How to Start a Car Detailing Business at Home: Products, Prices, and More

Jason (P) David
Last Updated: June 15, 2021
Date Published: June 15, 2021

If you like cars, you like keeping them clean, and you have dreamed about starting your own business, a car detailing business is a pretty good option.

They can be relatively cheap to start as businesses go, they are relatively simple to plan for, you can easily start one as a second or weekend job, and if you have space, you can run it at your own home.

Of course, officially starting any business still requires quite a bit of work and planning, but doing it correctly can render fantastic future results.

Car detailing business

Nailing down all the prep work before you even start doing the actual work is usually the hardest part of starting any business, but it usually involves several simple steps that can be made easier if you take them one step at a time.

Here is everything you need to know about starting a car detailing business at home!

Form a Business Plan

The backbone of any business is a solid business plan.

It is a terrible idea to go into any business with just the general idea of making it work and growing it over time.

The questions of how, when, why, what, and which need to be answered if you want to practically meet your broader goals.

Most business plans include several elements:

Create your Mission Statement

A mission statement is usually a one or two-sentence statement that describes your business’ values and goals.

It functions as the backbone and driving force of your whole business model since it tells your potential customers and reminds you of what your business is all about.

Business Info

“Business info” covers a huge number of items including your business’ legal data, business goals, a plan to achieve those goals, growth strategy, and management structure.

This is basically all of the things that you need to know about what makes your business a business for now and in the future.

Pricing Info and Financial Goals

A business would not be a business without some way to make a profit.

Financial planning, pricing, budgeting, and what goods and services you will offer at what prices to make a profit while staying competitive should all be documented.

Market Research and Analysis

Market research does not have to be as daunting as it sounds, but it is important to gather information about potential competitors since it can directly affect your own profits.

This will include what differentiates your business from other similar businesses, how much competition you have in the area, and how much growth potential exists as a result of market trends and competition.

Pick Your Business Type

After you have formulated your business plan, you will have to choose what type of business entity you will legally form.

There are several types of legal business entities that you can form based on different factors, including options more conducive to running a business by yourself, out of your home.

The following are the most common business entity types:

Sole Proprietorship

A sole proprietorship is the easiest type of business entity to start and does not require any official paperwork or extra legal restrictions beyond what you would need for normal licenses or local permits.

The biggest downfall of a sole proprietorship is that you are responsible for everything that happens with the business and any liability or other legal issues fall completely on you.

General Partnership

A general partnership is basically the same as a sole proprietorship, but it involves two owners that share profits and liability risks rather than just one.

No official business paperwork or registration is required to start a general partnership.

Limited Partnership:

A limited partnership is the more official form of a general partnership.

These types of businesses require legal paperwork and official business licensing within the state. Limited partnerships often separate owner-operators and investors as the “partners,” although this does not always occur.

C-Corporation

C-corporations are usually reserved for larger businesses or later on down the road as your business begins to grow.

This is the first real type of business that offers substantial liability protection since the actual business is seen as a separate entity from the actual owner or owners.

Taxes are also separated from the owner or owners of the business and government regulation plays a much larger role than other types of business entities.

S-Corporation

S-corporations are similar to c-corporations in many ways, but the key difference is that taxes are more tied to the owner or owners, making things like deductions and losses more directly effective on a personal level, similar to a sole proprietorship.

Both C and S-corporations are probably not going to be good “start at home” types of business entities but could come down the road if growth is good.

Limited Liability Company

A limited liability company, or LLC, can be a great business option off the bat or the next logical step up from a smaller entity since it offers liability protection, fewer overall regulations, and flexibility with taxation.

For something like an at-home car detailing business, the LLC can be beneficial since it combines most of the positive aspects of most entities and few of the downfalls.

car detailing supplies

Taxes, Insurance, and Licensing

Any insurance and local licensing beyond having an official business entity will have to be accounted for as the next step.

This is tricky to go over as a whole since localities can vary quite a bit depending on what you need and what you do not for licensing, and the best insurance policy for your business will depend on what your agent suggests.

Depending on your chosen business, taxes will be handled differently, including the amount required for self-employment.

It is always helpful to have an accountant either assist you or handle all of your business dealings, especially if that is not your cup of tea.

Open a Business Bank Account

A business bank account will help keep your personal and business expenses separate.

This will also be useful when taxes are due and you need to calculate business deductions.

Getting Potential Investors

Starting a detailing business from home can be relatively inexpensive, but if you need the capital to start and you do not have it, you will need to find investors.

Overall Costs

Starting by working out of your home is going to be much less expensive than having a specific physical location.

This means that your main expenses will probably come from tools and supplies, utilities, and other potential work-related items like computer software, a website, and marketing materials.

If you work out of your home but also offer mobile services, a vehicle will be another cost.

All said and done, starting a detailing business from home can cost as little as a few thousand dollars – if you already have the supplies – and as much $50,000 to $75,000 if you are starting completely with nothing and depending on the extent of your other projected business purchases.

Once you have successfully done the official prep work to get your business affairs set up, licensing taken care of, and the costs projected, you are officially ready to start doing the actual work.

Get the Necessary Detailing Item

Of course, you will not be able to start an automotive detailing business without the necessary detailing tools and materials.

The list of necessary items can vary depending on the extent of your services, but generally speaking, the most basic tools and equipment you will need to start detailing are as follows.

Keep in mind that you can buy specific kits for a detailing startup that have your basic needs covered.

Here are some examples of what you will need:

  • Several Buckets
  • Detailing Mitt
  • A Cleaning Brush
  • PH-Neutral Car Wash Shampoos
  • Multiple Microfiber
  • Drying Towels or Other Paint-Safe Drying Cloths
  • Interior Cleaners
  • Air Fresheners
  • Brushes
  • Leather Cleaner
  • A Clay Detailing Bar
  • A Hose
  • Wax and Polish
  • A Buffing Pad
  • A Portable Vacuum
  • Window Cleaner

 

car detailing supplies

In addition to the aforementioned items, several items are considered non-essential for the most basic detailing jobs.

Having these will not prevent your business from accomplishing good work, but they can help make your job easier and help you complete your job more thoroughly, even if they will add to your overall starting costs.

  • A Foam Gun or Foam Cannon
  • A Pressure Washer
  • A Buffing Machine and Pads
  • Air Compressor
  • A Canopy for Shade
  • A Tool Belt
  • A Steam Cleaner

A detailed breakdown of these tools and their purpose for automotive detailing can be found on The Vehicle Lab’s car detailing guide.

Purchase and Use Business Accounting Software and A Website

Having a good website is all but essential when having any business.

Even though it is not technically necessary, having a good, clear, attractive website can funnel customers to you and make your business stand out.

Additionally, purchasing business accounting software to help keep track of expenses and taxes is crucial if you are not using an accountant.

Even with an accountant, keeping track of your own business affairs can still be helpful.

Some of the best software for self-employed individuals include QuickBooks, Xero, Zoho Books, and Wave, but there are plenty of others from which to choose.

Officially Start Your Business

Once you have everything in place, you can get to work detailing.

Keep in mind that even though you have completed all the necessary prep so far, changing trends, new laws, industry needs, and growing your business will require continual background work to keep everything up to date.

The Ongoing Business Proceedings

Once your business is up and running and potentially growing, it will be important to address additional items, even if you planned to have these set up already at the start of your business.

Hire Employees

Hiring additional employees, or hiring any employees at all, will most likely happen after you have established your business and a solid customer base.

Even though additional employees are considered an extra expense for you, they also mean that you can expand, providing the means for more overall profit in the long run.

Marketing

At least a small amount of marketing should be included in your initial goals and expenses, but upping your marketing budget will attract more customers.

Marketing is one of the keys to any business that is a true ongoing effort.

Upgrading

As you grow, upgrading your equipment will likely follow as a necessity.

Whether that includes getting higher quality equipment or getting more equipment, upgrading will be inevitable if you want to increase your customer base.

Getting better, more extensive business software or website can also be included in your upgrades.

Other Tips

There are always some miscellaneous factors to consider when talking about starting a business.

Experience and Continuing Education Are Keys to Success

Regardless of the type of business you start or own, continuing education in the field is important.

Some of this comes from running your business and experiencing more with a wide customer base, but another important factor is keeping up with business and regulatory trends within your industry.

Of course, prior experience in the auto detailing industry will also increase your chances of success.

Every industry is like this, even though many people have started businesses with little or no experience.

Even if your experience is not within your specific industry, having experience in starting any business from the ground up will be beneficial.

Remember the Water Bill

Especially when it comes to running a detailing business from your home, it is easy to forget the potentially massive water bill that will naturally follow.

Filling buckets and using the hose consistently is much different than taking long showers every day.

Be sure to account for this in your initial business plan and projected expenses.

Automotive Detailing Startup Packages Are Available

If you are unsure of exactly what the bare necessities are for detailing, or if you just want a comprehensive package that is available from one place at potentially lower prices, there are plenty of detailing companies that have “must-have” detailing kits.

Many of these kits include some combination of essential and non-essential equipment.

Consider Going Mobile

Mobile detailing services are becoming quite popular during a time where convenience is paramount.

You can still run your detailing business out of your home, but considering offering mobile services will grant you potential access to a much wider customer base.

Final Thoughts

Starting a car detailing business from the comfort of your own home can be challenging, as starting any business can be.

But, it can also be straightforward if you take it one step at a time.

It can also be quite inexpensive compared to starting some other types of businesses.

If you enjoy seeing and working to keep a vehicle in excellent cosmetic shape, a detailing business will be incredibly rewarding.