As a mobile detailer, sometimes the weather can be extremely hot and having a canopy on hand can make your job a lot easier and more professional. These are ideal for jobs that will require a bit more time and attention to detail, so it depends on your business. If you detail from your home instead of going to your customer, the same principles apply.
In this blog, I’ll break down what to look for in a portable canopy, and give you a few recommendations if you are in the market for one.
Why Use a Canopy or Tent for Detailing?
In most normal situations hauling out a canopy or tent may not make much sense, but there are times when it is helpful to have one. Here are a couple of scenarios that might make sense for you:
Drizzle and Light Rain
In the event of bad weather like rain and lightning, it’s always best to reschedule an exterior wash, but a canopy is ideal if you are just performing an interior detail.
Since you will be leaving doors open (or at least cracked) having a canopy can limit the amount of water or dirt you will track inside the vehicle, and is really just a last resort if you have 20-30 minutes left of work.
Shade and Hot Temps
One of the more common reasons why many mobile detailers prefer canopies is for the shade. On very hot days when temperatures are soaring in the upper 80s to 90s, water dries more easily, leaving spots and making the vehicle surface pretty hot.
A canopy may be able to reduce heat by 15 degrees or more, which is especially important on hot days when the paint is too hot to really touch. Soap can dry a lot quicker in direct sunlight, which means less lubrication overall and a greater risk of leaving swirl marks or small scratches.
Factors to Consider Before Buying
If you are thinking about purchasing a canopy for mobile detailing or at-home use, you have a bunch of different options and materials to consider. Here are a few things you will want to keep in mind before purchasing one.
This is probably the most important factor. For most detailers, a 12′ x 15′ canopy is just about the perfect size for any vehicle you will be detailing. It does depend on what size vehicle you typically detail and how many guys are in your crew. Anything more than about 12′ x 12′ will probably require a couple of people to set up.
If you are just looking to buy a canopy for home use, a 10′ x 10′ canopy should be fine if you drive a smaller vehicle, or even for detailers just getting started. Keep in mind some canopies have a center pole that juts down from the roof, which can make it harder to clean or wax taller vehicles.
Whichever model you choose, just make sure you take into consideration the overall specs and overall height.
Having a huge 12′ x 20′ canopy is great in theory, but it doesn’t help if you can’t erect it yourself. Many larger canopies require 2-3 people to set up and are pretty cumbersome to take down and remove. If you are a mobile detailer working alone, you need to consider something that is portable and lightweight enough to easily erect and take down as needed.
One option that gives you the best of both worlds is to align two canopies or tents side-by-side. Having two 12′ x 12′ tents may be a good investment just in case you encounter a larger vehicle since you will have plenty of room to work and can erect both of them yourself.
Many cars will fit under a couple of 10′ x 10′ units with no problem, but it’s nice to have the extra space to work.
Straight vs Slanted Legs
A minor detail, but an important one. For example, some canopies claim to measure 12′ x 12′ but due to slanted legs may in fact only give you a 10′ x 10′ space to work from. Most have straight legs, but it is something to check.
You can find ‘pop-up tents’ at just about any discount store, but most are designed for light use. In other words, not something that you can expect to hold up when tearing it down, storing, and using it several times per week as a detailer.
On the other hand, some ‘commercial’ tents you see at weddings and special events can cost several thousand dollars, and are probably not worth the investment just for mobile detailing.
Nevertheless, build quality should be considered to an extent, since there is a difference between a $50 budget tent and a $300 commercial-grade unit.
Here are a few features to look for:
- UV coating for the fabric
- Quality of wheeled carrying bag
- Extent and duration of the warranty
- Roof material – PVC (waterproof) or polyester
Don’t Forget to Secure your Canopy!
Pretty much all portable canopies you can fold up and take with you will tip over at some point if not weighted down. This is super-important to avoid damaging the customer’s vehicle in the event you get a gust of wind.
A couple of popular options I have heard about are sandbags and 5-gallon buckets. You can also purchase canopy weights for slightly more, which also do a good job.
If you decide to go with sandbags, I would recommend a set of four and a couple hundred pounds of sand to fill them with. Many sandbags you can find on Amazon hold around 50 pounds per bag, which should be plenty to secure everything in high wind.
Many canopies come with sandbags as an add-on at purchase.
5 Gallon Buckets of Water
Some mobile detailers will simply fill 5-gallon buckets with water to secure each pole. It depends on your access to water and how much time you want to spend doing this. While you can always pour water back in your tank if you have one, I’d probably just keep sandbags in your van or trailer if you have space.
Adding Side Curtains
For times when rain blows sideways or you have some glare from the sun, side curtains are helpful as long as you still have room to work. The larger 12′ x 12′ canopies are ideal for side curtains, but can always be added later if you decide on a smaller model.
Customize with your Branding
Eurmax also makes canopies that are fully customizable with your own branding if you choose. These usually can be made in the $500-$1,000 range depending on the vendor, but can really help from an advertising and branding standpoint.
If you attend a lot of car shows or other events, it can be a great advertising tool for your detailing business.
Recommendation #1: Mastercanopy 12′ x 12′ Straight-Leg Canopy Tent (click to view on Amazon)
This one I really like because of the 12′ x 12′ size which is pretty difficult to find. This one comes with sidewalls, perfect for added privacy. The larger size is ideal for washing longer trucks or SUVs that normally wouldn’t fit under a 10′ x 10′ foot canopy.
Recommendation #2: E-Z UP 10′ x 10′ Pyramid Instant Shelter Canopy (click to view on Amazon)
EZ-Up is one of the most popular canopy brands you can purchase, are made well, and are pretty easy to set up (as you might imagine). This 10×10 unit comes in a variety of colors, is lightweight, and comes with a 3-year warranty they claim to be ‘best-in-class’.
This model is on the smaller side, but is perfect if you are just starting out since it transports easily and is less than $200. Break-down is as simple as the push of a button, and can even be paired with another 10′ x 10′ for longer vehicles.
Recommendation #3: Eurmax 10′ x 10′ Commercial Straight-Leg Canopy Package (click to view on Amazon)
If you are looking for a very high-quality tent, check out the Eurmax line, like this 10′ x 10′ unit. These are probably the best quality canopies I have seen for the price, come in a variety of colors and sizes, and can even be customized with your own logo.
Most of these are 10’x x10′, but the Eurmax does make larger units as well.
Recommendation #4: American Phoenix 10′ x 15′ Canopy (click to view on Amazon)
If you are looking for something a little bigger and are on a budget, this model my American Phoenix has great reviews and is ideal if you are detailing with 1 or more people. This size should cover most larger vehicles you detail while still being portable.
This one is a good choice for office parks, or anywhere that allows you to have a little more room than your standard 10’x10′ canopy. For a little over $100, this one has PVC coated fabric that is water resistant, and push buttons to easily raise and lower everything.
For mobile detailers, a huge canopy seems great in theory but you may need to experiment to see what works for your business. A portable 10-foot canopy works for some detailers who are just looking to vacuum cars out in the shade, while others prefer larger canopies with 100% coverage so they can easily move around a vehicle for waxing.
If you detail at home, some models even look like small garages. If you do go this route, check your zoning laws as some towns prohibit canopies.
Have anything to add? Leave a comment below and let me know what worked for you! For more ideas as a detailer, check out the Carwash Country recommended gear page.