How to start a car valeting business

cars parked

Car valeting is a thriving industry and can be a rewarding business. If you love cars, take pride in working to high standards and are passionate about attention to detail, car valeting could be your future. You also might prefer a more flexible working schedule, such as weekends and evenings, which car valeting gives you the freedom to do.

At ChoiceQuote, we provide specialist insurance for a variety of autotrade businesses, which includes motor trade insurance for car valeting work to help ensure you’re protected against risks. So, how do you get started? We’ll run through how to set up a car valeting business and the important steps you need to take to get up and running.


What is car valeting?

As a car valeting service, you clean and detail vehicles meticulously inside and out. That process involves:

  • Vacuuming every nook and cranny including the boot, mats and side pockets
  • Washing, waxing and polishing the exterior
  • Shampooing carpets and upholstery
  • Making windows gleam
  • Shining tyres and wheels
  • Cleaning leather and plastic surfaces

You may find customers are people who need their vehicle to be pristine for professional reasons or car owners with very high personal standards. If you don’t meet or exceed those standards, you could find yourself being a “one valet wonder” with little future as a business.


Developing a business plan for your car valeting business

Every startup business needs to begin with a realistic and detailed plan. Your valeting business is no exception. At a minimum, your business plan needs to cover the following areas:


Research and analyse your market

Find out who the potential customers are in your catchment area. It’s likely that your customer base will include both private car owners and local businesses. Start with an internet search for promising local firms, then physically tour the area to spot where the smartest cars are sitting on driveways.

Taxi or delivery fleets and rental firms can be brilliant for generating income. If a large local employer has lots of workers’ cars parked outside, you could pick up job after job at the same site.

The number of customers you’re targeting is vital information, so you can forecast your likely income. If you’re talking to a bank, it’s a question they’ll ask. They need to know that the business is viable—and so do you.


Working from premises, home or offering a mobile service

The next step is deciding on your business location. Unless you happen to have ready-made premises, you’ll likely be starting out as a mobile car valeting business or working from home. This should not pose a problem, as lots of customers want their car taken care of at home or while they’re at work. It also helps minimise setting up costs and gives you the freedom to spread your net wide and go wherever the jobs are.

There are still startup costs to consider though. At the very least, you should consider a liveried van featuring your business name and logo, as well as equipment and cleaning materials. Plus, marketing assets such as a website, business stationery and leaflets.

Once you’ve made a name for yourself and won enough regular customers, it may be worth considering opening your own premises. This could be a simple industrial unit or perhaps a former filling station. By making the business more credible and able to offer a wider range of services, premises could enable you to grow faster and maximise income.


Decide which valeting services you will offer

The basics of valeting are:

  • Cleaning
  • Waxing
  • Polishing
  • Vacuuming

Additional services you could also offer:

  • Paint restoration
  • Scratch removal
  • Engine cleaning
  • Alloy wheel refurbishment
  • Valeting buses and coaches
  • Valeting caravans and motorhomes

As with all businesses, the key to success is being different in a positive way. That means doing it better or offering a wider range of services. Offering more car valeting services could give your business a competitive edge and help you reach a wider customer base.


Realistically assess your startup costs

Typical start-up costs may include: equipment and materials; fuel costs if you’re mobile; employee costs if you employ people; your business rates; and marketing costs.

If you’re starting out in a premises, the initial and running costs, including utility bills and business rates, will have to be factored in. If you get too much work for one person, you’ll also have to employ someone and fund their wages.

Certain insurance cover may be needed. If there’s accidental damage to a customer’s car or you injure a passer-by while moving a vehicle, you could be severely out of pocket. It’s important to help protect your business with motor trade insurance. If you’re only offering car valeting services part time, you may wish to purchase part time traders’ insurance to ensure you have appropriate cover for your work.


Decide on your prices

Your market research should also include researching your local competitors to see what they’re offering and at what price level. This way, you’ll have a good idea of what you need to charge to be competitive, but also be able to cover your business costs. You can then calculate the profit margin to ensure being in business is worth your time and effort.


Create a smart marketing strategy

Business name and logo

You need customers, so you need marketing to attract them. Start by choosing a business name that nobody else is using. Ideally, that name can be promoted on your van that takes you from job to job, so you’re known in your area.

Create a website

You should also have a website. That means either paying a local web development agency to design and build your site or using a “build your own website” platform such as Wix.

Wondering what to say on your site? You can keep it simple and be ultra-clear about what you’re offering. Search for car valeting businesses in your area and see what the top-ranking pages are saying. Now adapt that to your business.

Use social media

Use your social media network to build up your name. Any local Facebook or WhatsApp groups are a great place to start. But don’t forget that old-fashioned printed leaflets can also work wonders.

Finally, get word of mouth working for you. It’s the oldest form of advertising and it’s free, so don’t hold back. Tell everyone you meet about your new business.


Think about finances

The next area to consider is where the money’s coming from. If you need a loan, that means talking to your bank—and showing them a detailed business plan.

Keeping track of incomings and outgoings is also vital, as is paying your bills and taxes. One solution is to use an accountant. Alternatively, if you’re comfortable with figures, set yourself up with accounting software such as Sage, QuickBooks or Xero.


Register with HMRC

Every new business needs to register with HMRC as either a sole trader or a limited company. Everything you need to know is on the UK government website.

Registering as a sole trader is simpler, but the downside is that you’re personally responsible for the business’ debts. You also have more accounting responsibilities, including doing a self-assessment tax return every year.


Understand car valeting rules and regulations

One key piece of legislation that impacts car valets is the Water Industry Act 1991 which prohibits trade effluent. This regulation means that the runoff water from car washing and valeting isn’t allowed to enter the watercourse via surface water drainage systems.

While setting up the business, you must contact the local water company and register with them. Do this as soon as possible, because it can take them around two months to process applications. They’ll want to know how much wastewater you’ll be producing and which chemicals you propose to use.

They’ll advise you about disposing of trade effluent, including using mats and pumps to recover the water you use so that it can be responsibly recycled or disposed of.

You’ll also need to check the HSE (Health and Safety Executive) website for the latest rules about chemical usage and wastewater disposal. If you fail to comply, heavy fines or legal proceedings could be fatal for your business.


Get the right equipment

Which tools and materials will you need to invest in? Here’s the bare minimum to think about:

  • Baffled water tank because you can’t rely on using customers’ mains water
  • Small generator because you’ll usually need your own power supply
  • Pressure washer
  • Vacuum cleaner
  • Brushes of various sizes
  • Chamois leathers
  • Squeegees
  • Polishers
  • Soaps
  • Polishes
  • Cleaning chemicals
  • Buffing machine

And, of course, a vehicle big enough to carry it all around!


Get insured

Standard business insurance policies may seem tempting when you’re starting up, but in truth you run very specific risks as a valeting business.

An equally specialised car valeting insurance policy could offer the peace of mind and business security you need to trade with confidence.

With ChoiceQuote motor trade insurance we’ll bring together all the different types of autotrade cover it takes to make sure you’re adequately covered for an appropriate cost. This includes cover for customer claims relating to vehicle damage caused whilst working on their vehicles. Also, road traffic accidents and theft of equipment.

Ready for a quote? Speak to one of our specialists right now on 01618 748043.


The sole purpose of this article is to provide guidance on the issues covered. This article is not intended to give legal advice, and, accordingly, it should not be relied upon. It should not be regarded as a comprehensive statement of the law and/or market practice in this area. We make no claims as to the completeness or accuracy of the information contained herein or in the links which were live at the date of publication. You should not act upon (or should refrain from acting upon) information in this publication without first seeking specific legal and/or specialist advice. We do not accept any liability for any inaccuracy, omission or mistake in this publication, nor will we be responsible for any loss which may be suffered as a result of any person relying on the information contained herein.