Guide to Starting a Car Detailing Business


In this article, you will learn:

  • The differences between being a detailer and running a detailing business

  • The number-one personality trait that it takes to succeed in the auto detailing business

  • Tips to help you navigate the legal and ethical waters of business ownership

Ask any restaurant owner what it takes to succeed in the food industry and none of them will say a word about cooking. The same is true about running your own car detailing business. Often, it’s not about detailing services at all. If you’re going to transition from professional detailer to business owner, you’ll need to think differently about your job and what it requires. The good news is, if you have the right business know-how, motivation and ingenuity, you’ll have the freedom to call the shots and make your own way.

Obviously, you can’t learn everything you’ll need to know from a 5-minute read, but, hopefully, once you finish this article, you’ll start to think about some of the big-picture issues you’ll face as you start a car detailing business.

Do it right, right from the start

As the old saying goes, “Anything worth doing is worth doing right.” This is definitely true when it comes to running your own business. With everything you’ll invest in your new company, why would you take chances and put it at risk, legally or otherwise?

A great first step is to learn some of the basic principles of business management. Check out a couple of books from your local library or even sign up for an online course. Virtually every distance learning organization or online university offers courses in business management.

If you’ve been detailing cars for long, you probably know people who’ve cut corners. For example, it’s pretty standard for detailers to do a random cash job for family and friends on the weekends. But when you’re running your own business, why risk running into tax problems? All of your revenue should be accounted for and reported for taxes. It’s important to track your company’s expenses, too. These can help reduce any taxes you owe. And that’s just for starters.

Filing taxes for a company is a very different process than filing your individual return. Unless you’re willing to learn about business tax law, we suggest engaging with a tax professional as you establish your own company. Do yourself a favor – don’t wait until the tax deadline approaches.

Get specialists to help

As a business owner, you’ll quickly realize that you’ll need to have “people.” You’ll be too busy detailing cars and running the company to juggle things outside your main skillset, so you’ll need a person for this and a person for that. For instance, you may want to consult a corporate attorney before you even establish your company. One of the first things they’d recommend is to register your business as an LLC to make it a legitimate company. They’ll also recommend you get insurance to cover any liabilities. You’ll need a person for that, too.

You’ll also need people in your local government. Learn how regulations may impact your day-to-day operations. For instance, are there any laws regulating the wastewater from a car wash? If you want to start a mobile detailing business, will you need a recycling mat, or can you let the water run into your city’s sewage system? If you plan to operate in several cities, you’ll need to comply with all of their regulations. Again, contact these offices at the outset to make sure you steer clear of issues.

If you plan to open a brick-and-mortar detailing shop, you’ll eventually need “people” for all kinds of things, even if you never hire a single employee. You’ll need an electrician, an HVAC person, a plumber and on and on.

Having good, reliable people to fill these roles will help you focus on what you know and do best.

Getting customers

Most detailers start their businesses working on cars for their friends and family. This is the smart first step, but keep in mind these small gigs won’t sustain your business. Expanding your customer base beyond personal relationships is where you’ll have the most profitable opportunities. Creating these opportunities requires one personality trait above all others. You have to hustle. Beyond the work you do on cars, you need to work hard on the people side of things.

You need to continually think of ways to market to customers, to generate new business and to capitalize on every single job you do. You should consider loyalty programs and referral programs. Keep up with your customers and send them reminders when their cars are due for work again. Think about how to make your service more convenient for more customers. Will you run a mobile operation and visit customers where they are? Or, if you have a storefront, can you offer a complementary shuttle service or free ride shares? Instead of performing single detailing jobs, upsell your loyal customers to yearly maintenance packages. Network with fleet managers so one customer can connect you to countess opportunities.

Most of all, you should work like a full-time social media manager for your business. Set up profiles on Instagram, Facebook and even LinkedIn. Post pictures and videos of your work. Encourage your followers to share your posts and submit reviews. Offer incentives, encouraging them to spread the word. Use social platforms to post reminders about car maintenance, especially when weather dictates different detailing services. If you can afford them, consider sponsored posts to reach new audiences.

Join your local chamber of commerce and be active in your community. You have to network, network, network.

Like we said before, you have to hustle.

Running your own business takes a lot of work, no question. If you choose to do it, we’ll partner with you as we roll out new, innovative, pro-level products. Just as you’ll work hard to make your business run successfully, we’ll work hard to keep supplying the detailing tools you need.


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