How to Start a Mobile Car Wash Business

In an uncertain job market more and more people are starting their own small businesses as a way to ensure steady employment and to be their own boss. Finding the right small business niche can lead to job and income stability without the problems of stifling company rules. One such business that has become popular recently is the mobile car wash business. It requires a relatively small outlay in start-up costs and has the advantage of low overhead and self-paced work.

The first step for starting a mobile car wash business is to apply for a business license and resister your business name with county and city authorities. You should also set up separate bank and credit card accounts in the business name. Although, it might be tempting to avoid running separate business accounts, when it comes to filing income taxes it will be much easier if there is a clear line between business and personal finances.

As you are waiting for the paperwork to be processed and setting up your business accounts you can begin to think what kind of mobile car wash services you want to offer. Mobile car wash businesses include a wide variety of services such as exterior detailing, interior detailing, and water washing versus waterless washing. The choice of whether to offer complete detailing service or only exterior washing depends on your types of customers and how and when you will be doing the job. Interior service, for instance, will necessitate getting a client’s keys and then returning them and may require more liability insurance. Interior detailing is an easier thing to do if you are performing the service at a client’s home, but more problematic if you plan to wash several cars in an employee parking lot.

When choosing what types of services to offer you will need to find out if the city, county, or state where you live has ordinances concerning waste water runoff. In locales that have complicated environmental laws it may be better to choose a waterless wash service. Choosing the water use or waterless option will also help you choose the type of equipment and supplies you will need.

A mobile car washing service using water, typically needs, a water tank, pump, pressure washer and a small generator mounted in the back of a truck or trailer. A waterless service can typically get by with much less equipment and may be transported in a small truck or van. If you plan to offer interior detailing you will still need a small generator for the vacuum. Other supplies needed include glass cleaner, tire, whitewall, leather, and upholstery cleaner, wax, chamois, rags, air freshener, and trash bags .

Once you have decided on the type of mobile car wash and the services you will offer, you need to research pricing and competition. Determine the prices of car wash services in your area including any other mobile car washing or detailing business. This information will help you determine where to set your prices. You should also wash a few cars to determine your estimated costs per wash. You need to know the minimum you can accept for car washing services and still be making a profit. Do not forget to factor in paying yourself for your time and the transportation costs and expenses as you move from job to job. This research should give you solid guidelines to set your prices.

The next step is marketing your business. Fliers and business cards are effective and inexpensive marketing tools. Consider offering a coupon or deal on the flier. This will discourage people from automatically throwing it away while generating some initial business. Setting up a dedicated business line for customer calls or purchasing a business only cell phone so that you can communicate with your customers is essential. Also consider where in your area you might be able to establish business accounts versus individual customers. Hotels, rental car agencies, or businesses with transportation fleets are all excellent contacts to cultivate.

Once you have set up your business, determined your prices, bought supplies and equipment, and done some basic marketing you are ready to start taking customer calls. Keep in mind that this is the type of business that depends on repeat customers, so customer satisfaction will be key. Following these steps should help you start a successful mobile car wash business.


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