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Guide to Starting a Car Detailing Business

Guide To Starting a Car Detailing Business

In this article, you will learn:


  • Some tips on transitioning from car detailer to business owner

  • The importance of running a tight ship when running a car detailing business

  • Insight on the ethical and legal matters of business ownership

Successfully running your own car detailing operation often has very little to do with performing the detailing services themselves. Those are important—don’t get us wrong. But you also need to manage all the other issues of business ownership. After all, there’s a lot more involved than just working on cars and collecting money. So how can you start a car detailing business and keep the company running smoothly while serving your customers? 

We can’t promise to share everything you’ll need to know in one brief article. Most business owners spend their lifetimes learning new lessons, but, hopefully, we can get you thinking more broadly about what you’ll need to consider. 

Stop thinking like a car detailer

For starters, thinking differently about your work is critical. If you open a new business, you’re no longer just a car detailer. You need to understand the laws and regulations that may impact your business. You’ve got to think about ethics. You need at least basic understanding of business principles.  

If you don’t already know about things like bookkeeping, business taxes and management, either you need to become a quick study or hire experts who can help you. And guess what? If you do that, then you’ll be an employer and, along with that, comes a whole bunch of new things to learn.  

So that’s lesson number-one. You’re no longer just a car detailer. 

Make a plan

Before you take the leap, make a plan. Not just a plan to leave your current job. Make a business plan for the company you want to start, grow and succeed. Do you want a brick-and-mortar shop or one of those mobile detailing businesses? How will it operate? What are your revenue goals? 

Start learning basic business management principles. Take an online course or visit your public library. Almost every online university offers business courses, which you can “attend” on your own schedule, after your regular workday is done. 

Don’t cut corners with accounting

With all that you’ll put into your new company – many of your waking hours, your emotions, your physical efforts and possibly your life savings – why would you risk all that with half-measures in accounting? 

Odds are, you know a detailer who does cash jobs for friends and family on the weekends. Maybe just a car wash here and there. Or an interior detailing on the side. Maybe you’ve done it yourself, but, if you’re thinking of making it official and starting a company of your own, don’t risk all that just so you can save some money in taxes. It’s not worth it. 

Managing the finances of your company will be very different than what you’ve become accustomed to doing with your personal finances. Unless you master business tax law, we recommend finding a tax professional to help you establish your company, its bookkeeping practices and its tax filings. 

Be sure to account for and report all your revenue and expenses. A qualified professional may be able to use these figures to help reduce your tax payments.  

Get help

A tax professional is only one of the first experts you’ll need, but definitely not the last. Before starting your company, it may be wise to consult a business lawyer. When you’re ready, they’ll help you establish your company as a legitimate commercial enterprise. They may encourage you to get insurance to cover any liabilities.

For that, you’ll need another person. An insurance person.

You’ll also need to connect with people in your local government to learn the regulations that could affect your operations. For example, how should you dispose of wastewater from a car wash? If your new company is a mobile detailing service, can the water run into the public sewage system, or will you need a recycling mat? And if you’re mobile, you’ll need to check the regulations of all the areas in which you’ll operate.

Alternatively, if you plan to open a detailing shop, you’ll need people for all kinds of roles, whether they’re employees or not. You’ll need a plumber, an electrician, potentially a carpenter and so on. Connecting with good, reliable professionals to do these jobs will allow you to focus on running your company and serving your customers.

Growing your business

If you’re debating starting your own detailing company, you likely already have some customers who will follow you. And, of course, you have friends and family, but these are just starting points. In order to grow a successful detailing company, you’ll need to find ways to reach and market to customers, to create new opportunities and to think of every detailing job as a doorway to winning two more.  

You don’t need to reinvent the wheel. You can learn from what others have done before you. Start loyalty and referral programs. Keep a calendar of all your jobs and send customers reminders when their cars are likely due for more detailing. Network with fleet managers so one contact can get you multiple cars to detail on a recurring basis. Instead of jumping to and from individual detailing jobs, upsell your best customers to a subscription model for year-round detailing packages. Phone carriers do it. Streaming entertainment provers do it. You can do it, too. 

Most of all, work social media hard. Use Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn and post your beautiful work. Offer incentives to your followers if they share your posts and submit reviews. Use these same platforms to post reminders about the services your followers’ cars may need, especially when changing weather demands new detailing services. Finally, if you can afford sponsored posts, use those to reach all-new audiences. 

Get active in your community. Sponsor good causes that can also lead to new opportunities.  

Basically, you need to hustle. That’s what we’re saying. 

It’s not easy, but it’s worth it

Running your own company isn’t glamorous or easy, but, if you do it right, you’ll have the power to make your own choices and do your work the way you want to do it. That kind of freedom can make all the hard work totally worthwhile. 

And, of course, we’ll be here to help with all the innovative detailing supplies your business will ever need. 

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