Price Guide: What Car Detailing Prices To Charge As An Auto Detailer

Setting the correct price as a car detailer can seem challenging, given the variety of different pricing options available.

After doing extensive research, I noticed that pricing is actually quite simple, which is why I want to show you how much you should charge as a car detailer in this post.

Quick Answer

On average, the price for a car detail service should range between $50 and $2,500, depending on the size of the car, the service provided, and multiple other factors. A basic wash for a regular car should cost $50-$125, while a premium detailing service with polishing should cost up to $2,500.

As mentioned, the price to charge depends on a variety of facors, predominantly on the service provided and the size of the car.

Check the following table to find out, how much to charge as a professional car detailer for different services and different car sizes:

Average Cost For A Regular Car Average Cost For A Large Car (SUV, Truck, Van etc.)
Basic wash (Full exterior hand wash, interior vacuuming)$50 – $125$75 – $150
Premium Wash (Basic wash plus clay bar and waxing)$150 – $200$200 – $300
Deluxe Wash (Premium Wash plus polishing and ceramic coating)$600 – $1,500$900 – $2,500
These prices are a great rule of thumb and will maximize your profits

As you can see, there is no fixed price you should charge. Prices vary as a result of different factors, so there is always a range in which you can price your service.

Factors To Consider When Setting Your Car Detail Service Prices

Make sure to consider the following aspects when you set prices for a professional car detail:

  • Type of wash
  • Size of the car
  • Material cost
  • What type of clients do you have
  • What your position in the market is
  • What the competition charges
  • Stationary or mobile car detailing business
  • Amount of dirt on the car
  • Discounts to provide
  • Regional/terrain considerations

Type Of Wash

The type of wash is one of the main factors that influences the amount of money you should charge your clients.

In the table, above I worked with three kinds of packages, but you can build as many as you like.

In the end, the type of service matters.

The more service the customer expects and the more time you spend on a car, the more you should charge.

A basic wash, including pre-wash treatment with snow foam, a two-bucket hand wash, tire cleaning, interior vacuuming, and car drying, is done in about 30 minutes to 1.5 hours.

If the client expects you to apply a special car wax as well, the service also has to include a full clay bar treatment of the car, the wax application, plus polishing off any wax residue after the wax has dried.

This takes considerably more time than a basic wash, so you should adapt your price.

Size Of The Car

Bigger cars, like SUVs, vans, or trucks, have a much bigger surface area than regular cars, such as a VW Golf.

This not only means that you have to spend more time for the same kind of service, but you will also end up using significantly more material.

Washing big cars is generally a lot more work and needs more material, which is why you should increase your price for big cars.

As a client, the size of your vehicle is a major factor when it comes to the cost to detail the car.

Material Cost

Make sure to calculate your overhead costs in order to set the right price.

Material cost is highly dependent on the kind of materials you want to use.

The price for a single microfiber towel could, for example, range from less than $1 per piece up to $25 or more.

Any other kind of material, like wash mitts, car waxes, or spray sealants, would naturally also be subject to a variety of price ranges.

The amount of material used also plays a big role in how you should set your prices.

An expensive car wax that you can use for 50 cars might end up being more cost effective than a cheap car wax that only lasts for 10 cars.

You will end up having to buy the cheap wax 5 times in order to wax the same amount of cars, so it might be more expensive in the end.

What Kind Of Client Do You Have

One could also rephrase that question into “What kind of cars do you detail?”.

If you only detail high-end luxury cars, where any small scratch in the clear coat could result in your client not paying an invoice, you need to be extra careful and use better materials and take more time for the detailing job.

Of course, this needs to be reflected in the price. You may charge a little bit higher auto detailing prices with this type of clients.

Moreover, people who own luxury cars most likely value them as an investment and are willing to spend a significant amount of money on their cars.

On the other hand, if you only do business with car owners who just want their car professionally cleaned once before they sell it, you will not be able to charge premium prices.

What Is Your Position In The Market

Many people’s first instinct is that it is best to detail as many cars as possible per a day to make maximum profit.

But sometimes, attaining these higher profits can be done by reducing the number of details per day while subsequently charging more for the service.

Of course, the market demand for more expensive details has to be there, which is why it is important to consider your current and future position in the market.

Maybe it is more lucrative for you to just detail one car per day, but charge a hefty price because you use the best products or otherwise offer something that your competitors do not.

Do not get tricked into thinking that only detailing a higher quantity of cars will increase your profits.

It might be better to serve a different type of clientel instead and charge more money per car.

What Does The Competition Charge

To a certain degree, the competition dictates the amount of money you can charge for you auto detailing services.

So it is firstly important to have an understanding of who your immediate competition is.

If you only detail high end cars, detailers that detail daily-use cars and charge $100 for a basic wash are not your competition.

But if you plan to charge $5,000 per car wash and other businesses that also only detail high-end cars charge $2,500, it might be hard to get clients.

Make sure to understand who your competition really is and check what they are charging.

Do You Own A Stationary Or Mobile Detailing Business

This is important to consider, because a mobile detailing business has different costs than a stationary one, and vice versa.

If you have a mobile detailing business, you have most likely bought a car for several thousand dollars that requires insurance, gasoline, wheels, etc. in order to function.

Moreover, you will be driving to your clients, which is time you cannot spend detailing cars and earning money.

If you have a stationary detailing business on the, other hand, people most likely drive their car to your place in order to have it detailed.

This saves you time that you can spend detailing more cars.

At first, this sounds great, but consider that you most likely pay a substantial rent (or you might have even bought a location for hundreds of thousands of dollars).

Also, stationary car detailing equipment is more expensive, so this advantage might be smaller than it would at first appear.

I am not saying that one or the other kind of detailing business is more expensive, per se.

It is just important to consider fixed and running costs of a business when setting your prices.

How Dirty Is The Car You Detail

A dirty car needs more work and time to look great again.

It is a similar issue as mentioned previously concerning the physical size of the car at hand.

The more time and material you have to spend in order to clean a car to your standards, the higher your price has to be.

As a business strategy, you can consider the level of dirtiness as a cost factor.

Instead of only looking at the size of the car, also consider how dirty it is and calculate a price on these two variables.

This way, a really dirty VW Jetta can be more expensive to clean than a slightly dusty Range Rover, even though the Range Rover is much larger.

Discounts Are Easy To Give

Just imagine that you have set a price, you have now run your business for a few months, and you notice that you are losing money.

This means you have to increase your price, maybe even drastically, in order to make a living.

This is a tough situation that could cost you clients, forcing you to increase prices again, losing clients again, and so on, becoming a vicious circle.

It is much better to approach this the other way. Instead of trying to set a cheap price, set a higher price and give your clients discounts.

This can be a first-time discount, a referral discount, a birthday discount, you name it.

The thing is that everybody loves discounts, but nobody loves price increases.

Moreover, discounts can be highly flexible, so giving a discount also signals to your customer that you are actually worth more than the asking price.

Furthermore, discounts are great for customer retention and customer satisfaction. Make sure to try this tactic!

Where Do You Live

Last, but not least, the area you live in is also a big factor in the price you should charge.

Big cities, like New York, LA, or San Francisco generally require you to pay higher taxes, pay more for living space, etc.

It is more expensive to operate and live in these areas, so your prices have to reflect this.

But don’t worry, people in these areas also earn more than in rural areas, so they can pay more for your services.

Hourly Rate vs. Service-Oriented Pricing For Auto Detailing

Setting the correct price as a car detailer requires you to consider a lot of different factors.

There is also a much simpler way to set your price.

This is setting an hourly rate and multiplying this with the time needed to clean a car. Pretty simple.

So why consider all of the factors I pointed out in the previous paragraphs and not just set an hourly rate?

The reason is that this calculation leaves money on the table.

Imagine the following scenario:

A) You charge $100 an hour, no matter the service you provide. Assuming you detail cars for 8 hours per day, this means a revenue of $800 per day.

B) You have four vans for a basic wash priced at $150 each that will consume 4 hours of your day. Moreover, you have 3 basic washes for regular cars priced at $100 each, taking another 2.5 hours of your day. Lastly you have a premium wash for a regular car priced at $200, costing 1.5 hours of your day. This results in 8 hours of work and a revenue of $1,100.

Using a service-oriented pricing scenario in the second case leads to a revenue increase of more than 25%.

Of course, this is just an example and those numbers do not necessarily align with reality.

Nevertheless, a service-oriented pricing scenario is much better than an hourly wage multiplied by the time worked.

6 Tips To Increase Your Profit As A Car Detailer (Without Changing The Detailing Price)

Now that you know what price to charge for your services, the questions remains of whether there are ways to increase your profits still further.

And trust me, there are a lot of ways. Below you will find some examples you can try out and implement directly.

Sell Products As Add-ons

Probably the easiest tactic to increase your profits is to not only sell your services, but also to sell products on the side like car shampoo, microfiber cloths, interior detailer, etc.

This generates a second income stream for you, increasing your overall revenue and profits.

The only downside to this is that you have to buy inventory, so you have a high upfront investment before you can start earning your money back.

In order to minimize your risk, you can ask manufacturers if they are willing to provide you with free inventory and you only pay them what you really sell yourself.

Give Classes

People love experiences and are willing to pay for them. So why not make car detailing an experience and give classes on how to do it?

Many of your customers probably enjoy learning what they spend a lot of money on when they give their cars to you to have them detailed.

Moreover you can charge them some money for it, so it is a win-win situation.

Another advantage is that a class can be held with many people at once, meaning that your hourly rate increases significantly with the amount of people joining your class.

And don’t worry about losing clients this way.

Just because someone wants to learn about car detailing does not mean that this person will go through the effort of buying the equipment and subsequently stop booking your services.

Give Special Discounts

As mentioned above, discounts are easy to give and they are also a great way to increase revenue and profit.

This might sound contradictory, but it can work wonders.

Imagine you implement a referral discount. Everybody whose referral results in a booking gets 25% off of their next booking.

Sure, you have lost 25% for this booking, but you have also gained a new client that could become a returning customer for years to come.

Another advantage is that you can be extremely creative with the discounts you give.

You can give discounts for basically whatever you want.

People love saving money, so they will naturally be attracted to the offer.

All of this makes discounts a great tool for customer retention and customer satisfaction, which will ultimately increase your profits.

Implement Special Sales

Do you know why businesses love Black Friday so much?

As you might imagine, it is not due to the significant decrease in profit per product that they receive as a result of the sales.

These price drops, however, result in a lot more goods being sold, thereby greatly increasing profits.

You can try the same principle. Start implementing special sales, if you have the capacity.

It will likely lead to an increase in bookings, winning new clients and more money for you.

The sale will eat away some of your margin per car, as the detail cost for you will not change. But the increase in bookings should make up for it.

Implement A Loyalty Programm

The idea of implementing a loyalty program is similar to the one of giving discounts.

Implementing a loyalty program for your most loyal clients is a great way to earn more money.

These clients will probably run around telling everybody about your great service.

This can result in a lot more bookings and new clients that you otherwise would not have reached.

Never underestimate the power of a happy client.

Key Takeaways

  • Use a service-based pricing model
  • Do not be afraid to charge a premium
  • Use discounts to your advantage
  • Consider what clients you serve
  • Look for options to generate more revenue streams

Jan-Lucas Ganssauge
Jan-Lucas Ganssauge