Pricing your auto detailing services for profit can be a daunting task. Underpricing the detail work you offer to customers is the quickest way to go out of business. Every service you offer, from an exterior wash to engine cleaning has a fair market value (a price at which both buyers and sellers are willing to do business), attached to it. If your goal is to be near or the top of that scale as often as possible your professional skills should mirror the prices you charge.
Incorporating a professional looking price sheet that shows the customer your set prices makes it easier to get the price your skills call for. Many consumers think that it’s bargaining time if you just quote the price verbally without referring to a price sheet or at least something you looked up on the computer.
When pricing a detailing job first take into consideration the condition of the vehicle you’re asked to comfortable detail. Interior cleaning is one area that takes time, patience and thoroughness. An interior on one vehicle with a large soda stain on the front passenger seat might require two to three hours of time while another might only need an hour. Obviously, an SUV is going to require more of you and your pricing should reflect such. Let’s assume your price for an average size car is $150; most SUV owners understand that although bigger might be better, bigger also means costlier. And not just a bigger body, but bigger tires, rims and more cargo space. Most car trunks will usually just need a good vacuuming, but because in an SUV what would be considered the trunk might be used as play space for the kids or seating space, more cleaning is required, so raising your price $25 to $50 to account for additional cleaning will not only sound fair but very reasonable.
How do you price for profit? Understanding the value of your time (labor) is the first step. Factoring in the cost of supplies and equipment use is next. Last, but not least is your skills. Let’s begin with supplies and equipment.
Figuring the cost of supplies and equipment you’ll use is relatively simple. Soap, water, tire dressing, even towels (cleaning) have an expense attached to them. On average it will cost $5 to $7 in supplies to detail the average size vehicle. Jobs that require purchasing additional supplies can be priced accordingly. What most detailers forget to factor when pricing a detail is equipment cost. Not only does it cost to run the vacuum, but each time you plug in that hi-speed buffer consider the cost of electricity to operate it, then include the future expense of eventually replacing or upgrading. Sure, these expenses are small but keep in mind that updating your equipment and consistent inventory upkeep is what keeps your business growing.
How much is your time worth? That depends upon two things, the skills you’ve acquired and more importantly, your self-image. Whatever the going rate for a complete auto detail in your city, it should afford a professional detailer an annual salary in the $30,000 to $50,000 range assuming you operate year round. That means your time should translate into a minimum of $15 per hour. In many southern cities where winter temperature averages hover in the 40 to 50 degree range, it’s not hard to maintain a comfortably consistent income.
If you’re not comfortable using buffers or have not yet learned to clay a car, you are limiting your financial possibilities. Get trained. This is where your skills come into play. I once quoted a potential customer a complete detail price higher than what he was used to paying. When I mentioned waxing and buffing during my exploratory conversation with him he quickly said he did not want any type of buffer used on his car because of a previous bad experience. Once I explained to him the differences in buffers, the relative risks involved, and how the detailer’s experience comes into play when choosing and using orbital or high-speed buffers, he felt at ease enough to allow me to buff his car with a 16 pound orbital. Because I came across as knowledgeable, experienced and confident he felt comfortable paying a higher price.
I’ve found that the biggest obstacle to getting paid what a professional detailer thinks he should get paid largely depends on self-esteem. What makes one detailer think they can charge $225 when another detailer in the same market four blocks away is providing essentially the same service but charging $150? Self-esteem! What are the skills and experience you’ve acquired worth? $15 an hour, $25 an hour, or maybe you believe you’re worth even more!
It’s all up to you. Pricing your services is an art. With each quote consider the condition of the vehicle, your costs, your skills, your knowledge, your experience. But most of all, consider your time. You’re worth what you believe.