How to start a mobile car valeting business
Hi, my name is Keith. I have owned and run a mobile car valeting business for many years. Mobile car valeting is a cheap and easy business to setup but not many people realise that their is still a huge learning curve.
Rather than go through the pain of learning yourself i’ve put together a basic guide to hopefully make your life easier.
Why start your own mobile valeting business?
There are millions of cars on the road in the UK today. The majority of car owners have 2 options available to them when their vehicle is dirty – they will clean it themselves or hire somebody to clean it for them.
Not many businesses have an income potential which is completely uncapped like this is. There are so many Cars, Vans, Lorries and even Boats out there which need cleaning, the real power lies in getting the work and keeping it. If you can crack that, your earning potential is limitless. 1 van can quickly lead to 2, then 2 to 3.
Mobile car valeting is an easy business to get into and fairly easy to start once you have spoken to the people you know – friends, family etc. I am not however saying that a mobile car valeting business is easy to run and make a living from but there are hundreds of people out there who do make a very good living from it.
Who wouldn’t want to start their own business, be your own boss, choose when you want to work. If you can get regular work, there is no reason why you can’t do it too!
Your income is only limited by you
You may have already started your valeting business and just checking your on the right track, or want to earn a little more money. Stick to doing a good job valeting and the business will retain customers and those customers will recommend you.
Do you do a better job than everyone else? Then you may be able to charge extra for your services – its as simple and a fair as that. However you need a solid foundation of work and customers before you decide to hike your prices up more than your competitors. Make a name for yourself first and make sure you are busy at least 4-5 days per week before increasing prices.
If you can clean a car better than anyone else then your business will no doubt take off with the correct marketing in place but without a proper marketing strategy you may only be scraping by to make ends meet. Word of mouth is your best form of advertising but there is a limit to the amount in which your customers talk about your services, certainly not enough to create a full weeks work regularly when starting out.
So if you have recently been made redundant, lost your job, cannot find a job or looking for something part time/full-time to start then mobile car valeting may just be for you. Starting a mobile car valeting business can be lucrative and easy to start if you know which valeting equipment to buy and how to do the job.
Starting your mobile car valeting business
When you have you van, valeting equipment and know what your doing – your simplest route to finding work is speaking to friends and family. This can include setting up a business page on facebook and asking them to share it or maybe they just need to mention it to their friends at work.
Build a brand
By building a brand you will look more professional and more people will remember you. To build a brand that people will remember; make sure the business name either stands out or is short. Abbreviations such as KTPL valeting may be too hard to remember or read when you speed past in your van.
Up sell Services
You may be able to charge that little bit extra by offering different services e.g a coat of carnauba wax or machine polish. You could also offer detailing services which may cater to a different sector of the car cleaning market – opening up the potential for sales even more, not to mention cleaning Ferraris and Lamborghinis. People will pay that little bit extra for quality.
Offer vouchers and incentives
If you offer your customers the chance to receive a free mini valet for referring your services to a friend you may not be surprised at the amount of customers who would be willing. This is a great way to utilise your very best form of marketing which is word of mouth.
Plan for your mobile car valeting business
Planning before you start your mobile car valeting business is THE MOST IMPORTANT thing you should do. Doing your research is your first step towards setting up your car valeting business and it is CRUCIAL. So I would imagine your not sure exactly what to do for your research?
Wherever you are in the UK you will need to check your competition. If the competition is too high this could make things twice as hard for you to set-up your business and you may have to pay for marketing to get off to a good start before you are established – without knowing this beforehand you could start your business, find it too hard to get work and quit.
By no means does having too much competition make it impossible but traditional means of getting your name out there may not work. People who already get their car cleaned on a regular basis may already have somebody to do it for them but like i mentioned earlier, there are millions of cars on the road.
So firstly I would advise you to use google to search for competitors. If your based in Sheffield then type “mobile car valeting in Sheffield”, or any other variations. Google business (the name for listings on google with the maps next to them) is usually the first thing you will see. Google business shows local businesses and is free to advertise.
You will see a small map, pinpointing where businesses are in your town/city so make a mental note of the first 10 and then try a couple of other sites, search facebook etc. If the same names keep coming up and they have reviews then you’ll know that more than likely these businesses will be your competition because they will be the ones getting all the work.
You will find that the majority of new business will come from google. By new business – i mean business which isn’t related to you via friends and family – people who have no ties and obligations to use your services. This is by far the biggest search engine and it seems to always bring in new work for businesses with a good website and amazing marketing in place.
Quick Tip: Setup your own google my business account by typing it into google. You will have to fill out a number of forms and will receive a letter in the post with a passcode. Return to google business and enter this code to activate your account.
Once you have activated your account you may find lots of other services which can help you improve your website. Top tools include googles keyword planner and Adwords.
Now that you have checked who your competitors will be, you will want to work out who you will aim your services towards. Some mobile valeting businesses only clean Trade/car dealership vehicles, some only private domestic customers, some Clean HGV vehicles. So find out what you would prefer then start looking up people who might want your services, ill list examples below and pro’s and cons of each:
- More profitable per hour
- You get to travel more
- Rarely work in the same place more than once
- Meet new people everyday
- Higher likelihood of tips to increase profits
- The work is not guaranteed
- Constant marketing costs to keep new clients coming in
- More time consuming travelling from job to job
- More chance you will be caught in the rain
Examples of private customers
- People in apartments who don’t have access to outside water
- Car owners who just don’t have the tools or cleaning chemicals
- The elderly most of the time cannot physically clean their vehicle
- Taxi firms need their cars clean for their customers
- General people who work and don’t have the time – cleaning at their work place is a big market
- Trade/Dealership work is a great way to achieve a guaranteed income
- Generally you will know how many vehicles will need cleaning per week/month.
- Frequently the work is indoors with shelter so you can work in all conditions.
- Getting to know dealers can help with your own motoring needs e.g cheap servicing, MOT and discounts
- You will need to lower your prices in return for frequent work.
- Payment is at dealer discretion, either weekly, bi-weekly etc
Examples of Trade contracts
- Used car dealerships
- Vehicle rental companies
- Ex lease vehicle companies
- Businesses with company vehicles
- Haulage company’s will need their wagons cleaning in and out.
Combining both markets
I would suggest you combine both private and trade work. You may find on the weeks which private work is hard to come by the trade contract work will provide cash flow which is essential if you want to run a successful business. Splitting your work up can keep your business healthy. 2-3 Days visiting your contract cleaning work and the remaining days can be used to book in private work.
Budgeting for your Car valeting business Startup
Grab a pen and paper or do this with your computer because you will need to make yourself a budget. You will need to work out how much money you have to spend on this. Remember to include any tools, chemicals, van insurance, business insurance, marketing etc. I will go through a few things you should consider and budget for the further you read.
Research suppliers and get quotes:
You should research suppliers and get quotes for cleaning chemicals. You need to know if they deliver direct to you or do you pickup. How would you get them if you find one day you had run out of something and you have to go to work? ALWAYS KEEP A BACKUP OF CHEMICALS!
Will you use flyers and business cards to get your name out there? You need to know how much these will cost you so call local printing services or use online services such as vistaprint who provide cheap flyers and business cards.
Will your van have a logo and number on the side? If so then you need to factor in this cost. Google van signage companies and get some quotes.
Get quotes and prices for everything you will use every day. I cover the Equipment needed further in the article to help with your budgeting.
Car valeting equipment required
Now you have researched your competition, chosen your market and received each quote your need you can start acquiring your new car valeting equipment.
Check out our full list of car valeting equipment which will tell you the main tools for a professional mobile car valeter.
Car valeting startup tools
Below I will go through the car valeting equipment I used.
First off you will obviously need a van, its no good trying to work this business out of a car as many do, you WILL need a van. Usually you can get by with a small van such as a vauxhall combo or Citroen Berlingo and these vans come highly recommended because they are cheap and efficient. Once you have found your van start looking for your equipment, you will need:
Pressure washer options:
I have learnt from my personal experience and 7 years in the mobile valeting game that electric pressure washers are better for mobile car valeting. They are considerably cheaper to buy – cheaper to run (no petrol if plugged in) – more reliable – easier to manoeuvre around cars and easier to lift in and out of the van. A petrol pressure washer can also be purchased and have some benefits such as power and the ability to work fully mobile. Though the majority of the time an extension would easily do the trick.
Petrol generator options:
If you decide to get an electric pressure washer, remember that your generator must be powerful enough to power this (the more powerful your pressure washer, the more expensive the generator will be). Most electric pressure washers have an induction motor which takes 6 times the working power to start and a lot of power to run than you may think so make sure you speak to someone who knows their power ratings when it comes to buying one. If you’ve decided to go with the petrol pressure washer then you just need to worry about the generator being powerful enough to power your vacuum and wet vacuum cleaner.
As far as vacuums come almost any small vac would suffice, I always use a small henry vacuum because they are easy to manoeuvre around the vehicle, small and compact for storage, have a lot of power for their size. Most have the recoil wire for you to just wind back in after a job, saving LOTS of time and most of all frustration!
I would recommend spending the extra money on your wet vac. You preferably could do with the wet vacs which will pump shampoo into the seats with a trigger on the handle. I use a Numatic George which has never let me down and does the job perfectly. If a George is out of your price range then just try a normal wet vac with no extraction unit for now which just requires a little bit more hard work.
Baffled Water tank:
There’s no need to go crazy on this and start looking at the massive IBC 1000ltr water tanks, these are way too big for the standard mobile car valeter. Why people get these for car valeting is beyond me, usually the average you’ll need to clean a car is about 50 litres, at a push you could do 3 cars a day, that’s 150 litres so aim for a tank with about 250L plus and you’ll be fine.
Personally, I love Autosmart products. I’ve tried many different brands in the past but I would always recommend Autosmart. Depending on where you are in the UK they will also deliver to you on site! Which not many suppliers do. The pack above provides all the products you need to give them a try. If you are happy, then I would suggest getting in touch with your local sales rep by calling Autosmart direct to purchase the 5l bottles because it works out cheaper.
Car valeting accessories
snow foam lance:
This if used with the right chemical can do wonders for you. Attach it to your pressure washer and spray over your vehicle. You can make your car look as if its been in the Arctic for a week. TIP: Clean the wheels whilst its still on then wash off.
Electric buffing machine:
Use with caution. If you haven’t used one before then try buy the machines with a speed adjustment and use on the lowest speed until you are used to it.
It comes as no surprise that nowadays most businesses have a website. If yours does not, you may run the risk of customers thinking your business isn’t very credible. You want to know that your pride and joy is going to be left in capable professional hands.
A combination of a good website, Facebook page and google business page would be the minimum I would suggest to get the more profitable private customers.
We now offer valeting websites for just £19.99/month – cancel anytime. Worth a look:
SMALL BUT ESSENTIAL EXTRAS:
Cleaning chemicals are not on this list due to being supplied by your franchise dealer – whether that be autosmart or whomever you decide to go with. I always used Autosmart and have always been happy with their products.
As for chemicals the car cleaning industry is awash with different manufacturers and suppliers so I will narrow it down a little for you to get you started. Once you know what you like you can test other brands to suit your needs. Industry leading suppliers seem to be Auto-smart and autogylm. I have always used Autosmart, the products I find are very competitive on price and are one of the best vehicle valeting products I have ever used. My personal second choice would be autoglym. These two brands are more than enough to get you started for car valeting, Car detailing on the other hand would be a whole different kettle of fish and just isn’t covered in this article.
So there you go, that’s what I would class as a good basic vehicle valeting business set-up. Remember it doesn’t cost for a quote so go crazy and make sure you are getting the best deal. Find the best possible quote you can or just find the best quality items you can for the best possible price.
Starting your business step by step
1. Research your business by reading the “planning your business” section on this ebook, this will save you so much time in the Future by doing your planning now.
2. Prepare your business plan
3. Get all the quotes you can for absolutely everything which you will need.
4. Raise the money which you will need to start your business.
5.Buy yourself a van and buy the equipment which you have decided would be best for your business.
6. Get yourself a land-line or use your mobile number for customers and get your logo and number ect put on your van
7. Contact your nearest valeting supplier and get the products you’ll need.
8. Open a business account
9. Get a website
10. Either find an accountant who will be willing to work for you or get a filling Cabinet to do your own tax returns.
11. Buy public liability insurance
12. Get your fliers and business cards printed
13. Start telling everyone what you are doing, friends and family ect
14. Post your flyers and hand out your business cards
15. You’ll more than likely get a few jobs from friends and family so just do this to gain abit of experience of how you would valet a car mobile.
16. Start advertising in local news papers, on your website ect
17. Within 3 Months remember to inform HMRC
18. Keep a record of your accounts
That’s your basic mobile car valeting business set-up, ready to make money!
No more working for other people and watching them reek the rewards for your hard work, you are in control of your own life! And remember the more
hard work you put in, the more only you will benefit!
Thanks again, I really hope you have found my advice useful and I wish you the best of luck.
*Please note: I take no responsibility for any failed business attempts or any liability for advice given in this guide. I’m just sharing my knowledge in hope that you can take as much or as little info as you need from it.