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Detailing Business Structures


detailing business structures

When detailing professionally, there are several ways you can structure your business, and one of the big changes recently is the widespread application and consumer understanding of ceramic coatings.

Now, when offering a ceramic coating as a service, talking 3yr+ coatings, you have two main options. You can either perform regular maintenance on the vehicle to ensure the coating lasts as long as possible or just offer the coating and the client either maintains it themselves or has another detailer do the maintenance. Or what if your clients don’t want a coating? There are pros and cons to all options so let’s talk about them.

First lets look at numbers. For the sake of easy math we will use the costs below:

  • 3 Year Coating Service- $1,500
  • Standard/Maintenance Wash – $50 (once a year)
  • Wash + Sealant/Wax – $200 (every 6 months)
  • So over a 3 year period you could have
  • Client 1: Coating service and maintains themselves – $1,500
  • Client 2: Coating service and come to you for maintenance washes – $1,650
  • Client 3: No coating, but comes for wax every 6 months – $1,200

All of these options are pretty close together but clearly the coating + maintenance bring in more revenue. However, this is where YOUR business structure comes into play because there are many factors that would affect the bottom line with these same 3 services. For example, let’s say you just offer the coating. You get a high margin, high dollar sale. You may say yes but you lose the $150 extra and the client may go elsewhere. However, how much time are you spending on that maintenance that is much less profitable? If it takes you an hour to do the maintenance wash, but in those same 8 hours in a day could you do two coatings? Do you even have enough specific clientele to sustain only offering coatings? Maybe you hire a helper to do the maintenance for you, but now that’s eating further into the bottom line because with even just one employee it changes your business and you now, depending on your state, have to pay for different kinds of insurance, taxes, overtime, etc. With volume to match it still is more beneficial of course because even if you get $20 less per wash, it’s still $30 more than nothing. So if your helper can do 8 cars a day and you can do two coatings (8hr day) you now bring in an extra $240 per day. Assuming you are just open M-F that’s an extra $62,000 per year! No small amount.

If you determine you don’t want to offer the service what can you do to expand on the coating sale? Maybe your like me and just aren’t a fan of washing cars all day and would rather be able to focus your time on polishing/restoration. There are a few options you can do, and can also offer these in addition to maintenance customers if you want.

One is that you sell maintenance products. This can extend to even non-coating clients and if you can offer shipping it would allow you to be a local retailer selling high quality products people can trust and get quickly. You can sell products individually, or ideally, kit them together forĀ  New Car Kit, Coating Maintenance Kit, etc. People love kits for new things to help get them started. However, this means you have to buy and store inventory, deal with the carrying cost, stay in stock, and ensure you have 24/7 temperature control. It also means you now have to have a Resellers License, collect sales tax where applicable, and report that accurately on a Sales and Use Tax Return.

Another option is to offer classes on proper maintenance. This can stem to other categories too like interior, engine, etc. Even can offer polishing classes to upcoming professionals or the client who is really hands on. However, this takes time away from doing vehicles.

All of these are just for one service set for a detailing business and apply to many others. My point is when structuring, or re-structuring your business. Don’t just look at the top line number of detailing services and run with that. look at the bottom line and also how you want to operate your day to day. One of the best things about having your own business is you can choose whatever you want. Maybe you don’t do the most profitable option, but it allows you to spend time with your kids because you dictate that, not a CEO backed by investors.

This article was featured in the International Detailing Association (IDA) July 2022 newsletter. The International Detailing Association is the leading global association for professional detailing operators, suppliers, and consultants to the industry.

Ian Martinez
Gloss Angeles
Irvine, CA
Instagram | YouTube

1 comment on Detailing Business Structures

  1. Mark Stone says:

    Great information!! Keep it coming. It opens the door to possibilities beyond detailing with detailing as your base operation.

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