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:
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 electric generator:
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.
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.
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.
Prepare your car valeting business plan:
Tip: It would be a good idea to write all the information you gather down on paper or in your computer for reference.
Now that you have a little more of an idea about your market and equipment which you will be using you should think about writing a short business plan to tie it all together. I don’t want to get into too much detail when it comes to writing business plans because this is a topic which could go on forever. There are so many different ways to write one so ill just keep this as basic and relevant as possible.
Starting a mobile car valeting business is a pretty straight forward procedure so your business plan should really only be a reference for you just to check and make sure your on track with your goals. A business plan may sound unnecessary to you at this moment in time but when you launch your business you will have enough on your plate than to think what your next plans are and it is so easy to lose grasp of where you want your business to go. At its worst, its a great way just to get all your ideas down on paper.
I’ll start by going through some basic questions you should ask yourself when starting a new small business. You don’t need to go into too much detail just as long as you understand exactly what you mean, so just try to write a couple of paragraphs down on a piece of paper or even on your computer for each question.
Write a basic summary of what your new business venture is and what it does.
- Why do you want to work in this business?
- Do you think there is enough market in your area for one?
- Who do you think will buy your product/service?
- What will you do differently?
- How will you fit into this market?
- How do you plan on advertising the business?
- What are your income forecasts for the next 3, 6, 9 and 12 months?
- What are your plans for the business for the next 3, 6, 9 and 12 months?
- Where do you see the business being in 2-3 years time?
- Do you have enough money to start the business straight away?
- If not how will you raise the capital?
- You should make a budget, how much do you have to spend on this business start-up?
- What equipment do you plan on buying?
- How long do you have to prepare your business before launching I.e. 2 months or before summer?
- will you work with someone or by yourself?
- Who will take care of your accounts, you or an accountant?
- Have you got a quote for public liability insurance?
- What would you like to earn from the businesses?
- How much do you need to earn during the quieter months to get by?
These are a few questions you should ask yourself, by no means is this a full business plan but it will give you a bit of perspective on you, your business and your goals. If you have completed the questions you could if you wanted, carry on writing either your own questions or just plans which you feel you’d like to include.
This question was asked in your basic business plan, if you have given your answer then great but if you are a little stuck on how you will raise the money then below are a few tips which I used to raise my capital and a few things which I know would be of use to someone else.
- Sell your car as you wont be needing one because you will be driving your business van for now.
- Sell your ipods/iphones and gadgets because they sell fast and you need money fast to start your business, sell your gadgets and put the money away in a savings account or at home.
- Games consoles, sell them, you will be far too busy earning money to be playing on them. Sell your things on ebay.
- Same goes for Hi-Fis or un used TV’s. Sell anything you can to raise the money you need because if you do sell all your stuff to start your business, once your up and running within a few months you might be able to buy these again brand new.
- Consider getting a business loan. Loans can be a great tool for your business if used correctly, using it to start a business would be using it correctly, its an investment in your future. Not on a holiday which will be over in a couple of week. Try and get the lowest percentage Apr, and aim to only get a loan for the amount you need, not for that motorbike you’ve been looking at.
- Borrowing money; this can be a great way to raise some money if your friends or family have the money which they could borrow you. no interest will be added to this so the money can be paid off when you start earning.
- Seek investment from a business person/angel. Not the best option as a vehicle valeting business would be “small fries” to them but if your looking for a bigger more industrial cleaning business then this could be an option if you are willing to part with a portion of your business.
- You can simply save if you are employed at the moment, work out exactly how much you need to get by on bills and living then work out how long it would take to save the required amount.
My tip to you would be spend at least 2-3 months saving as much as possible and working as much as you can. Request overtime and extra days where possible. Try to limit going out to eat at restaurants or fast food places. Avoid going to the pub for a few months.
Just 2-3 months of being VERY basic with your needs could quite simply change your life. After 2-3 months of extreme scrimping may have taught you some pretty awesome life lessons of money management and how to start a business.
How much money can a mobile car valeter make?
Below are the prices which I charged. I considered myself to be fairly cheap but you can make up your own opinion.
The full valet should take you about 3-4 hours on average depending on how big and dirty the car is. The average price you should charge for this depends on the client you are working for. Private clients should pay around £50-£65 for the full valet.
This depends on where you are in the UK, I am in the north and know my pricing is roughly £50-£55 per full valet. Trade/dealerships however want a better deal in return for a a guaranteed amount of cars each month. The average price I charged was £35 per car but that was some years ago and i wouldn’t recommend going in so low. Most of the time you can afford to go cheaper because dealers could give you at least 3days work per week, a typical trade car can be done in about 2-3hrs. So you can get 3-4 done per day, making £120-£160 each day based on £40/car.
So how much can you earn valeting cars?
I have been a mobile car valeter for about 7 years now so I know exactly how much you can make, full/part time.
If your looking to start a mobile car valeting business full or part time, here is the earnings you should expect:
Part-time – 3 days per week
average cost per valet = £50.00
Per day I usually do 2-3 cars. Lets say you do 3 per day which would take you up to about 5pm (average working hrs. at 9-5), that’s £150.00 per day. If you work 3 days per week that’s £450.
How much does each valet cost?
Each day I use about £3 in chemicals, on average about £2 diesel to and from jobs, £5 per day advertising. total: £10 = £140 per day profit!
If you are wanting to take this on full time, my experience tells me you should always have a guaranteed income! Try and land a contract with a local used car dealership, they will keep you busy in the slower months when things can and WILL be quiet! If an average used car dealership sells 30 cars per month, that’s 30 cars which will need a Full/Trade valet prior to sale which makes £1200.00 per month based on £40/car!
This leaves you with about 2 weeks per month to do all private valets at the more profitable prices. So I would suggest this, land yourself a car dealership contract, make sure you have enough days spare per week or at the weekend to do your private jobs and your business will no doubt be a success.
Make sure you register your Business with HMRC
This is something we all must do, believe me I am sure we don’t want to but its necessary so why not get the facts.
Here are a few points which I have been made aware of since my launch:
If you are a sole trader (working by yourself, for yourself which is what most mobile valeting businesses are) then you are in charge of your own Tax and NIC’s.
Once you have set-up your business and have everything in place ready to go you can register your business with HMRC to arrange paying your tax and NIC. You can do this by calling them direct, probably the easiest option, they will ask a couple of questions about your business and ask for your NIC number.
You do not have to register with HMRC straight away because you have at least 3 months from the day of your launch to register with them.
Once you have registered with them you will need public liability insurance, this will cover you against somebody tripping over your wires on a path or over your vac. To give you an idea on the prices – my last public liability insurance cost about £65 for the whole year so definitely worth having just for peace of mind!
Now your pretty much legal providing your insured on your van. You just need to keep a record of your accounts which I will go into detail underneath.
Managing your accounts:
Doing it yourself:
This can be the trickiest of tasks for any small business owner. If in doubt there is so many useful resources and seminars which you can go to which will help you with managing your accounts. These can all be found on the HMRC website or just by typing it into google.
Ill tell you what I do so you can get a good understanding of what it entails to keep a good record of accounts.
Get your hands on a filing cabinet and make folders for each month starting with the month you started trading. In each folder you should contain another 2 folders. One which says income the other saying outgoing. It is also necessary to apply for a business account, my business banking is with santander who provide your first years banking free of charge. Although you cant do your banking over the counter, you have to use the ATM machines to put money in and out but they will walk you through this.
Business accounts can be charged as much as 70p per transaction, as you can imagine this very quickly builds up so check before signing up!
In the incoming folder you should store all your carbon copies of all your receipts from the work you have done, put all the duplicate receipts from that month into the incoming folder for that month. Write on a piece of paper how much you have made for that month. This is your turn over.
Now you must keep all the receipts which you have gathered in this month which are relative to your business, such as petrol/diesel receipts, equipment costs, vehicle management receipts, basically just anything which has cost you to do your work for that month.
Add this amount up, write it down on the piece of paper and take this away from your turn over which you have calculated from your incoming. The amount which you have left will be your gross profit for that month. Write it down on the piece of paper which you wrote your turnover and total outgoings on. Do this for every month!
Note* the financial tax year runs from April 6th – April 5th to get exact dates just look up on google.
Hire an accountant
Personally I know that most mobile car valeting businesses are quite a small operation so I have never seen the need for an accountant but if you would rather have somebody deal with this that know what they are talking about and save you the stress of dealing with then by all means getting an accountant would be a great idea. Accountants are very easy to get hold of so again just look up on google.
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.