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How Much to Charge for Car Detailing: Pricing for Profit

October 12, 2023 8 min. read
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Knowing how much to charge for car detailing can be the difference between running a profitable business, or barely getting by. 

How much you should charge for auto detailing will depend on a number of factors, including the location you service, vehicle size and condition, and what your competition is charging.

For example

  • R3 Auto Detailing in Houston charges between $120 to $280 for an exterior wash and wax based on the size, type and condition of the vehicle. A full interior cleaning will cost anywhere from $160 to $300.
  • Beyond Limits of Palm Beach is a mobile auto detailer. They charge between $120 to $160 for a premium wash based on the type of vehicle (car, SUV, truck), and between $350 to $390 for a full detail.
  • ReVibe Auto in the San Francisco Bay Area charges between $255 to $495 for an interior detail and between $355 to $595 for an exterior detail based on the type of vehicle they’re servicing.

But setting up auto detailing price lists isn’t any use if you don’t know how to calculate profitable prices in the first place.

In this guide, we’ll walk you through how to price auto detailing services and the different strategies you can use to win bigger and more profitable jobs.

Learn how to price car detailing services that are both profitable and competitive:

How to price car detailing services

Before you can set your car detailing price lists, you need to know how to calculate profitable prices. Here’s the formula you’ll use:

(Labor hours x Hourly labor rate) + Material costs + Overhead costs + Markup

1. Choose how to price your services

There are three different ways you can charge customers for your auto detailing services, per hour, per car size, and per detailing service.

  • Per hour – Charge your customers an hourly rate based on the number of hours you expect it will take to complete the service, then add on material costs, overhead costs, and your markup.
  • Per car size – The bigger the car, the more time and materials it will take to detail it. Set prices based on whether you’ll be working on a small car (coupes or sedans), medium-sized car (crossovers or station wagons), or large vehicles (SUVs, trucks, or minivans). 

To price per car size, you’ll need to know how much time it takes you to detail each vehicle type, multiply the number of hours by your hourly rate and add on the costs of materials and overhead, and your markup.

  • Per detailing service – Charge customers based on the types of services they want, like interior or engine detailing, and the time or skill it will take to complete that service. 

For example, if you know interior detailing will take 2 hours, to calculate the service price your formula would be:

(2 x Hourly labor rate) + Material costs + Overhead costs + Markup

2. Determine your labor costs

Your labor costs are the total amount of compensation you’ll need to pay your employees for the job. To calculate your labor costs, you’ll need to know your hourly rate and the approximate number of hours each service will take.

Use this formula to determine your labor costs for a job:

Hourly rate x # of hours

If you plan on having more than one detailer working on the job, try this formula instead:

Hourly rate x # of workers x # of hours

The average hourly rate for an auto detailer in the U.S. is $25.

3. Add your material costs

Material costs include any supplies you’ll need to complete the job, like all purpose cleaner, leather conditioner, and waxes or sealants.

To make sure the materials you use aren’t cutting into the job’s profitability, factor in the exact cost for each item (including taxes) to your detailing prices.

If you use ¼ of an $80 bottle of cleaner on a job, divide the price of the cleaner by 4 to get your material cost. In this instance it would be $20.

4. Calculate your overhead rate

Your overhead refers to any indirect costs that are needed to run your business—like car detailing marketing costs, insurance payments, utilities, or property rent and taxes.

To calculate your overhead rate, add up your monthly overhead amount and divide it by your monthly sales. Then multiply it by 100 to get a percentage.

Here’s what that formula looks like:

(Total monthly overhead costs ÷ total monthly sales) x 100

When adding up your overhead, there are two different types of overhead costs you’ll want to consider:

  • Fixed overhead includes any costs that aren’t expected to change from one month to another, like insurance payments or rent.
  • Variable overhead includes any costs that change month-to-month based on your business activity, like marketing expenses.

5. Apply your markup

Your markup is the additional amount you add to the cost of the job to ensure you’re making a profit on your services. Your profit margin is the percentage of revenue that you take home after applying your markup.

Auto detailing has an average profit margin of 15-35%. If your ideal profit margin is 30%, the cost of your job should make up 70% of the total price.

Here’s the formula you would use to calculate your markup:

Total price = cost ÷ (1 – profit margin)

For example, if your overhead, labor, and material costs add up to $175, to get a profit margin of 30% you’ll use the following formula:

Total price = $175 ÷ 0.70 = $250

Learn how much to charge to reach your profit goals. Try our free profit margin calculator.

How to price mobile auto detailing

The main difference between pricing for auto detailing and pricing for mobile detailing are the additional operating costs.

Along with the fixed and variable overhead costs mentioned above, for mobile auto detailing you’ll have to consider:

  • Cost of fuel
  • Vehicle maintenance
  • Commercial auto insurance 

You can use the same formula as above to calculate your mobile auto detailing prices—just make sure to work these additional costs into your pricing.

Building a car detailing package

There are two types of car detailing packages that you can use for your auto detailing business—price bundling and tiered pricing.

Price bundling

Price or service bundling lets you combine multiple related services for one packaged price. You can use this pricing model to increase value for your customers and boost sales.

Here’s an example of how price bundling works for auto detailing:

Exterior detailing

Exterior car detailing can cost anywhere from $175 to $250+. This service package typically includes:

  • Exterior hand wash
  • Wheel clean and tire shine
  • Window cleaning and treating
  • Waxing
  • Contaminant and tar removal

Interior detailing

Interior car detailing prices range from $175 to $250+. These service packages often includes:

  • Deep clean of carpet, floor mats and upholstery
  • Steam cleaning headliner, leather, vinyl, and plastic surfaces
  • Door jambs cleaning
  • Interior and exterior glass cleaning
  • Leather, vinyl, and plastic protectant

Full car detailing

A complete car detailing will likely cost between $200 and $350+ depending on the size of the vehicle. This package includes both interior and exterior detailing.

Tiered pricing

Also known as good, better, best, tiered pricing lets you offer clients three different service packages alongside each other. Each package is priced at a marginally higher price point and offers additional services or options for your customer.

Tiered pricing helps your auto detailing business better meet your customer’s needs and budgets, and win higher-priced jobs.

Here’s an example of how you can make tiered pricing work for your auto detailing company:

Bronze package 

Interior auto detailing includes:

  • Carpets, mats, and upholstery vacuumed
  • Dash, console, and all vinyl cleaned
  • Interior glass cleaned

Silver package

Interior auto detailing includes bronze package plus:

  • Carpet and upholstery stains are spot treated
  • Dash, console, and vinyl protected with a restoring UV protectant
  • Leather is treated with special cleaner and conditioner
  • Trunk is vacuumed

Gold package

Interior auto detailing includes silver package plus:

  • All carpets, mats, and cloth upholstery are scrubbed, and steamed
  • Leather is gently scrubbed, steamed, and conditioned
  • Steering wheel, dash armrest, center console, and door handles are steam cleaned and sanitized

Expert tips for pricing car detailing

Now that you know how to calculate pricing for auto detailing services, here are some tips to keep in mind along the way.

1. Don’t commit to pricing before seeing the car

Be prepared to increase your pricing based on the condition of the car. After all, a car with stains on the upholstery will be much harder and more time-consuming to detail. 

Here are a few other factors that may affect your pricing:

  • Car size 
  • Vehicle condition
  • Pet hair, mold growth, spills or stains
  • Trim package of car

Whether you’re quoting a customer directly, or posting pricing on your website, add “starting from” beside your prices to give you the flexibility to adjust your pricing as necessary.

2. Know your competition

Research your competition to see what they’re charging for auto detailing services. Look for what services they offer, what their packages include, and how much their auto detailing services cost.

Once you know what your competitors are offering you can fill in any service gaps and create a pricing strategy that aligns with the going market rate.

3. Consider your location 

Each city or state will have differing auto detailing prices based on the cost of resources and labor—and what people are willing to pay for the service.

For example, auto detailers in Florida typically charge between $63 – $150 for a detailing service, while detailers in New York charge anywhere from $50 to $300.

4. Factor in your experience

The more experience you have as an auto detailer, the more value you’re bringing to your customer. Factor the amount of experience you have working on luxury vehicles, detailing cars, and removing stains when pricing jobs.
Learn how Oscar Gil of R3 Auto Detailing prices jobs for luxury vehicles in this Masters of Home Service podcast

If you’re just starting an auto detailing business, knowing how to price your services will help you estimate jobs faster, win more work, and grow.

Use the advice in this article to create a profitable auto detail price list, then try Jobber’s free invoice generator to send professional invoices in just a few clicks and get paid faster.

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