How to Start a Mobile Car Wash Business

The mobile car wash and detailing market reached nearly $10 billion in 2022. Mobile car washing is a business you can quickly get up and running with little experience. Are you curious about how to start a mobile car wash business? You must follow steps like deciding your business structure, finding customers, and purchasing car wash business insurance. Keep reading to find out more!

How to Start a Mobile Car Wash Business

You can mobile car wash and detailing business by following simple steps like deciding a business name, hiring employees, and choosing your business structure.

Calculate Business Costs

Before starting your mobile car washing business; you must account for the potential costs. The cost to start a mobile car washing business may be as low as a few thousand dollars, but you may need to invest $10,000 or more. Below are a few costs you must consider.

Mobile Car Wash Business ExpenseCost
Insurance coverage$1,800-$3,000 
Tools and equipment$100-$3,000
Advertising costs$200-$2,000
Employee salaries$26,000-$35,000 
Vehicle payments$500-$700 
Designing a logo$0-$2,000
Business Registration fees$100-$1,000

Define Your Brand

What your brand will offer customers is essential to figure out when learning how to start a mobile car detailing business. A few angles to consider when defining your mobile car wash brand include:

  • Quality of service: You could emphasize the quality of your car washes. Your business logos and branding should emphasize your attention to detail and consistency of service.

  • Speed of service: People appreciate quick service on their vehicles to schedule their lives around it. Your customers might have jobs and obligations that leave them with little free time during the day.

  • Trustworthiness: By establishing your brand as honest and trustworthy, you can appeal to your customer’s emotions. This allows you to build brand loyalty and form long-term clients around this idea.

Decide Your Business Structure

An important decision to make when learning how to start a mobile detail business is how you want to form your business legally. Your business must be registered once you start offering services under a business name. A registered business is also necessary for benefits like opening a business bank account. Typical business structures are outlined below.

Business StructureAdvantagesDisadvantages
Sole proprietorshipEasy to form, keep the profits for yourself.Liability for business debts and expenses.
CorporationUnlimited liability protection from the business can issue stocks.Subject to double taxation, stricter rules, share profits with shareholders.
Limited liability companyPass-through taxation, business liability protection.More expensive to form than a sole proprietorship.

Get an EIN

An employer identification number or EIN is required if you want to hire employees or open a business bank account. A social security number will suffice for an identifying tax number if you have a sole proprietorship. The steps for getting an EIN include:

  1. Apply online on the IRS website, by mail, or by fax.

  2. Provide information about your business activities, address, and social security number.

  3. Submit the application without 15 minutes of inactivity if you applied online.

  4. Receive your nine-digit EIN.

Open a Business Bank Account

A business bank account is your gateway to processing customer transactions, getting a business loan, and making your business more appealing to customers. When customers write a check to an official business name or use their credit card with your business, they will see you as more legitimate. Some types of business accounts to consider include:

  • Savings account: You can invest business income into a savings account, earning interest over time.

  • Money market account: A money market account earns interest on the money you invest but at a higher rate than a savings account. You can also get compound interest on your investment but have to deal with variable interest rates.

  • Checking account: Checking accounts can send and receive payments for your business. Typically you must have a minimum balance to maintain a checking account. 

  • Merchant services: You can process credit and debit card transactions with a merchant services account.  You must pay transaction fees when customers use this service, and you cannot withdraw cash in person. To process cash transactions with a merchant service account, you have to use an ATM.

Find Your Customer

Your business must find a niche in the market and address the needs of certain customers. By building loyalty with a particular segment of customers, you can provide specialized services that make you stand out from other businesses.

  • Luxury vehicle owners: A person who owns a luxury are more likely to have the resources to pay for a professional car wash. They may use their vehicle to impress clients and must pay for more regular maintenance.

  • Truck owners: Certain segments of vehicle owners use trucks to help them haul materials or go mud riding. These customers sometimes need a detailed cleaning to remove all the caked-on dirt and grime.

  • Classic automobile owners: Customers who own older cars may want to avoid driving them on the road and would be happy to pay for a car washing service that can come to them.

Decide Which Services to Offer

You must decide what services to offer to your customers. This will determine what equipment you need to invest in and what types of customers you will appeal to. Some services to consider include:

  • Interior cleaning: Your car washing business can offer cleaning services to your client's seats, steering wheel, and other internal parts. Interior cleaning requires using a vacuum or a steam cleaner depending on the severity of the mess.

  • Rust removal: Rust can start to build up on the underside of a client’s vehicle. Surface rust can be removed by applying cleaning compounds; though care must be taken not to damage the vehicle paint.

  • Mold removal: Mold can thrive on wet surfaces and spread microscopic spores to your seats. Mold can grow in dark and warm places like your trunk and under your seats.

Hire Employees

Hiring employees to help you out becomes a good idea as you start taking on more clients and responsibilities. You will want to hire more employees with car washing experience that can perform your business services. You might also consider hiring support staff like a business assistant or a bookkeeper. A bookkeeper keeps track of your business finances, manages expenses, and facilitates employee payments. You can hire business assistants to help you with mundane business tasks like answering phone calls, managing business mail, and ordering supplies you need for your services.

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How Much Does A Mobile Car Detailer Make?

A mobile car detailer in the United States will make between $68,912 and $112,688 annually. Below is a comparison of the average salary of a mobile car detailer in different states.

StateAverage Annual Salary
New Hampshire$91,784
New Jersey$99,728
New Mexico$83,558
New York$96,666
North Carolina$86,964
North Dakota$86,983
Rhode Island$94,936
South Carolina$85,525
South Dakota$79,826
West Virginia$81,573

Necessary Equipment for Mobile Car Wash Businesses

There are a few tools that you will need for your mobile car wash business that are described in the chart below.

VacuumUses air suction to clean small particles$200-$4,000
Spray bottleApply cleaning chemicals to the interior or exterior of a vehicle$10-$50
TowelsUsed for cleaning up spills and buffing a vehicle$20-$40
Cleaning glovesProtect your hands from harsh chemicals and grime$10-$30
Auto detailing machineComes with a vacuum and water heating system for getting tough stains$1000-$4,000
Power washerBlasts away dirt and grime from the exterior of a car$100-$400
Wheel brushHelps you clean between the rims and wheels of a car$20-$40

A group of kids washing a car.

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Insurance Requirements for Boosting Income

Your mobile car wash business requires specific insurance policies to protect you against events like lawsuits or damaged property. A lawsuit from a customer could potentially cost you thousands in legal fees. You should consider purchasing the following policies to protect and boost your take-home income.

General Liability Insurance for Mobile Car Wash Businesses

General liability insurance protects your business against bodily injury, property damage, and advertising lawsuits. The policy is meant to protect you from lawsuits by members of the general public or customers in response to your actions. 

Thimble is our recommendation for general liability insurance. Through Thimble, you can purchase short-term general liability insurance to cover the length of services to a customer. You can define your policy duration down to the day and hour if needed. Thimble’s policies are easy to adjust as your business scales up. Thanks to their streamlined process, you can easily purchase a policy and get covered in just a few hours. Thimble has an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau.

Professional Liability Insurance for Mobile Car Wash Businesses

Your professional liability policy covers your business from claims of negligence and contract violations. If you make an error or oversight in your services, this is the policy you need. For professional liability insurance, we recommend Hiscox. 4.7/5 customers recommend Hiscox, thanks to their knowledgeable insurance agents. You can obtain worldwide coverage for your professional liability policy if your claim is filed in the US. With Hiscox, you get a dedicated claims representative to handle your case. Hiscox offers specialized policies that give you tailored coverage for your business. They work with you to identify the coverage you need, so you only pay for necessary protection.

Commercial Property Insurance for Mobile Car Wash Businesses

Commercial property insurance covers your property and equipment from physical damage. The policy covers events like fire, theft, vandalism, wind, and lightning. You can get excellent coverage for this policy from CoverWallet. CoverWallet provides over ten highly rated insurance partners. You can get insurance quotes without committing to buying a policy. You can skip filling out an insurance form and call CoverWallet directly if needed.  The company has an A+ score from the Better Business Bureau. CoverWallet offers policies that cover you in 48 states. 

Commercial Auto Insurance for Mobile Car Wash Businesses

Commercial auto insurance protects your business vehicles from damage and your business from accident liability. Your personal auto policy is not sufficient for business purposes. Most personal auto policies do not cover work activities and generally have lower coverage limits.

Tivly is an excellent company that helps you purchase commercial auto insurance. You can choose a policy from over 200 insurance partners. The company boasts a 4-second phone response rate. After a quick call, you can get set up with quotes and policies from their top-rated insurance partners. You can purchase commercial auto insurance with coverage options like gap insurance and personal injury protection. Tivly has an A rating from the Better Business Bureau.

Workers’ Compensation Insurance for Mobile Car Wash Businesses

Workers' compensation insurance is necessary once you start hiring employees in most states. When your workers get injured or ill, this policy covers their medical costs. It will also pay supplemental income if your employee has to miss work or perform services at a reduced capacity. The Hartford is our recommendation for workers' compensation insurance. They offer your employees access to over 65,000 pharmacies to treat their injuries through their policies. The company uses nurse case managers who oversee workers' comp claims to ensure that employees receive proper treatment.

Business Owner’s Policy for Mobile Car Wash Businesses

A business owner’s policy is one of the most comprehensive insurance options available. It combines the coverage of general liability and a commercial property policy. A BOP will often save you money compared to buying policies separately. NEXT is our recommendation for a BOP. Their business owner’s policies have the same coverage as their general liability insurance. You will save money with NEXT when you bundle your business insurance policies. The company has a 4.75/5 rating from its customer reviews and boasts a B+ rating from the Better Business Bureau.

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