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Car Detailing Business Income

Car Detailing Business Income

It might not be your first idea when thinking of a new business venture, but a well-organized car detailing business can easily turn into an extremely profitable endeavour in a short amount of time. Car detailing, or auto detailing, is a service which is all about keeping vehicles in their absolute best condition. This makes any car owner a potential customer.

There’s a lot to consider when setting up your own car detailing business, such as where you’ll run it from, how you’ll meet startup costs, and sourcing the right equipment to get started. But with the right auto detailing business plans and some hard work, you can easily start making big profits.

Estimating car detailing business income

The exact profit you can make from a car detailing business will vary depending on factors like the time you spend working on it, what your operating costs are, whether you work alone or hire employees, and so on. However, it’s possible to make a basic estimate of the potential income for a detailing business by using a few pieces of information.

First off, how much will your business charge for basic car detailing services? The Ultimate Guide to Detailing provides these recommended prices for services involved in a basic detailing job:

  • Vacuum and handwash: $25-$45.
  • Full Detail (all areas of both the interior and exterior): $100-$150.
  • Engine detailing: $40-$60.
  • Charge a fixed hourly rate for large or more complex vehicles.

You can always set your own prices, but the prices above are a useful guide as to how much you should be charging. Based on these prices, you can work out how much profit you can expect to make. This will come down to how much time you’ll want to put into your car detailing business. 

Based on the lowest expectation of one full detail customer per day, you could potentially earn the following:

  • Two days a week, eg. as a weekend job: $100 x2 means $200 a week, around $800 per month, and over $10,000 a year.
  • Three days a week, as a part-time job: $100 x3 means $300 a week, a monthly income of around $1200, and over $15,000 a year.
  • 5 days a week, as a full-time business project: $100 x5 means $500 a week, around $2000 a month and $26,000 per year.

As you can see, these high incomes make detailing profitable even on a small scale, and your income will grow even higher as you take on more customers. And this pricing is solely based on basic services. If you want to increase your income even further, you can easily add further detailing services to your repertoire.


Extra car detailing services

To establish your car detailing business as one that goes the extra mile, and to increase your profits at the same time, there are a number of other services you can provide beyond the standard detail service of exterior and interior cleaning. The Ultimate Guide suggests the following additional services and prices:

  • Minor paint touch-ups/paint correction: $50.
  • Major paint touch-ups/paint correction: $200.
  • Overspraying or cement removal: $150.
  • Black trim restoration: $25-$110 depending on the extent of restoration needed.
  • Carpet dyeing: $75-$150.
  • Windshield repair: $25-$100 based on the severity of damage.
  • Paintless dent repair: $90-$120.

Offering these services alongside your basic detailing packages can quickly boost your income potential, as well as increasing your customers who may be looking for more specific detail work than interior and exterior cleaning.

The only downside to this is they may require more specialized detailing equipment or materials. So, if you have a limited startup budget, you may have to gradually invest in developing these services over time.

Car detailing business startup costs

Sadly, you can’t just start making money straight away. You’ll first have to put in time, effort and money when starting an auto detailing business. Before you begin to detail cars, there are a number of startup costs to consider.

One major factor that will affect the initial cost to start your car detail business is ‘the location’ that you will be working from. There are three main options for your business’ location:

  • A fixed location in traditional business premises.
  • A mobile detailing business.
  • A temporary location.

Each of these has their own associated startup costs, as well as different advantages and disadvantages.

1. Fixed location

Setting up your detailing business in a fixed location usually requires a larger startup cost, but that said, it also has a number of advantages. With your own business premises, it’s easier to grow the business beyond an individual effort by hiring additional employees. This means your profit potential in a fixed location is higher than a mobile or temporary location.

It’s also better for attracting customers too as your business will be visible to the public. This is particularly the case if you’re able to get a business location that is nearby a busy road. The passing traffic will give your business immediate visibility and will allow you to target anyone who owns a car. As a result, this will widen the reach of your business and will drastically increase your target market size.

The flipside is that you’ll need a lot more in your initial budget to cover the costs of opening in a fixed location. Startup costs you’ll need to factor in include:

  • Incorporation fees to register as a business.
  • Initial rent and deposits for the premises.
  • Office equipment.
  • Furniture for offices, lobbies/waiting areas, staff areas etc.
  • Detailing equipment (see below).
  • Detailing supplies (see below).
  • Air compressor, car washers, car dryers.
  • Signage.
  • Advertising fees.
  • Merchant service fees.
  • Required business licenses (check your area’s regulations).
  • Cash float (to pay for ongoing costs).

The above startup costs can push the costs of a fixed location car detailing business to upwards of $30,000 — just to get started. On top of that, you’ll have to consider monthly expenses such as rent, utilities, employee wages, insurance, maintenance costs, re-supplying consumable items, marketing, merchant service fees, and taxes.

You will also have to carefully weigh up if you have the cash necessary to make a high initial investment for a fixed location. That said, if you are able to do this, then in the long run it could pay off as a fixed location has the most potential for huge profits in the long term compared to your other options.

2. Mobile detailing business

If you don’t have the funds required for a fixed location, a cheaper option could be to start a mobile car detailing business. In this way you can take your service to customers’ own homes by operating from a van or other vehicle.

This option is much cheaper to both set up and continue running; what’s more, it’s very convenient for your customer base, who don’t even have to leave their homes. This can be a powerful tool in your marketing plan which will help you to gain repeat customers that prefer regular visits to their home over driving to an auto detailer themselves.

Mobile auto detailing businesses have their drawbacks. While it’s more convenient for your customers, it’ll mean more time for you to spend travelling to and from clients. You’ll also have to take the weather into account since you’ll spend most of your time working outside.

Finally, your potential profits are lower than with a fixed location, as your schedule will be limited by the number of clients you can feasibly travel to each day. As a result, this makes it a lot harder for you to expand your business — but with one caveat — on the assumption that you are not operating a mobile detailing franchise.

If a mobile detailing business is the option for you, here are the startup costs you’ll have to consider:

  • Incorporation fee to be registered as a business.
  • Home and mobile office supplies.
  • Portable air compressor.
  • Water tanks.
  • Car washing and drying equipment.
  • Detailing equipment (see below).
  • Detailing supplies.
  • A van or vehicle with a trailer suited to storing equipment.
  • Waste water reclamation systems (to collect and dispose of waste water according to local regulations).
  • Marketing and promotion.
  • Merchant service fees.
  • Uniform/work clothes.
  • Required business licenses (check your area’s regulations).
  • Cash float for ongoing costs.

While the costs are lower when compared to a fixed location, there will still be plenty of things that your business will need to pay for. Luckily, customer expectations for a mobile service will be lower than those for a fixed location, so you can save on initial costs by only buying the necessary equipment for basic detailing and invest in more specialized tools later to expand your services.

There are also ongoing costs to consider  such as vehicle insurance, phone service, gas, tool maintenance, re-supplying on cleaning chemicals, merchant service fees, and taxes.

Overall, this is still a more affordable option to get your detailing business off the ground. It can be the case that aspiring detailers start with a mobile auto detailing business before investing the profits into a fixed location or franchise business.

3. Temporary locations

If you want the lower costs of a mobile detailer without the inconvenience of travel, you could try setting up in a temporary location. For example, a parking garage, a gas station car wash, a shopping mall parking lot or similar.

This gives you the drive-by visibility of a fixed site whilst keeping your costs at a lower level than a mobile business. In a way, this could be the best of both worlds if you’re able to negotiate a deal for a temporary location.

You could even create a hybrid business model by spending some days at your temporary location; and going directly to clients via your mobile service. Overall setup costs are similar to a mobile business, with the only additional consideration being any charges your host location may require.

What else do I need to start an auto detailing service?

As well as cost and profit, there are two more considerations you need to make before you can get your auto detailing business started — these being equipment, knowledge and skills.



The equipment you need depends on the services you plan to offer. For standard detailing work, you’ll need the following equipment:

  • Exterior pressure washer.
  • Air blower or dryer.
  • Air compressor (if you’re going mobile, get one with a good capacity to avoid having to stop and start as often).
  • Upholstery steam cleaner.
  • Extractor for carpet cleaning.
  • Rotary buffer and dual-action buffer.
  • Auto detailing brushes (a variety of grades — fine, medium, hard — for different purposes).
  • Sponges, mitts and towels.
  • Cleaning chemicals: Car shampoo, sticky substance removers, car wax, tire and wheel cleaner, WD-40, carpet and upholstery shampoo, glass/chrome polish, rubber/black trim restorer, vinyl and leather cleaner.

This list is the very minimum you’ll require to get started, and as you expand your range of services, you’ll need even more to undertake specialized work.

Knowledge and skills

Any customer who hires you will expect a high-quality, professional detailing service. To live up to expectations, you need to put in the time to learn the craft - researching product and equipment recommendations, proper technique, and instructions for specialized services. Certain types of vehicle may require different services; for example, convertible top care requires specific procedures.

Courses for Success has a professional detailer training course that will teach you proper technique for advanced services such as window tinting, windshield repair, and auto reconditioning for more severely damaged vehicles. The course also provides auto detailing business management skills like marketing, budgeting and organizational skills.

Enroll in a car detailing course today

The right course will teach you how to complete all aspects of an interior design project, from detailing the interiors, engine bay and wheels to business management and marketing. The Courses for Success Auto Detailing Online Certification Course is a great introduction into car detailing, and will help you to kickstart your car detailing career, right from the comfort of your own home. Check out the course units of study and enroll today.

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