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A detailing start-up.


FTF's #1 Knob Polisher
Cumming, GA
Contrary from popular belief, starting a mobile detaling company can be rather pricey. I'm going to run down a quick list just to show what's involved when preparing a new mobile detail rig.

1. Truck/Van/SUV:
A vehicle is the cornerstone to a successful detail company. Your ride should appear professional in every sense of the word (no mismatched panels, bald tires, dirty wheels). Modified exhaust is fantastic on a personal vehicle, but it may not fit well in a quit community you're servicing. Think about what your potential client base will be and drive accordingly.

2. Vehicle lettering:
Proper signage really seals the deal when it comes to appearing professional. Letting a long bed truck could run anywhere from $100-$400. A key piece to remember - if you letter your vehicle, don't act like a fool. You're making a name for yourself and should strive to act nicely in public. (IE - don't flip off the guy that cut in front of you)

3. Equipment & chemicals:
This is where the big dollars start flying out of your bank account. There are many tools of the trade, and a good few are hefty investments.

- Buffers: One of my favorite on the market is the Rupes 21 forced rotational buffer. It has a rotary drive that oscillates with a 21mm throw to polish with phenomenal results while remaining safe for almost any skill level. Expect to spend $500 on a combo kit with quality pads.

- Vacuum: I run a $30 ShopVac for all of my details. It's small enough to fit anywhere and still has the power needed for most jobs. It's important to purchase a vac that can handle amounts of water for carpet cleanup.

- Hot water extractor: A big part of deep cleaning carpet is being able to properly remove dirt and stains. I recommend the Aztec Hot Rod - about $750.

- Steam cleaner: Having steam in your arsenal can save hours of scrubbing and hundreds, if not thousands of dollars in chemical costs. This is optional for a start up but definitely recommended by yours truly. A new unit is under $1000, you're lucky to find one used around the $500 mark.

- Misc chemicals: Soaps, degreasers, interior cleaners, dressings, etc. are vital to properly cleaning any vehicle. Expect to spend a few hundred dollars for a couple months' supply.

- Exterior care: Compounds, polishes, sealants, waxes, glazes, etc. are used to create top-quality paint finishes. Another few hundred will stock your shelves for months to come.

4. Legalities to consider:
I have a view that if you're going to run a business it should be done legitimately. Don't skip corners on this or it could bite you in the arse. Have a business license. Get quotes on insurance for your business. These things can seem like a waste of money at first, but they'll help out in the long run. Prices vary by state and region.

5. Build your brand:
Working in a t-shirt that shows off your favorite NFL team is great, but why not take a chance to build your name even more? Purchase a few polo shirts and have your company name embroidered on the chest. Business cards should be high quality and unique without being overly flashy. Consider having some flyers printed to tape to mailboxes in an area you'd like to service.

If this seems like a big list of dollars, it's because it is. Take pride in your work, under promise and over deliver. Create a unique experience for every client - treat them like family. And remember - the day you stop learning is the day that you die.


Top Poster Of Month
Great post Austin!

When I started on my own I would purchase a new tool that I would need after each job completed. If I didn't have a particular tool for the job I was working on, I would either rent it or borrow it from someone I knew in the trade. Helped to keep my initial start up costs down till the cash flow started.


La Vergne, TN
one thing to keep in mind about the vehicles being labelled and wrapped etc..

in some states, if you have a phone number and business name on a vehicle it's supposed to be tagged as a commercial vehicle.. and thus carry special insurance.

some states ya get away without doing this, but some you dont


Tonto Papadapolous
^^^^ Agreed. Sounds like you have considered some things that normally would not be considered when starting a business, so you are a step ahead already.


FTF's #1 Knob Polisher
Cumming, GA
Nice post Austin... Remember its not the tool, but the dedication and passion of doing it.

Exactly so. Ask anybody that has received my services - I'm an artist before a businessman. It may hurt my bottom line, but I truly enjoy my work and the vehicles I work on.


Arrogant A-hole At-Large
outside your house
I still say train that kid you were holding...looked like he'd work for milk and graham crackers.
Exactly so. Ask anybody that has received my services - I'm an artist before a businessman. It may hurt my bottom line, but I truly enjoy my work and the vehicles I work on.

I feel your statement. Know a days its hard to find people who are into their passion before income. I salute you.

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