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Writing in favor of fixed-site detailing

June 15, 2006
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Writing in favor of fixed-site detailing
Dave Echenoz

Operating a fixed detailing location has many advantages over mobile detailing. When establishing a business model, I look for short term cash flow and long term appreciation.

The following are my top ten reasons for choosing a fixed-site detailing operation instead of a mobile business:

1. No weather woes

Years ago our facility was not capable of housing all of the vehicles we needed to detail on any given day. We were forced to work outside and that wasn't enough.

Finally, I had to decide between adding an evening shift or starting a mobile detailing business. I concluded our weather is not conducive to detailing outside on a consistent basis.

We frequently get violent storms that pop up in the fall, spring and summer, and the winters are brutal with the wind and sub-zero temperatures. Therefore, I could not keep my promise to our customers to detail their cars if the weather would not cooperate.

The decision to work in the evening was essentially the right decision for our situation.

2. No environmental concerns

Where does the run off go while working on a customer's vehicle? What chemicals are sprayed into the air? I have friends who have owned pressure washing companies and had concerns regarding the grease or oil that would come off of the vehicles they were washing.

The rules regarding chemical run-off may vary from state-to-state. I am confident that with all of the current environmental concerns, in time these laws will become more stringent and the penalties will increase. Having a fixed-site enables detailers to avoid these worries.

3. No hidden expenses

Many self-employed mobile detailers look at the surface cost for what is needed to start their own business. Sounds easy — chemicals, a truck or van with a pressure washer and an employee.

But in addition to the obvious, there is also the price of gasoline, insurance for the vehicle, upkeep on the vehicle, as well as the insurance for the vehicles the company is working on.

Mobile detailers are required to carry "garage keepers" insurance when the vehicle is in the care, custody and control of the mobile detailer. Also required is garage liability insurance, required if the mobile detailer moves the customer's vehicle in any way.

The most critical and costly is pollution coverage, which insures the mobile detailer for any liabilities due to chemical run off or environmental issues. Coverage from these policies generally begins at a minimum of $1,000,000.

Fixed site detailers do not avoid all insurance costs, but are able to avoid many of these hidden costs.

4. Tax advantages

Depending on your part of the country, real estate appreciates on average about 3-5 percent per year, if not more. This can provide a comfortable nest egg leading into retirement.

In addition to long-term appreciation, you can recognize depreciation of your building , which will lead to a deduction of recognized income.

Mobile detailing has the capability of depreciating vehicles as well as equipment, the difference being when the depreciation is done for the vehicle, the vehicle essentially has no value due to miles and condition. Where as a building over the life of the depreciation grows in value, you can recognize the tax advantages now as your asset appreciates in value.

5. Better personnel management

Finding labor capable of working within our rules and guidelines is not an easy task. To allow a staff member to work unsupervised with the responsibility of equipment, a vehicle and product would be a very difficult task.

Fixed-site detailers have been dealt the better hand when it comes to employee management, no doubt.

6. Retail customers and opportunities

Make your facility a destination. Over the years we've worked hard to drive customers to our facility. Now we enjoy the fruits of our labor. As we add services, we enjoy more opportunities for offering customers services they want and need.

Customers recognize that through our growth we are not only stable, but also here to stay.

7. Less competition

Due to the lack of financial investment needed to start a mobile detailing company, mobile detailing companies have become very popular, especially in warmer climates. While competition is good in most cases, an oversaturated market spells trouble for many operators.

Many mobile detailers rely on auto dealers for work, but the detailers should be cautious, as auto dealers tend to take advantage of mobile detailers realizing their need for work and limited diversity.

8. Ability to growing your business

Having a fixed location has allowed us the opportunity to create many different profit centers which would be impossible to carry as a mobile detailer. I started operating our facility in 1987. At that time we opened with a detailing center and a full service carwash.

Over the years we have successfully added a truck accessory center, paint touch-up and dent repair centers, and an addition on our building which we rent out for an express lube center. Now instead of one or two profit centers, we operate four profit centers.

9. Increased level of trust

Customers who decide to have their vehicles detailed apply a certain level of trust for the vendor they chose.

To build a level of trust with a fixed operation would be much easier to accomplish than that of a mobile detailing service. You always know where to locate them if there is an issue or problem, and there is a full staff available on location to handle their problems.

10. More convenience

Many fixed detail operators offer express services that can be completed within twenty minutes or less. The equipment they have is developed for speed and efficiency.

For the customers that choose full-service detailing, we offer courtesy shuttle rides that are comparative to this convenience. The fixed-site also offers more expansive services and a better guarantee that the right amount of time was taken to do the job right.

Dave Echenoz is currently the manager of 14/69 Carwash Supercenter in Fort Wayne, IN. Dave manages three fixed detailing locations and three exterior tunnels. He has been in the detailing industry for over 21 years.