Mobile carwashes are popular for those wanting to get in the carwash and detail business with a much lower up-front investment. You’ll take your talents to the clients and personalize the experience as much as possible. This business idea gives you flexibility and is an excellent jumpstart into more opportunities.
Many customers expect comprehensive service from your mobile carwashing and detailing business. Ensure you have the proper tools to give your clients the best experience possible. Here are seven pieces of equipment you’ll need to start a mobile carwash service.
1. Water tank
A water tank is one of the first pieces of equipment you’ll need for your mobile carwash. Portable water tanks allow you to store and transport water from customer to customer throughout the day.
Portable water tanks come in varying sizes, so pick the one best suited for your business. These systems start at around 60 gallons, which is best if you’re looking for a low-profile tank to store in your vehicle. The medium-sized tanks are closer to 100 or 150 gallons. If your business significantly grows, you may need to upgrade to a 200 or 300-gallon tank to support the demand.
2. Pressure washer
With a mobile carwash, you’ll need to do the cleaning instead of relying on a washing bay. The most efficient way to clean is with a pressure washer.
Some customers will have vehicles with dirt and grime building up for years. Pressure washers apply powerful streams of water in hard-to-reach areas, making it easier for you. Alternatively, you could get a hose and a bucket, but pressure washers do the job much faster.
When selecting a pressure washer, you must consider a few things. First, base your choice on the pounds per square inch (psi). Find a pressure washer on the lower end of the spectrum — about 1000 psi. Some industrial and heavy-duty machines can exceed 3000 psi.
Choose a pressure washer with a lower psi to ensure the cars’ safety. High-pressure devices can damage paint jobs, so don’t opt for heavy-duty washers.1
Pressure washers and other electrical equipment are necessary for your carwash, and you’ll need a way to power them. A generator is a reliable source of energy for your mobile detailing business. This purchase will be among the most expensive investments for your carwashing service. If you can’t afford one, you may be able to use extension cords and use the client’s electrical outlets.
If you invest in a generator, consider how much power you need for your system. For example, your pressure washer will require around 1500 watts (W) to operate. Therefore, you should ensure your generator has at least 2000W to power your tools. Springing for a 2500W or 3000W generator is an excellent idea to ensure you have enough power for everything.
Generators are essential for your business, so keep them out of harm’s way for yourself, the client and anybody else. For example, the weather can damage the generator if it turns sour. Leaving your generator uncovered increases the risk of electrocution if rain or snow arrives.2 Also, use heavy-duty extension cords to plug in your equipment.
4. Vacuum cleaner
Another vital piece of equipment you’ll need is a vacuum cleaner. This device is integral when cleaning a vehicle’s interior, so you’ll need to pick a suitable vacuum for your detailing business.
For vacuum cleaners, there are a few things to consider before buying. For example, do you want a corded or cordless cleaner? You can plug corded cleaners into your generator and not worry about the power. Cordless vacuum cleaners might not last as long because they run on batteries, but they’ll be much easier to handle and navigate tight spaces inside the vehicle.
You’ll also need to consider the vacuum’s size and weight. These two factors directly affect how powerful the device will be. Some corded vacuums can plug into the phone charging port, but they might not be powerful enough for your needs.
The best place to store your generator and electrical equipment is inside your vehicle. Running a detailing business means you have numerous options on the market when selecting a vehicle. Vans are an excellent choice because they provide ample storage space for your equipment. Plus, they’re more secure than trucks and trailers because cargo access is more complicated.
If you want to purchase a van, you’ll need to consider a few things, such as:
- Fuel efficiency: Taking the show on the road means you’ll constantly buy gas for the van. Fuel costs can build up quickly, so find a suitable fuel-efficient vehicle. Nowadays, you can find electric options on the market to minimize your environmental impact and have a quieter ride on the road.3
- Durability: You’ll be busy with your detailing business, so finding a durable vehicle is essential. Think about how much equipment you’ll haul daily and how often you load and unload it. Get a machine with a high payload capacity to support yourself and all the equipment in the back.
- Maneuverability: An underrated element of your mobile detailing vehicle is maneuverability. You may find yourself navigating narrow roads and parking lots. You’ll need a machine that’s easy to maneuver on any terrain. Take the vehicle for a spin to ensure it’s easy to drive and park.
Some detailers use their current vehicle for the business to save money on buying a van or another machine. Truck and SUV owners could use a trailer for their mobile carwash. This option is ideal if your vehicle has a low payload capacity and you don’t want to overload the suspension.
Before looking at trailers, you’ll need to consider whether you’ll rent or buy. Owning a trailer is simpler because there are no hidden costs and it’s a capital investment. You can also take advantage of tax benefits from owning a trailer because it’s a business asset.4
If you’re just starting, consider renting a trailer. Renting may be a better financial decision because buying requires a significant down payment. Plus, you won’t have to worry about trailer maintenance — that responsibility belongs to the company renting out the trailers.
7. Waxing supplies
When running a detailing business, it’s essential to provide waxing services. Car owners nationwide deal with rusting and corrosion in their vehicles, whether from heavy rain, snow or salty ocean air on the coasts.5 Customers will likely request this service, so be prepared with waxing supplies.
First, you’ll need the wax itself. Today’s market lets you choose from spray, liquid and paste waxes. The paste versions will be the highest quality because they provide the best protection. Spray waxes are quicker to apply on a vehicle but are less effective.
Another terrific piece of waxing equipment is an orbital polisher. This machine may be pricey, but it effectively repairs scratches on a car and leaves your clients’ vehicles looking as good as new.
Starting a successful mobile carwash
Today’s consumers prioritize convenience over anything. Calling a mobile detailing service to visit your house is simpler than driving to a shop. This belief serves you if you’re planning to start a mobile carwash.
Mobile carwashes are excellent ventures for those entering the business because they provide flexibility. You can run the entire enterprise from your vehicle without purchasing real estate for the shop. Before you start, consider what equipment you’ll need and use this list of seven necessary items.
Editor’s note: In addition to these supplies, equipment and products, a mobile carwasher will also need an affluent containment mat or device. The federal Clean Water Act, which is applicable to all 50 states and U.S. territories require this under penalty of the law.