Professional Carwashing & Detailing

Four ways to make $40 or more on a car detail.

There needs to be a clear-cut definition that promotes the benefits to the customers.

April 25, 2013

You put in a lot of work to fill your calendar with new detailing appointments. But have you put much effort into making as much as possible with each appointment? If you could improve profits 10 – 20 percent, and in many cases not spend extra money, would you be willing to shuffle your service menu?

Here’s four tactics I used to increase per-car profits at my Beaverton, OR, detail shop.

Method 1: Separate and upsell some of the services in your complete detail package.        

How many restaurants give you an appetizer, beverage, entrée, and dessert for one price? Almost none. It’s no secret that restaurants lose money on entrees and make money on all the other stuff.

Take a look at your complete detail package. What’s essential, and what would the customer accept as optional?

Here’s steps you can remove from your detailing process and sell as optional services, as well as a price I’ve found customers willing to pay for them:

  • Engine detail ($25)
  • Longer-lasting paint sealant ($40)
  • Leather conditioning ($25)
  • Wheel wax ($25)
  • Wetsanding and polishing of deep clear coat scratches ($20-$40)
  • Pet hair removal ($25-$80)

Method 2: Don’t hesitate to stretch your price boundaries.

First, don’t offer flat rate pricing because someone always loses. If the car is a “cherry,” the customer is overpaying. When the car is a “dog,” you’re selling your work short.

Price your detail packages to have a range of $80 from the low end to the top end (ie, $200-$280 for a car, inside and out). Customers will try to “pin you down” on a final price over the phone, but I found an $80 “fudge factor” makes them comfortable enough to book an appointment and discover the final price when you meet later.

However…there will always be the occasional “nuclear bomb.” These have dog hair, food stains, mold, paint in the carpets, flaked paint, fire damage, mice, and more.

In my first 2 years in business, I stuck to my pricing menu and charged these “bombs” my max dollar amount. We lost money putting 12+ man hours into these. Very stupid.

Later, I didn’t hesitate to ask $100, $200, or $300 more for “bomb” cars and was delighted with how understanding most customers were about offering exceptional pricing for exceptional jobs.

Method 3: Create an “ultimate” package that groups all your special services, at a discount.

Bundles are appealing to your customers because:

  • They get a lot…for less. Their desires to consume, and save, are satisfied simultaneously.
  • Bundles make the buying decision simple. Many customers don’t want to put in the effort to differentiate a paste wax vs a paint sealant, or a light detail from a deep cleaning…so they may just choose your “ultimate” offering.

Your “bundle” might look like this:

  • Your basic detail.
  • Plus your most expensive sealant.
  • Plus wheel wax.
  • Plus leather reconditioning.
  • Plus glass repellant.
  • Plus engine detail.
  • Plus fabric sealant.

Bought individually, this might cost $325. But as a bundle…$265.

Can you imagine a lot of your customers saying “yes” to that?

Method 4: Offer something more than detailing.

You can do so much more to make your customers’ cars beautiful. Here are some examples of profitable services and the prices you can charge:

  1. Paint touch up. Recolor rock chips and small scratches for $40 - $80.
  2. Glass chip repair. About $45.
  3. Leather dye. Recolor worn seats for about $125.
  4. Wheel scuff repair. Grind, sand, and repaint alloy wheels for about $150 each.
  5. Headlight reconditioning. Wetsand and polish cloudy lenses for $60 - $80 a pair.
  6. Ozone odor removal. Eliminate smoke, mold, and mildew odors with an ozone generator for $50-$100.

About a third of customers who booked details opted for these “add on” services because they found it convenient to get the whole car freshened up in one appointment. You can buy “add on” systems from many companies online, and learn to use it at home, with DVD training.

Robert Keppel founded Ace Car Reconditioning in Beaverton, OR, in 2004. He now operates Applied Colors, a Tigard, OR, manufacturer and retailer of automotive reconditioning equipment.