Do you have a passion for cars and are considering how to become a car valeter? A new study shows that 1 in 5 British drivers rarely clean their car. Furthermore, 22% of men and 21% of women clean their car less than once every 6 months. Interestingly, 6% of 18 to 24-year-olds stated that they have never cleaned their car.
As specialist providers of motor trade insurance, we recognise the potential challenges new car valeters could face in starting up their own business. That is why we have put together this handy guide, including key considerations, for anyone thinking about becoming a car valeter.
What is a car valeter?
Car valeting is the process of cleaning a vehicle to make it look as attractive as possible, or “showroom ready.” There are various levels of valet service you could consider providing, from quick inside and outs, to extensive all over cleans using specialist vehicle cleaning products. A standard valet commonly includes cleaning the wheels, the exterior, interior, and dressing upholstery and plastics. The level of service provided should always dictate the fee charged.
Car valeter salary
Car valeter salaries in the UK can vary depending on your experience, location, and the number of clients you have. Below is a breakdown of the estimated salary range:
- Experienced £21,366
- Average £18,000
- Beginner £16,575
Self-employed vs sub-contractor
Being your own boss can be daunting as a beginner, with potential unknowns. However, you will have the freedom to make your own decisions. From working your own schedule, setting your own prices, and accepting the jobs you prefer to do.
Becoming a subcontracted valeter for an established company has different perks. These include regular income, consistent hours and an established client base.
Mobile car valeter or premises-based?
Firstly, being a mobile car valeter gives you the freedom to access your customers at multiple locations in a wider catchment area. This extra level of convenience means your customer can have their vehicle valeted at their residence or place of work. Secondly, it also means that you do not have to worry about using your own electricity or water supply. Energy generators and water tanks can be very costly, so this is worth bearing in mind if you are considering using these.
Having your own premises could make your valet services appear more established, with the key benefit being passing trade. It also has the advantage of allowing you to provide a greater variety of services. These services can also be advertised on site. However, leasing premises could increase your start-up costs. You will also incur further monthly expenses including utility bills, potential additional salaries and maintenance.
Car valeter clothing
It is important to wear clothing that is suitable and comfortable. During the warmer months of the year, you may wish to wear work trousers such as combats and a plain polo shirt. You could have your company’s name branded on the polo shirt to enhance your look and promote the business. Waterproof and slip-resistant shoes are also a must in wet conditions. Keep feet dry by wearing water-resistant shoes such as waterproof safety boots or wellies.
During the colder months, you may want to consider wearing an overall to keep yourself warm. In addition, you could add a layer of protection with thermal clothing beneath shirts and pants to conserve body heat. It is easy to lose heat from your extremities so remember to wear thermal socks, gloves, and hats to stay warm.
It is essential all year round to protect your hands, wearing plastic gloves can help reduce damage to your skin, infection, and chemical irritation. Also, consider using moisturiser on your hands after you have washed them.
Essential car valeter duties
From everyday motors to prestige performance cars the principles of a good valet remain the same. By mastering the essentials, you allow yourself the option to upsell value-added extras that can accompany your basic valet. This has the advantage of increasing customer satisfaction, your potential earnings, and customer loyalty.
Remember, it is important to sell yourself as well as your services. Potential customers are buying an experience, and you are part of that. Good customer service skills will be useful as they allow you to communicate clearly what you offer and what separates you from the competition. Below is a handy walk-through that could prove useful to those new to the industry and experienced valeters alike:
Keep your gear organised. A messy worker is a slow worker. This applies to cleaning products, tools, and cables. By keeping them tidy you remove the need to untangle them on the job. Get a good system in place so you can visualise where your gear is without having to search for it. Check your stock levels regularly too.
Clean from the ground up
Always start your valet with the wheels. If you are only cleaning the wheel faces make sure the client is aware of this. You may need to roll the car back 30cms during cleaning to effectively clean the whole wheel. There is no need for expensive chemical cleaners if you are only providing a basic valet. A good quality TFR (traffic film remover) should be good enough to loosen typical dirt combined with a pressure wash. You can always upsell a full wheel wash to remove heavily baked-on brake dust.
TFR the bottom third of the car and then apply a pressure wash to the whole vehicle. With a basic valet, there is no need to apply expensive cleaning products or snow foam. Using the one bucket method, soap and rinse the two sides of the car and if you utilise the two-bucket method be sure you charge enough for the extra time and effort. If the car is very dirty, consider soaping the bottom third with suds making sure to include the door sill and scrub with a wash mitt.
Clean cloth, clean windows
On glass always use a clean chamois, or synthetic “flunkey” in combination with glass cleaner to remove dirt and grease. Give the window a quick wipe and all the grime will be absorbed by the chamois/flunkey. Additionally, dry with a microfibre towel. You can use valet quality glass cleaner; this is available in 5l containers. However, for those just starting less expensive alternatives like Windex or Windowlene will suffice.
Interior valet car care
With the exterior clean, the next step is to move on to the interior. Beforehand, tidy away all goods that were used during washing. This includes buckets, pressure washers, and towels. Also, remove everything from the vehicle to provide you with a blank slate to clean. Empty the boot, door sills, and footwells. Remove any rubbish and put anything useful in a clear plastic bag to one side to prevent it from water damage.
The basics you will need for an interior car valet include:
- Cockpit/dashboard cleaner
Firstly, start with the rear of the vehicle and make your way forward as you clean. Hoover the boot mat and utilise a brush attachment if possible. As the vehicle was previously emptied this step should not take long. Hoover car mats, parcel shelf, between the seats, and any other carpeted areas within the vehicle as you progress.
Following this apply some anti-static dashboard cleaner to your brush, work it into the interior, then wipe it. For stubborn areas spray directly onto surfaces and agitate with a soft brush. If you do not want to ruin good quality brushes use paintbrushes or make-up brushes as an alternative, especially when cleaning under plastic seals. Use thin brushes or earbuds to clean interior vents.
Secondly, as you move forward through the car be sure to be as thorough as possible. General everyday car cleaners are inexpensive and suitable for any novice valeter just starting. Beware, however, when cleaning very dirty areas such as pedals that you do not contaminate your equipment. Use cheap paintbrushes for areas like these.
Dress to impress
Finally, give the interior carpets and fabric a spray and brush with a product suitable for the material. A nail brush can be used on both leather and carpet alike as a cost-cutting measure. Finish off by dressing the plastics around the door frame with the same anti-static dashboard cleaner. Present your customer with their sparkling vehicle with a free air freshener with your company logo. This will advertise your services to future passengers.
Top car valeting tips
In summary, here are a few tips to keep in mind as you start your car valet business:
- Price your services, skills, and resources sensibly to maximise your income.
- Be specific about what your valet includes. Do not leave anything to the customer’s imagination.
- Use your knowledge to upsell value-adding extras and increase your profitability.
- Sell yourself! By providing a personal experience you promote customer loyalty and potential future business.
Clean up your spending and see how much you could save!
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