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How to start a car valeting business

If you’re passionate about cars and you’ve got a great eye for detail, starting a car valeting business could be an ideal career move for you.

Regular car owners and company car providers regularly get their vehicles cleaned.

There’s good money to be made in a well-run car valet business. That’s why professional cleaning and valeting services have become one of the fastest-growing industries.

Especially since the increased focus on hygiene and cleanliness after COVID-19.

But, car valeting can be a difficult industry to break into without the right knowledge.

How to start a car valeting business

So, we’ve put together this guide on how to start a successful valet business. Just take advantage of the demand with all of these tips.

In a hurry? No problem. Scroll down to our FAQs on how to start a car valet business for some quick answers.

How to set up a car valeting business

Register your business

You’ll first need to register your car valet business with HMRC and decide on a structure.

Just choose to either set up as a sole trader or a limited company. It’s best to weigh up the pros and cons of each before coming to a decision.

Sole trading can get the ball rolling quickly. But, keep in mind that you’ll be responsible for any debt or losses you rack up.

However, you don’t have to worry about this if you’re a limited company.

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What do you need when starting a car valeting business?

Your car valet business starter kit can be seen as a checklist for all the points covered in this guide.

Here’s a quick list of everything you’ll need to start a car valet business:

  • A solid business plan
  • Registration
  • Insurance
  • The right skills and equipment
  • Market research
  • Marketing strategy
  • Finance management

You should start to see a return on your investments. Just as long as you do your research, plan your costs, and are patient.

But, it’s always worth having savings to fall back on. These can help you get you through the first few months.

Protect your business

There are a few rules and regulations you should be aware of when starting up your car valeting business.

These are mainly concerning pollution and water run-off, which is created when servicing vehicles.

Therefore, it’s important to review your obligations if you’re using any of these:

  • Detergents
  • Oil and fuel
  • Suspended solids
  • Grease
  • Antifreeze

You must do your research before starting any practical work. If you don’t, you could face fines.

That’s why getting the right insurance is a must. If you don’t take out insurance, one small mistake could leave you in debt.

These are the main types of insurance needed for a car valet business:

  • Tools insurance – This will cover replacement costs should your equipment be stolen, damaged or lost
  • Public liability insurance – Protects your business from compensation and legal fees if a customer claims you’ve damaged their car
  • Professional indemnity insurance – In the event you make a mistake in your work that causes the client financial loss

Do your research

Make sure you carry out some market research in your target area. This is important for business.

You want to make sure potential clients are nearby, to develop new and repeat business.

So, look at whether the demand for your car valet business is there.

Look at competitors

You should look into what services your local competitors currently offer. This is important.

Just do some in-depth competitor research by looking at their company website.

Review what they’re doing well, and where there’s room for opportunity that your business can take.

Choose your USPs

Think about what unique selling points (USPs) will set you apart from the crowd.

This could be flexible hours. Alternatively, your USP could be offering extras with your service, such as detailing or car wrapping.

Vehicle wrapping is another way of transforming customers’ cars, using vinyl.

Think carefully about costs

Many people choose to wash or valet their cars themselves to save money.

Therefore, you’ll need to make sure your business is worth whatever you charge.

Daily life is busy. So, people are more willing to pay for the convenience of getting their vehicle serviced for them. Especially if they know you offer a consistent high-quality service.

So, play on this factor, while not charging too highly. Otherwise, this will put customers off.

Finances

Maintaining a steady cash flow is vital. This ensures your local valet business is running smoothly.

So, think about how you want to reinvest your profits to grow at a steady pace.

That’s why it’s so important to keep a close eye on all your ingoing and outgoings.

This way, you’ll have a good idea of how your business is performing. And you can make changes where necessary.

Don’t forget to factor in taxes, too. These will need to be filed regularly so you can keep on top of things.

If you feel a bit overwhelmed with this process, weigh up the cost of a professional accountant.

After all, hiring an accountant can save time for you to focus on other things.

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Why do you need a car valeting business plan?

Next comes the essential step of drawing up a car valeting business plan.

Your car valet business plan should consider:

  • Start-up costs
  • Target market
  • What your unique selling point will be
  • Types of services you’re going to offer your customers
  • Pay rates
  • Expected profit margins
  • Hiring colleagues
  • Areas of opportunity

You must try to be as thorough as possible when estimating your start-up costs. This prevents you from being caught off guard.

Essentially, the more thorough you are, the better you’ll be able to budget. If anything, it’s better to overestimate.

How to start a mobile car valeting business

Deciding whether to operate a mobile service or base yourself somewhere permanently is an important decision.

Review pricing

If you’re wondering how to start a mobile car valeting business, you’ll want to know how much to charge your customers.

What you’re charging is important when you’re a new business. The pricing of your car valeting service will affect profitability.

You want to make sure you can break even in the first year of trading. So, choose competitive and profitable prices.

Start by reviewing what competitors in your work area are charging. This gives you a rough idea of what prices are reasonable, and what’s too high.

Buy a business van

Choosing to go mobile lets you reach more customers. But to do this, you’ll need to invest in a business van.

You’ll also need to consider the fuel costs involved. So it’s worth looking into the cost of a mobile car wash before you decide.

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Ensure tools can be powered properly

It’s crucial to transport and power all of your equipment properly.

For example, pressure washers are an essential part of an efficient car valet business.

This is because they remove dirt quickly. So, you can move on to applying waxes and other finishes.

Make sure you can support a pressure washer on the road. Otherwise, you might need a customer’s permission to use their water and mains supply.

But this isn’t ideal, and won’t always be possible. It doesn’t look great for business either.

After all, you’ll want to appear professional and fully equipped. So, it’s best to be self-sufficient.

Cover local business rates

Car valet businesses with their premises can build a local client base, and benefit from no extra travel costs.

If you choose to do this, you might need to cover other costs like local business rates still.

Almost every non-domestic property will be liable to pay a fee to the council.

So, ensure you check how much this is in your area, and factor it into your cash flow.

What are the skills you’ll need for a car valeting business?

Car valeting isn’t just about cleaning a vehicle.

There are many other skills you’ll need to build a successful business in this market.

Some are directly related to the sector. While others have more to do with running a business.

Here are the most important car valeting skills:

  • Basic maths skills.
  • An understanding of bookkeeping for managing your finances.
  • Communication skills – for building relationships and delivering high-quality customer service.
  • Attention to detail – valeting is all about the details!
  • Cleaning knowledge – to use the right equipment correctly.
  • An understanding of cars – knowing your way around different vehicles and their parts.
  • Time management – for balancing jobs and business admin.

What tools and equipment do you need?

Next, you’ll need to decide what tools to invest in.

As mentioned earlier, mobile valeting equipment has different requirements than businesses with a permanent spot.

This is the essential list of equipment you’ll need for every job:

  • Brushes
  • Chamois
  • Squeegees
  • Pressure washer
  • Polishers
  • Soaps
  • Polishes
  • Cleaning chemicals
  • Vacuum cleaner
  • Buffing machine

You’ll also need a business van if you’re starting a mobile car valet business.

This vehicle should also have enough room to transport all of your equipment.

Carport design with glass roof

How do you succeed at marketing a car valeting business?

Marketing your new trade business is so beneficial because using good marketing methods will attract customers.

You’ll just need to try the types of marketing that work best for your new car valet business.

But what are the different marketing strategies for a car valet business?

Word-of-mouth marketing

Your simplest route to finding car valet business opportunities is by speaking to friends and family.

They’ll be able to get the message out to their friends, social circles, and colleagues through word-of-mouth.

Don’t forget to include your neighbours, too. Especially if you’re thinking of going mobile. They will likely become your regulars!

Online Marketing

After acquiring some initial business, consider spending some time building an online presence.

Signing up to Checkatrade is the perfect way to do this. Why?

Because you’ll be able to show the customer recommendations you get. And this means you’ll gain millions of monthly site users.

Social media

Set up different social media accounts, too. This will help you to expand your audience and interact with potential customers.

Try local ads

Local ads and flyers are also great for advertising your car valet business. So, consider buying some flyers to hand out around the areas you’ll be working in.

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Starting a car valet business FAQs

Can you run a car valeting business from home?

Yes. If you’re considering this, start by contacting your local council and insurance provider.

Also, check the title deeds on your property. You’ll need to ensure you have the green light to legally trade.

How much can you earn running a car valeting business?

The National Careers Service estimates the starter salary for a car valet is roughly £14,000. Or, £16,500 for a more experienced professional.

But these are just ballpark figures for entry-level positions.

As the owner of a successful car valet business, you could take home far more than this.

Especially if you’re efficient and have a steady stream of work coming in.

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