Cleaning vehicles in your spare time can generate a decent part-time income, if you’re a hard worker and a detail-oriented person. It requires little skills and very little investment to start.
You can get started quickly and easily.
Americans love their cars; and almost everyone has one, but few have the time to wash them. If you’re willing to do the work, there are many car owners that will happily pay you to wash and wax their vehicles.
Starting this business requires very little supplies. Depending on the services you choose to provide, you can get everything you need for little start-up capital.
Supplies for interior details:
- Wet/dry vacuum. Any vacuum with a long hose will do, but wet/dry vacuums are both convenient and inexpensive. Many people own these, but rarely use them. If you don’t have one, you can probably find one in your local classifieds or at a garage sale. Borrow (or rent) from friends and family.
- Carpet cleaner/shampoo. There are numerous carpet-cleaning products available at your local auto parts or Walmart. It would be a good idea to purchase at least a couple of different products. One might discolor certain types of carpet. Another might be better for certain types of stains.
- Upholstery cleaner. Different fabrics are used to cover automobile seats. Select a few products to cover all situations.
- Leather cleaner. Higher-end cars are likely to have leather seats. Choose a quality leather cleaner specific for automobile use.
- Vinyl cleaner. There are also cleaners specifically for vinyl. A little soap and water can work wonders, too.
Remember the outside:
- Sponge and bucket. A 3 or 5-gallon bucket works well. Find one with a quality handle. A sponge specifically for automobiles is more appropriate than a common kitchen sponge.
- Hose. Cheap hoses tend to kink and are a pain to use. If the funds are available, find a higher quality hose. There are many unique options available today.
- Brushes, rags, soap, and wax. Some stains and dirt will require a brush to dislodge. Be careful to use non-scratch brushes. Rags or application pads are needed to apply and remove wax. Cloth diapers are a common choice among professionals. Automobile-specific soap to wash the exterior is more expensive than dish soap, but seems to preserve wax better. Carnauba-based car waxes tend to get the best reviews. There are many options, so do a little research.
- Tire cleaner. There are products available that require little more than spraying on and waiting.
- Buffer/polisher. While not necessary, a buffer can save a lot of time and energy. They aren’t that expensive. Consider getting one if the budget allows.
It might seem like a lot of products are needed to detail a car properly, but the products will last through several vehicles. The cost per car will be quite low.
You’ll also need a vehicle to haul around all of your supplies. Any car, van, or truck can work with a little planning. If you don’t have a vehicle, ask friends and family if they have one to lend. You can even offer to pay a little money for the favor.
For the more serious, it’s possible to wash cars in parking lots if you have a water storage tank and a sprayer. You can dramatically increase your business by washing and detailing cars for customers while they’re working. It’s something to consider. You’ll need a truck or van to make this idea work.
There’s not a lot of skill involved in washing, vacuuming, and waxing cars. The real key to your success is marketing. You can’t make money if you don’t have any customers. There are many easy and inexpensive ways to find customers that need your services.
Market your business successfully:
Tell everyone you know. The first customers for many small businesses are friends, family, and co-workers. Let everyone know you’re starting a new business. You’re almost certain to find someone willing to give you a chance.
- Social media is free and powerful. Fire up your Facebook account and announce your intentions. Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Google +, and Tumblr are some of the more popular platforms. Use them.
- Use the classified ads. Craigslist is the obvious choice. Place your ad under the appropriate categories and keep refreshing it.
- Pass out business cards and flyers. Use your lunch break or time off to hand out flyers and business cards.
- Contact local car dealers. While many dealers already have someone to detail their cars, they might be looking to replace them or to add another set of hands. Be sure to contact the small, used-car dealers, too.
- Attend car shows. Car fanatics love to attend car shows. Everyone at the show is a potential customer.
- Ask for referrals. If someone doesn’t need your services, ask if they know someone who does. Be sure to ask your customers for referrals, too.
- Hold a seminar. Invite a local car club to a detailing seminar. Show them how much work it takes to detail a car properly. Pass out your business cards.
Most of the initial work will be spent marketing. This is true for most small businesses. After you’ve gained enough momentum, you’ll be able to rely on referrals and regular customers. Continue your marketing efforts, and your business will thrive.
- Some cars are quite expensive. Think about obtaining liability insurance. Imagine having to pay for damage to a customer’s Mercedes!
- Investigate what your competition is charging. Set your own rates accordingly. Slightly undercutting your competition is an effective place to start.
- Practice. Purchase a book or watch a video on how to properly detail a car. Practice on your own car and assess your skills.
- Encourage customers to sign up for a premium package. Offer monthly or other term contracts which include several detailings. You’ll have a repeat customer and box out the competition. You could also get a nice check at the first detailing.
- Be sure to check with your city officials for business license.
Are you willing to work hard and market yourself? Detailing cars can be a lucrative part-time business. A high percentage of adults own cars, yet lack the time or knowledge to maintain them properly. You can fill that void and make a nice income for your time.