How to start a car detailing business – shop OR mobile service (with little or no money!)

I interviewed 3 people who run very profitable car detailing businesses, and asked them what you need to know about starting a car detailing business.

Updated August 6, 2021

Written by

Benjamin Davis

Contributor

How-to-start.org

Experts interviewed:

Dio Green – Owner, Red Diamond Mobile Auto Detailing in Jacksonville, FL

Greg Riley – Owner, J Wash R Detailing in Northern Florida

Taylor Overeem, Owner, Taylor Mobile Detail in Jacksonville FL.

NOTICE: This is a long article. You can skip directly to the guide if you prefer.

I spoke with the founders and owners of three very successful car detailing businesses – two operate a mobile service, and one is based in a drive through location. They’re all earning good money, and I wanted to understand how easy (or difficult?) it is to get started in the car detailing or auto detailing business.

Can you do it quickly? Do you need special training? Is the equipment expensive? 

I asked my successful operators for a little bit of background first – I wanted to know how they got into the business.

How do you get started in the car detailing business?

How did you get started in the car detailing business?

Do you have experience? or did you just get started?

Dio: Boring story. I was just the first one to own a new car in the family. I just became obsessed with keeping it clean. I was detailing my car for maybe the fourth or fifth hour and the neighbor came over to me and was like, “You should start a business,” and I was 19 and I guess dumb enough to think that some 19-year-old with no college education could just start up a business. Thankfully, it worked.

Greg: Years ago, my wife and I had a business doing mobile detailing in probably 1997. I got burned out because I was working for long hours. Then recently again a friend of mine needed help at his detailing shop, because some of his guys quit. I helped him for a while, doing hand washing. Because I was a full-time pastor so I was sitting in the house and gaining weight when the knee got hurt. So I started working with him detailing cars and the business took off, then I started my own location.  

Taylor: A buddy of mine used to own a gym and somebody introduced them to a network marketing product. It was a waterless car wash product, where you could wash your car with no water. So they talked about how you could sell the product and make money and then detail people's cars so I just got on board because I wanted to make more money. Then I quit my job working at Publix and started it full time. Then later I switched to spot-free water products because the waterless product wasn't efficient enough for my business. Waterless can still be great if the car is clean, or if you're doing it by yourself and you have plenty of time.

TipThe experts agree – you don't need experience to start a car detailing business, but you SHOULD take the time to do plenty of research online, and practice on your own car and friends and family cars before you take on any clients.

Like so many business owners that I talk to, this trio seems to have mostly gotten into business accidentally. That's often the way it happens – a chance meeting with someone, or spotting an opportunity in an area that doesn’t have a service. Or maybe there’s just room to do better.

But what about experience? Sometimes you can’t just get started without years worth of training in a particular industry or business. How does car detailing compare to that?

I asked the three successful founders the second most common question.

Do you need to be an experienced detailer to start a car detailing business?

Can you learn as you go? Or do you need to take a training course? Can you learn online?

Dio: No, you don’t need experience. Definitely knowing if you have a passion for it or not helps. I can't decide if I enjoy being an entrepreneur more or if I enjoy car detailing more. I know car detailers who are way better than me at detailing, but are horrible at running a business. So they're good at being a number two or a number three in a big company.

My mistake was that the first few years of my business I wanted to be the best detailer I could possibly be, and that did help me in some ways. I was able to get clients that I had no business getting hold of at the level that I was at and keeping them for years. But as far as making a profit, investing wisely in products and things like that, I wasn't making as much money as I potentially could have.

So it just depends on the individual if they're a good fit for being a business owner.

But the great thing about this business is that there's so little risk. Most people go to Walmart, go pick up a five gallon bucket and a square brush and can call themselves a professional detailer. You don't need to start up some kind of big, giant manufacturing business. 

Greg: I would think that they would come in and learn as they go and work, or experience it. I think they should work with a company, because there’s more to it than just washing cars. You have what we call a clay bar. You have what we call interior shampoo. We have what we call engine cleaning. You can start a business but you're not going to make enough money to be successful just washing cars, you really need to know how to detail them.

Taylor: You don't really need much experience. As long as you know how to clean your own car. The thing that makes a good detailer is trial and error and I think it comes to equipment and efficiency. If you don't have a lot of equipment and you're out there charging peanut prices, you're not really going to make any money. But if you build some experience and you buy equipment to make you more efficient, it helps. When I got started I didn't have enough money or equipment. I just washed cars for years and I didn't really make any money. Then when I decided I wanted to make some real cash, I started buying more equipment to make it more efficient and then I started making good decent money.

Tip: I wrote the worlds easiest step-by-step guide on How to Start a Car Detailing Business. You can check it out >here<.

So the general idea seems to be – you can get started without any formal training or qualifications, but you won’t make much money until you start to get efficient, and that efficiency just comes with a little practice. So the sooner you get started, the sooner you’ll be making money. There are thousands of videos on YouTube showing the ins and outs and tricks to car detailing, so a few evenings worth of study will put you well ahead of everyone else who needs to figure things out the hard way! I wanted to know what equipment is needed to get started, and what the bare minimum is for someone starting with little or no money. I asked the experts.

How much money and what equipment is needed to start a car detailing business? 

What are the must-have things, and what can wait until later? What is the minimum amount of money you’ll need?

Dio: Depends on who you're trying to go after. If you're trying to go after everyday drivers, you can start it with pretty much everything from Walmart. You could probably start with less than $100, and I know guys that are doing it for years and they're still driving out of their Toyota Corolla and they're detailing out of it.

If you wanted to start up today, you need two five-gallon buckets, two wash mitts, a couple of brushes, some detailing towels and a couple products that, again, like I said, doesn't take much. Maybe even a little vacuum, but most people already got that. A little shop vac in the garage.

Greg: I think about $200. That's what started me, minus the pressure washer. I’d say if they want to go with a commercial pressure washer—I had a commercial pressure washer, but if they want to go with it, probably a commercial right now is running about $1,000. Then you’ll need a lot of brushes, and maybe a six-foot ladder or eight-foot, because everybody is around with these tall trucks. That's where your money is. The bigger the car, the more money you're going to make. You can charge a lot on a truck.

Now, the other thing you're going to need is a chamois cloth, a couple of them. You're going to need a mitten to wash the car off with. You're going to need a water hose, because sometimes with the heat in the sun, they might be a commercial hose but they still burst. So you're going to need buckets. You're going to need airbrushes, but you don't have to start with that because you can get a vacuum with a blower and blow the crumbs out of the seats. And then you're going to need air freshener for the car, I think that's a big deal for most customers.

Taylor: I would say a good van and a pressure washer and a water tank, a generator, hose reel and then detailing chemicals. It just really depends on the vehicle and what kind of equipment you want to get if you get a trailer. I think probably about 10 to 15 grand. Without the vehicle, you could probably do it for about $5,000 with all the right equipment. So the pressure washer is probably $700 or $800. And then you got a water tank that's probably about a couple hundred dollars. And then you got a generator that's about $500 to $1,000. Then you get a hose reel, the buffers. So yeah, I think if you had about five grand you could probably get a really nice setup. But if you’re just using buckets, then a couple hundred is all you’ll need.

It seems the three founders were all saying the same thing. They said you can get started for just a few hundred dollars, but, if you don’t eventually buy some equipment and build out a van or trailer, you’re going to be working slower than you could. I’ve learned – from talking with hundreds of business owners in many different businesses – that sometimes, people are happy to go slow and steady. Some operators don’t want to rush around and make $1000 or $2000 a day – some of them are perfectly happy to go slow and relax, and take home maybe half that. Which made me wonder – how much is a car detailer going to earn? Is it a super profitable business? I asked the three successful owners. 

How much does a car detailing business earn?

Can you expect to earn a good income? Is it crazy hours, or a good lifestyle?

Dio: You can look to make $5,000 to $7,000 a month. I'm not going to say you're going to be a millionaire, but $5,000 to $7,000 is more money than most people earn at their jobs. And if you're running your car detailing business and you're really, really happy, at the end of the day what does it matter how much money you make? I get everybody's looking for that big number, but with me, I would rather make less money and be happier…I used to be a property manager. I used to manage multi-million dollar contracts. Hated the job. Hated the politics. So doing this job, being able to do whatever I want and work outside and stuff, it just appeals to me. So I may make a little bit less money but I'm way happier.

Greg: Just doing hand washing in one of my good months I’ll do $3,000 or $4,000. Just hand washing and the one location, not even mobile detailing.

Taylor: It really depends on if you're doing ceramic coatings or a lot of polishing, but I guess if you're doing interior detail, I'd say probably about $4,000 or $5,000, working probably up to 40 hours a week. It just really depends on what you charge. Some detailers are making more now with a ceramic coating but then they got shop expenses and all that stuff. One guy I know – he's making over $100,000 a year, but he's doing all kinds of stuff. Ceramic coating, polishing, paint work, all kinds of stuff.

Tip: Find out the average income in the areas you're going to be working in, and set your prices according to that. If it's low to middle income, you're going to be doing more fast-washes and touch-ups, so come up with a $99 package and make it something you can do in less than an hour. If it's a high income area, develop a menu of premium services, well into several hundred-dollar range.

Very small startup expenses, and the lowest number I heard back from the three business owners was $3,000 a month, ranging to over $100,000 a year. It’s one of those businesses where it really just depends on how you operate it as to how much you’ll earn. Some car detailers go high-end, charge a lot, and only do a small number of jobs. Others are running a high volume hand-washing business. Decide what you want to do (low volume, high price sounds appealing!), and then start doing it. I asked the trio of successful car detailing business owners how they got their customers. 

How do you get customers for a new car detailing business?

Can you just rely on Facebook? Do you need to spend money on advertising?

Dio: Content is the most important thing especially in this era. A lot of business owners, I don't think that they understand the power of it. If you're constantly pumping out content, especially during COVID, people are craving something to watch, something to look at. People are flipping through Instagram, Facebook all the time.So if you're daily pushing out multiple pieces of content, it doesn't really matter what it is, doesn't even matter that it's super high quality. You can have high-quality content, that's important, but just consistency and having multiple posts running through the well is important. So when people don't know about your business but they constantly see you, I think usually it takes about four or five times for somebody to see a repeating business on their feed to then call if they're looking for somebody in that industry. So you've got to be in people's faces all the time. That’s what worked for me.

Greg: I run a fixed location so it’s a bit different to mobile. I went and got business cards with my name and telephone number and the location where we're going to be at, and I just passed it around wherever I went. I gave them to people.Then I went and printed up a flyer. The flyer has all my prices on my car that I do, and where I'm located at, what time I open. And what I do for my kids, I tell them to put their initials on the back of that flyer, and whoever comes in, I look at the back of that flyer and I see the initials and I was paying them a little bit. I didn't have a marketing team so my kids were happy to do that. Then I give them like $10 a car that comes in.And they'll come out of school and everyone in the neighborhood passes them out and that's how I got cars. 

Taylor: I had a great idea. So what I did was I went to the real estate offices, and it was back in 2004. I walked in the door and asked them if anybody detailed cars for their staff. She said no. So I picked out her car and said, “How about I do your car for free?” And I washed it and did everything to it. While I was out there in the parking lot, people saw me doing the work, so then they started asking, “ I want you to do my car.” So it works.

Because if you just go in there and say, “Here's a bunch of cards,” they're not really going to call you. But if you're out there in the parking lot, people will always call you. Then what happened after that was, they told me they had mandatory sales meetings so they had to go to meetings at the office every Tuesday. So I would go there every Tuesday and pick up clients. I had like three or four different offices, five offices I'd bounce around, and that kept me busy.

Spending money, time, and effort to attract new customers is fine as long as you can actually turn them into real customers, who book over and over again, well into the future. I wondered what things customers actually care about when they’re thinking about a car detailing service. I assumed it was price, and scheduling, mostly – but were there some other hidden things that my three founders had learned about customers? Is there another piece of the puzzle?

I asked them:

What do customers care about when they’re choosing their car detailer? 

What should a new car detailing business do to get as many customers as they want?

Dio: Ratings. Ratings and reviews. Your online presence is of utmost importance. What happens is people Google auto detailer, and they're going to choose the top-rated detailers. They're going to call them. If they don't answer the phone, they go to the next one. Or if they call and they go, “Hey, what do you charge for this and this?” And you just spit out a price, they're going to be like, “All right. Cool. Thanks.” They're going to go to the second-rated detailer.

Ratings definitely will get you that first call but you've got 30 seconds to either grab their attention or sell them right there, or they're going to hang up, they're going to call the next guy who could potentially charge $150 less than you. A client usually, for the most part, has no idea why you're charging $150 extra so they're going to go with the cheapest guy.The two customers that I'm trying to identify are a client that either knows enough about detailing to know he knows nothing about it, or the client that knows nothing about it and nothing to do with it. Those two I can sell to. But the third one that basically is just looking to compare price to price between multiple businesses, I'm never going to sell to those guys because they're looking for the cheapest, and I don’t want their business.

Greg: At a drive-in location, they look at the appearance of the workers. They look at what they have on, how they dress, and their attitude. It’s one of the main things they looked at.Also, they look at how the place looks. If we're more raggedy than most people, they don’t like it. We give the best detail there is – but if we look rough, a new customer may not come in because of fear of robbery. So the most important thing that clients care about when they first see me is the appearance of me and my workers and also the appearance of the place.

Taylor: Most of the time it comes down to price. If you spend like $20,000 on equipment, but they're more focused on price than anything, you’ll have a hard time to get customers to look for quality. When you go to a car dealership, you're looking at that car and most of the time you already looked at the specs, you looked at the reviews and you look overall, and then you're really only thinking about price. But most customers seem to care about price more than anything. I have an $8,000 Optima Steamer and I tell customers it sanitizes and kills everything, even with the bacteria – but when you tell them the price, they're like, “Oh, I'll call you back”, and they never schedule anything. So definitely price is the number one issue for most customers.

thousands of people

have used the worlds easiest guide on How to Start a Car Detailing Business. It has literally everything you need. You can get it for free, or you can buy it

available for free or to purchase

If the majority of customers in a particular area only care about price, and that’s your main work area, it might be a mistake to spend tens of thousands of dollars on equipment. Maybe just cheap and fast car washing is the right service for that area. I often speak to business owners who have made an investment, or made a purchase, at the start of their business that they have come to regret in the future. Maybe they discovered they don’t really need to spend that money on that thing, or, their customers don’t care about it the way they expect them to.

I asked my founding trio an important question:

What is the biggest waste of money for a new car detailing business?

What are a some things that look like they might be a good idea, but are actually a waste of money? 

Dio: I know a lot of people waste their money on marketing. The reason why is because they pick marketing services that don't understand what they're trying to do. Whether it's local-based marketing teams or whether it's Yelp or Google, they want to drop this blanket over an entire city and that's not how my detailing business works. I’m looking for specific demographics. I know a lot of guys have wasted lots of money on that. And then just like any other industry, in the detailing industry you've got plenty of companies out there who are selling products that don't work, tools that are absolute garbage. And there are training classes out there. Almost everybody's got a training class now, whether they're qualified or not, because you don't need to be.

Other than the International Detailing Association, there's not really a qualification for being a detailer. So just be careful especially with coating. There are a shocking amount of coating companies out there that have no business selling products and you really can waste a lot of money. And it can really hurt your brand. Unfortunately, with this business, it's not like when you go to Home Depot and you buy wood and you build a thing or cabinet. 50% of our job is whatever products we're using.

So for products that are garbage, if you're investing in products that are bad that makes you a bad detailer. It's not your fault. You didn't make them, but if you don't understand certain products and how to use them to the best of your ability, that can cost you a lot of money. So research, research, research.

Greg: Well, I never had that problem because when I buy chemicals, I do my research. I just don't buy it just because somebody said it looked good. I do my research on that company and I also do my research on that chemical, so that's why I never had a problem with buying chemicals. Because I'm not just going to buy something because you say it looked good or it smelled good. Now one thing that I guess didn't like, is when my guys use too much of the chemicals on a car. That's the only thing I have a problem with. And I’ve told them, if they break something, they pay for it. And I take it out of their money.Like one time, I made a mistake years ago. I was cleaning a Lexus. A pastor friend of mine asked me to clean his Lexus, and I'm on the driver's side and I'm cleaning the window. His cup holder was pulled away from the dashboard. I reached over and my right hand crushed the cup holder. It was just a little ring cup holder. That thing was $250, and it was an old Lexus!I made that mistake so, now, I tell my guys, “If you're going to clean some of that side, get out of the car and go clean on that side. Don't reach over.” That saved me a lot. And if they break it, they pay for it. So damage to cars is one huge expense that can easily be avoided.

Taylor: Usually when I buy equipment, I research it a lot. Then I always make money. I never really lost any money in business, because I always research it. The best invention ever in the detail world was the foam cannon that came out in 2008, I think. Man, I was like the first person to have it. It came from Italy and they didn't even have the filters for it because the filter inside of the foam cannon, when you break it apart, it would keep the dirt and debris out of it. So what happened was somehow dirt and debris got in that filter and it would clog up and I always have to call them to get new ones. Then finally they came out with the filters. That was the best purchase ever.

TipWhen the phone starts ringing, don’t be tempted to say ‘yes’ to every customer. The quality of your life will depend on who you reject. If a customer sounds like a hassle, or is giving off Karen-vibes, just let them go. It can be as easy as saying "another car detailer might be able to help you better, and we're booked to capacity". It's just not worth the headaches, arguing, and bad reviews. You don't need their money.

A very low startup cost, and very good earning potential makes the car detailing business attractive to most people. But what about lifestyle? Sometimes you’ll start a business, and instead of you owning the business, the business owns you – and you can never really turn off. I asked the founding trio what their typical work day is now, and whether it suits them. 

What is the typical work day for a profitable car detailer?

Is it a good lifestyle, or is it work from sunrise to sunset?

Dio: Typically, I do one client a day. Reason is – I hate rushing. That's just my own personal thing. So for me to go out there at 6:00 a.m. and do multiple cars a day, sure. You can make as much money as you want to make. I don't like doing that. 

I like to do one car a day because, typically, when somebody brings me a car, they don't know what they’re going to have done—yeah, they’ll say they want to get the inside and outside done. Okay, cool. And then they bring me the car and I'm like—you listen to the client, hear what they want and then you can basically dial in a package for that, but most cars to me take about a day.

Now I'm going to make my whatever, $500 or $600 a day. Totally fine. I don't need to kill myself. I've got a family and that's way more important than my business will ever be. So even though it's my dream job, this is still a job. This does not come before my wife, my family. Nothing like that.

Taylor: I do my first job early in the morning, and usually I work three to four hours a day. Sometimes I work more but it's so hot in the summertime it's really hard to work all day in the sun. I like to work more but I'm only looking for quality customers that are going to pay my price.

With the freedom to choose their working hours, people who run a car detailing business seem to enjoy a pretty good lifestyle. It’s one of those businesses where – the more effort you put in, and the more hours you put in, the more you get out of it. It is exactly what you want it to be – if you want a part time side-hustle, it can do that for you. If you want to replace or exceed a full time income, it can do that for you too. Not all car detailers think the same way. Some do things that just don’t make sense. I asked my three experts what they’ve seen that doesn’t make sense…

What things do some car detailers do wrong?

What are the ways a detailer can mess up? What can cause problems?

Dio: Jumping on bandwagons, for sure. So any kind of new product that comes out that claims that they're something great, but then doing no research and grabbing that and putting that to work in your business is insane to me. I do believe that product manufacturers way over-promise and way under-deliver. It is our job as professional detailers to sift through the BS and find the real stuff, because our clients are paying us to know what's real and what's not. So there's that.

And then any detailer that basically takes on a job that they have no business doing. Look, I get it. That Lamborghini looks great on Instagram, but if you don't know anything about paint correction or you don't know anything about chemistry and you take the job and you've been doing the $40 details, that's insane to me. Because not only are you doing damage, I can't think that you possibly COULDN’T do damage. You're hurting somebody's car to give you some likes on Instagram.I've got test panels where any new product that I use it's either going to my vehicle or it's going on that test panel first. I'm never going to try new stuff out on my clients’ cars. That's insane. 

Greg: I’ve seen other drive-in locations where the guys are sitting around playing card games. When they have no cars or guys coming through, they play cards. Then at different ones they smoke weed – and that’s why a lot of people came to me up there. It was more of a ghetto atmosphere at those other places. And that's one of the things I've seen in the other car lots.

Taylor: Using degreasers and harsh chemicals on the interior. The problem is that the degreasers are too strong and they strip everything. So if you have these coatings on leather seats or plastics you can really damage the car.

Start a Car Detailing Business

in one week

with Little or No Money

available for free or to purchase

So the story is the same from all three of them – just take your time, do your research, and test new products carefully before using them for customer jobs. Even then – you’re sometimes going to have customers who are complaining for no good reason. You could do the best job in the world, but the customer is going to complain.

I asked my three car detailing founders if they had developed any tricks or methods for avoiding bad customers. 

How can a car detailing business avoid bad customers?

Is there a way to know who is going to complain and be unreasonable?

Dio: A lot of the time, it really comes down to communication and it's not even the customer's fault, it's on the detailer. I see too many times where detailers will not explain to a customer exactly what's being done. If they're happy with the detail but they're not happy with how much they paid or they didn't know exactly what they paid for, I guess the point is if you as a detailer and your client are not on the same page, then nobody's happy, and that's not a good thing.So being a business owner is about being able to thoroughly communicate and execute a job to a client's fullest potential happiness. So those clients that are typically unhappy, more often than not, I see with threads, with people taking screenshots between customers and detailers and being like, “I don't know why he's mad at me.” Poor communication usually is to blame. So a lot of times when customers come to me, they're comparing me to a car wash. “Hey, I don't want a $5 car wash. I want somebody to take good care of my car, so I'm going to go to a professional detailer.” Well, when you start talking numbers, for real detailing, you start getting past $1,000. People freak out because they're comparing you to that $5 car wash. So you have to be able to thoroughly communicate to whatever client, whatever their background is, exactly what you're doing and make sure they fully understand. That right there will dissolve 95% of disagreements between you and an unhappy customer.And there have been times where I've walked away from customers. I would much rather walk away and not make any money than make money and that customer turn around and try to hurt me online, or a customer not be happy.

Greg: You can’t. You really can't avoid them all the time. You’ve just got to have an eye for slickness, people who try to con. And it's hard too because some people look so innocent, so nice, even some pretty ladies who come up there with that kind of attitude.

Taylor: Yeah, sometimes you can avoid them if you ask them a lot of questions about the car. Over the years, I've got a vibe about the customers. It's hard sometimes when you're doing the car. That’s why if you price it really high, you can avoid the bad customers because they don't want to pay.

The worst thing with the others is in the end, you'll lose money when the customer says, “Oh, my car is not that bad.” That will get you. You'll lose a lot of money when they say that. If you believe them and you tell them a price, like a solid price over the phone, you're going to lose a lot of money.

People say it's not that bad because they don't want to pay anything. But their expectations and your expectations are totally different. So that’s an easy one to look out for. 

You can work the hours you want to work in the car detailing business, and by asking the right questions like our experts above have suggested, you can avoid the troublesome customers and have an enjoyable time at work.

But what about other car detailers in your area? Should you be worried about competing with them? Should you lower your prices?

I asked my successful car detailers. 

How should a car detailer compete against other detailers in his area?

Should you offer lower rates? Or do more for the same price? Or just ignore them and do your own thing?

Dio: I don't compete. I do the opposite. I actually find good detailers and support them, even direct competitors of mine. And the reason, I live in a city where there's a million people, which usually has two cars per household. So we're talking two million cars.I've got a dozen businesses that are in my level, and in my wheelhouse. There's enough cars. So what I want to do is find the detailers that are actually doing really good work, that are setting the numbers that I agree with price-wise, that are helping the industry not only as a whole but as a local market and support those people. Find the ones that are not good detailers that are cheating people and try to push them out. So it's not that I'm competing locally. I'm paying attention to this market. I feel like I got a pulse on it. And I have connections with retailers that are good, even though they're direct. Because if they're busy—the thing with detailing is once you start getting packed, booked past two weeks, people stop booking. You have to be real careful about how much work you start pulling in because you can actually have so much work you put yourself out of work. Nobody wants to wait that long.

Greg: Well, I have sent people away because we were too busy. Now, what I do, I'm not really competing but I give rewards. You get a two days rain check on my cars. If it rains before midnight, you have two days to bring it back and we’ll work on that for free. On your sixth visit, it's half price. Because you came six times, that's how much money with the six times I made off your car, so I'm basically giving back to that person.And on your tenth visit, I'll dress you one time free. Not all the time. Just one time I'll dress you free.

And the other thing is if one of my clients has people they know, and they bring five cars to me and I detail them, that person who got those coming to me, I would give theirs free. I got a reward practice where they could always keep coming back. So I don’t worry about the competition with other companies.

Taylor: I tell customers to check out the steamer and the reviews – because a lot of detailers won't spend money on their equipment. I've talked to several detailers I try and help them out but they look at equipment like, “Oh, man, that's too much money.” But that equipment actually works for you, so if you're out there doing a job it's going to make you money, and you’re going to do a better job than anyone else. That’s the best way to compete.

Often times a small business – like a car detailing business – can make more money selling additional services or products than they do from their core business. I asked my three experts whether they sell additional products, or services, or upgrades to customers, to help increase their total income. 

What other services can a car detailing business offer?

Are there premium upgrades you can charge more for? Are there products you can sell?

Dio: I do coatings. I was against the coatings industry for quite some time and I feel like I'm one of the strongest voices when it comes to being – not anti-coating – but anti-coating BS. Like I said, there's so much misinformation about this so if a client comes to me and wants a coating, I want to make sure that they know exactly what a coating does. It's not bulletproof. It doesn't make it to where your paint never just needs to be washed again. It's not self-healing. It doesn't have these ridiculous claims that it doesn't scratch, it doesn't mar, it doesn't blah, blah, blah. All of that is ridiculous and it's absurd and it's not true. So I just make sure that my clients know exactly what they're paying for. So coatings, paint restorations, interior restorations, mold removal, all that stuff. If it's cosmetic on a vehicle, I'm taking care of it.

Taylor: I'm also starting a second business, to use the same equipment I have already and clean stuff with my steamer but it's hard starting a second business because you’re already busy.

At this point, the three experts have given me just about all I need to know. Anyone can take this information, and start their business. But I wanted to close it out with a few bullet points that are simple and easy. So, I asked my car detailing experts what advice they would give to friends and family who were planning to start a car detailing business. Here’s what they told me.

Three Keys to Success in a Car Detailing Business

Are there premium upgrades you can charge more for? Are there products you can sell?

Dio: Do research. There’s guys that have been doing it for 10-plus years. We're making videos. We're making content. We're sharing on forums and things like that.

Learn from our mistakes so you can jump a few years ahead of us. That's what my mentor did with me. He taught me, “Hey, man, here's all the mistakes that I made. Don't repeat them.” So like I just explained to you about the minerals being under coatings, right? I've never made that mistake. Why? Because I knew about it way before I did coatings and you just gotta put that information in the rolodex. So research as much as possible, ask as many questions as you can. Half the job is just doing research. So if it's somebody that hates this job, that just hates it… they're going to fail. You're going to fail because you've got to be ahead of guys like me who love this so much. I'm researching in my free time to be the best detailer I could possibly be for myself and my clients.Number two, remember that you're a business owner first, not a detailer. You're a detailer second. That's the thing that a lot of people get in trouble for is they'll put that detailer first…Number three, and again I've touched on this earlier, but, communication. Communication is the most important thing. So setting expectations for your clients that's what's going to get rid of 95% of negative comments or feedback or pissed off clients throwing it away, not happy with your work.  

Greg: I helped three people get started in their own business. I gave them a supply for one month. They didn't have to pay me right then. After a month, they paid me. The chemicals and then the advice I gave them, was to be honest with people because it goes a long way.

The other point is to do the best work you can as if it was your own personal car.

And the last one is – the employees who work with you, you need to train them yourself. Don't let a manager train them. You train them because that's your business. You know exactly how you want it. 

Taylor: I would invest money in equipment and then I would tell them to go out and talk to their friends and try to meet as many people as you can, because you need to talk to a lot of people to get popular, and promote your business on social media. Some people are really popular on Instagram and Facebook. I'm more popular on Facebook than Instagram. I try to work Instagram. I don't post a lot. It's just so hard to get in the right crowd, because you have to be really creative when you're marketing.

With minimal equipment, anyone can start a car detailing business. The biggest thing that the three car detailing experts kept repeating to me over and over again was that you need to do your research! I have spent over 100 hours learning everything there is to know about the car detailing business, by talking to industry experts and car detailers. I have compiled it into the worlds most useful guide, How to Start a Car Detailing Business. You can check it out here.

Now Get the Guide

I wrote the worlds easiest-to-follow guide on How to Start a Car Detailing Business, with little or no money. It's available for free or for purchase.

available for free or to purchase

You might also like:

Business Startup Study 2021

We reveal what people REALLY thought about starting businesses during 2021

Sales Letters: do they still work?

A deep-dive into a $10,000 sales letter experiment

Ranked: The Easiest Businesses for Women

We show you the girl-bosses absolutely KILLING it