How to Become a Mobile Detailer

9 minutes • 17 April 2021

If you enjoy preparing vehicles to a show-quality presentation, mobile detailing might be just the career you’re looking for. Mobile detailing involves cleaning, in some cases restoring, then waxing, polishing and finishing a motor vehicle inside and out so it is in the best-looking condition possible.

Pristinely detailed convertible car on the street

Most auto body shops and car dealers have one or more detailers on the payroll. Mobile detailing involves traveling to the customer’s location and working on the vehicle. It’s a hugely popular service expected to grow for the next decade as increasingly busy people are willing to pay a little extra to have detailing services brought to them, saving time that would otherwise be spent travelling to and from an auto shop, and possibly waiting around for hours.

Detailing involves every aspect of a vehicle’s appearance, from making the engine sparkle to washing and waxing the bodywork, from shining the tires to getting every last speck of dust out of the nooks and crannies surrounding the controls on the dashboard. The goal is to make a vehicle look as though it just rolled off the assembly line, which is to say, as good as it possibly can look, depending on the age, wear and tear.

People often want to have their vehicles detailed before putting them up for sale and most will build the cost of the mobile detailing into their sales price, so selling your services will likely be easier than other lines of work in the automobile industry.

If you enjoy working on cars and making them shine till they give off that “Wow” factor, a career as a mobile detailer could be the right choice. Read on to discover what’s involved in training and getting down to work as a mobile detailer.

In this article you’ll learn:

  • How much money you can make as a mobile detailer
  • The required training and certifications
  • Professional groups to join
  • Employment opportunities for mobile detailers
  • Finding clients
  • Plus helpful tips
Close up of a newly detailed car dashboard and steering wheel

How much money can you make?

Mobile detailers make an average of $24,530 per year, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. That comes out to $12.93 an hour based on a 40-hour work week. The top 10 percent of mobile detailers are making closer to $19 an hour, on average, the bureau reports. The BLS also estimates that job growth for mobile detailers will grow faster than the national average at a rate of 11% through 2026. Much of the demand will come from busy individuals who don’t have time to drop off their vehicle for detailing at a shop. Once you’re running an established mobile detailing business of your own, the annual salary can rise to $70,000 or more.

Training and Certification

Some states, though not all, require mobile detailers to hold a special license. If you are running a company you’ll also need a business license to operate. Check with your state government’s licensing division to determine what regulations apply where you live.

Close up of headlight on a detailed luxury vehicle

Even if you do not require a formal license to work as a mobile detailer, being able to show potential employers and customers that you are certified in the craft can give you an edge on competitors.

Here’s a listing of mobile detailer schools and certification programs to help you get started.

What you’ll learn in a quality training program:

  • Exterior waxing, buffing and touch-up
  • Interior cleaning and vacuuming
  • Antique or classic car care
  • Upholstery and leather protection
  • Detail striping and painting
  • Final touches
  • How to deliver great customer service
  • Basic business practices

If you decide at some point to pursue additional education, earning an associate’s degree can open additional doors to related career opportunities. Knowledge of vehicle bodywork, window replacement and other automotive cosmetic needs can prepare you for several types of jobs. These include:

  • Insurance claims adjuster
  • Auto manufacturing manager
  • Glass installation specialist
  • Auto dealership service specialist
  • Antique automobile detailer
  • Vehicle painter

Professional Groups to Join

Joining a professional organization for mobile detailers shows you are serious about your career. These affiliations look good on a resume and can help make the difference in securing that new job because employers see that you are so dedicated to your work that you are involved in professionals groups.

Mobile detailer using a cleaning spray gun to wash exterior of car

The International Detailing Association is the leading industry association for professional detailing operators, suppliers and consultants. The association is dedicated to promoting professional detailing services, the recognition of detailing as a trade and helping detailing professionals at each stage in their career. You can create a profile and join here.

Employment

If you’re not ready to start your own mobile detailing business, print out your resume and take it to area auto shops and detailers. This can be useful on-the-job training for your own business while you’re getting paid. Learn everything you can about the business side of mobile detailing as you hone your skills in the craft itself. That way, you’ll be better prepared to launch a company of your own when you’re ready. Be sure to include references and their contact information. If you can show an established track record of customer satisfaction combined with decent experience, you’re in.

Online job search sites like ZipRecruiter and Indeed can be set up to notify you with a daily email of relevant vehicle detailing jobs in your area.

Finding Clients
When you’re self-employed as a mobile detailer, part of your work will involve finding steady work. This means marketing your business. You’ve got to get your company name out there and build a reputation for yourself.

You’ll need a website. Something basic will do fine, just a page outlining your services and contact information, and a few pages of photos showing off your detailing work. Some “before” and “after” photos of your best vehicle detailing work can illustrate the benefits customers enjoy when hiring you for the job.

Interior of driver's side dashboard and steering wheel

Talk to a printing company about making a custom magnet sign you can attach to the side of your vehicle. The sign should include your business name, the fact that you offer mobile detailing services, and a phone number to call. You can include your website address at the bottom. As your business grows and you become wildly successful, you can eventually have your business information professionally painted on the side of your mobile detailing van – or the entire fleet. But in the beginning, a magnetized sign will be sufficient.

While you’re at the printing company, order some business cards with your company name, phone number and website address. If there’s room for a slogan or catchy motto, add that as well.

Customer retention is important, but satisfied customers also refer companies they like to their friends. Keep your customers happy and you’ll enjoy repeat business for years to come. People almost always stick with companies they trust. Your business strategy should always be to deliver on what you promise to the customer and get the job done right the first time. Do that consistently, and customers will be lining up for your detailing services.

As an incentive, offer regular customers a discount for referring new customers, then give new customers a discount for trying out your service.

Couple driving a newly detailed Thunderbird convertible car

Good to know

Tools and equipment are a significant up-front cost for the mobile detailer just starting a business. Some of the big-ticket items, like a power washer, can be rented until you’re financially comfortable buying the equipment.

One of the biggest challenges facing a small-business owner in the beginning is maintaining cash flow. Buying equipment a little bit at a time while renting the most expensive gear can help you get up to speed with steady income.

In terms of pricing your service, casually call a few mobile detailers around the state where you live and try to get a quote with as many specifics as possible. What does the quote include? Once you’ve got a range of prices and a good sense of the market rate for mobile detailing, you’ll be in a better position to set your own prices. A good approach for a new business is not to offer the lowest price or the highest, but somewhere in the middle. Then promote your mobile detailing business as “not the cheapest, simply the best.” Studies repeatedly show that most consumers gravitate toward the middle price when shopping around for any service. Some customers will always go with the most expensive, because they can afford it and because they equate cost with value. Others will reliably choose the cheapest again and again. But most do business with the company priced in the middle.

You’ll also need to investigate business liability insurance and get the right coverage for your needs. At some point you may be called up to detail a collectible show car, an antique or some insanely valuable sports car that costs more than a 3-bedroom house. Liability insurance offers protection for the business if you or one of your employees accidentally damages a vehicle while detailing.

If you enjoyed this article, check out some more great PocketSuite.io content that can help you grow your career as a mobile detailer. Here’s a great place to start.PocketSuite has thousands of business owners who all started where you are right now. Our community is always happy to help you ramp up, grow your client base, and achieve your income goals, both within the PocketSuite app and as part of our exclusive Facebook Community Group. PocketSuite’s vision is for any professional to be able to work for themselves and make a great living. It starts here. It starts with you. It starts today. Let’s get started, download PocketSuite now! Feel free to reach out with any questions (we’d love to hear from you)! Text us @ (415) 841-2300.

Download the app