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Start a Mobile Detailing Business to Make More Money (2022)

Updated: Dec 20, 2022

Affiliate Marketing Disclosure

Side hustles are all the rage. They are the present and very likely to be the future. Whether you are choosing a side hustle or side job that you want to turn into a full-time job, Americans seem to agree on one thing. Nothing beats starting a business that doesn't require a lot of cash to get started.

Enter the idea of car detailing, a potentially year-long business that is easy, requires little upfront investment, and pays really well.

A man details a car

What is car detailing?

Car detailing is the process of returning all of the cosmetic features of a car to its best possible condition. Detailing does not entail working on any of the mechanical aspects of a car, unless you are cleaning a piece or part.

Detailing is like cleaning your car, but much more thoroughly. Your goal is to turn over a vehicle to your customers that is cosmetically perfect - clean on both the inside and outside, complete with attention to detail.

Car detailing is synonymous with tasks such as vacuuming, washing, polishing, shining, the various parts of a car's interior and exterior.

In recent years, mobile car detailing has become more popular, in which you actually travel to your client to perform your services there.

What are the benefits to detailing a car?

Detailing a car can actually help to extend the useful life of certain parts by reducing exposure to harmful chemicals or environmental factors like sunlight, sand, and snow/ice.

For example, washing and waxing a car can help to prevent or minimize the corrosive effects that winter road salt may have on a car in an area with harsh winter weather.

How much money can you make detailing cars?

Your earning potential will likely depend on the speed in which your business scales, the going rates in your area, and other factors altogether. According to research collected by Yelp cost guides, the average car detail in the United States costs about $175, though you can charge more if you offer special upcharges, such as:

  • Air filter replacement

  • Windshield wiper installation

  • Refilling of fluids for windshield wipers, etc.

  • Car waxing

Your profitability is also something that you need to take into account. Overhead expenses to get started are low, as we'll show, but scaling your business will require you to increase your efficiency by getting faster at completing a detail with the same quality work. In time, with solid marketing efforts, you may be ready to expand your business and hire additional detailers.

How to start a mobile detailing business

To get your detailing business off the ground, you're going to want to follow the below steps:

  1. Save up $1,000 to start

  2. Create a business plan and marketing strategy

  3. Complete your legal documents and requirements

  4. Buy your supplies to get started

After your business begins to gain traction, you may consider more formal steps to establish your business, such as opening a business bank account.

1. Save $1,000 to fund your mobile detailing business

As with any business or side hustle, you're going to need some capital to get started. Once you've saved up $1,000 or so, you'll likely be able to afford all of the basic equipment and supplies that you need to get started.

This is part of the allure in starting a mobile detailing business.

While you're saving, go ahead and begin working on step two at the same time so that you are prepared to hit the ground running.

2. Create a marketing plan and marketing strategy

When you start a business, whether a side hustle or full-time business, it is important to have a plan to execute. You'll want to understand your target market, exactly what services you will provide, and potentially conduct a SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) on your business.

You'll also want to start thinking about the ways in which you are going to market your services. Do a little market research to start, and then decide which marketing approaches may work best for you.

Common marketing approaches for new businesses may include word of mouth, Facebook advertising, mailers, and partnerships with local brands to increase your visibility.

Marketing a car detailing business

In time, you'll also want to have business cards, a Google business profile, and a website that accepts reservations. Not only will this increase the perceived legitimacy of your operation, but it will also make it much easier for your target clients to do business with you.

Improving the customer experience should be at the crux at all of your operations, marketing efforts included.

Example car detailing business names

Remember - you want to have a business name that can help identify your mobile car detailing business, but your name is not everything when you are just getting started. It is far more important to start completing jobs and building a positive reputation in the local market.

A good name for your new business may include some or all of the following keywords or topics:

  • The location in which you operate

  • Your name

  • The service you complete (detailing, etc.)

  • Other criteria

3. Complete your mobile detailing business legal requirements and licensing

It is for the best to make sure you are properly licensed, and potentially insured, before you begin to work on people's cars.

A good starting point to reference is the United States Small Business Administration's guide to licensing. In the mobile detailing business, it is also likely that your state requires you to be licensed with the state and/or town where you will be operating your business.

You'll likely also have to establish a business with the government. Don't worry - this is not hard to do at all, and companies like Northwest Registered Agent can handle most of the paperwork for you.

4. Purchase your mobile car detailing supplies

It will likely cost you less than $1,000 to start your mobile car detailing business. You'll likely need to purchase most or all of the following to get started (this is not a 100% exhaustive list):

  • A pressure washer

  • A vacuum

  • Cleaners

  • Waxes

  • Detergents

  • Degreasers

  • Tire rim cleaners

  • Sponges/brushes

  • Clothes/towels

  • A way to transport this from client to client

A pressure washer

This is likely the most expensive single item on your list to get started. Pressure washers range in price from as low as $100 for a basic electric pressure washer, all the way up into the thousands of dollars range for industrial units.

Whether you should buy a base model or something more expensive depends on your initial startup budget and whether you're going to be trying to scale this business into a full-time gig.

As with any of the following expenses, it may make sense for you to check online for used pressure washers on Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, or any other online marketplace that you can think of.

An electric pressure washer for sale

A vacuum

A good vacuum is also a must for aspiring car detailers. It does not need to be anything fancy, but should be able to vacuum a car's seats and carpets well. You likely can find a decent car vacuum, like this one, for under $40-$50.

A car vacuum cleaner to detail a car

Sponges/Brushes to detail cars

Now that you've purchased all of the equipment you need to be successful, it's time to pivot and begin to buy the supplies you'll need to actually detail cars inside and out.

You're going to want an array of sponges and brushes to help you clean both the interior and exterior of a vehicle. Generally, you'll want to keep them separate to assure that you're not accidentally applying chemicals to a place where they may do harm.

Cleaning chemicals, sprays, and solutions

You'll also need a variety of chemical sprays, cleansers, and solutions to leave your clients' cars looking as good as new.

You'll likely benefit from having an array of affordable products on hand, including things safe for the car paint, tires, rims, interior, glass, and leather. Keep in mind that this is just a starting point, but this may include:

  1. Metal polishes

  2. Car wax

  3. Leather cleaner

  4. Degreaser

  5. Car soap

  6. Car-safe polishes

  7. Upholstery safe cleaners

  8. Protective equipment to keep you safe

Amazon can be a great place to shop for all of these products, and kits like the ones below can be an awesome way to start!

Learning how to detail a car

To truly build up your clientele and begin turning a profit, you'll need to make sure that you are doing the best work possible. And before you can do the best work, you need to understand how to detail a car.

In most instances, your mobile detailing with consist of:

  1. Cleaning the car's interior

  2. Cleaning the car's exterior

Also, check out this awesome YouTube guide that can help you get started.

1. Clean the interior of the car

You can start on the inside or the outside of a car, but in this article, let's handle the interior first.

Good detailing practice suggests that you should complete the following tasks:

  • Clean the inside of the windows

  • Sanitize and polish door handles, the instrument panel, and the center console

  • Vacuum and remove any crumbs/sand/dirt from the seats in all rows of the car

  • Vacuum the floors of the car's interior (and apply carpet cleaner)

  • Clean all the trim on the inside of the car, where there may be footprints, scratches, or signs of wear and tear

Now, the exact details of what products you'll use depends on the details of the car. For example, a car without leather seats won't receive leather seat cleaner.

2. Work on the exterior of the car

With the interior of the car in tip-top shape, it's time to dedicate some time to working on the exterior of the car.

We recommend giving the entire exterior a thorough clean. The best way to do this is to take your bucket and fill it with water and soap, though you can also use your pressure washer if you are careful.

You'll want to rinse the car with a hose first to assure that any loose salt or sand doesn't scratch the car when you start washing it. After you've washed the car, take extra care in drying the car to prevent any dry spots from forming on the car's shell.

Once this is done, you should pay some special attention to the tires and rims. Brake dust and other grime can build up really quickly, and it is important to remove it periodically.

Car detailing expenses

As you continue to work your side hustle, remember that there will be some level of ongoing expense. Remember to set your prices such that you can cover your expenses and turn a profit worth your time. Your ongoing expenses are likely to include the following:

  • New cleaning chemicals and supplies

  • New sponges and towels

  • Safety equipment

But as you try to expand your operation, you'll also find that some other expenses will creep up too, particularly as it pertains to marketing. Attracting customers can be done in a few different ways, but you'll likely want to consider some of the more economical approaches, including social media advertising, content marketing (blogging!) and old fashioned mailers.

It really depends on what you're able to spend!


Do not be disappointed if you find that mobile detailing isn't the right side hustle or business for you. We've done a lot of writing on the topic, and encourage you to browse the side hustle component of our blog for more ideas!

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We're passionate about teaching and guiding people to a better personal finance situation. To do this, we create an enormous amount of content, which takes time, resources, and money.

In order to write about and offer these products and services for you, we utilize affiliate marketing and link to certain products and services. If you click on, subscribe, to purchase on these links then we may be paid a small commission. These are at no cost to you, but by earning small commissions, are able to help us keep our website active.

We manually review all products and services that we think are of high quality and value to you.

About Nathan Zarcaro

Nathan Zarcaro is the founder of The Student Debt Destroyer and is passionate about personal finance related causes.  A 2018 graduate of Providence College's Liberal Arts Honors Program, Nathan studied Finance, and worked for one of the world's largest asset management firms before starting his own consulting practice.  In his free time, Nathan enjoys playing golf and traveling with his wife Brigid.

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