How to Start a Detailing Business

What is Car Detailing?

Car detailing is the interior and exterior cleaning, restoration, and finishing of a vehicle to like-new condition. Exterior detailing is the cleaning and restoring of the car’s finish, trim, windows, wheels, and tires. Interior detailing is a deep cleaning of the vehicle’s interior cabin including vacuuming, upholstery stain removal, and polishing. Sometimes a detail will include light cosmetic touch-ups, but the process normally does not include paintwork or body repair.

Gain experience

It might be tempting to look at this industry and think, “It’s only car washing, how difficult can it be?” But to call car detailing nothing more than car washing is a vast understatement. On top of a thorough understanding of all of the services that your customers will expect you to provide, running a successful car detailing business will require you to have at least a basic level of business acumen as it applies to the field. That’s why, before you start your own business, it’s a good idea for you to work in the industry for at least a few years. Doing so will allow you to gain real, hands-on experience performing the services that your future business will offer an experience that will come in handy even if you aren’t the person actively working on customers’ vehicles every day. Shadowing the manager or business owner will also give you insights into the challenges they face and the logistics of running a business that you need to prepare yourself for. Similarly, while car detailing isn’t a field that requires formal training, it can be helpful. 

Do Market Research on Car Detailing in Your Area

It’s important to know the market landscape before starting a business. You want to be confident that when you start your auto detailing business, you will have enough customers in your area who want to purchase your services. This will ensure that you can make money and stay in business. In your research, gather as much information as possible to understand the market's supply and demand, your competition, and your potential customers. Here are some questions you can ask:

    • Is there a need for car detailing in your area?
    • Who needs it, and who are your potential customers?
    • Are there other auto detailing businesses offering similar products and services now?
    • What is your future potential competition like?
    • How will your business fit into the market?

Do a SWOT Analysis Before You Start a Car Detailing Business 

SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. A SWOT analysis is a way for you to understand your own strengths and weaknesses within your company alongside external opportunities and risks. This will help you reduce chances of failure and increase your chances of success, compete successfully in your market, and beat your competition. If you have any questions about how to start a car detailing business, a SWOT analysis will help you find answers:


What does your company do well?
How do you stand apart from your competitors?
What internal resources do you have? This could be your staff, the technology you use, etc.
Where does your business struggle?
What do your competitors do better than you?
Where are you limited in resources?
Do you have little competition in your area?
Have you gotten positive public reviews or media coverage?
Is there a new need for your services?
Do you have new competitors in your area popping up?
Have you gotten negative public reviews or media coverage?
Will regulations change in your industry?


Apply for Licenses and Permits

Ensuring that your car detailing business has all of the required permits and licenses isn’t just a good idea — it’s necessary. Failing to acquire the proper licenses and permits could result in fines, penalties, the closure of your business and, at worst, jail time.

Similarly, it’s important to remember that car detailing typically requires a lot of water. Individual cities and regions may have their own departments responsible for overseeing air and water pollution. You may need to register your business with this department as well and demonstrate how you will comply with regulations such as water reclamation and disposal requirements.

Invest in the right equipment

Launching your car detailing business will require an upfront investment to purchase the equipment necessary for doing the job.

Exactly what equipment your business will need will depend on how you structure your business and what services you offer; for example, a mobile detailing business will need to invest in a truck or a van, while a detailer operating out of a garage or other physical location will need to invest in that physical space.

Commonly needed equipment may include the following:

    • Pressure washer.
    • Hot water extractor.
    • Water reclamation system.
    • Rotary buffers and orbital (dual action) buffers.
    • Wet-dry vacuums.
    • Carpet extractor.
    • Air compressor.
    • Various cleaning solutions.
    • Towels, buckets, sponges, and brushes.


 Establish a marketing plan for growth



A thoroughly thought-out marketing strategy can help you to both drum up demand when you first launch your detailing service and keep your business growing after those initial first few months. Registering a domain, signing up for Google My Business, and building a web presence for your business are great places to start and are more or less essential for modern businesses. Similarly, designing a logo for your business and using it in your signage, business cards, and other print assets can go far in establishing your brand.