Auto detailing is a growing business that shows no sign of stopping, says Ron Prosser, who opened Critical Care Mobile Detailing in Anaheim, California, in 1988. Mobile auto detailers go from office building to office building, cleaning, waxing and maintaining cars, many of which belong to repeat customers.
"People don't have time to clean their cars, but they get tired of having to apologize about their condition," Prosser says. "There's a high demand for quality detailing and consistent service." And in busy commuter areas such as Southern California, there are too many cars to worry about the competition.
Prosser charges $80 to $130 per auto-detail job. He made $24,000 his first year; now he has eight employees and generates $150,000 to $250,000 in annual sales. To get started in a mobile auto-detailing business, you'll need a trailer or truck with a generator, a pressure washer and water tanks, a wet-and-dry vacuum, a high-speed buffer and various detailing supplies such as brushes, rags and towels. There are companies that will customize and completely stock your trailer for about $3,500. (TTS Products in Los Angeles is one such company: 213-268-1347.) For those who prefer a truck to a trailer, there are companies that will outfit a truck with necessary equipment (such as Prosser Products: 714-997-2825). Or you can purchase your own equipment. Make sure to get a high-quality pressure washer, advises Prosser, as inexpensive ones won't work without running water. Outfitting a truck with the necessary equipment will cost between $1,800 and $3,500. General liability insurance is also a necessity.
Prosser suggests asking other detailers for pointers and, when you're not sure how to do something properly, hiring someone to teach you the finer points of detailing.
"I hired a buffer from a car wash to teach me how to buff, because if you don't know what you're doing, you can burn someone's paint job," he says.