Starting an Auto Detailing Business with a Small Budget

If you’re a car enthusiast and love detailing cars then it would make sense for you to think about starting an auto detailing business. It’s an easy business to start as long as you’re willing to put in the work and price your services right. 

Since you’ll be touching other people’s cars, you will want to make sure you have the right skills to get the job done right and keep your customers happy. Learn how to properly detail a car, and then learn how to detail a car quicker. It’s a business, you will want to be profitable.

The Skills Needed to Start an Auto Detailing Business

Auto detailing is not that hard! It’s time consuming, especially if you don’t do it everyday and don’t have a routine. However, it’s not difficult. Everything you can possibly need to know can be learned from YouTube and practice on your own vehicle. This is why it makes a great business, because most people don’t have the time to learn how to properly detail a car, and then even if they did, they don’t have the time to go through with detailing their car. 

For interior details, you must know how to remove common stains from carpet, as well as clean and restore all the interior plastic and vinyl. Again, practice on your car! Develop a specific process for cleaning the interior and learn to be as quick as possible. 

The right tools for an interior detail will help speed up the process. Things like a shop vac, steam cleaner, drill with drill brushes and a carpet extractor. These tools will make the interior detailing process a breeze, and you’ll be able to meet all of your customers’ expectations.

Exterior Detailing and Paint Correction Tools

For exterior details, it gets more complicated. If you do your research you will find that many detailers have their own water supply. This means they have a water tank and a pump to supply water to their power washer. Must you really have your own water supply to be a mobile detailer? Of course not.

Just like you don’t need your own generator to power the extractor and vacuum. All you have to do is handle this situation during your initial consultation with the customer. Let them know that in order to do the detail you’ll “just need a place to plug in an extension cord and hose to get started”. 

Say that in a casual way and 99% of the customers will never care. Some people will even think it’s great as the service you provide will be even better and not limited by the amount of water you’re holding in a tank.

You don’t need a pressure washer, but a cheap electrical one will get the job done. Using just a hose and the two-bucket method will be cheaper and just as effective as using a pressure washer with a foam cannon. There are also foam guns that connect directly to a regular garden hose, these can eliminate the need for two buckets, allowing you to get away with using a foam gun and bucket of clean water to rinse off the wash mitt.

For paint corrections, you will need a DA polisher, which can be found online for less than $100. You can polish a car by hand if you absolutely had to, but it’s not nearly as quick, and when you’re detailing professionally you need to invest in tools that speed up the detailing process. DA polishers are proven to be quicker and more effective than polishing by hand, so it’s a win for you and a win for your customer.

Most of your costs will be in the chemicals, so try and buy in bulk when possible. Here’s an article we published on the best products to buy in bulk so you can run your business more efficiently.

Getting Your First Customers and Scheduling Maintenance Details

Once you have the tools and skills needed to do a complete detail, it’s time to focus on the business. How will you get your first customers? It’s surprisingly not that difficult, especially if you live in a big city. 

Facebook will be your best friend, as you can publish in local classifieds to get noticed. This will help you get your first customers, and you won’t have to pay for advertisement. 

Get your social media presence built up as soon as possible, using Facebook and Twitter to share your work, offer promo discounts and inform potential customers on the benefits to a detail over a basic car wash. 

It’s also wise to have your own website and logo created to start establishing your brand. After you get a few customers, consider reinvesting some of the money you earned into Facebook and Google Ads. 

However, you don’t want to rely on new customers all the time, and eventually you’ll want to be booked up on maintenance details. These details are quicker and will make you more money if you can stay booked up doing them. 

They’re quicker because you routinely detail them and apply both interior protectants and a wax or ceramic coating on the paint. This makes washing the cars quicker, and cleaning the interiors quicker. It’s a better business strategy to keep your existing customers coming back on a monthly basis than it is to rely on new customers all year. 

Detailing From Your Garage or Going Mobile

Mobile detailing is the more popular option, as you can become a more convenient option for the customer. However, operating from your garage is also a great option, assuming you have a nice enough garage to make it work. 

Another option is to do both! For maintenance washes and quick details, go to your customer. For a full paint correction job, have the customer come to you and preferably drop off their vehicle. Both options can be profitable, so focus on making your customers happy and making a profit at the same time.

Don’t drive too far if it’s not worth it to you, and don’t skip out on work because you would rather do it from your garage. 

When browsing YouTube and forums to check out mobile detailing rigs, you will find a ton of guys who have expensive setups. Completely customized vans and trucks with everything you can imagine on them. Don’t get discouraged, because when you’re just starting out you don’t need to have your own water or power supply. 

There are also videos and tips out there for mobile detailing out of a small car, so we know it can be done. A portable Bissell extractor, DA polisher, microfiber towels, chemicals, shop vac, extension cord and hose can all fit in a little Scion TC. No excuses.

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