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Detail Cars for Fun and Profit

Car maintenance is a lucrative business, something that can be done full time or as a side gig. The market is a big one with some people specializing in oil changes and tune ups and others in body repair, modifications or some other aspect of the business. Car detailing is an important subcategory of automotive maintenance, one that can be both fun and profitable. Read on for some tips on car detailing and how you can make a go of this business option.

Who Are Your Customers?

Anyone from your neighbor to a fleet business can use your services. One-off customers can pay the most, given that they may want your service only on occasion. With a fleet, you'll need to discount your rates, but you'll also get access to many more cars and have a steady source of income. Mix up your customer base to ensure steady profits.

What Can You Provide?

We're not talking a simple wash and wax service here. With car detailing, you'll get down to the nitty gritty by working on car bodies, windows and tires. But, that is only the outside. Inside, you can vacuum and shampoo carpets, remove stains, apply carpet protector, clean windows and condition seats. Essentially, you'll bring a car to "showroom new" condition or as close to it as possible. Offer details of your services for customer inspection.

When to Offer Your Services

This is where you need to decide how much time you'll invest in your business. Don't quit your full-time job unless you have a steady and deep supply of customers. Consider doing this business on the side first or, if there is a business you can take over, then do so. Run a cost analysis to determine the value of any business you plan on buying. Know who your competitors are, where they are located and what they charge. Then, work toward offering the best value for the lowest prices.

Where Your Business Takes Place

There are several places you can "do business" as you launch your car detailing enterprise. If your business is a sideline hobby, you may be able to detail cars from your yard without running afoul of local zoning requirements. You can also set up shop and run your business from a commercial location. That can involve buying a car wash or simply setting up a location where cars come in, be hand-washed and detailed. Finally, a mobile service means you can take your business where people park their cars. This may mean taking someone's car at work to the car wash, detailing it and returning it clean before the end of the work day.

Why Customers Want Your Services

Quite simply, people who want to hire car detailers are either too busy to do the work themselves or just prefer to have someone handle the work for them. Typically, you'll attract people who know that their cars need special attention. This might be once per year after a hard winter or just before they market their car for sale. A detailed car looks better and commands a higher price. You'll need to clearly demonstrate to customers why car detailing is the way to go and market accordingly.

How to Have Fun and Make Money

The fun part of this job is knowing that you have completed a "job well done." You can make money by setting your prices competitively, maintaining a low overhead and only hiring people when the workload mandates it. Consider hiring contractors first - people you can pay per gig with no promise of permanent employment. When you're ready to grow your business, hire employees. Your best workers may qualify for management, overseeing your staff and letting you take on other responsibilities.

Like any business, car detailing is hard work. The profitable part comes by working hard and managing your money wisely. Fail in either department and your business won't be successful. What you put into your business will ultimately determine whether the work is profitable and if it is fun or a drag.

Matthew C. Keegan is a freelance automotive writer. Matt is also a contributing writer for Andy's Auto Sport and affiliated websites, an aftermarket supplier of quality auto parts including Gibson Exhaust and ACT Clutch.

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