Auto detailing is an insanely profitable business-no doubt about that. On average, well-established auto detailers can make anywhere between $20,000 and $30,000 per year. That can translate to an hourly rate of $12 or more. While these are estimates, an aggressive detailer with good marketing and business plans can shovel in way more.

But we are getting ahead of ourselves. Before buying an orbital polisher, pressure washer, or anything, you need to figure out the type of detailing that will work for you. There are two types; the first is mobile detailing, where you move around in a truck or van and fulfill servicing. The second one is auto detailing or shop detailing where cars come to your location.  

And now, the million-dollar question- Auto Detailing vs Mobile Detailing Business – what model should you pick? Well, the answer may not be so straightforward until you compare both businesses side by side. 

Let’s dive in deeper, folks.

The Major Differences Between Auto Detailing and Mobile Detailing

Let’s take apart each business model so you can understand which direction you should be taking. Let’s begin with shop detailing.

Auto detailing and its costs 

Arguably, shop detailing seems to many the most favorable business setup because the overhead costs are a bit lower. The biggest pro to this model is that you know what your monthly expenses are going to be.

For instance, you know what’s to be paid in rent or mortgage, utility expenditure, insurance, advertising, and gas. So as you can guess, the inconveniences and unexpected costs are fewer occurrences compared to mobile detailing.

Another pro of having a fixed shop is that weather isn’t a factor. Furthermore, you can detail as many cars as your garage can handle. That also opens up room for a much more significant ROI.

Cons of Garage/Shop detailing

  • It would help if you still spent more on utilities required to run a fixed shop.
  • You must be able to convince clients to come to you
  • Startup costs are still considerably high

Mobile detailing and its costs

With mobile detailing, there’s clarity in certain costs. This usually includes what you are paying for the truck, insurance, equipment, and advertising. However, you can’t tell how much you’ll spend on gas because client location varies every day.  

Sure, there are also inconveniences that rob mobile detailers of good income. Let’s say you connect your equipment to a power source, and it blows the circuit. You’ll have to stop your work and wait until the problem is fixed. And since time is money, delays mean lost revenue. 

Weather is also a considerable inconvenience to mobile detailers. You get to a location ready to roll, and suddenly some of your products like wax fail to work correctly. This raises the overhead if you have to look for alternative products. 

Did we mention the importance of having sunscreen for mobile detailers? Well, let’s consider it done. Skin cancer is real, and those that have done running around for mobile detailing services for 10-15 years can concur. So with time, the small sunscreen costs add up to a significant amount. And, we aren’t even joking.

It’s not all doom and gloom. As a roaming detailer, you can take your business to areas where business is booming. Starting off maybe a little expensive, but if you are lucky to get a cheap and functional truck, the cost goes down.

Mobile detailing Disadvantages

  • Bad weather gets in the way of business operations.
  • Sometimes, you may not find the right spot to operate from (assuming the client’s home is a no-go)
  • You can only deal with one car at a time
  • You are limited on the service offering
  • The location and water use restrictions can be a massive bottleneck on your business

Auto Detailing and Mobile Detailing Businesses – The Common Costs

No matter which direction you want to take, here are a few common costs to both companies:


It doesn’t matter whether you are a mobile or auto shop detailer when it comes to insurance. Accidents do happen. Your truck can crush or get rammed into, a pressure washer can accidentally ding your van, even worse, one of your products can blow up, resulting in huge damage. So as you can see, parting with as little as $30 bucks a month can save your detailing business from going under.

Personal protection equipment

Both mobile and shop detailers need to invest in personal protection equipment. Standard safety gear for detailing business includes gloves, respirators, sidewinders, face masks, long pants, caps, sunscreen, and protective glasses. 

Business Software

Automation is on the rise as employers strive to lower overhead while pushing the profit margins higher. As an auto detailer, you need to keep tabs on your reputation, marketing, payments, contacts, appointments, and even the latest trends. These are duties a business software can effectively handle.

Thanks to apps, mobile detailing software will allow you to run business operations both in the shop and on the move. This way, you have a 360-degree overview of your business, from marketing to invoicing and many other transactions.


There are many types of auto detailing equipment. Assuredly, mobile detailers can buy as many as they want, but they can’t carry all of it in their truck. Nevertheless, you can stock as many as you can to offer a few different detailing services each day.

Shop detailers can also stock as many products as their spaces or skills allow. In short, the equipment you buy will depend on services you are planning to offer, capital, and the space available. 

Wrap up

Running a profitable detailing business means being in control of everything. The best way to do that is to have reliable auto detailing software that streamlines management duties. 

Whether you own a detailing shop or are a mobile detailer, at the end of the day, what matters is ensuring you have the best setup that lowers overhead costs. This can include a standard operating procedure on all cars, so the process is straightforward and time-saving.

The key to lowering unexpected costs has a business plan. A good plan lights up the way forward so you can know where you are going. Check out our blueprints for references:

Lastly, if you want to go with the ‘best of both worlds’ approach, then that means owning both a shop and a truck for mobile detailing. Whichever route you take is all on you. All in all, we wish you massive success in your detailing venture.