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Laxmangl 05-02-2008 12:21 PM

How much should I charge?
Okay, so I have worked 40 hours a week in the summer (mostly for minimum wage) since i was fifteen. I don't really want to do that this summer, so I am thinking about detailing some cars. Mostly just friends and family, plus coworkers and the like.
My question arises as to how much I should charge. I have tried calling a few places today to get a few benchmarks, but for some reason all the phones were down (odd eh?).

Anyway, I know a couple people here do detailing jobs, and I was wondering how much you charge.

Thanks for any help.

JayGXP 05-02-2008 12:26 PM

well how far are you willing to go.

what are you planning on doing?

are you going to do in and out?

you obviously need to charge enough to cover what you piad for all the stuff. and all the time your putting into it.

so untill we know what products your thinking of using and how far your willing to go to "detail" cant help you on what to charge

Laxmangl 05-02-2008 01:03 PM

I am willing to do basically whatever they want. Wash, wax, clay if they really want it, wheels, tires, interior, carpet scrubbing, leather cleaning., windows, and mirrors.

I havent really thought much about what products. For my family's cars I would use what I use on my own. Which is just some blue coral wash/wax, and elbow grease for cleaning. Then either nu-finish for a quick polish, or liquid glass.

JayGXP 05-02-2008 01:20 PM

so some Relatively cheap products

i would say if you do wash clay and wax then 30-40$

if you add vacuum and carpet scrub and just basic interior cleaning.

i would say 50$

well if you do it like me any way. but it you just do a real fast job and you can get all that done with in 2 hours then i would say 35$

but also if you get to the point of cleaning like haro does then i would push it more to 60$ easily.

it all depends on quality and time.

Laxmangl 05-02-2008 01:35 PM

Thanks a lot, That is what I was thinking along the lines of.

crash93ssei 05-02-2008 01:48 PM

One thing that I have found is that unless you can REALLY "WOW" the owner when done, show a VERY noticeable difference from before and after, you really can't charge much. Also, that will basically be only a good cleaning, not really a detail ;) I learned that last year. I tried doing a few cars up last year with the products I used on my car, but the wow factor just wasn't there. This year though, I have spent alot of time researching on and forums. I have learned a ton of stuff and have purchased a buffer, pads, top quality polishes. I have learned technique, how to use the products properly, what to look for in the results, etc... Now, with every car that I do people are more and more impressed with my work and I am actually proud to see a car rolling around with my work all over it. I can now take a car from looking terrible with little reflection and basically make it look better then new except deep scratches ;)

As far as what to charge? You really shouldn't go by me for a few reasons...

Although I am just starting out, like yourself, I am keeping my main job and have no plans yet of trying to make it on just my detailing jobs. Because of this, I am not really making much money at the moment detailing... all said and done, minus materials, I am at about $8 an hour. That is fine for me as right now I am mainly going for the experience and not looking to make it a business.... yet. My first car I did was our '03 SSEi and it took me about six hours. Since then, I have gotten more experience and it is actually taking LONGER now then it did before because I am more picky and can get even more correction.

Another reason not to go by what I charge is different areas that we live in. Where I live, most people are just scraping by right now and really don't have enough money to properly care for their cars. Sure, there are alot of people that DO have enough money, but I have to get my work out there first before I can get to them, which brings us to my first reason above ;)

Right now, I am ONLY concentrating on the outside of the vehicles and not even touching the inside. So, for only the outside, tires, rims, wheel wells, it takes me about 8 - 10 hours to do the way I want. Everyone knows that I am only doing the outside, and they are also told first thing why I am so cheap right now and that the prices will go up next year. I plan on picking up a carpet extractor and a small steam cleaner next year to do interiors with, so by then I will have the outside portion down and will be working on learning technique inside the cars, so at that time, I will be doing FULL detail work.

My advice????

Save some money
Spend alot of time on and to learn as much as you can
Buy some high quality polishes, towels, pads, wheel cleaners, a sealer or wax, and an orbital buffer. Don't skimp here, spend around $300 - $400.... trust me, you won't be sorry if you plan on making money.
Do your own car first, then a few cars of immediate family for free just to get technique and learn the products you bought.
For interiors, you will have to spend alot of time on them without the "good stuff", but you might be able to get by with a shop vac and some good cleaners and elbow grease.
Call your work what it is. You don't want people running around with a car you only cleaned up and having them say you detailed it. Sure, it might get by with some people, but when people realize that your "detail" is only a deep cleaning and a coat of wax, repeat business will be hard to find, and your reputation will go down the crapper.
DON"T quit your job. You are going to have a hard time making alot of money at first anyways, plus, then how are you going to finance your supplies. Not to mention that when winter comes along you have to find another job...
HAVE FUN!!!!! and learn as you go


Also, don't overcharge you work. If you are doing a $50 job, don't try to charge $55. If your work is good enough to charge $300, you will know it ;) Do some cars, then charge by the quality of your work.

95SLE 05-02-2008 04:56 PM

Good advice above.

Also do not expect any pro detailer to give you pricing on a forum but it is possible to read between the lines. Take the time to look at the pics posted on the forums mentioned above. These guys and gals are proud of their work and the technique they use. For the most part they share information.

If you are serious be prepared to spend 200 to 300 to get started. Once it hooks you be prepared to spend more. I have yet to find a pro detailer that is not willing to spend an extra 50 to 60 on a product that his peers are raving about.

Hunt up pics from Peter on this forum. I have seen him in action and he has amazing technique with a buffer.

*B2* 05-02-2008 06:42 PM

I charge $100 for a full exterior detail and an additional $25 for the interior. Haven't set a price on the engine yet as I've done the first couple for free as a bonus. My advice would be to start with a rotary buffer. I made the mistake of getting the UDM RO even though I already knew how to use a rotary. A PC/UDM just isn't powerful enough to do serious correction. Alos, you can't remove wetsanding scratches with a UDM very well. This really limits you. Also, a rotary is MUCH faster. You can use larger pads and the machine doesn't bog down. My first full customer detail took me all day, from 8:00-8:00. about 8 hours of polishing and another 4 on interior/engine/washing/claying. Proper detailing is time consuming and is worth good money. My customers so far have been very pleased with the outcome and have told me that I am cheap considering the results. I agree, but I also can't charge $250 just starting out. Materials wise I have about $350 worth of machinery and products. That is buying products only during the best sales and my Makita rotary is used. I also plan to just offer a wash and wax for $50 if that is what the customer wants. It kills me to leave the swirls though...

Laxmangl 05-02-2008 06:52 PM

Thanks a lot guys.

To crash, I havent quit my job, It was seasonal work and it is now over. I am still planning on getting another job, but havent found one yet. I am trying to find one that pays decent. I am just trying to make a lil bit of money on the side cleaning some cars. (Next school year I have a job as a sub cleaner at a high school)

This will be my first season doing anything like this, so I figure if I can make a little bit of extra cash, and learn what I am doing, In a while I can start to actually make a profit.

Again thanks for all the help.

94SLEeper 05-03-2008 04:52 AM

I'd charge around $50-75 for exterior labour(wash, clay, wax), and about $30-50 for interior(vacuum, shampoo, condition, windows, trim). Then would change my cost on products they pick out. I personally don't think its much to ask for if you really think about how much elbow grease and detail/effort you put into either exterior or interior.

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