How to Start Your Car Detailing Business with $500 or Less

How to start detailing with $500 or less

Dreaming of starting your own mobile car detailing business, but feeling daunted by the prospect of startup costs? The good news is that you don’t need a small fortune to turn your passion for cars into a thriving mobile detailing business. 

With determination, careful planning, and a budget of $500 or less, you can set the wheels in motion for your very own mobile car detailing venture.

Whether you aspire to supplement your income or embark on a full-fledged career in automotive care, this guide is your roadmap to making your detailing dreams a reality without breaking the bank. 

We’ll unveil practical tips, cost-effective strategies, and essential equipment choices to help you start small, grow steadily, and turn your love for cars into a flourishing entrepreneurial journey. Think of it as a car detailing business plan.

So, grab your bucket and sponge, because it’s time to launch your mobile car detailing business on a budget that’s as tight as your best wax job.

What Is Mobile Detailing?

In a nutshell, detailing is the process of restoring a car’s appearance; from old and dirty to new and clean. There are a lot of different services that can be included under the detailing spectrum.

From using a vacuum and power washer for simple car cleaning and washing to steam cleaning, ceramic coating, engine bay detailing, and so much more.

You can customize your detailing service according to the package that you’re willing to offer. The sky is the limit and each detailer has their own types of services that they provide. But generally, detailing consists of simple interior and exterior car cleaning.

The best thing about a mobile detailing business is that you take your services to the customer instead of having them drive to the shop or to your place of business.

They schedule or book an appointment with you and you show up with your equipment and do the job.

Equipment Needed for Detailing

With $500, you can purchase basic equipment to start detailing. 

You’re going to need a wet dry vacuum cleaner, a power washer, some cleaning products such as soap, leather cleaner, tire shine and degreaser, lots of microfiber towels, extension cords, hoses, brushes, and buckets.

When you have complete equipment and the right process to detail a car, you can charge up to $200 per vehicle. On average, it takes about 4 hours to finish detailing a single car.

If you include tips, you can make around $400 to $600 a day easily just by cleaning people’s cars. Sounds good, right? 

The Mobile Car Detailing Process

Every car detailer has their own detailing process, equipment, and cleaning solution that they follow and use.

But the general process can be broken down into a few simple steps that must be carried out in this order. 

1. Start by thoroughly vaccuming the interior

Make sure to remove the mats first and power wash them if they’re super dirty. If not, vacuuming them will do. Follow our guide and learn how to clean your car interior like a pro.

2. If there are any stains, use a degreaser or any cleaning solution that removes the type of stain you’re dealing with.

3. Clean cup holders, pockets, buttons, door, dashboard, and other crevices that have debris and dirt in them.

Follow the right process for removing dog hair, sand, and stains.

4. Clean the leather and the windows thoroughly using a leather brush or microfiber towel.

Learn more about cleaning leather seats.

5. Remove any bugs or debris on the car’s surface.

6. Clean the rims, wash the wheels properly, and dress the tires with tire shine.

Learn more about cleaning wheels properly.

7. Power wash and clean the door jambs and do an exterior wash with soap and wax.

Learn more about washing your car exterior properly.

The Business Plan

If you’re planning to start your own mobile car detailing business but you don’t know where to start, we’ll give you a step-by-step process that you can follow.

Step 1 - Purchase all the equipment you need.

purchase car detailing equipments

As mentioned earlier, you’ll need a wet-dry vacuum cleaner, a power washer, some cleaning products such as soap, leather cleaner, tire shine, and degreaser, lots of microfiber towels, extension cords, hoses, brushes, and buckets. 

Here’s a complete list of $500 or less worth of detailing items:

Rigid vacuum from Home Depot


Pressure Washer


Microfiber towels from Costco


Gloves from Costco


Garden hose


Interior detail brushes


Microfiber wash mitt


Microfiber drying towels


Tire dressing


EZ or Speed Brush wheel brushes from Amazon


pH neutral car soap (any brand of your choice)


Spray wax (any brand)


Waffle weave towel from Amazon


Carpet Shampoo


Ph neutral all-purpose cleaner


Super Clean degreaser from Walmart


Spray bottles


Step 2 - Practice makes perfect.

practice detailing

You can’t clean other people’s cars if you can’t clean your own well. Practicing detailing your own car and some family members before getting clients.

Once you get the hang of it, start looking for clients.

Step 3 - Market your business.

auto detailing business marketing

Try many different things if you want to get as much work as possible. The key is to put your service in front of as many eyes as possible. You can put up door hangers, hang flyers, and utilize social media.

Using social media like Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube can really help grow your business. These methods can be time-consuming and it can take a really long time before you can get the ball rolling but it’s totally worth it!

Get creative with your content by making graphics, writing blogs, or creating videos that show your detailing process. Create a website so people know your business is legit. Posting before and after pictures can also help. 

Step 4 - Consider other alternatives.

Step 4 - Consider other alternatives

If none of the methods mentioned above work for you, you can always rely on paid advertisement. This can help put your business in front of a lot more people than knocking on their door. However, you’ll need to invest a significant amount of money in this matter.

Other detailers recommend marketing your service to dealerships near you. They can give you many cars to detail or perhaps sign you on as a private contractor that works for them.

This can be a great opportunity but dealings with corporate entities can be quite complicated. They usually have their own way of doing things and they will try to spend the least amount of money on your service as possible.

As a result, you might not get as much as you’re expecting to get. Simply put, you’ll be working more for less money but you’ll have a stable flow of customers.

Step 5 - Manage your expectations.

manage expectations

Starting this business, like all businesses, requires patience. It may take some time before you get your first client but once you get the ball rolling, you won’t have to spend a lot of time or money marketing your business.

As long as you’re doing a good job, word of mouth will do the marketing for you. You’ll be surprised how many people will contact you just because they love what you’ve done with their friend’s car and so on.

Important Factors for Succeeding

Hard work, determination, and dedication can make any business successful. In terms of detailing, these are the important factors that you need to remember if you want to succeed:

1. Treat every client as a VIP.

If you see all your clients as million-dollar clients, you’ll always do your best every time. Your effort will surely not go unnoticed. You will be rewarded with loyal customers who will remember you and have you as their go-to mobile detailer. 

2. The power of word of mouth works both ways.

Don’t overestimate the power of word of mouth. It can also be used to slow down, if not permanently close, your business once a client is not satisfied with the job or finds something wrong with their vehicle after detailing.

In the same way, it can bring you a lot of customers you’ll start to wonder where they came from. 

3. High-quality service.

You’ll learn a lot of things as you go along this business. The most important thing is that your service gets better and better every time.

High-quality service is a service worth paying no matter what the price.

4. Consistency.

When you provide quality service consistently, there’s no doubt you’re going to succeed in this business. No matter how impressive your service is the first time, if you can’t keep up the same quality, you’ll lose customers fast.

Starting a mobile car detailing business is not a get-rich-quick scheme nor is it an overnight success. It’s going to take a lot of hard work, time, and patience but if you follow the steps and tips we’ve given, you’ll be on your way to running your own detailing business and being your own boss. 


Remember, you can start detailing with $500 and all you need is the right equipment, cleaning solutions, and processes. Start practicing and detailing your own car. Ask your family and friends if you can detail their cars, too.

Once you get the idea of how to do it well, you can start marketing your business and getting clients. There are many ways to market your business but the best method is by utilizing social media.

We hope this guide will help and inspire you to start your own detailing business even if you only have $500 to spare.

If you need a professional mobile car detailer to show you what it’s like to detail a car, you can always contact River Islands Car Salon.

Contact us for a free quote by calling or texting (408) 614-4593!