How to Start a Car Cleaning Business | Guide 2024

April 28, 2024
13 Minutes
Modified on:
April 28, 2024
Written by:
Swati Bucha
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With the growing technology and increasing methods of getting things done easily, people are interested in starting up new business ventures. With a desire to become their boss and stay away from hectic, life-draining, and monotonous 9-5 jobs, professionals are looking for new opportunities to solve world problems with their services. 

Given that people don't have time and weekends are the only time people relax, most professionals are turning to car cleaning services to get their car cleaned and cleared of dust. This presents a golden opportunity, and if there are no car cleaning services near your area, you can grab this chance and start your new sole proprietorship business. 

If you have a sharp sight for intricate details and a desire to make cars glow, starting a car cleaning venture could be the perfect path to success. 

Are you thinking about how to start a car cleaning business? This guide will equip you with the essential steps and knowledge to transform your car cleaning passion into a thriving business. You can set up a long-term and profitable business with well-planned functioning and customer service at the focal point.

Is Car Cleaning Business Profitable?

A dedicated entrepreneur may turn car washing into a profitable business. As per reports, around 72% of drivers frequently use car cleaning services. A good location, effective marketing, and first-rate service will help you attract numerous clients. 

Labor and startup costs are comparatively low, and the standards are minimal. Let's look at the different costs that may be required to run a car cleaning service: 

  • Water, payment fees, and cleaning supplies: 7-10%
  • Salaries(depending on the type of services you offer): 35% 
  • Rent: 15-25% 
  • Marketing(email marketing, websites including lead-generations, and offline advertisements): 5-10% 
  • Operations and others (janitorial services, maintenance, bookkeeping): 10-15% 
  • Capital investments (refurbishment of the building and equipment)

So, it might take around $20,000 to run a small car-washing business with 2 employees. On average, the car-washing business can earn a 10-20% profit margin. 

However, the average income of a car-washing business depends upon the type of car-washing services, like: 

  • In-bay automatic: $86,531 annually
  • Full service: $500,000 - $900,000 annually 
  • Exterior conveyor: $686,000 annually 
  • Self-Service: $41,000 annually

Steps to Start Your Car Washing Business

Starting a car cleaning business is not a big deal to crack. With little guidance and the right equipment, you can grow your business. Follow the step-by-step guide if you want to know how to start a car cleaning business.

Step 1. Research the Types of Car Cleaning You Could Operate

Understanding the various car wash operations is essential in starting a car cleaning business. Car washes are available in both automatic and self-service models. There are four types of car washing services that you can provide: 

  • In-bay automatic car wash: In this type of car washing, the customer remains inside the car, and the equipment utilizes chemical and high-pressure water to clean the car. 
  • Full-service car wash: This type of car washing encompasses all types of car washing services, including vacuuming, detailing, and exterior and interior washing. 
  • Exterior conveyor car wash: In this car wash, the car is placed on a motorized track, and it passes through a tunnel to get rinsed, soaped, washed, rinsed again, and waxed. 
  • Self-service car wash: This car washing service allows the owners to wash their cars at their own pace. 

Through practical experience, you will learn how to wash and detail different types of vehicles and familiarize yourself with the materials and equipment used in the business. This will enable you to see how services are marketed and priced, observe best practices in customer service, and understand the daily tasks involved in managing a profitable car cleaning business.

Step 2. Write a Business Plan.

A business plan is a road map that details your company's objectives, strategies, and financial projections for the car cleaning industry. It must include a thorough analysis of the market, the competitors, and the intended audience. Determining your mission statement is the first step in creating a business plan for your car cleaning business. This should explain how you differ from competitors and why prospective clients must choose your offerings.

Make an in-depth analysis of the market's size, prospective customers' demographics, and the competitive environment. Examine their advantages and disadvantages to find areas to set yourself apart. Ensure you have the necessary funds to launch or grow your car cleaning business by preparing a detailed financial projection that accounts for initial expenses like renting a space or purchasing equipment.

Outline particular marketing techniques, like direct mail campaigns or social media advertising, that will help you connect with potential clients. A strong business plan will help you concentrate on attaining long-term success for your car cleaning business while securing funding from lenders and investors.

Here are some important aspects that your business plan on how to start a car cleaning business should cover: 

  1. Company Overview 
  2. Executive Summary 
  3. Business Description 
  4. Sales Strategy 
  5. Marketing Strategy
  6. Competitor Analysis 
  7. Financial Plan 
  8. Operational Plan 
  9. Equipment Plan 
  10. Chemical Plan 
  11. Staffing Plan 

Step 3. Choose A Business Entity Structure.

Selecting the business entity for your car cleaning is the next step after creating a strong business plan. The various types of business entities include the following:

  • Sole Proprietorship: A sole proprietorship is the easiest and most economical option for small businesses. This structure gives the owner complete control over the company but also makes them personally liable for all debts and responsibilities.
  • Partnership: A partnership involves two or more people jointly owning the company. Every partner shares in the business's profits and losses and helps manage it. Although this structure provides more resources, it may cause partners to disagree.
  • LLCs: LLCs preserve management structure flexibility while providing owners with limited liability protection. Small businesses support this structure because it preserves personal assets while maintaining tax advantages.
  • Corporations: Corporations offer their shareholders limited liability protection and facilitate capital access through stock offerings. However, compared to other structures, they require more paperwork and formalities.

Step 4. Get Your Business Licensed And Permitted.

The next important legal step is getting the necessary licenses and permits for your car wash business. A general business license is required for almost every type of business. Your building will then require an occupancy license to ensure it is safe for employees and customers.

Your car wash business will require an environmental permit because it handles wastewater, which can contaminate the surrounding area. This permit will guarantee that wastewater from your company is appropriately treated and disposed of to reduce its negative environmental effects.

You should get insurance for your car wash business if you are handling customers' vehicles. You might require one of the following types of business insurance, depending on your company structure: 

  • General liability insurance: It safeguards your business from third-party actions that could result from operations related to property damage or personal injury.
  • Garage keeper liability: Theft or damage to a customer's car while on the site at your business and in your care, custody, and control is covered by garage keeper liability.
  • Commercial auto insurance is particularly important if you transport workers and equipment using company cars. Commercial auto insurance protects against liability claims from other parties involved in the accident and pays for damages brought on by accidents involving company-owned vehicles.
  • Workers’ compensation: Workers' compensation, also known as "workers' comp," is a government-mandated program that benefits workers who are injured on the job or develop illnesses due to their work.

Step 5. Estimate Your Startup Costs and Get Business Financing.

Starting a car cleaning business comes with a wide range of expenses. Conventional car washes, such as those in commercial spaces, can have startup costs ranging from $500,000 to $3 million. It depends on whether you are purchasing land and constructing an entirely new car cleaning facility, buying an already-existing car wash, or remodeling an existing building to satisfy the requirements of a car wash location. 

When creating your startup budget, you must include the expenses related to obtaining the above licenses, permits, and insurance. You'll also need to budget for personnel, building and land costs, cleaning supplies, equipment and parts, and initial marketing materials in addition to those business expenses.

How will you raise the funds to start your car wash business? There are several business financing options:

  • Loans: If you meet the requirements, you can apply for a bank loan or a US Small Business Administration loan.
  • Business line of credit and credit cards: This is a relatively flexible method of borrowing money as needed.
  • Business grants: Grants are attractive because they give you money you don't have to pay back. The majority of grants have high standards and are extremely competitive.

Step 6. Invest in the Right Equipment.

Selecting reliable and high-quality car wash equipment and materials is essential to your business's longevity. For optimal performance, a car wash requires a variety of brushes, chemicals, parts, and tech supplies. Always work with a trustworthy, skilled supplier for parts and equipment. Here are the equipment that you’ll require to start a car cleaning business:

  • A pressure washer
  • A vacuum cleaner with extension cords for power
  • A generator so you won't be dependent on an electrical source
  • A water tank
  • Heavy-duty hose attached to a water supply.
  • Buckets
  • Pump sprayer
  • An overhead sprinkling system
  • Soap, windshield wiper fluid, and cleaning agents
  • Microfiber towels, applicator pads to apply wax, squeegee for the windows.
  • Upholstery brushes, mechanical brushes, and foaming brushes
  • A container to hold your supplies and equipment
  • A dryer

The tunnel is the main component of a car wash, where workers apply soap, wash, and rinse the car. This is a general list; however, the list of supplies or equipment will change depending on the type of car washing services you aim to provide, and so will the investment value. 

Step 7. Apply For An Employer Identification Number.

This nine-digit number is specific to your business and is a tax identification number. Applying for an EIN can be done by mail or via the IRS website. Before submitting an EIN application, ensure you have all the required paperwork ready, including your business name and address. As a sole proprietor, you will also require your taxpayer identification number (ITIN) or social security number.

Step 8. Open Business Checking and Savings Accounts.

Opening your business checking and savings account is important for several reasons:

  • Separation of your personal and business finances will support your cash flow management.
  • It will also assist with maintaining good records of business-related expenses for tax filing at the end of the year.
  • Creating a separate bank account for your business can help you to build trust with suppliers and customers.

Step 9. Hire Staff

This is a technical trade, so you'll need skilled labor. In addition to expertise and abilities, you must ensure that all your workers are courteous.

Step 10. Build a List of Your Services.

With your business growing, you must add more products and services after introducing basic products. Among the essential services is exterior car washing, which comprises washing, polishing, and cleaning tires, windows, mirrors, and wheels.

The interior cleaning process includes vacuuming the windows, dusting, and cleaning all the plastic and rubber moldings, leather seats, carpets, and upholstery. In addition to adding fragrances, you can deodorize the interiors. To improve the vehicle's gloss, apply a coat of wax or a spray at the end.

Step 11. Establish your Brand 

Building a brand for a company is similar to building up a reputation. Your brand connects with the locals via online and in-person channels, showing who you are and what makes you a better choice. Branding involves elements like logos, brand design, and customer engagement strategies.

  • Create a Logo & Brand Assets: Consumers can learn much from logos. Certain logos gain more popularity than a business name. Even though it might not become a national symbol for clean cars, your car wash helps you stand out from nearby competitors.
  • Create Business Cards and Signage: You must provide more than just a basic car wash to expand your client base and grow your car cleaning business. Making business cards or signage for prospective clients is one of the simplest tasks.
  • Buy Domain Name: Your domain name should show your industry and company name. For an online storefront, it serves as the business address. When branding your car wash company, use a legitimate domain name, giving it credibility and professionalism. There are many resources for finding reasonably priced domain names. One place to get a free domain name is Neo.
  • Build a Website: Your web address is significant but not as significant as the website it directs visitors to. Globally, web design is becoming more and more essential to businesses. Things like mobile-friendly browsing and easy navigation are frequently highlighted during online skill-building events. You can even build your one-page website with Neo in three simple steps. 

Step 12. Focus on Marketing 

Research to familiarize yourself with your target audience. This involves understanding specific information such as where they live, how much money they make, and what age group they belong to. Once you have a clear picture of who they are, create a brand message directly addressing their needs and desires.

Consider marketing on different channels. Facebook and Instagram are two social media outlets that can be helpful when advertising a car wash business. Consider working closely with other firms or using paid advertising to expand your scope.


Establishing a car cleaning business can be profitable if done properly. Before spending money on supplies and equipment, conducting market research and determining your target customer is essential. Once you understand how to start a car cleaning business, creating a powerful brand identity and marketing plan may help you attract more customers and grow a loyal customer base. 

Always remember that staying ahead of the curve requires constant adaptation and progress. You can transform your passion for clean cars into a thriving business with dedication and a strategic approach. So, are you ready to take the wheel and steer your car cleaning venture towards success? Get started today!

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What steps should I take to start a car cleaning business?

As described above, you can start with market research, a business plan, getting the required permits or licenses, purchasing the equipment, and marketing your services.

2. What equipment or supplies are required to start a car cleaning service? 

Tools that may be required include a pressure washer and a buffer. Some supplies include car wash soap, automated equipment, brushes, vacuum cleaners, polish/wax, etc. 

3. How do you market the car washing company or services?

Leverage social media, develop a website, offer deals and discounts, and cooperate with other businesses in the area, followed by many other options.

4. What is a mobile car wash business?

A mobile car wash business can be ideal if you're looking for low-investment, at-home business ideas. A mobile car cleaning service is extremely convenient because the client cannot travel to your location with his vehicle. You can visit the client's residence, clean his car, and leave it looking brand-new!

5. Is car cleaning a good business?

Establishing a car cleaning business can be an exciting and successful job. It's essential to consider whether a car wash is a viable business plan for your area and target customers. The primary benefit of establishing a car wash is that, compared to other businesses, the startup costs are comparatively low. Furthermore, there is a steady demand for car cleaning services even during downturns.

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