Starting a Service Business

How to Start a Boat Detailing Business

July 08, 2022

Even the best and most knowledgeable mariners may not know where to start when considering starting a boat detailing service. Just because you may know how to upkeep and pilot a boat does not mean that you are fully aware of all that it takes to run a successful business. That said, having experience with boats and boat maintenance will help tremendously. Learn more about how to start a boat detailing service below.

What Is a Boat Detailing Service? 

Avid mariners are familiar with just how much work goes into owning a boat. Since boats spend the majority of their product life cycle in the water, they are susceptible to algae, barnacles, salt corrosion, and other types of damage. 

A boat detailing service business will take the stress of cleaning, waxing, and polishing the exterior and interior off the boat owner. By performing a boat detailing once a month, the cleaner is able to ensure that their clients’ boat is maintained properly. 

In many cases, this mobile cleaning service travels to where the boat is located, making the service convenient for clients. 

Is a Boat Detailing Service Profitable? 

Boat detailing services are profitable depending on how you choose to price your offered service. 

A common mistake made by new boat detailing services is charging clients per square foot. When you charge by the square footage, you’re leaving out potential revenue for time spent cleaning, removing additional stains, or removing oxidation. 

Therefore, the best way to price your boat detailing service is through variable pricing — pricing based on what needs to be cleaned. Successful boat detailing businesses include variable pricing on top of an hourly rate. Your pricing should include: 

  • Hourly rate: $30 to $50 per hour
    • $30 per hour for a freshwater fishing boat 
    • $35 per hour for a personal watercraft 
    • $40 per hour for a pontoon 
    • $50 per hour for a cruiser 
  • Level of oxidation: $25 to $75 per square foot 
  • Barnacle removal: $1 to $5 per square foot 
  • Stain and dirt removal: $1 to $5 per square foot 

How Much Do Boat Detailers Make?

A typical boat detailing project will only last three hours. If you can get at least two to three boat detailing projects in a week, you can earn roughly a thousand dollars per week. Keep in mind that the more jobs you take on, the higher your annual revenue will be. 

Guide to Starting a Boat Detailing Business

Starting a boat detailing service takes much more than just the average maintenance that a typical mariner may conduct. This is a unique cleaning service. The following will give you more information on what it takes to run a successful boat detailing service. 

1. Create Your Business Plan

A business plan will help you organize and understand your boat detailing service as a whole. Your plan should include your business name, logo, purpose, target market, financial statements, and marketing efforts. This type of plan is great to have on hand when getting a loan from the bank or pitching your business to potential investors.  

2. Know Your Costs 

A crucial part of your business plan will be your finances. Within your financial statements, you will want to pay extra attention to your potential recurring expenses, such as supplies, equipment, and vehicles. 

Depreciation of equipment and vehicles will be a key factor to pay attention to. If you are aware of how long your equipment and vehicles will last, you will have a good idea of how much to save to purchase new equipment and vehicles down the line. For a successful boat detailing service, having the best quality equipment will ensure your projects are done exceptionally well. 

Knowing where you will need to put your money the most will give you a better idea of whether or not you can be successful in starting a boat detailing service. It is always good to run your financial statements by a financial consultant to ensure that you are considering every cost associated with running a boat detailing service. 

Boat Detailing Service Costs 

Fortunately, a boat detailing service does not have too many start-up costs because this service does not require a workshop or storage unit. However, this service does have a few recurring costs. 

Boat detailing service costs you will want to be aware of include: 

  • Commercial vehicle or van for cleaning supplies and equipment 
  • A trailer for transporting boats from marina 
  • A water boat to reach hulls 
  • Cleaning supplies and equipment 
  • Cleaning chemicals and solvents  

Moreover, costs associated with a boat detailing service can include gas, vehicle repairs, and equipment repairs or replacement. 

Saving a portion of your monthly sales will ensure that when the time comes, you will have the money to further support your business. Taking out 10% of monthly sales is the best way to go about saving for a rainy day. This low percentage rate leaves you enough room to pay off any loans or make rental payments. 

3. Form a Legal Entity

A legal entity is a title that describes how your boat detailing service business will operate and be organized. As a start-up boat detailing service, choosing to be a Limited Liability Company (LLC) or sole proprietorship is recommended. These two options give you more room for liability exposure, costs, and administrative requirements.   

4. Register for Taxes 

Within the United States, your chosen legal entity will determine what type of taxes you will have to pay. Business owners can apply for taxes after they have received their Employer Identification Number (EIN). 

5. Obtain Necessary Licenses and Permits

When starting your boat detailing service, check what your local area requires you to have in terms of a license or permit. 

To operate as a business, you will have to obtain a business license before you take on your first client. If you choose to use a pressure washer to wash decks, you will need to acquire a permit.   

6. Acquire Business Insurance 

Your boat detailing service will need the appropriate insurance to operate legally within the United States. Workers’ compensation, general liability, commercial property insurance, and commercial auto insurance are likely all necessary to ensure that your business is fully covered. 

Also, accidents can happen to you or employees when using boat cleaning equipment. For this reason, purchasing a wide range of insurance policies will aid in a time of need. The last thing you want is to not have coverage for damage or an injury.  

7. Purchase the Proper Equipment and Tools 

Boat detailing services typically include cleaning the whole boat. This includes cleaning everything from the interior to the exterior. 

The general necessary supplies to get the job done include:

  • Mop
  • Brushes 
  • Cloths and towels 
  • Polish 
  • Detergent 
  • Wax 
  • Glass cleaner 
  • Wood polish  

Extra supplies to consider include buffers and polishers; compounds specific to removing oxidation, sand scratches, and stains; and tools to help remove barnacles safely. Having the right supplies will ensure that all projects are completed properly and efficiently. 

Define Your Boat Detailing Service Brand 

When creating a brand, the toughest part is creating a reason to have people purchase from you. As a boat detailing service, you may run into other mariners who feel competent enough to perform their own boat maintenance.

A successful boat detailing service will brand its business with this in mind and market itself as a service that is there for convenience and reliability. Branding yourself as a service that cares about boats and your clients’ passion for boating will help you make connections with your customers that will last.  

Create a Business Logo 

A logo defines your business as a whole in a simple graphic. Every boat detailing service has some type of logo with a boat on it. To make your business logo stand out, try to focus on other motifs of boating. 

Stay away from using fish within your logo as fish are typically associated with a fishing company. Think of a logo that can be placed on shirts, hats, stickers, and other branded materials easily. 

Promote and Market Your Boat Detailing Service 

Marketing allows your brand to be seen and put at the forefront of your customers’ minds. If done properly, you could have high awareness and potentially a high engagement rate. All of this could lead to an increase in annual sales and revenue. 

Traditional Marketing 

An easy way of starting with your marketing efforts is to look into traditional marketing methods like email, word-of-mouth, and television advertising, if feasible. Email and word-of-mouth marketing are organic tools that aid in increasing your brand awareness. 

Have family and friends use you as a referral. People trust recommendations from their family and friends, so use this to your advantage. 

Email marketing can be done weekly or monthly. Taking over a customer’s inbox is the last thing you want to do. If consumers feel like you are being too aggressive or demanding, they will most likely unsubscribe from your emails — or even stop using your services.

To properly use email marketing, think of it as more of a newsletter. Keep it simple, add some fun images or graphics, and have the subject heading be eye-catching. Your goal is to make the email seem more relatable and enjoyable to read. 

Social Media Marketing

Before taking on any social media marketing, truly understand your target market. The demographics of your target market will help you determine which platforms will be optimal for your marketing efforts. 

Each generation has a different preference in social media usage. Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn are your best three options to choose from as they are the leading platforms for businesses. Once you are familiar with your target audience, you will be able to choose the best social media platform to market your brand. 

When considering your target audience for social media usage, try to make your audience broad. Instead of focusing solely on one generation, consider targeting your brand towards two or three. This will allow you to reach more consumers and increase your brand awareness. 

Even if your marketing reaches someone outside of the boating community, the person viewing your brand may think that your business suits a friend or family member and refer them. 

On-the-Job Marketing 

One of the most important marketing techniques you can use is on-the-job marketing. This practice involves great customer service while working and dealing with customers. The more customers feel welcomed, heard, and respected, the more likely they will leave your business with a great review and share your brand. 

On another note, businesses that wear branded apparel are often taken more seriously by consumers. Branded apparel can make even a start-up seem more legitimate. Also, as a boating detailing service, you will be around ports and docks where potential customers are. Being seen in your branded apparel will allow fellow mariners to see your business logo.

Create a Company Website 

Websites are a great marketing tool to have for a boat detailing service. Through your website, you can give customers an idea about who you are as a business owner, what your brand values are, and what your services entail. 

For a small business like a boat detailing service, starting off with using a website builder will be the best route. Website builders are a cheaper option than using WordPress or hiring a web designer. Your average costs with a website builder can be up to $6 per month with a $200 starting fee. 

Also, most website builders have hundreds of templates for you to choose from. This gives you an ample amount of ideas to formulate your brand through a website. 

Some website builders will allow you to have a page where customers can book a boat detailing appointment with you. This will save you time in having to communicate with customers via phone call or message to schedule appointments. It also makes scheduling convenient for the customer as well.  

Efficiently Manage Your Boat Detailing Service Teams

Start your boat detailing service on the right foot by downloading the Taskbird app. 

Streamline communication and management of your boat detailing service teams from anywhere, at any time, through Taskbird’s platform. Onboard teammates today to start running your boat detailing service. 

Angela Rush Avatar

By Angela Rush