Car Detailing As A Side Hustle – Is It Worth It?

This article is dedicated to car detailing as a side hustle. I explain how much money you can make on detailing during weekends, what the expenses are, and when the business will eventually pay off.

You will also know how to start this side job and what the full-size business potential of car detailing is. 

Quick Answer

Car detailing as a side hustle on the weekend can make up to 800$ per week. A full-time detailing shop can produce revenue of north of $500,000 per year. Nevertheless, this is greatly influenced by the number of cars detailed, the business model used, and other factors.

The rest of the article is an in-depth investigation of whether car detailing is worth dealing with or not.

Keep reading to know how to start a car detailing side hustle, what makes it so great, and the exact money you can make with it.

How Much Money You Can Make Detailing Cars

The average detailing service in the U.S costs about $150 to $170. Imagine doing 3 jobs daily 5 times a week.

That gives you a rough number of $125,000 annually. You can also run a business as a side job. Working 3 jobs daily during weekends sums up to $50,000 per year.

These numbers are approximate, meaning that you can either make less or more.

These numbers are for car detailing in the United States. If you want to learn how much money you could be making in the UK, make sure to check out my article about it here.

Here are some factors which affect the money you can make:

  • Your business model 
  • Amount of work 
  • Type of services provided
  • Your reputation & charge rate

Let’s bring some details and specific numbers onto the surface.

Car Detailing Business Models

There are three ways of carrying on the business:

  • Fix-placed detailing
  • Temporary place detailing
  • Mobile detailing

The fix-placed model means that you own a garage, workshop, or any other premises adapted for auto detailing services.

This type describes full-time detailing more than side jobs, but you can have a small room without employees and do a side gig. Expect an average income of $150 to $170 for full service.

The model works best for long-term detailers as it gives the biggest revenue. Properly set up workshops with 3-4 bays and a couple of employees can make around $500k revenue annually.

The temporary place model is the most budget-friendly way to start a detailing side gig.

You can set up a workplace at any parking lot and charge clients 2 or 3 times lower than local IMO.

Set prices anywhere around $50 to $120 for the best outcome at the beginning.

The mobile detailing model works well for those who own vehicles such as RV, truck, or trailers.

Usually, with this business model, you can set prices above average. Count on a price point of up to $200. Clients are ready to pay for convenience (detailed car while they are at work \ home).

If you want to know what a full car detailing service should include, check out my guide for this here.

Amount of Work

How much time do you devote to working on paint, rims, engine?

Evaluate the work based on the amount of effort, time spent, and complexity of the procedures. These are the factors that greatly affect the final cost.

Explain in advance what you’re going to do, what is included in full detailing services, and what additional fees are due.

For example, your full detailing cost $150 + paint touch-ups ($50 to $150) + trim restoration ($30 to $100). $150 in 6 hours and $300 in 8 hours are completely different things.

If you want to learn how to clean a car like a dealership, check out my guide about it here.

Type Of Services Provided 

You don’t have to own a car detailing franchise to make decent money. In order to raise revenue, you can take such a simple step as introducing additional services.

Based on the type of services provided your income may drastically vary. For example (not all services):

Hand washes: You can earn $25 to $50 per session by simply washing the car carefully. Add on buffing and make even more money.

Full-service package: Customers like to buy a ready-made solution and not have to worry about the little things.

This is especially true for hurried and impatient people with an ardent temperament.

Feel free to estimate full service detailing at $150.

Engine bay detailing: Cleaning the engine bay takes around 1 hour of your time and costs around $50.

Waxing, polishing, buffing: The lower bound for waxing is about $35 or $75, depending on the type of car.

The larger the car, the more expensive the procedure costs. The upper limit can be as high as $150 for quality services. 

Paint protection: Paint protection film or vinyl services can skyrocket up to $10k depending on your skills, materials used, and square foot covered.

Also, ensure not to target only owners with used cars as your potential clientele. New vehicles also have to be detailed for various reasons. Check the reasons out here.

This short table describes how much money you can make on waxing during your weekends. I set an average price of $50 per waxing.

Weekend(2 days)Monthly (8 days)Annually(240 days)
Waxing 1 car per day$100$400$12000
Waxing 2 cars per day$200$800$24000
Waxing 3 cars per day$300$1200$36000

Let’s assume that you have seriously decided to go into this side job (ready to dedicate your whole weekend).

You have enough knowledge, tools, and skills to do full service detailing (interior and exterior deep cleaning) + hand washing + waxing. Roughly speaking it costs about $200.

Weekend(2 days)Monthly (8 days)Annually(240 days)
Full service 1 car per day (up to 5 hours)$400$1600$48000
Full service 2 cars per day (up to 10 hours)$800$3200$96000

Those are pretty serious numbers, huh? Some professionals are capable of dealing with even 3 cars daily! What you can do instead is to partner up with another auto detailer or friend.

That way you speed up the process majorly and both of you earn extra money while talking about life, hobbies, and whatever comes to mind.

Useful tip: Provide customers with the services they really need instead of cramming people with unnecessary extra features. Satisfied customers will use your services several times.

This will bring in a lot more money in the end than if you sell an unnecessary service and make an extra $50 one time. Plus, credibility builds a reputation.

Make sure to offer a service that removes grainy paint from a car. If you want to know how this works, check out my guide for it here.

Reputation & Charge Rate 

It doesn’t matter whether you live in a small town or a huge metropolis. Every business is first and foremost built on human relationships.

This is especially true for car detailing.

Your potential customers want the best quality for the least money. But that doesn’t mean they will do anything to save money (although some people do).

Having a car waxed by a professional costs around $60 to $80 on average. Having a car waxed by someone with a great reputation can cost up to $200 or even $300. 

Give yourself a reputation as a reliable detailer (or company) and then people will have no problem accepting a higher than average rate on the market.

Detailing is much more than rubbing and buffing a car mechanically. Many car enthusiasts understand that they are paying extra for minor details that may escape the attention of a novice detailer.

There are many other reasons why car detailing is worth it for car owners. Check out my article about it here.

A beginner with no reputation has to charge two or three times less than a reputable detailing professional.

Plus, by boosting your reputation, you gain new clients who tell their acquaintances and friends. It works like a domino effect.

Work hard, in the beginning, to get the cream of the crop later. So, once you know how much money car detailing brings, it’s high time to talk about what the expenditures are.

In order to have a consistent cash flow, make sure to convince your customers that cars need to be detailed regularly. If you want to know how often exactly, check out my article about it here.

Expenditures To Start A Car Detailing Side Hustle

Depending on your business model, expenditures vary. Let’s inspect each of the three models briefly.

Mobile Detailing 

Obviously, you need a mobile rig to launch the business. Great if you already have an RV.

But if you don’t, you’ll have to shell out money for a new RV and get it ready to go. This includes the purchase of special equipment and attachments.

How much does it cost?

The RV will cost you about $5000 + about $15000 for extras. After all, you’ll be spending about 8 hours a day in the van. Let’s see what the expenditures are.

First-time Expenses 

  • Attorney + Accountant ($1,800)
  • Mobile detailing system & equipment ($6,300)
  • Basic tools ($300)
  • Wastewater reuse system ($2,500)
  • Chemicals and supplies to start with ($500)
  • Some ads, social pages, basic marketing ($1,000)
  • Merchant service ($300)
  • Clothes and protective equipment ($300)
  • Get licensed ($150) 
  • Cash on hand ($3,000 to $5,000)

Total: $15,000 to $23,000 to launch the business. Plus monthly expenses:

Monthly Expenses

  • Leasing the RV costs $400. You can buy RV in advance for approximately $5000 depending on the state. (included in $23,000 listed above)
  • Van insurance + liability $150 to $200
  • Cell expenses $50 to $100
  • Accountant + merchant fees $150
  • Office supplies around $30
  • Tool maintenance + chemicals $250 to $350
  • Ads and social media $100 to $300

Total: expect numbers in the range of $700 to $1,500 monthly. This all adds up to about $19000, which needs to be invested before you can start.

With a touch of persistence and a little bit of luck, you can recoup that money in 10 to 12 weekends.

Temporary Place Detailing

In terms of expenses, it’s the same as mobile detailing. Similar expenditures, similar tools but distinctive strategies to develop business.

The great difference is that you have to deal with the administration of parking lots, gasoline stations, etc (or any other place).

Expect around $20,000 to launch a temporary place detailing.

Fixed Place Detailing

This business model requires more money than mobile or temporary place detailing. You can expect a number of about $35,000 to $40,000 or even more.

That is for a small garage with a couple of detailing bays and a pair of employees. If we talk about a big garage with cutting-edge tools, technologies, you can easily go over $100,000.

Plus, monthly expenses are gonna be much bigger. In general, expect around $30,000 for the launching + $10,000 monthly to pay salaries, rents, and overhead costs.

Fixed place detailing is more suitable if you want to make a full-sized business out of your side hustle.

The biggest difference of this model is that rent is 5-6 times higher compared to leasing a van, plus you have to pay your employees (if you don’t hire some, there is a great chance that you will not earn enough to cover fees).

Side Hustle to Full Business Car Detailing Opportunity

If you are the person who thinks ahead of time, then detailing is just for you. Detailing side gig has a great potential to turn into a full-fledged, sustainable business.

If you put a lot of effort into it and do it right (the right marketing strategy, customer relations, communication and recruitment, and so on), you have a good chance of making a real business that can replace a full-time job.

In the tables above, I counted the profits made from basic services (working twice a week with average intensity gave us $1,600 within a month)

Let’s calculate how much money can be made by investing more time and resources. 

5 full detailings a week (around 25 hours of work weekly) + additional services (around 15 hours weekly) = 5*$200 + $750 = $1,750 weekly working an average of 40 hours. That is pretty conservative by the way, but this model still gives you $7,000 monthly.

You can work harder or get rest after 20 hours weekly. The main feature is that you are the boss (work as much as you want)

As Steve Jobs said, it’s necessary to work not 12 hours a day, but with your head. This also applies in full measure to car detailing.

If you have gained a lot of experience in detailing but don’t want to work more physically, you can get an assistant to cope with clients, hire employees, managers, etc.

It doesn’t mean you can put your feet up on the table and do nothing. On the contrary, you will have more responsibility, but the tasks will become more global and interesting.

Now it’s up to you to decide how to proceed, how to develop your business, what to do not just to maintain the flow of clients, but to increase it.

Since a medium-size car detailing garage can make as much as $500,000 of revenue, it’s no need to say that this business is easily able to give a head start to the main job. 

Why Is A Car Detailing Side Job A Good Choice?

If you are a car detailing OCD like me, you can make a great stack of cash on this business.

It can bring you an extra $400 weekly if you work 5 hours per day during the weekend. But what else makes car detailing a great side hustle?


Steady demand for detailing services predates the invention of the car. It is a bit paradoxical, but the absolute truth is that servants used to take care of horses (so horses live longer).

With the invention of the car, the process remained similar, with fancy car dealerships replacing stables and everything else remaining the same. 

Mastering car detailing means steady demand and great opportunities to make extra money.

Easy to Start

To start this side job you don’t need a Ph.D. or super-specific knowledge (unless you want to become the #1 expert in car detailing).

All you need to start is basic skills, enthusiasm, and a little bit of cash on hand. Once you have that, talk to your close friends, neighbors, relatives.

Explain why they should not use the local automated car wash but use your services instead. Here is a list of all the differences between these services that you should check out.

If you need help to find reasons for it, check out my article about all the reasons why car detailing is important here.

Make sure they understand that you are offering hand washes for a low rate (or absolutely free at the start). 

Also there are times when car detailing makes more sense than at other times. If you want to know when you should detail a car, check out my guide about it here.

Economy & Quality

The modern economy is tough. Sometimes it’s hard to afford a brand new car. Let’s put some numbers to compare.

11 years — that is the average age of the vehicle on the road now. Back in the 1970s, this number was as low as 5 years.

Imagine people are storing the same car for 11+ years. Of course, they want to keep the car as fresh as possible.

Another point is modern cars’ quality. Manufacturers protect the paint, interior, and trim much better than 50 years ago.

Yet, all that beauty requires regular maintenance.

Related questions

Is Car Detailing Side Gig Suitable For Students?

Detailing side hustle works well for students, high-school kids, etc. Working the whole summer 5 days a week, you can make as much as $ 10,000 on average.

How Do I Get Paid for Car Detailing?

Most of the time your clients will pay cash. But I recommend taking care of your clientele. Make sure to provide clients with other payment options such as Google Pay, Apple Pay, Venmo, Zelle, PayPal, etc. Not everyone has enough cash in the pocket. 

How Should I Start A Car Detailing Side Gig?

You can start with your relatives, neighbors, or friends. Since they know about your interest in detailing, it’ll be easier for them to trust you with their vehicle. Before you start, make sure to have at least a little bit of experience.

Key Takeaways

  • You can earn $25 to $50 per session by simply washing the car carefully
  • Full-service detailing can cost around $200
  • You can make $1,600 weekly on car detailing
  • Workshops with 3-4 bays and a couple of employees can make $500k revenue annually
  • You can replace the main job with car detailing
Jan-Lucas Ganssauge
Jan-Lucas Ganssauge