For many, recreational vehicles (RVs) symbolize adventure. Whether for an awkward, yet cherished, family trip filled with sightseeing and touristy stops or a nationwide tour for an award-winning artist who is at the top of all the mainstream charts, countless long days and nights are spent traveling across the country in RVs.
And then for others, like Eric Newman’s New Image Detailing, RVs symbolize a business venture — an opportunity to delve into a small, but steady, market and help these esteemed vehicles shine like new as they head out on the road for another journey ahead.
The profitable road less traveled
After moving to Palm Coast, Florida, from upstate New York and working for another detailing company that specialized in RV care, Newman decided it was time to start his own business. “I saw there were not a lot of companies focusing mainly on RVs and boats, so I actually [gathered] my change that I had saved up and bought a tank and the basic items I needed and set out on my own,” recalls Newman, owner of New Image Detailing. “I saw the need for it and the need for quality compared to blowing through the campgrounds, washing and throwing on some spray wax as so many seem to do.”
Instead, Newman prefers to hand wax while educating his customers on why it’s so important to maintain their coaches.
“These RVs cost hundreds of thousands, sometimes millions, of dollars. It’s important to maintain them properly, and most customers do not know the specifics of what can happen if you don’t,” he asserts. “I take the time to explain it all fully.”
His instructive detailing methods have certainly paid off. A little over two years later, and the mobile detailing company has numerous clients scattered throughout principally Florida and Tennessee — and a few places in between.
In fact, New Image Detailing has piqued the interest of some rather recognizable people. “I have come in contact with [some] amazing people while detailing RVs,” shares Newman. “[Recently], I detailed a Prevost® in Pigeon Forge, [Tennessee], which used to be Christina Aguilera’s tour bus.”
Additionally, located up the road from the Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Newman’s crew has worked with people in NASCAR. “We have detailed NASCAR driver Justin Allgaier’s [coach] several times,” notes Newman.
Likewise, just this past month Fox Racing (Fox Head Inc.), a motocross apparel brand largely recognized across the globe, was traveling from California and contacted New Image Detailing to wash its representative rig for an upcoming race at the Daytona International Speedway. “Our crew met [the Fox team] even though it was dark [outside]; they got [the job] done,” states Newman. “They gave us a load of their merchandise, which made the crew pretty excited.”
With a keen attention to providing optimal quality services, Newman’s mobile detailing company quickly outgrew its current setup, and has now added an additional van to better keep up with its growing customer base.
Yet, a second detailing van isn’t the only means of growth for the business. “[We now] work for several large dealerships, such as Excalibur Coach in Sanford, Florida,” states Newman. “At these dealerships, high-end RV customers will bring their coaches in for services and upgrades, and we will often be called in to detail them, buff them out to remove any flaws or swirls, to remove a shield off the front [and to] even sand and buff brand new coaches to remove any paint flaws or orange peel.”
Adding the bells and whistles
To effectively meet the needs of customers, Newman makes sure to always keep an eye out for anything that can benefit his car care business, including through inspiration from other detailers, watching YouTube videos and, as he proclaims, through reading Professional Carwashing & Detailing’s magazine and its e-newsletter (Carwash eNews).
“I go with what works. And, to me, [what’s new] isn’t always [what’s] best. Some of the old-school procedures involving elbow grease just [seem to] work better,” asserts Newman, adding that if something seems to be beneficial, he will always look into it. “I also periodically will ask my supplier if there are any new and upcoming chemicals I may want to try.”
Above all else, states Newman, it is imperative to know about the vehicles’ finishes and what different procedures are available to treat them and take care of them. “What I would tell auto detailers who are looking to get into working on large RVs and boats is that they need to realize these vehicles all have different materials on the outside,” explains Newman. “There are painted coaches, fiberglass, aluminum, vinyl, etc., [and] you need to be educated on caring for and restoring each [of these finishes]. I make it a point to continue learning as I go. I recently repaired the gel coat on a very large boat before I detailed it. I try to be diversified; and if I don’t know how to do it, I learn.”
By perfecting his products and techniques, Newman is able to offer customers a broad assortment of services. “I like to think I am pretty versatile,” he quips. “I often strip, clean and repaint/seal the roofs on the RVs. I do stainless steel cleaning. I remove 3M shields. I have even completely stripped and refinished all the teak on several gorgeous boats. I will take on any request my customer asks of me; and if I can’t do it myself, I will do my best to locate someone who can.”
Moreover, Newman strives to develop relationships with all of his customers by keeping them involved when they request a service. “My process is to assess the coach and then fully explain to them what their options are,” says Newman. “Does it need a wash and wax? Is it badly oxidizing? It may need a buff as well. I usually will take the time to demonstrate a small spot on their coach [to show] the difference between the two services, and most times they will opt for the buff which will bring the finish back to new.”
As far as pricing goes, New Image Detailing has set prices for each service, and the service will be determined by the condition of the RV. For example, notes Newman, most people want a wash and wax, but if the coach is severely oxidized, a wash and wax will not change how it looks — even though it would be clean and protected. “In this case, we would offer a buff, wash and wax,” he adds.
Hitting the road to success
Going above and beyond for customers just seems to come naturally for Newman and his crew, who will go out of their way to help any customer — even if it’s just fixing a bad TV connection or a piece of molding.
“I will say I have some of the best customers in the world. Oftentimes, if one of my Tennessee customers is traveling through Florida, [he or she] will call to find out what campground I’m working at and book a night or two there [for a] detour so I can detail [his or her] coach,” shares Newman.
He contributes the mutual love and respect shared between his business and its customers to his strong work ethic and honesty. “I really do end up having great relationships with my clients, and it has gotten me far,” says Newman. “The RV community is pretty tight-knit. Word of mouth is everything. I’m often invited to their BBQs and events, [and] I even recently visited one of their churches while I was in Tennessee and had lunch with them after. I stand behind my work, and I’m proud of it. I don’t strive to be too big because I don’t want to lose that personal touch they all seem to love so much.”
New Image Detailing might not strive to be the biggest, but the family business always aspires to be the best, continues Newman. “We try to get to know and form relationships with all our customers so they can feel secure and confident in the work we do, and hopefully [we] develop [lifelong] relationships,” he concludes. “It’s worked really well for us so far. We have been very blessed.”