As a detail shop business owner, the question you need to ask is why should I add any additional services other than detailing and washing cars. Why add window tinting? Why add bumper scratch and scuff repair services? Why add paint chip repair? Why? It’s simple, actually. Profits. The lifeblood of any business. Just like profits, detailing businesses need additional profit centers to survive.
Detailing Shops Need Additional Profit Centers to Survive
Detailing services are considered a commodity business. I don’t care how good you are or how loyal you believe your customers are. There is always going to be somebody out there running a business out of their home that can undercut your prices. If you rely on your current customers or pricing levels, you are setting yourself up for failure. Detailing shops need additional profit centers to survive and hedge their bets against business downturns and pricing pressure.
There are so many things that can happen to cars while they are driving that the possible ways for you to improve profits in your shop become almost endless. The issue though is time and money with the learning process. You need to learn how to do bumper scratch and scuff repair services before you can offer it to customers and make sure you are doing it perfectly. Detailing a car is one thing, but when you tell a car owner that you are going to make their scratched and scuffed-up bumper look new again, you better be able to perform as expected. Otherwise, your reputation will suffer and so will your bank account if you end up having to pay another business to fix your work.
The great part about having so many options is that you get to pick and choose the services that you want to offer. One of the things
that we did in our shop was simply found in local one-man operators that did the service that we were looking for and then add that to our offered services list. This got our name out there as being an expert in this area even though we weren’t actually the one’s performing the work. As you can see from the picture at the right, adding Bumper Scratch and Scuff Repair services is not something you can just decide to do overnight. You need to get some training on a few things, but mainly these primary areas of skills development:
First and foremost, you need to get great a properly mixing paint for the exact color match to the car you are painting. This is harder than it sounds because even the tiniest percentage off in mixing the paint and your bumper scratch and scuff repair won’t match the rest of the car.
Second and just as important, you need to practice spraying techniques to get your proper spraying pattern down. Spray too heavy and it will run. Not enough and you will need to go back and recoat several more times. Another problem area when spraying is applying too light a coat and then recoating several times after with the same density. This results in an almost powder coating type texture like a lot of outdoor furniture. Obviously none of these results will sit well with your customer. They are paying you for perfection and in their minds a bumper scratch and scuff repair will look like that section of their car is brand new again.
There are other areas that you will learn as you get trained on the proper ways to do the bumper scratch and scuff repair services, but issues like masking the car properly, having adequate ventilation and lighting, using the right sprayer and always wearing a respirator are a few that come to mind as being important.
One of the things that just amazed me was how much more credibility and respect we starting getting from local dealers and our own clients when we added these specialty bumper scratch and scuff repair services. It was like we were “just detailers” before, but now we can do things that a limited number of other people in town could do well. I also immediately noticed the quality and experience levels of job applicants at our shop improved dramatically because we advertised all of our services, including specialty add-ons like bumper scratch and scuff repair services and the fact that we provide on-the-job training. Employees will take a pay cut for things like quality training and even moreso for benefits. This also greatly improved our shop profitability because I could add a $300 bumper scratch and scuff repair add-on charge to a $150 detail and my profit ratios went through the roof. Supply costs are basically just the paint, some mixing equipment, sprayers and a larger compressor than you probably use now unless you have all air buffers, which usually isn’t the case.
I could probably write for days on this subject, but I figured I would post this and get some new information uploaded to our new auto detailing news and updates board. If you have some comments or questions you would like to add, we welcome the participation. Please complete our 2 question member form and that will give you access to post to areas of the site.
Thanks for stopping by and let us know if there’s anything we can help you get answered.
When you are out looking for work as a detailer, creativity is your friend. If you only focus on cars, then your job will morph into a full-time salesperson that occasionally details cars. Nobody wants that. So step back, take a deep breath, and think outside the box for a minute.
But that’s not the type of specialized cleaning I’m talking about now. This is about cleaning something that other people don’t think about. Sometimes not even the people that own what you want to clean for them.
One of these specialty items that I made a great deal of money cleaning is something you see every day. Playground equipment.
Most communities today have a local playground. They’ve been around for a long time. In the United States, the first ‘playground’ was built in Salem, Massachusetts in 1821. Back then they called it an outdoor gymnasium. It wasn’t until 1837 that the name playground was used in any official capacity.
Now your first instinct will be to approach local municipalities like townships, boroughs, and similar towns. Most will have parks with playgrounds. But that would be a mistake.
Baggage, Idiocy, and Incompetence
Outdoor parks with playground equipment are clearly everywhere. But I want to dive a bit deeper here and find an even better market than the public side of cleaning playground equipment. Don’t misunderstand, there is potential with business from local governments and municipalities. But anyone who has ever dealt with local municipalities will attest to the ridiculous level of baggage, idiocy, and incompetence that comes along with it.
So work on local governments if you want, but spend more of your time on the more profitable and less complicated potential profits found in local businesses that have playgrounds.
I’m talking about indoor playgrounds too.
Think McDonald’s, Burger King, and Chic-Fil-A, with the big glass-enclosed playgrounds in the front of their restaurants.
Regardless of where they’re located, they need to be cleaned. Look at what playground equipment is made of. It’s all plastic, fiberglass, and steel. Or plastic, wood, and steel. Or all four.
And who better to clean something made of metal, plastic, and fiberglass, than a professional detailer. It’s a no brainer. My sales pitch to managers of fast-food restaurants was simple. I made up a one-page flyer with pictures of beautiful, shiny, Corvette’s, boats, and other cars that I had detailed. Between the pictures was the following:
Your playground equipment needs to be cleaned. Fortunately, it’s made of the same materials that I’m an expert at washing, buffing, waxing, and polishing. So now you have a choice. You can choose to be the restaurant that just sprays its dull plastic playground with a hose. Like everyone else.
Or you can be the place parents talk to their friends about. You know that restaurant that cares about its customers. The one with the playground that shines like a newly polished Corvette on a sunny afternoon.
The cost is affordable. The reaction by your customers is priceless. And if you schedule this week, I will include sidewalk pressure cleaning at no additional cost ($149 value). Call, click, or tap to schedule today.
Specialty Cleaning Service
This specialty cleaning service will keep you busy with clients that truly appreciate your cleaning skills. I had many of our local fastfood restaurants on a monthly retainer. So that consistent monthly income helped when my regular detailing business slowed down around the holidays.
When I said no-brainer above, I meant it. These playgrounds are climbing areas, catwalks, and giant slides for children. And they are made of metal, fiberglass, and plastic. The same materials any detailer is an expert at cleaning. Kind of like a car. Or a boat.
And who knows how to clean vehicle exteriors better than a professional detailer?
It’s not that difficult to get these jobs either. I hadn’t ever thought about how they cleaned those indoor playgrounds until I was there with my son, who at the time was 4-years-old.
As my son was climbing up one side of the indoor playground equipment, it occurred to me that the heavier traffic areas near the big slide appeared dull and dirty.
Ask How They Clean It
When I noticed the manager walking by, I mentioned to him how a section looked dull and asked how they cleaned it.
I happened to be wearing one of my car detailing golf shirts with my logo. So he looked at it and said, “oh, at first I thought it was a weird question. But, wait, do you clean these things? Please say yes because we can’t find anyone to replace the guy who just retired after 15-years.”
So, of course I said yes.
You’ve seen the plastic multi-color slides and playground pieces that I’m talking about. McDonald’s is very careful to keep them in perfect shape and to clean them often.
Most of the time it’s one of their employees spraying it down with a hose.
That is until you approach the manager about actually detailing or utilizing your specialty cleaning services on these valuable play areas.
Doing What You Are Already Doing
Think about it. Specialty cleaning services are doing what you are already doing. You detail cars with the same exact materials as these playground units.
Like I mentioned above, what’s a Corvette made of? How about a boat? They are both made out of the same materials as indoor playgrounds.
So it’s a matter of scrubbing and power washing the playground pieces. Then you buff wax the pieces to shine them up. They look great and the kids love them because the slides are so much faster when they are clean and waxed.
Polish the Slide with a Nanoceramic Polymer Coating
Here’s a pro tip for you to think about. If you want to impress your customer through all the positive feedback they will receive, buff and coat the slide with wax. But if you want it crazy fast, polish the slide with a nanoceramic polymer coating. Use that instead of wax on the big slide.
One of the managers at a larger location with multiple slides asked me if we used something different on the slide. He said all the kids loved it, but they were having problems keeping the big kids off the slide because of how fast it was.
When I told him what we used, he politely asked me to switch back to regular wax because the kids were flying down the slides too fast.
The other items you can offer through your specialty cleaning services are cleaning the outdoor carpets of those indoor playgrounds along with the many other businesses that have outdoor carpets. High-end steam cleaning equipment for vehicles is great for outdoor carpets.
Cleaning Outdoor Carpet on 36 holes of Mini Golf
One customer that my team and I always enjoyed visiting was a huge mini-golf business. The place had 36 holes and each one had an outdoor carpet. They were closed Monday, so we would show up early and spend the entire day cleaning and detailing everything.
Most people don’t realize this but outdoor carpet will turn black with mold and mildew. The only truly effective way to clean it is to lightly powerwash the carpeting and then remove the remaining mold and mildew through heated carpet extraction.
It cleans-up perfect and looks great. Most power washing businesses don’t have the ability to do that level of specialty cleaning services. So you need to make everybody aware of the fact that you can do this.
Those mini-golf businesses can’t keep their stuff clean. It’s constantly being walked on and it looks horrible every month they are open.
So you offer to do a monthly cleaning of the entire mini-golf area and shine their statues along with it. The great thing about this is that nobody cleans these places and the mini-golf people don’t even consider the idea that you will do it for them because nobody has ever offered.
Your competition also doesn’t do it because they don’t think of these kinds of things either. They are too busy out trying to close dealerships for whatever low-ball bid they are going to lose money at.
Highly Profitable Niche Markets
Specialty cleaning services work because they are highly profitable niche markets that you can exploit by being one of the first in your area to market and service.
They are highly profitable jobs because nobody else is doing it so where else are your customers going to go? Plus, you’ll pick-up the business of the management and owners of the place simply because you develop that level of trust with them by doing their other business.
Try adding specialty cleaning services to your detailing business and you’ll be impressed with how much more profit you make by adding them to your service listing.
When I think back about how I started my detailing businesses, I did it the old fashioned way.
By old fashioned I mean I opened my own fixed location shop with a bunch of overhead. Those ‘hard’ costs that are difficult to adjust or eliminate because you need them.
I’m talking about things like building rent and utilities.
When you have an auto detail shop, you need the fixed location shop part to actually do business. And all the utilities are a cost you incur while doing the work.
Things like electricity to run the tools and lights. Water for basically everything.
And gas… Can’t forget about the damn natural gas bill. Pittsburgh winters are brutal. And heating garage bays and offices are expensive in winter.
Overhead Can Kill a New Business
Overhead can kill a new business. And building rent and utilities is second only to employee payroll as far as the largest numbers in the expense column of your P&L (profit and loss) statement.
They say hindsight is 20/20, but if I had to do it all over again I would skip the fixed the shop location and go straight to offering mobile detailing services.
The obvious place to start in this industry is by offering mobile detailing just based on the lower cost of equipment and easier training.
You really need to consider some of the other mobile services that the auto reconditioning industry has available though. Going from simple detailing and car washing to high-end auto reconditioning services will amaze you when you see the difference in profits.
I’m talking about the really profitable mobile services such as:
These mobile services are a great place to start. This is also a great way to add profitable mobile services to your existing detailing business if you already have one. Either way, reconditioning mobile services is a fantastic way to add profits and expand your skills in your community.
Your mobile detailing truck and trailer along with your mobile detailing equipment is referred to as your “Mobile Rig” or simply a “Rig”.
The mobile rig is the single most important part of the mobile detailing business. If you don’t have the equipment to get the job done, then you can’t do the work.
So naturally, mobile detailing equipment is going to be a subject that you focus on frequently if you are offering these services.
Some mobile detailing equipment companies promote the open trailers with the water buffalo, pressure washer and other equipment out in the open.
If you live anywhere cold or near any areas that aren’t exactly secure, then this will end up being a real pain for you.
In the cold weather, open trailers need anti-freeze dumped into the water supply and the pressure washer needs anti-freeze in all the plumbing just to keep from freezing. If you park your truck somewhere in a city or near a construction site the chances of something turning up missing when you get back are very high.
When we first added mobile detailing equipment to our detail shop business as an add-on service, we went the open trailer route because of the cost savings and we already had a pickup truck and a box-type mini-van that were both large enough to pull the trailer with water.
Closed trailers are another option for this type of work, but not the best choice. You still have to drag a trailer around with you everywhere you go.
Try backing up a closed trailer in a parking garage without hitting anything. The only nice feature about the close trailer is if you use your pickup truck for personal business then you simply unhitched from the trailer and go. In the overall big picture a closed trailer is a good choice, but the best one. Your mobile detailing equipment will be enclosed and protected and it is easier to keep everything from freezing in the winter this way, but you still have the other issues I’ve mentioned above.
By far the best choice for hauling mobile detailing equipment and making the perfect mobile rig is a cargo van. Preferably a 1-ton cargo van. Our shop really loved the 1 Ton Chevy Express Cargo Van. It was large enough to haul everything and had the power we needed to haul the ever-important water buffalo. A measurement that will become very important to you when you start mobile detailing and cleaning is 8.34 lbs per gallon. That is the weight of a gallon of water. So when you are shopping around for mobile detailing equipment and you add your water buffalo, you need to keep this figure in mind. It is very easy to exceed your max weight capacity on your 1 Ton Cargo Van if you aren’t careful. Here are some things to consider when thinking about weight issues with your Mobile Detailing Equipment:
Mobile Detailing Equipment Weight Capacity Issues and Ways To Calculate
When it comes to mobile detailing equipment, weight is something that you worry about every day. If you are adding a 200-gallon water buffalo, then you need to figure that weight when full which would be 200 gals multiplied by 8.34 lbs per gallon for a total weight of 1,668 lbs.
The water buffalo itself doesn’t weigh much, but for easy math let’s figure about 32 lbs for the actual water buffalo to set our total water weight at 1,700 lbs.
One ton equals 2,000 lbs, but this is not your safe hauling weight. That would be a newbie mistake to just take 2,000 lbs and subtract your mobile detailing equipment and water weight from that.
What you need is the GVWR from the door jamb of the cargo van, truck or whatever you are using to haul EVERYTHING. GVWR is Gross Vehicle Weight Rating. The thing about the figures from the manufacturer is that they are figuring on an empty van. So according to Chevy here’s how they calculate maximum hauling capacity:
8,600 GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating)
5,291 Subtract Curb Weight also referred to as GVCW (Gross Vehicle Curb Weight) – be careful here though, this doesn’t include you or anything else but the empty van
3,309 Max Payload Capacity – According to Chevy this is what you should be able to haul safely.
A more accurate calculation includes you, your equipment and your water weight, then add that to the GVCW (Gross Vehicle Curb Weight) and that will give you the real number. As long as you don’t exceed the GVWR number, then you are within your safe hauling capacity.
Another way to do this is trying to stay within these numbers and then call a nearby weigh station and ask if it is possible to take your fully-loaded vehicle to their weigh station to check it and make sure it is within safe hauling weight.
We did this with all of our vehicles and made sure the driver and the one or two additional workers that were on that job were included in the trucks when they were weighed.
The officers at the weigh station were more than happy to help with this and the supervisor at the station that I brought our trucks to each year complimented me on being proactive with my vehicle safety program.
We never ran into any issues on the road, but I’m sure developing a relationship with these state officers would have helped us prove that we were proactive in our safety and maintenance program if we ever had any problems while out in the field.
Another consideration when looking at Cargo Vans to haul your mobile detailing equipment is simple things like being able to lock your equipment inside.
If you park your van in your driveway when you’re at home during the winter you can run an extension cord to the van from your garage and plug-in a small electric heater to keep everything from freezing.
Plus, and this is a very big plus if you have ever returned home after doing a ton of fleet cars you know how tired you are. Imagine how excited you’ll be to have to unload the entire pickup truck or open trailer when you’re that tired.
With vans, you don’t have to do any of that. Vans work great. Plus, if you go to lunch on the worksite, simply throw everything inside the van and lock it up.
There’s a “ton” of different mobile detailing equipment you can get for your mobile rig.
Right off the bat, you’ll be excited to get everything you can afford, but don’t waste money at this point. You need all the operating capital you can get.
Your first mobile detailing equipment purchases should include the following:
2000 PSI Pressure Washer
Hose – 3/4″ industrial garden hose – 100′
Hose reel with 3/8″ high-pressure hose – 100′
High-speed buffer – Makita 9227C, the most reliable and lightest
High-speed orbital buffer – Porter Cable 7424 is the best
Generator – at least 5,000 watts
That’s a good start to your mobile detailing equipment needs. Please check back and I’ll be updating this page with more specifics as to smaller things you need to carry with you to job sites to get work completed faster.
Good luck with your Mobile Detailing Equipment setup and we look forward to hearing about your success on our Auto Detailing Guide Community Forum page.
When I think back about how I started my own detailing company I can’t imagine not setting up with mobile detailing services first.
No fixed facility shop, low overhead, no utilities, no property/building insurance, etc.
There are just so many positives that I can’t figure out why people get the idea to start an auto detail shop and don’t consider the mobile detailing services as an option.
Yes, you do have some drawbacks like being controlled by the weather. You can fix that with an inflatable mobile workshop or mobile garage much like the one we use. Initially setting up a mobile detailing service costs some money, but using these tools like inflatable mobile garages, you can control those variables better.
These tools give you the ability to work year-round in any kind of weather environment which in itself will pay for the cost of the tent many times over.
When you begin offering mobile detailing services, you need the basics of any detailing business:
mobile detailing van – best option is a Chevy Express 1500 Cargo Van, we tried several vans and trucks and this worked the best.
mobile detailing equipment – pressure washer, generator, portable water buffalo, a Makita variable high-speed wheel buffer (0 to 6K) and a Porter Cable variable high-speed orbital buffer (0 to 6K)
After insurance, mobile detailing equipment, and other miscellaneous detailing supplies, you need to make sure your business has its own checking account separate from your personal account.
This is to make sure your business funds are separated from your personal money. This will definitely benefit you when it comes to tax time and you give your receipts and bank account statements to your accountant.
When you first start out with a mobile detailing services business, you may think your costs are high but you will quickly see how profitable you become as you begin to see more customers.
The other thing you need to determine with any mobile detailing services business is the legal structure. Do you start as a sole proprietor or incorporate it?
You can also set up an LLC, which is a limited liability company but many tax professionals will tell you there’s not a lot of differences between that and a small business corporation or Sub-S Corp.
You need to talk to your CPA and your attorney about this as they will be able to advise you as to which structure is the most beneficial to you.
Mobile Detailing Services don’t have an enormous amount of liability as long as you are properly insured. You always want to be protected as much as possible though.
Offering Mobile Detailing Services is a very profitable business but you need to make sure you are organized on the back office side before you can make money on the service side.
You can make a ton of money performing services for people, but if you don’t know where your money is going for expenses like supplies, equipment, insurance, payroll, and other business costs, you won’t end the year with much money in the bank.
I have talked to guys who thought they were doing great and they now say the worst part of it all was that they were basically bankrupting themselves with all their expenses, but they didn’t discover that they were broke until several months after because they were too busy trying to make money.
Don’t let that happen to you. Mobile Detailing Services are profitable, but it is still hard work and it is still a business. Run it well and it will reward you well.