What Do You Look For in a DetailER?

It's a question that I'm sure that not many people ask themselves before looking to get their vehicles detailed. For the most part, and this is solely based on past experiences, potential clients (I'm going to use this term a lot) look at the price for services and whether or not the value of services actually matches the price - in their own eyes.

In this post, I try to push the importance of accountability and accreditation both for the detailer and the potential clients.

Being a detailer and a detail business owner for over 10 years, I've been lucky enough to have great clients. Sure, some tire-kickers have reached out and proceeded to tell me my services are just too expensive or try to barter me down in price. That's fine - I can't hold it against people for wanting to get a deal. Saving money is important especially in today's economy - but remember that in most cases, you get what you pay for.

What gets me the most is when potential clients approach me and I get the old saying:

"The (high volume) shop downtown does a full in and out for $40 and it only takes them 20 minutes."

OK, well good for them but how does a detailing business that focuses more on quality rather than quantity compete with something like that? What kind of quality are you really going to get? This leads me to the question of what do YOU look for in both a detail service and the actual detailer?

Just to be clear, I am in NO WAY trashing any businesses or business models. I'm writing this BLOG to simply help educate anyone looking to either have a vehicle detailed or anyone looking to start their own detailing business that being accountable and accredited in this industry is important.

If I can be honest, I think the detailing industry is becoming a diluted market. Don't get me wrong, I started out cleaning friends and family members cars for close to free, made mistakes and made no money for the first few years. I don't consider those first few years a waste because that's when you do the most learning both about the industry and about yourself. There's nothing wrong with someone wanting to start a business to detail vehicles but if you are reading this and you are a potential client, you really need to ask yourself and your detailer a few things you may never think to ask.

Are they certified?

Have they been trained properly?

What kind of services are they offering?

Are they insured or licensed?

To most people, these questions are non-existent when looking for a detailer and that's OK. Maybe they're only looking to have their interior vacuumed or wiped down, or a coat of wax applied for the winter months. What can go wrong, right? Part of the reason for this blog post is to hopefully help educate those potential clients and new detailers and to stress the importance of being accredited.

The fact is that you can create a VERY successful business doing things that people do not want to do, or can't do. Detailing is something that a lot of people just don't want to do.

Let's face it...detailing isn't an easy job and few people have the patience or knowledge to detail their own vehicles. Most people look at us detailers or paint correction specialists and think that all we are doing is cleaning a dirty vehicle. True, in a basic sense...but clients have to understand that it's more than just vacuuming old stale fries, removing BBQ sauce stains and doing a wax-on, wax-off package. There is a science to detailing - literally. The processes and chemicals/solutions used in the detailing world are not all one in the same and the detailer needs to understand how some chemicals can react with different substrates in order to eliminate damaging the surface, or even the proper use of a rotary polisher without getting and buffer trails (way too common). But that's just the tip of the detailing iceberg and maybe I'll dive into the different items in a later post.

According to the International Detailing Association (IDA), this industry is unregulated. There are no laws, standards, or licenses that govern this industry. It's easier than ever for an entrepreneur to start up a detailing business since it requires very low start-up costs and the lack of said regulations. Scary? Kind of. Would you ever get a plumber to wire your home o have someone with no license drive your car? To me, it's the same thing.

The IDA also mentions on their 'Detailing 101' page,

"The reason they (entrepreneurs) are able to operate and become successful usually comes down to one thing: the general public is not aware of the true technical skill and knowledge that is required to become a master of this trade. "

There are different types of detailing business 'structures'. Whether it's an 'in-n-out' high volume shop, mobile detailing services or high-end detailing boutiques that focus more on bringing in the high value vehicles, but not having as high of an output as a high-volume shop, every detailer or detailing business owner needs to be accountable for the work they do which should include proper training, certification, examinations, etc. There have been countless times where I've had a client come to me and ask me to fix another detailers work. Whether it's an interior stain removal or full blown paint enhancement/correction, the original 'detailer' had no prior training. After showing the damages on the vehicle caused by an un-experienced operator, the client had gone back to the original detailer for some type of compensation. The detailer brushed their hands of the situation, showed no accountability and said they would refuse to repair their mistakes because "that's what they paid for". How can something like this happen? It's not the clients fault. As a potential client, you need to look for a professional who is held to the highest standard of service in this industry.

If you see my posts on Facebook or Instagram, you will see that I'm a strong believer in being accountable and accredited.

To all you detailers out there...


Becoming certified and properly trained needs to be on the top of your list. Look for classes at your local detail shop, or join the IDA and check out their membership and certification options. This allows for you to complete their jobs correctly and consistently meaning happy clients that will return in the future for more services. This is how you start to grow your detailing business.


No detailer wants a client to return because of poor quality work. If you don't care or have a script made to tell them "sorry, that's what you paid for", then you really need to focus on a different profession. Detailers owe it to their clients to be accountable meaning own up to any mistakes (there will be mistakes) or flat out bite your tongue and let them know that you are not experienced in a particular area. Go get some training in that area, come back, and be the best you can be.


Get trained, write those exams and prove to your industry and to your clients that you are invested 100% to making sure you put out a high-quality product every time. Check out the links below to see what training and certification is available in order to become a professional.

I know I kind of bounced around a little bit in terms of clients vs detailers, but I hope that this post maybe shed some light on what it means to be a detailer and the type of knowledge and skill that goes into being one. The next time you're looking to get your vehicle coated, paint corrected or just have a maintenance detail completed, make sure you do some research on the different processes and verify that the detailer you go to knows the process and will stand behind their work 100%.


Thomas Wilga, CD

47 views0 comments