to recommend your business to their friends and family.
Your reputation as an entrepreneur is going to be one of your most valuable assets. In a business like this getting referrals from your existing clients and making sure they keep coming back to you every time they need their car detail is going to be one of the best ways to ensure the money keeps coming in.
Build and establish a strong presence and reputation with your clients and you’ll have enough business to last a lifetime. We cannot stress this enough.
Step 5. Location Location Location – Or Go Mobile
The first thing potential clients want to know is if they can find you during normal working hours. If it’s going to be difficult for them to do so, they might decide not to hire someone who is “just starting out.” You’ll need to find a location where you can be easily accessible and visible.
Establishing a relationship with a local car dealership, gas station owner, or anyone with the space and amenities required can help get you started.
Going mobile can also be a huge advantage. You can wash cars for people in their own driveways or even set up shop at local businesses after establishing a relationship with the building owners and business owners.
For example at our office there is a gentleman that has established a relationship with several of the businesses in the building and washes everyone’s cars while they work. He established a solid relationship with the building owners as well in order to use water and electricity from the building.
You can start small with a local business or businesses and then start going after larger corporate buildings with several businesses inside of them. Everyone loves the service because they get to jump into a clean car after a long day of work.
You don’t even need to be ready to start washing at this point. You could start going door-to-door or making phone calls asking if any local businesses are interested in this.
Step 6. Get Your Equipment
In order to start a car detailing business, you will need some essential pieces of equipment. This includes a good quality pressure washer, wax applicators, microfiber cloths, car shampoo, and degreaser. You should also have space to store tools and supplies, as well as a sink and running water.
Here is a list of some of the best car detailing equipment to get you started:
- Pressure washer
- Microfiber cloths
- Car shampoo
- Shop vac
- Wash bucket
- Hand mitt
- Foam sprayer
- LED detailing light
- Rolling work seat
There is also a great kit that has most of what you need to get started.
If you decide to become a mobile detailer, you will need to get your car detailing tools and supplies insured so that you will be covered if anything happens while on the job. You should also check with state or local authorities regarding any licensing requirements.
Step 7. Promote Your Business
The best way to get new customers is through word-of-mouth referrals, so it’s important to start building a network of satisfied clients as soon as you can as we mentioned earlier. You can do this by providing excellent service and going the extra mile to meet, or more importantly, exceed your customer’s expectations.
In this industry it may take a while to establish yourself but if you do a great job I can assure you the referrals will keep coming in. Start with friends and family, start asking them for referrals, call around to local businesses and ask if they’re interested. This is a amazing opportunity for bootstrapping a strong business and want your equipment is all paid off you can reap the rewards of higher profit margins.
Grow into a point when you have to start hiring people will be a good feeling. You can get there with hard work and a level of professionalism beyond what the competition is offering.
Starting a car detailing business can be a great way to make extra income or build a full-time business. By following these simple steps, you can make sure that you are well-prepared to start your own detailing company and provide high-quality services that will keep your customers coming back for more.
With some hard work and dedication, you’ll have your car detailing business up and running in no time! Good luck!
If you are in need of some help in getting your car detailing business off the ground feel free to apply for our entrepreneur coaching program which will certainly help you avoid time and money draining mistakes.