Josh Belk is a full-time college student, he works full-time in web design, and in what little spare time, he’s started a $6,000 a month mobile detailing business with his younger brother.
This idea came about when Josh connected the dots between obsession and opportunity.
On the obsession side, Josh would always see his brother out in the driveway cleaning his car.
On the opportunity side, he received an email about business ideas anyone could start, and mobile car washing was one of them.
He asked his brother if he wanted to team up to see if they could make some money cleaning cars — and with that, Belk Mobile Detailing was born.
Tune in to hear to the full podcast episode to hear how the pair:
- landed their first mobile detailing customers
- price their service
- stand out from the competition
How to Get Your First Mobile Detailing Customers
“Friends and family is key,” Josh told me when talking about starting out.
Their mom was very supportive and involved when they first started their business. She sent out text messages to her friends and family, and posted on Facebook about their new venture.
This resulted in a few paying customers, which was what the brothers needed to begin reaching more people.
“We used those people for great marketing materials, like before and after pictures, and to help establish some good first reviews,” Josh explained. “Reviews are everything in this business.”
Mobile Detailing Startup Costs
While mobile detailing is a relatively low startup cost business, there are a few things that are really important to have.
- Bucket and wash mitt – You can pick up a regular bucket for around $5. Josh paid $30 for one that helps separate the shampoo and water.
- Pressure washer – Josh started out without a pressure washer, but it made his job so much easier when he invested in one. He spent about $170, and it’s battery-powered in case he can’t plug it on on site.
- Towels and brushes – You’ll need plenty of these while cleaning cars.
- Cleaning products – The main products Josh uses is a degreaser, spray wax, and tire shine. All are key products to get a vehicle looking its best.
- Extractor – Josh said an extractor is a critical part of the interior detailing. He spent about $120 for the one he uses.
- Steamer – This helps to get into the tight spots in the console area, door panels, leather seats, and so on.
- Vacuum – Josh uses a Shop Vac that cost about $40.
All totaled up, Josh estimated spending $400-600 on equipment.
You may not need to incorporate your business, but it might make sense to get a business credit card to keep business expenses separate from your personal expenses.
You’ll also want some sort of general liability insurance to protect yourself against accidentally damaging a customer’s vehicle. Check out CoverWallet for competitive business insurance quotes.
Growth in Mobile Detailing Demand
“Most of the time, for our customers, it’s their first time having a detail done,” Josh told me.
Even though people are driving less today, they’re keeping their vehicles longer, which translates into more spending on care and maintenance.
Car wash and detailing is a highly localized industry. According to IBISWorld, it’s a $10 billion industry where no single company commands more than 5% market share nationally.
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Money is already flowing through your city, town, and neighborhood. Here are some actionable ways to get it flowing to YOU!
Who Buys Detailing Service?
Josh said most of their individual first-time customers find them either through:
- seeing their Facebook ads
- Googling “detailing services” or “mobile car washing” near them
Josh also gets ongoing work from a local dealership. He likes this as it’s consistent, ongoing work, and they typically call him 3-4 times a week.
Pricing a Mobile Detailing Service
At first, Belk Mobile Detailing priced very low. Josh recalled charging their first customers $30 for a full interior and exterior detail, which took about two hours.
(They listed their price as $50, but discounted it by $20 for the first few jobs.)
At that low rate, they actually questioned if it was even worth it. But Josh explained that it was only temporary since they needed to get some experience under their belts, reviews, and marketing photos.
Once they started seeing regular customers, Josh steadily raised their prices from $50 to $70, then $100, $120, and now their pricing looks like this:
- $90 for an interior detail
- $50 for an exterior detail
- $140 for a full detail
These are in line with national averages, but Josh also explained those are starting rates. He tells every customer that they need to inspect their vehicle to provide an accurate quote.
Since some vehicles require a lot more time and work than others, the quote process also gives them the opportunity to talk to the customer through all their options.
At the end of the day, Josh said he aims for an effective rate of $40-50 an hour — not a bad way to make money in college!
How To Encourage Customer Reviews
Despite his young age, mobile detailing wasn’t actually Josh’s first side hustle attempt. He’d previously dabbled in e-commerce with Amazon FBA.
While he called that business a failure, having lost around $3,000, the silver lining was he learned some important business lessons.
Among those was the importance of customer reviews, and making it as easy as possible for them to leave a review.
Before they even did their first job, Josh had links ready to go that would send the customer directly to a review page on either Facebook or Google.
Once the work is complete, he sends the customer the link and asks if they would take the time to leave a review.
Josh said he’s noticed the number of positive reviews on Google impacting their organic exposure. They currently get around 5-7 calls a week from organic Google traffic. A couple months ago, that number was zero.
Evaluating the Local Mobile Detailing Competition
I asked Josh if he was concerned about local competition before entering the mobile detailing market.
“There are a ton of other detailers,” Josh told me. But most car wash competitors either charged a lot more, or weren’t mobile.
A huge selling point for Belk is that they’ll come out and detail their customer’s cars at their home, place of work, or wherever else they are.
He also noticed a lot of businesses had negative reviews. Josh knew by offering an awesome service and getting positive reviews he could position his business ahead of his competitors.
If they do receive feedback from a customer that the job wasn’t up to par, Josh said they go back out at no extra charge and make it right.
“We’ve never had a bad review because of that. We always make it right,” Josh told me.
Marketing a Mobile Detailing Service with Facebook Ads
The first Facebook ads campaign Josh ran was a New Year’s contest, where the winner would get a free car wash every month for a year. All people had to do to enter was submit their email.
This captured about 50 leads, but the randomly-selected winner didn’t actually want the prize! Still looking to leverage these new leads, Josh emailed those 50 people who’d entered and offered them 50% off mobile detailing service.
Only one person took him up on the offer, but they were able to use the vehicle for some marketing pictures, and got another referral job for their work.
Looking back, “that was an unsuccessful Facebook ad campaign,” Josh told me.
Special Occasion Gift Cards
Undeterred, Josh then ran a Valentine’s Day special for a $59.99 gift card — good for an interior detail and exterior wash.
This time, he spent about $80 but sold about $600 worth of gift cards sales. The exposure earned Belk some indirect business too.
In May, they ran another gift card sale, this time for Mother’s Day. Josh said this was their most successful campaign yet.
Between the 3rd-9th of May, Josh spent $67 on Facebook ads to drive $2,200 in gift card sales.
And those gift cards? He designed a template in Canva and emailed a printable version to the buyers.
Other Marketing Channels
Josh has dabbled with Google ads targeting “Automotive detailing” in his area. This hasn’t done much for him, so he’s focusing more on building up organic traffic.
He also spent $50 running a campaign on the NextDoor app. He didn’t have anyone reach out from that effort, but he sees potential in this app and will try again in the future.
Josh and his teenage brother have also knocked on doors and handed out fliers. It as good for the experience, he explained, but didn’t generate any leads.
Delegating Detailing Work
Josh and his brother have had a few friends help out with the detailing labor, but admitted it’s been a challenge.
Since the volume of work isn’t always consistent, many helpers went on to find full-time work elsewhere.
Managing Mobile Detailing Bookings and Payments
Josh told me he’s been using Square to manage his appointments, tax stuff, and payments.
He’s been really happy with the software, and they even sent him a free credit card reader.
“With this business model, the sky’s the limit,” Josh told me.
Josh said there’s so much room for growth down the road. They could start offering auto repairs, tire changes, just about anything auto-related.
With that said, he started this business with his brother in mind, and plans to hand the business over to his brother at some point in the future. Josh is about to graduate and plans to start a career as a full-time financial advisor.
He also wants to start a community for other student entrepreneurs and help other young entrepreneurs get started.
Josh’s #1 Tip for Side Hustle Nation
“Consistency always wins.”
Links and Resources from this Episode
- Josh’s Student Hustles podcast
- Blue collar business ideas
- How to Start a Pressure Washing Business
- How to Start a Window Cleaning Business
- Skillshare – The first 1000 listeners will get a free trial of Skillshare Premium Membership, with unlimited access to 25,000+ on-demand classes!
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Featured images courtesy of Depositphotos.
8 thoughts on “How to Start a Mobile Detailing Business: Zero to $6k a Month”
Oh my goodness this is what I need to send to my partner for our mobile detailing business lol. I’m working with him on our marketing, but he’s hesitant on forming the LLC and getting insurance for literally no reason (anxiety issues lol). I keep telling him he’ll be screwed if he doesn’t get either if he were to wreck a clients vehicle or cause some kind of damage….We just made our site https://www.cardetailingyumaaz.com/ . It’s not much but it’s starting to get the job done. Also he keeps forgetting to get reviews, so I’ll have him use some of the techniques y’all implemented to make it easier.
Bro your site is so well made!!!! And yeah we’re having the same problem getting reviews. We reach out to our clients. They say they’ll do it, but just whined up never getting around to it. We just got done with our site! I’m proud of it :) https://www.cardetailingsanangelotx.com/
I would say you were right on point for getting your own business started! I started my mobile detailing business: Integrity Mobile Detailing @ https://www.integritymobiledetailing757.com/
four years ago and it has grown exponentially. With regards to the pricing structure, I’d recommend looking at other established mobile detailing companies relative to your areas to give you a price point rather than guessing. If you go to low, you’ll probably see more work than you can handle and will result in untimely bookings or bad reviews and too high, may be a turn off to potential clients. Just my .02 cents, otherwise, great write!
Yes, this is exactly what I needed for a good laugh while learning some new things. When I first started off, I had a few clients here and there and we were doing payment through Zelle – it can be convenient but no the most responsive and easy thing to use, especially since most don’t use it. I ended up going to stripe with some other integrations but found it a bit complicated, especially with all the denied payments. Square, well, let’s see it’s a mobile detailer’s heaven.
Anyways, two issues we had was our website: https://www.newportnewsmobiledetailing.com/ as we simply couldn’t get the forms set up to sync with scheduling program and second, was all the detailers in our area. We ended up hiring a free lancer on Upwork who handled the integration for like $80. Lastly, in order to make our company stand out, we ended up changing our hours to be available EVERY SINGLE DAY and just splitting shifts. It gave us a huge edge so like it is said, you HAVE to make yourself stand out, otherwise you will have a competitive edge over established competitors. Great write up!
I have 95% of what I need to start done. I’m almost ready to launch, but the only thing keeping me is a phone number! Sounds silly right? I don’t want to give out my personal cell for business. So what is the best way to do this? An app? Buy a cheap pay as you go phone? Any info would help!
Is this a serious question? Just get a dual sim phone and put another sim card in it or buy a second hand phone that you will use just for calls so it doesn’t have to be a fancy one. You don’t need a monthly subscription, get a top-up sim card, you’ll be mostly receiving calls on it anyway, so just keep it active.
This response is might be too late and you probably made the decision already. Don’t feel that your alone in this. I also went through a silly debate with myself if I needed to get a separate number or not in the beginning. My advise is to get a separate line. Its always wise to separate business from personal calls. Its easy to track and record business calls. This is important when your building your customer portfolio. Take a bundle offer from a phone provider to get good deals, most of them are very cheap these days. Its also good if you want to exit this business in the future, at least you wont get bothered.
Hope this helps.
Hey guys I am trying to start a mobile car wash for extra income can you tell me how to start and promote