I have to admit a bias for a waterless mobile detailing business for three reasons:
- cost of operation is very low.
- adaptability, easy to move anywhere.
- environmentally friendly, almost no water used.
Let us assume that you want to start mobile detailing either part time or full time and that you have some money to work with. You will get a better idea of just how much money might be needed as we move into more tips and ideas.
To start, a reliable vehicle is a must. Something like a Toyota Yaris, a Honda Civic, Ford Festiva, Chevy Aveo, Dodge Calibre or as in my case a 2003 Kia Rio.
These cars are small. They are cheap to operate, cheap to maintain and insurance costs are less for a smaller vehicle. Remember, a good used vehicle with no dents, good paint and well maintained is all you really need. You might already have a car that will work just fine.
An older vehicle that sparkles and shines will turn heads and assure your
prospective customers that you know exactly what you are doing. And if you don't
think an older used shiny car turns heads, just take in a local "show and shine"
Clean and simple signage or graphics will accentuate your cars appearance and in turn, your own public persona.
Now lets look at the types of equipment that will allow you to complete
waterless mobile detailing in an efficient and professional manner and still be
able to fit into your car.
- Waterless cleaning products. These cleaners are available for paint, chrome,
glass, vinyl, rubber and leather. Many brands are available at most automotive
supply stores. Read the product label to make sure the cleaner is free of any
petroleum distillates or free of any petroleum byproducts of any kind. Petroleum
free products will enhance your safety and maintain your environmentally
- Microfiber clothes or towels. Our waterless mobile detailing business used
about 15 microfiber cloths for an average sized car. These are plush and soft
cloths that are ideal for minimizing paint scratches. Where the cleaner will
lift the grime from the surface being cleaned, the microfiber will absorb the
cleaner and the grime without hard rubbing, leaving a clean surface that is
easily buffed to a shine with a second clean microfiber cloth.
- Sponges. We used ordinary household sponges available at any hardware store.
They were in a package of eight and cut to easily fit in your hand. As an
example we used the waterless tire cleaner sprayed on a sponge then wiped it on
the tire to clean. This prevents cleaner overspray and any residue from getting
into the grooves on a tire. If you fail to remove the overspray in the tire
grooves it will splatter all over your nicely cleaned body panels when the
customer drives away.
- Power choices. If your customer can supply electric power at home or work,
great. If not, how are you going to clean the vehicles interior carpeting and
upholstery ?Choices include battery operated vacuums with rechargeable
batteries. Not bad, but they just don't have the suction power of a shop vac,
nor do they have near the endurance. Our choice for our waterless mobile
detailing business was a Ridgid Shop Vac, 6.0 gallon capacity, 2.5 peak
horsepower, drawing 7.3 Amps of power.
To power the shop vac we used a 1000 Watt inverter hooked up to a 12 volt deep cycle RV battery.
The RV battery was in turn hooked up to our 2003 Kia Rio battery. The shop vac could be used for up to 15 minutes before the Kia was started to use its charging system to recharge the RV battery. Ridgid Shop Vac was also chosen because they offered an automotive "detailing kit" option. Longer hose and crevice tools included.
Another power option is a gasoline powered generator with a capacity of 1500 to
2000 watts. Look for a brand with a good muffler. That will keep your customers
and their neighbors happy. We shied away from a generator because of cost as
well as the problem of having a gasoline engine and a gas can in the car trunk.
Whatever the choice you make to power a vacuum, remember always that you are
dealing with the equivalent of household AC current electricity. BE VERY
CAREFUL.. If an extension cord is necessary make sure that it is a properly
grounded cord for outdoor applications. Check with your supplier for safety
guidelines when using any of the electrical equipment that have been discussed
There you have it. An entire business in a small package. A complete waterless
mobile detailing business. A business like this doing high quality work with
lots of satisfied customers might expand from one mobile, to two or three
mobiles, or more.
The only thing left to discuss is to make sure you have all current and
necessary licensing to ensure compliance with all local, regional and federal
Please don't forget to put together a business team. Your team would consist of
a lawyer, an accountant, an insurance agent or broker, a banker and a business
mentor. A business mentor could be a relative, a school teacher or a fried that
has been involved in business for some time. Someone you are comfortable talking
too. Someone who would be willing to answer questions and maybe just be there to
listen when times are tough.