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Posted by buda 
October 01, 2010 12:17AM
If you are reasonably successful in the detail business you probably have a bank of regular satisfied customers, and your goal is to maintain that bank of customers and to increase it.

What it might take to do that in today's difficult economic times is your pricing.

The topic of pricing that always comes up when detailers get together in person or on forums of this nature.

Are you the cheapest? The same as the market? Or are you higher?

Does it really matter?

The key is that your prices have to reflect your costs of operation and what you feel you are entitled to make for your effort and risk. And your prices have to allow you to do quality work for the customer.

If you do lower-paid dealer work you are going to do as many cars a day as you can, so we would say that quantity is more important here than quality.

But doing work for a high-end customer with a luxury or exotic car you might have to charge double or triple what you charge the dealer.

To do that you have to add far more VALUE to your work because of the nature of the customer.

It is really simple economics, isn't it?

Pricing is dictated to some extent by the type of customer but remember you are still in control not the market, not the customer.

Take some time to think about what value you provide your customers. If you do quality 4 to 5 hour work on a complete detail then you have to charge for that quality work. That is, if the customer is willing to pay for that.

A dealer is not willing to pay for that kind of work so you cannot give them that type of work.

And, there are some retail customers who don't want much more than you would give a dealer. If you want the business you have to be willing to provide the work level the customer is willing to pay for rather than bitch because they won't pay your price.

There is a tremendous amount of science in proper detailing, note I said proper detailing.

If you are a detailer who has taken the time and effort to become educated and informed in your trade then that should not come cheap.

Remember, you have costs in running your business: rent, utilities, vehicles if mobile; equipment, tools, supplies, chemicals and all the new technology that keeps being introduced to the industry. Plus you have marketing costs, insurance, benefits, retirement, etc.

Detailing prices have not change dramatically since I got into the business in 1980. Why is that?

If you look at other auto service businesses you see that they have kept up with inflation, charging more and more each year to stay in business.

I can remember getting a tuneup for $19.95. What would that cost today?

You must do the same, charge enough to cover your overhead and to give your customers the service they want. Only by doing that can you survive and grow and can the detail industry attain a higher level of professionalism.

October 01, 2010 03:58AM
Bud :
In 1976, a car wholesaler told me that he was paying $75 for a package deal consisting of a full detail and pin-striping.
Imagine what that would be in today's dollars. $400 ?

Around that time, one dealer quoted a retail price of $250 to completely detail a car.

I don't know why prices are so low today but I can speculate that... :

1) Guys keep getting into the business just long enough to go broke by cutting prices to grab market share.

2) Detailing is used as a customer service sweetener by some dealers, who don't make money on detailing but can afford to charge very little because they already pay rent on the shop and have most of the overhead costs anyway.

3) If you charge less, most customers expect less, which means fewer complaints and more customer satisfaction.

4) Thanks to clearcoat paint, there is less paint correction needed on most cars, so the lower price reflects less time and material.

5) Some detailers make nothing on the detailing but use it to bring in customers for window tinting and other high-profit work.

6) Customers do not respect people who clean things for a living and do not feel such people are worthy of high pay. Customers also underestimate the amount of work and product that goes into a detail. Owners of ordinary cars, for whatever reason, are often content to drive a dirty car.

7) People who really love detailing often become enthusiasts who do it for themselves. Often they end up doing family and friends' cars for bargain prices.

Just speculating...
October 01, 2010 05:17AM
Pricing has changed alot in certain markets
In America its rare to see a detail of any type being priced at above 400 however in Australia, its low hundreds up to a few thousand dollars depending on how much detailing is done

I charge $75 an hour as I feel thats what my knowledge and skills are worth
Could charge even more but no one would pay it

Disagree about the clearcoat statement. these paints need correction just as much as the other paints
October 01, 2010 10:16PM
The low pricing is the same all over. There have been a few reconditioning specialists who are raising the internet-using public's awareness of how technical the work is, and they are charging high prices - but seem to work mainly on high-end cars.

Still, the average person on the street doesn't know how good a good detailer is and every fool with a vacuum cleaner and a bucket seems to think they can do as good a job as an experienced technician. So they enter the market again with rock-bottom prices and as Doug says, they stay in it just long enough to go broke!

I always resent the way that people think consider detailers as "cleaners" - somebody who could be wiping tables in McDonalds (no offence to McD employees). It was only since I started charging more and offering mainly paint correction service that people recognised that its a bit more than a wipe down with a compound.

I agree with SVR73 about the clear coats needing as much paint correction or perhaps more than the older paints systems. Pretty sure I use the same amount of product.

Prices should definitely be increased but in the middle of recession, its a rock/hard place decision.
October 01, 2010 10:22PM

"If your costs of operation including the salary you want works out to only $35 an hour service rate, should you charge more?'

Bud Abraham
October 02, 2010 12:11AM
Yes! We are in business to be profitable so what ever the market will bear in our case 65.00 is our base with some services at 75.00 and 90.00
October 02, 2010 12:46AM
Now that is one smart businessman.

You price no less than what it costs you to operate your business.

HOWEVER, if the market will allow you to charge more, then by all means charge what the market will bare for the service you are providing.

Value is in the eyes of the beholder. It is not what you think you are worth, it is what the customer will pay you.

Bud Abraham
October 02, 2010 02:48AM
Our basic full detail goes out the door at $175.00. It includes full interior cleaning and protectant, shampoo, all glass, trunk, engine compartment, wash, wheels and tires. Interior repairs, paint chip repairs, polishing, buffing and hand waxing are all extra. $90 $30 $200 $100 respectivly. Of course we would love to charge by the hour but most times it is just not feasable as most cars we see take much longer than four hours to complete. We average about 1.3 cars per day per person to get them right.
October 02, 2010 07:25PM
Are there other "detailers" near you who charge rock bottom prices, etc as previously mentioned? Just curious as to whether you have a captive market or not and if you are in an affluent enough area. It will help with how I consider my pricing. Thanks.
October 02, 2010 07:58PM
A friend of mine just took his car to a pro detailer and paid $189.00 for a complete detail , including engine, interior, buff and wax , and he is very happy and thinks the money is well spent.The car does look great.
October 02, 2010 08:34PM
The key is not what you charge it is what the price represents in terms of hourly rate and how long it takes to detail the car.

When you talk about customers the reality is that only "certain" customers purchase detail services so when someone says, "oh in my area customers won't pay that," then you are in the wrong area. You are not in an area where the "good" detail customers live or work.

You are not appealing to the general public you are appealing to a certain segment of the market that will pay a fair price for quality service.

Detail customers are not WalMart customers, they are customers who want the service; do not want to do it themselves and will pay a fair price, if you can convince them the quality of what you do is worth what you want to charge.

It is all about doing your marketing homework.

Bud Abraham
November 20, 2010 05:00AM
I totally agree with the underpriced details these days.. I am not a business owner.. I am a professional auto detailer at a Chrysler Nissan Dealer.. I have been detailing for 12 years now.. I have come to love it.. I too get frustrated when people seem to think that a 'detail' is a kid in a driveway with a bucket,towel, and tire dressing.. I work in a flat rate shop where when I started the allowed times for a Full buff job was 1.6 Hours.. That included all scratch removal and polish plus cleaning up the mess that the buffer makes..Despite the stingy times, I do make a decent living and am able to support my two kids and stay at home wife.. I make more than most 'good' union jobs in the area pay.. And I have the flexibility that most jobs dont have.. I think its time that auto detailing was givin a new name.. something like Auto reconditioning tech.
November 21, 2010 10:12PM
Auto Reconditioning Tech sounds good, but I think Bud mentioned before - people don't recognise the new names, even though they make perfect sense to us. Its frustrating to be thought of in the same category as hacks, since that is what the majority of people believe detailers are - especially the detailers with the low prices, bad products and lousy attitudes!
November 21, 2010 10:19PM
I think you people are too hard on yourselves. Consumers for the most part have no opinion of detailers because they are not all that familiar with them.

Those that go to a detailer, are for the most part happy with them, even though you and I might feell they are hacks. The consumer does not know any different so they think, someone we know is a hack, is a good detailer.

What you have to do is simply set yourself apart from the pack and establish a image of what you are as a professional detailer then the consumer will know what is a good detailer and what is a hack.

Bud Abraham
November 22, 2010 04:41AM
Hack is a term we seem to hear alot on this forum, please explain to us what you consider a 'hack'
November 22, 2010 05:16AM
Good question Bob. It is used a lot on the forums and is a judgemental and subjective label, in my opinion, depending on who is using the term.

When used here by many of the detailers who post I think they are referring to those who claim to be detailers but have no real experience either from formal training or substantial "on-the-job" training.

The hacker is the person who thinks they can detail a car because they know how to wash a car and apply wax to a car. Who work out of their garage or drive to a person's house/office in their car and take their equipment and supplies out of the trunk.

Personally, I can think of a far more expanded version of a hacker, but then that is just my opinion.

Maybe we need to post that question, I will do that.

November 22, 2010 08:57PM
Bob, your $175 detail. What do you do with the paint? Do you polish & seal by hand or DA, etc? Just curious what you fit in for the price.
November 23, 2010 02:20AM
Profile, The $175 gets the exterior of the vehicle washed and dried, the moldings cleaned and protected with back to black or a similar dressing as needed, as well as full interior cleaning including extraction. Wheels cleaned with a chemicle called Magnificent from auto magic. Tires cleaned and dressed as well as wheel wells and chrome polished. For an aditional $25 We offer wax applied with da and removed by hand. We also do polishing and buffing for an aditional $125, wich includes clay bar.
November 23, 2010 09:24AM
Thank you for letting me know.

Funny the way the markets are. I couldn't get that much without at least doing hand-polishing and waxing for that price. However, I would charge more than double what you do for the machine polishing. But I would spend a bit of time on the machine polishing of a car. Basically, I charge by the day for prepping and machine polishing so it doesn't matter what size the car is. Smaller cars obviously get more treatment, but larger car owners can be negotiated for another half-day's work or more.
November 24, 2010 04:50AM
Yea, the market around here is mostly farm and ranch and we have more dirt and gravel road than paved roads by far. Most folks within our area dont really care what the outside looks like as the general feeling is that it will be dirty and covered with grime within two miles anyway. I would guess that 95 percent of our customers just want the interior cleaned, and most of em are so dirty that they take us four hours minimum just to do the interior. There are quite a few that take us a couple of days to get clean. You can imagine what the outside looks like in these cases. Its pretty tough to polish dents, rust, and paint chips so bad that it looks as if the vehicle has been sandblasted from the rocker panels down.
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