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How to Start a Mobile Car Detailing Business in 5 Simple Steps [(2024) Update]

Did you know that more than 90% of American households own at least one vehicle?

So, it’s safe to say that automobile services are here to stay, including detailing businesses.

If you need a side hustle to make ends meet, a mobile car detailing business may be the idea you’re looking for.

Such a business is highly profitable, allows you to target a broad market, and is relatively easy to start.

Here, we’ll tell you how to start a mobile car detailing business in five simple steps.

How Profitable is Owning a Mobile Car Detailing Business?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor, an auto-detailer can earn up to $15 per hour, amounting to $30,000 or more annually.

Even better, you can make more than that according to your state.

For example, the average income per hour for an auto-detailer in New York is more than $16.

Car detailing businesses have a 15%–20% profit margin, which is decent considering it doesn’t need a large startup cost.

The average owner of such a business can make $40,000 of gross income a year, and that’s considering he’ll work on two to three cars per week.

Car detailers who operate on a broader scale can earn up to $100,000 or more annually.

What You’ll Need to Start a Mobile Car Detailing Business [& Associated Costs]

Luckily, you can start a mobile car detailing business with low startup costs.

Aside from the insurance and permits, you’ll only need a few tools, which shouldn’t cost you more than $1000.

Here’s an overview of everything you need to start such a business:

  • Pressure washer: A pressure washer will make your job much easier and more time-efficient. It should cost around $100–$200, depending on the model you buy.
  • Extractor: You’ll want to buy an extractor for cleaning the cars’ interiors and removing odors. It’ll cost you around $120–$150 on average. There are more expensive models costing more than $1000, but you won’t need those at first.
  • Steamer: A steamer is essential for cleaning leather seats and consoles. It’ll cost you around $100.
  • Cleaning products: Car detailing needs plenty of cleaning products, including a spray wax, a degreaser, a leather cleaner, and an all-purpose cleaner. Together, they should cost around $50.
  • Towels and absorbers: You’ll need to get a large number of towels if you don’t want to keep returning to the store. You can buy a large pack for $20–$30.
  • Buffer: A buffer is necessary for cleaning the car’s exterior and maintaining a fresh finish. It should cost $150–$200 on average.
  • Hose: A hose will make your task easier when cleaning exteriors. It can cost you anywhere from $20 to $80, depending on the nozzles and cleaning supplies that come with it.
  • Insurance: Nearly all automobile services pay for insurance because it’s a high-risk business. General liability insurance will cost you around $500–$1000 annually.

Do I Need a License or Certificates to Start a Mobile Car Detailing Business?

Yes, you’ll need to get a business license to start a mobile car detailing business.

On top of that, you’ll need to register your business entity.

However, the rules vary according to each state, so it wouldn’t hurt to check your state’s laws for local permits.

Why You Should Consider Starting a Mobile Car Detailing Business As a Side Hustle

A mobile car detailing business doesn’t need significant startup costs, which is a good reason to consider it.

Sure, a large investment can help the business grow faster, but small steps at the beginning can also go a long way.

Here’s why you should consider starting such a business:

  • No large investment needed: When you don’t have to get a large space or rent a garage, your startup costs become significantly lower than stationery businesses.
  • High profit potential: A mobile car detailing business is highly profitable because it’s an expensive service, yet it doesn’t involve huge costs. You can get tools for less than $1000 and use them to earn thousands of dollars.
  • Wider market: Owning a mobile detailing business means every car, van, or truck out there is a potential customer. You can target customers across cities or states, and you can get a considerable customer base within the first year of working.

How to Start a Mobile Car Detailing Business in 5 Simple Steps

If you’re taking things seriously and planning on starting your car detailing business soon, here’s how to do so:

Step 1: Create Your Business Plan

Jumping headfirst into a new business without doing a full study is risky.

That’s why the first thing you should do is create a business plan that includes your business strategy, marketing plan, competitive analysis, and pricing plan.

It should also include any funding plans you have, along with the licenses and paperwork you have to get.

If you get it off your chest at the beginning, the remaining steps will be easier to handle.

Step 2: Find Your Competitive Edge

While creating your business plan, you should do a full competitive analysis and see how the market is doing.

If you decide to offer the same services as everyone else, you’ll hurt the growth potential of your business.

Look for a service that customers can’t find easily; it can be your competitive edge when you make it into the market.

Alternatively, learn about all your competitors’ price points and try to rival them.

If you offer the same services for lower costs, you’ll manage to get a decent customer base that’ll push you to grow your business.

Step 3: Determine Your Services and Pricing

Car detailing business offer plenty of different services, including basic glass cleaning, exterior washing, buffing, steaming, waxing, and even paint claying.

You don’t have to offer every service there is; that’ll cost you a lot of money for the supplies, and you’ll find that some elite services are hardly requested.

Most customers only need the basic services, so focus on offering those at first.

Services like vinyl installation, engine cleaning, etc., can come when you’ve already established your business and know your way around things.

After determining your services, start creating your price list.

Make sure to study competitors’ prices first.

You don’t want to stray far from the market’s average.

Step 4: Register Your Business and Get the License

Now that you have most things you need ready, it’s time to choose a name for your business to get the license.

Opt for a name that’s easy to read and memorable, and make sure it includes a keyword of your main service somewhere, like Joe’s Auto Detailing or something like that.

When you have the name, it’s time to apply for your business license.

To do so, you’ll have to determine the structure of your business first, whether you’re starting a partnership, an LLC, or a sole proprietorship, you’ll need to register it according to your state’s laws to get your license.

Step 5: Start Advertising

To advertise your business, it’d be a good idea to create a simple website using a building platform like Squarespace.

Then, start paying for online ads.

Or, if you’re a fan of traditional advertising, you may want to start printing flyers and applying for newspaper ads.

Things to Consider When Building a Mobile Car Detailing Business

Here are some things you need to consider before starting a mobile car detailing business:

  • Can You Run a Mobile Car Detailing Business By Yourself? Such a business can be physically-tasking and stressful, so you should think about whether you want to do it alone or get a partner.
  • Do You Have a Suitable Vehicle? You’ll need a reliable, working vehicle for a mobile detailing business. So, if you don’t have it, you need to consider how you’ll get the funding you need for it.
  • Do You Have Enough Knowledge? To start a mobile detailing business, you need to have basic knowledge of everything related to car cleaning. If you don’t, you’ll spend a lot of time watching video tutorials and trying to learn how to do it.
  • Do You Have a Geographical Plan? A mobile detailing business can span multiple states. If you’re not careful, you’ll spend most of your time driving, so you have to create a reliable geographical plan for your operations.

INSPIRATION: Mobile Car Detailing Business Ideas

Here are some mobile car detailing business ideas to inspire you:

  • Luxury Car Detailing: If you know your way around luxury vehicles, you can dedicate your business to them. You’ll have to do a lot of research about all brands you’ll be dealing with, but your income will be through the roof because luxury vehicle owners are often willing to pay large sums to maintain their cars.
  • Paint Detailing: You can start your business by offering only paint detailing. The services can include paint correction, polishing, paint coating, chip repairing, vinyl wrapping, or even decal removal.
  • Vehicle Spa: You can create a ‘vehicle spa’ by offering extra services that aren’t usually available on the market. These can include headlight restoration, wheel coating, tint installation, and deep cleaning.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are a couple of questions we frequently get about mobile car detailing businesses:

How Do I Get Mobile Detailing Clients?

You can get clients by partnering with off-road groups or dealerships.

Or, advertise your business in your area, then ask for referrals from your customers.

You can also create a simple website and start paying for online ads with a specific target market.

Is Mobile Detailing Worth It?

Considering the profit potential, we’d say mobile detailing is worth it if you do it right.

If you manage to get your supplies in bulk for lower costs, you’ll make a lot of profit.

Similar Businesses to Consider Starting

If you’re not a fan of mobile car detailing businesses, you may want to consider similar ideas.

Here’s an overview:

Wrapping Up

Now that you know how to start a mobile car detailing business, you should be able to create your business plan and start operating soon.

Remember to choose a memorable name and check your state’s laws before registering your business.

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