An auto detailing service professionally cleans, washes and waxes the interior and exterior of cars, trucks, RVs and even boats. There is no shortage of vehicles to detail, but detailing can be labor-intensive, so make sure you enjoy cars before you start this type of automotive business.
It can be very inexpensive to start an auto detail service, since you don’t necessarily need a store front or shop. You can offer a mobile service and travel to your customers’ locations, or you can rent space at a local car wash or automotive shop. The equipment you’ll need is minimal as well; quality car wash, wax and interior cleaning supplies. Once you have established a larger client base, you can purchase your supplies in bulk at lower wholesale prices, thus increasing your profit per job.
With so many vehicles, you have your choice of customers with whom to work. You may want to focus on a particular niche market to specialize in a certain type of service or particular type of customer. For example, there are new car owners, car dealerships, RV owners or rental companies, classic car owners, even your average joe car driver who wants his car looking good.
So how do you find your customers? If you are on a budget, network with people you know or print business cards and drop them off at local car dealerships or automotive businesses. You could discuss forming a partnership where they get a cut of your profits by advertising your service at their place of business. You could also place an ad in the yellow pages, newspaper or local magazines offering a first-time buyer discount to attract new customers. If you can, use humor in your ads, it’s a great way to attract attention.
Volunteering in your community is another inexpensive way to get your business name out there. Participate in local events and give away coupons for your auto detailing service. Hold a drawing to collect names of potential customers, the winner receiving a free detail service. You can also advertise on TV, radio and the internet for less money than you may think. Submitting a press release is a great example – the media will promote you for free if you send them a great news story about your business.
If you treat your customers well, you will end up not having to spend much of your time marketing because you’ll benefit from repeat customers. Speaking of which, you may want to ask those customers for referrals.
So how do you actually start an auto detailing business?
1. Learn your trade. If you don’t already have detailing skills and knowledge, work a side job. Ask automotive specialists about recommended products. Pick up an inexpensive start-up guide on how to start an auto detailing business or interview an already-successful auto detailing entrepreneur who can give you advice.
2. Find out who your customers are. What are people in your area looking for in a detailing service? What value will you offer them and how much are they willing to pay you for it? Check out competitor’s prices. You don’t necessarily need to be the cheapest – as long as you offer more value (i.e. additional service options, faster service, more convenient location, weekend or evening hours, on-site service, etc).
3. Find out which licenses or permits you need from your local government office. Talk with an accountant, insurance agent and banker (you can get referrals from other local business owners or friends) to get helpful tips on financing, tax issues, insurance and business management that will save you time, money and hassles in the long run.