Professional Carwashing & Detailing

Survey of American Detailing Shops: Retail Detailing Prices

September 11, 2012

Is your pricing competitive? This might be the toughest decision an auto detailer makes. Price yourself low and you’ll be busy … but will you make money? Set your prices high, and you’ll make a healthy profit on each car, but just how many cars will you service?

We asked 47 detailers for quotes.

Businesses we found on Google and Yelp in major cities across the USA were sent this email:

“Full detail Saturn 4 door”

I’m selling my car and need a quote on getting my car detailed inside
and out but not the engine.

The interior is a little gross from my kids and the paint is scuffed
up a bit in some spots. What do you think this would cost and how
long would it take?


The email included three photos of an 8-year-old Saturn sedan in average condition.

The Results

Average quote: $215

Highest quote received: $399
Lowest: $100

Average time of service: 4.1 hours

Longest estimate: Seven hours
Shortest: Two hours

Average response time: 86 minutes

Longest time to respond: 10 hours
Shortest: 10 minutes

56 percent of shops didn’t respond at all.

This was alarming. We were expecting roughly a 25 percent non-response rate. Good news for the “good shops": Half your competitors are lazy.

What it means to you: Two lessons.

1. Price matters: Don’t be the high bid, and don’t be the low bid.

Imagine yourself as Erica. Your car might be worth $5,000. A bid of $399 is not appropriate relative to the value of her car. But with an average quote of $215, $100 is suspiciously low. And she would be right to question that quote: It can’t possibly be a thorough service. She’s going to choose the bids near the middle, read online reviews, and probably call two shops before she finalizes an appointment. A few times a year, check in on your competitors’ pricing to be sure you’re where the customers are: The “middle” of the market.

2. Respond to every email within three hours, no exceptions.

Let’s face it … a lot of emails are tire kickers. When I ran Ace Car Reconditioning, only 20-30 percent of them became customers. But not responding is unacceptable. And responding late – anything past three hours – says to the customer “you’re not important to us.” Think of the last time you needed a plumber, electrician, or accountant. Did you hire the late responder? Be sure that all emails reach your cell phone. Check every two hours. Every email gets a response, every time.