How to Start Your Own Detailing Business

What you need to kickstart your mobile detailing business and how much you should expect to make.


With almost 10,000 searches for “mobile car detailing” every month,  Mobile detailing is in high demand. With the shift in customer expectations in the last few years, more and more people are turning to services they can book from their smartphones and receive at their homes or offices.

With the increased demand for mobile detailing, owner-operators can build a highly profitable business. Take some quick back of napkin math: Let’s say you charge $160/car and average 3-5 cars a day. That comes out to 15-25 cars a week. This means you could make anywhere from $2400-$4000 a week. 

But before you run out to buy your van, you’ll need to build a strong business first. That’s why we’ve put together this simple guide to help you build a solid foundation with these five steps. 

How to start your own detailing business in five steps

Getting your own detailing business up off the ground doesn’t have to be complicated. However, if you’re not sure where to begin, start with the basics and build on them as your business expands. Here are five steps to help you start your own detailing business. 

1. Complete all mandatory documentation and insurance

Before you hit the road with your mobile detailing business, make sure you have all the necessary documents and insurance policies to run your business legally. Not every city and state goes by the same laws, so check your area for specifics on what is required where you want to service. Check with your local government offices and confirm the following typical documentation for mobile detailing business:

  • A business license from your local county clerk's office
  • An Employer Identification Number from the Internal Revenue Service. EIN is a requirement for filing your taxes. 
  • Detailing industry certification is not required, but a good way to gain credibility.
  • A sales tax identification number
  • Car detailing license: Not all states require a specific car detailing license so check your state laws to see the requirements. California for instance has regulations.  

2. Equip your mobile detailing rig

A well-equipped mobile detailing rig will set you up for success with your business. You’ll first need to purchase a vehicle to help you travel to customers. Many people purchase a van or trailer to transport all their tools and equipment. Small vans are nimble, easy to park at the customer's house, and perfectly effectively - while still being professional.

Since you’ll be providing car details services, outfit your rig with a water supply tank and water reclamation system to avoid dumping water after a clean. Most rigs are equipped with 60 to 100 gallons of water. 

Your rig should also have a power supply from a generator to power steamers, vacuums, or power washers. While you can purchase a ready-made detailing rig, these can be more expensive than building your rig on your own. Compare costs and see which option is the best fit for your budget. 

Resource: The top 7 products you need for mobile car detailing setup

3. Get your mobile detailing tools and equipment based on your service offerings

You’ll need to ensure you have all the mobile detailing tools and equipment to support your service offerings. When you’re first starting, funds may be low. Start with a few services and build on them as you understand what customers in your area prefer. Consider some of the following tools and equipment to get you started. 

Equipment:

  • Pressure washer 
  • Vacuums 
  • Rotary buffer 
  • Polishers 
  • Vapor steamer

Tools:

  • Brushes
  • Buckets
  • Sponges 
  • Chamois cloths
  • Microfiber Towels

Supplies:

  • Waxes & Detergents
  • Tire & Rim cleaners 
  • Carpet & Upholstery shampoo
  • Deodorizers
  • Chemical storage

4. Find the right mobile detailing software

As a busy solopreneur who’s constantly on the go, you’ll need software that lets you run your business from your phone. Skip the complicated mobile service software made for large businesses. Set your mobile detailing business up for success with the right software with the following features and tools:

📅 Smart scheduling to make it easy for customers to directly book services and painless for you to manage your calendar.

📍 Location optimized service requests to get the most out of your day by automatically organizing service requests near each other.

🧾 Upfront pricing and same-day additional service quoting confirmation that gives customers full transparency on service suggestions and simple to upsell with integrated photos and online approval.  

📲 Automated two-way texting to professionally communicate and update customers simply so you can focus on work.

💳 Streamlined payment process so you can collect payment information upfront and allow customers to make online payments to avoid chasing down customers after each appointment.

👥 Easy-to-use customer database to keep all customer information in one central location, and grant customers online account management to reschedule appointments as needed.

👍 Automated review requests to continue building your online business presence with automated customer review text message requests to help grow your five-star reviews.

5. Start building your business

Once you’ve kickstarted your business and built your rig, all that’s left is to start impressing customers with your great service. Some tips for building a successful business over time include:

  • Establish a budget and manage your expenses: Create a budget consisting of expenses like monthly supplies, maintenance of your rig, and marketing to get more eyes on your business. Make sure to include your own salary in the budget. 

  • Create a brand for your business: Choose a catchy business name and create branding for your business with logos and graphics. Customers may find it difficult to remember long or hard to pronounce names. Pick a simple name that’s easy to remember and use your logo across social media platforms for consistency.  

  • Advertise smartly: When you’re first starting out, think about how and where you can advertise to get the most bang for your buck. For example, you may have more success advertising on social media platforms than in your local grocery store.

  • Have your happy customers help with marketing: Give your customers the chance to sing your praises and with reviews. Don’t wait too long between appointments to ask customers to leave reviews. Zippity makes it easy to get five-star reviews from customers with automated review requests to your preferred review platform. Your excellent service will speak for itself and attract new customers along too. Definitely a win-win. 

  • Use the right mobile detailing business software: Avoid software made for big businesses with hundreds of employees. The right mobile detailing business software will identify the pain points of solopreneurs and have features like unlimited two-way communication and location-optimized appointments. Zippity empowers both businesses and customers by giving them the option to pay online, receive timely updates, and self-schedule appointments. 

Start your own Mobile Detailing Business with Zippity

Building your own mobile detailing business is more than just creating a great rig. You’ll need to provide excellent, reliable services and show customers that your business is just as good as the competition. 

With Zippity, you can streamline your payment process, organize your schedule, and engage with customers every step of the way — all from the palm of your hand.

Get the Zippity Guide to learn how you can grow your mobile detailing business today. 

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