Jan 13, 2023 | 7 min read

5 key items for starting your car detailing business

A passion for cars and a commitment to customer service. It’s not all you need to start a successful car detailing business in your area, but it’s a great start. From industry expertise to the right business plan, learn how to start a car detailing business with this handy guide.

1. Understand the industry

Car detailing involves more than washing cars’ exteriors. It can also include:

  • Polishing chrome
  • Applying rubber protectants to engines
  • Steam cleaning interiors and carpets
  • Repairing fabrics
  • Dressing tires
  • More in-depth car services up to full restorations

For your business, choose from the most common services:

  • Interior detailing – This service focuses on cleaning, vacuuming, or steam cleaning inside the car: carpets, door handles, windows, mirrors, and dashboards.  
  • Exterior detailing – This includes everything external: sides, windows, trim, rims, and tires.
  • Full detailing – Since this service involves cleaning a car’s interior and exterior, it can be the most time-intensive and set at a higher price. 

Your car detailing business may choose to offer all of these services at different levels, time allotments, or price points. 

Research the industry’s projected growth

To avoid unknowingly opening your business at the wrong time, research the car detailing industry and its projected growth, focusing on:

  • Job outlook
  • Average revenue
  • The number of car detailing businesses
  • The annual growth percentage

As a local business, see what information you can find about car detailing businesses in your area. Use Nextdoor to do competitor research or even ask neighbors their opinions on the kinds of services they’re most interested in. 

2. Write a business plan

An effective business plan works as a framework for your company and is an essential piece of the portfolio you’ll present to banks, investors, and partners when launching or growing it. Every entrepreneur can benefit from a business plan that helps you turn your vision into action, from mission statement to marketing.  

Consider the following sections for your car detailing business plan:

Executive summary

The executive summary kicks off your business plan and hooks whoever’s reading it to learn more about your company and your proposal. Think of it a little like a sales pitch for your business and a preview of everything you lay out in your business plan.

A car detailing business summary should include:

  • Your mission and the populations your business will serve 
  • A list of primary services 
  • Demand for these services in your community
  • What sets your business apart from competitors
  • Your vision 
  • Funding needs

Company description

Share your most important business details and your unique value in the company description to serve as a snapshot of you and your business. Include:

  • Business name
  • Trademarks
  • History or your relevant experience
  • Concept
  • Projected management structure
  • Reasons for opening in your specific area

Many of the elements going into your business plan will serve additional purposes as you build your website and social media. Start by creating a free Nextdoor Business Page with your business info and story so neighbors can welcome you to the neighborhood — and be first in line when you open. 

Market analysis

This will help you gauge an area’s demand for a new car detailing business, giving you an idea of local market forces, customer habits, average revenue, and competition. Your market analysis can explore:

  • The demand for a new car detailing business – Ideally, your business will fill a need in the community for quality car detailing to give you a better chance to succeed. 
  • The competition – Find fellow car detailing businesses and see what services they’re offering and at what prices. Knowing who your competition is can help you forecast revenue and growth, while identifying what services will set you apart.
  • Potential customers – Like knowing your competition, understanding your audience will help you plan your business, its offerings, and how to build buzz with them.   

Financial strategy

On average, business owners invest between $9,000 and $15,000 to start their car detailing business. Depending on the services you offer, there may be additional expenses for machinery, cleaning, supplies, and staffing. Putting projected expenses into an early financial strategy will help you in the long run. Gauge your finances with the following:

  • Income statement
  • Cash flow
  • Balance sheet
  • Expected revenue
  • A list of your assets and debts
  • A summary of company expenses
  • Desired loans
  • Financial projections

Your costs and growth projections should factor into your car detailing price, wages, and even marketing or advertising budget. 

Marketing strategy

Show potential funding partners you know the modern market and set your local business up for success with marketing goals that span digital and word-of-mouth strategies, including:

  • A website
  • A free Business Page on Nextdoor
  • Email marketing
  • Flyers and brochures
  • Newspaper ads
  • Signs
  • Promotions as part of your car detailing advertising plan
  • Loyalty or referral programs

Based in Des Moines, IA, Des Moine Car Detailing knows how powerful word-of-mouth marketing can be. Their website has a page specifically for customer testimonials to read about the quality of service they provide. 

Build your local reputation right on Nextdoor with your free business page and 50,000 neighbors sharing recommendations every week.

3. Apply for licenses and permits

With your business plan, apply for business licenses, permits, environmental clearances, and anything else required in your area.

Here are common licenses you’ll need for your car detailing business:

  • General business license
  • Certificate of occupancy
  • Environmental clearances
  • Business name registration

The business license application process may vary by state and city so double-check your location’s requirements.

4. Choose business type and location

Outline your business type and location in your business plan, considering the following factors:

  • Local demand – Besides taking stock of your competition, consider the culture around cars in your area when calculating demand. Classic cars, all-terrain vehicles, lowriders, pickup trucks — whatever is popular where you do business may encourage additional demand for related detailing services. 
  • Weather – Weather plays a large role in creating demand for car detailing services in general and throughout the year. Customers in sunnier areas may not need their vehicles detailed as often as those in areas with rain, sleet, and snow. Keep seasonal needs in mind as you set financial projections for your business over a year as different months bring in different businesses.
  • Environmental regulations – There may be additional taxes for operating a car detailing business in areas with environmental regulations and restrictions around water and gas usage. 

Aside from the type of business, you’ll run, consider what business structure makes the most sense for you and your taxes: sole proprietorship, partnership, and limited liability company are a few of the most popular. This will determine the kind of business license you should apply for as well.

5. Create an online presence 

When neighbors need car detailing, you want your business to show up wherever they go to search. And more often than not, that’s online. Start with the essentials: a free Nextdoor Business Page and a website. For both, include:

  • An overview of services – Break down your services by price, time, and vehicle size, going in-depth on what each service entails on your website. Share updates to services at any time with a free post to your closest customers on Nextdoor, or advertise new services and special offers with quick-create ads.
  • A blog – Share updates about your business, car detailing tips and tricks, industry insights, and seasonal expertise. While your blog will live on your website, you can share or advertise relevant blog posts on Nextdoor.
  • Contact information – Include the essentials, like your email, phone number, and operating hours to keep business coming.
  • Recommendations – Testimonials make for powerful word-of-mouth marketing. Share your Nextdoor business page to ask happy clients for recommendations, and include them on your website.
  • Photos – Give customers a preview of your work with before and after photos. Jackson, MS’s New Look Auto Detailing is a small business that knows the power of pictures in this industry with a website photo gallery of freshly-detailed vehicles.

Connect to your local community with Nextdoor

Starting a car detailing business with an effective plan and smart strategy can help set you up for a bright future. Another key to the success of your business is right within your community. Reach your most important customers, neighbors, on Nextdoor.

With a free business page, you can build awareness, share updates, plus offer promotions with easy ad tools, and no marketing experience is required. Polish up that plan and get in front of your next customers today.

Claim your free business page
Author image Nextdoor Editorial Team At Nextdoor, we love local. The Nextdoor Editorial Team is dedicated to telling stories of local businesses, providing product education, and sharing marketing best practices to help businesses grow.