Automobile detailing business opportunities: 3 types
Mobile, express and site-based.Mobile businesses are the quickest and easiest type to launch, since all you have to do is buy some professional equipment and chemicals, as well as a van or trailer to haul it around in, and take to the road. This is also the most cost-effective way to enter the business, as there’s no overhead other than the cost of your professional products and your vehicle, and no mortgage or lease payment. Instead, you work in parking lots, at office complexes, at customers’ homes, and possibly in your own garage.
Express detailers often work in carwashes or at auto dealerships. This is a “while you wait” type of business—vehicle owners turn over their keys and wheels so you can do your magic, then get back a sparkling clean vehicle in a set period of time—say, 15 minutes. Although both carwashes and auto dealerships sometimes have their own detailing staff, there are many opportunities to work as a subcontractor at these businesses. And the arrangement is usually pure profit—the owner is usually so thrilled to have someone on site that there’s no fee for the use of the space and utilities. This is particularly true of dealerships, where perfect appearance is paramount when it comes to high-priced new and used cars.
Industry experts say that the average price of an express detailing at a carwash is $36, including the carwash. The labor rate for the detailing is just 20 percent, and supplies are just a few dollars, so the profits can be very tidy, indeed, considering how little time is necessary to do the work.
Fixed-location detailers work out of a building dedicated to detailing. Their overhead is certainly higher than that of a mobile or express detailer, but they have a distinct advantage over the mobile folks: a roof over their heads, so inclement weather that would shut down a mobile detailer is never a problem. With that roof comes a mortgage or lease payment, property taxes, overhead and myriad other costs. But the trade-off is that site-based detailers can make a lot of money—as much as six figures or more, depending on the size of the operation. If you’re lucky, you might be able to find a detailing shop or service station up for sale that already has all the tools and toys you need, like service bays and professional equipment. If not, you’ll have to remodel, but the trade-off is that the finished shop will be exactly the way you want it. Incidentally, some site-based detailers offer express services for customers who are in a hurry. The most common express services are waxing and carpet cleaning.
There’s one other type of detailing operation that bears mentioning. Detailing franchises offer another quick way to get into business with a minimum of effort (and cash) upfront. These turnkey operations provide you with an established name, which gives you an instant reputation; resources to help you do business, including advertising and marketing tools and assistance; and sometimes even equipment like mobile trailers. The franchise fees for these operations vary, but they can run tens of thousands of dollars—which can be about as much as establishing your own site-based detail shop would be.