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10 Smart Items to Include in Your Mobile Detailing Setup

The right setup is so important for your mobile detailing business! After all, well-organized equipment can mean a few extra detailing jobs per week…and more money in your pocket.

The mobile detailing industry is experiencing a solid 9% annual growth rate according to research by FMI, so now is the time to optimize your setup and take advantage of the demand.

For inspiration, here are 10 items to consider adding as part of your mobile detailing setup.

1. Bins and mounted racks

Since you’ll use dozens of towels, spray bottles, and other equipment every day, you need a place to store and retrieve these items. There’s nothing worse than hunting for a spray bottle or wash mitt!

Even if working from an open trailer or truck, get creative and find a way to mount any items for convenience. For vans and enclosed detailing trailers, organize your towels, spray bottles, and chemicals in an intuitive way using labels.

Quick Tip

Label your supplies using a color-coded or lettering system to save time. These codes will take the guesswork out of remembering what products you need for a particular service when someone orders a service off your detailing services menu.

To store microfiber towels, applicator pads, cutting pads, and other loose items, consider plastic storage containers with easy grab-and-go access. You can mount these containers on a simple shelf, or buy plastic containers with drawers if you don’t have space. No matter where you store your dry items, make sure they will stay dry.

Stackable Plastic Bins for Detailing Towels or Pads

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You can also mount an aluminum trash can holder for cleaning out vehicles (and placing disposable gloves); these you can mount on the inside of a trailer or door and remove the can if needed.

It’s also a good idea to use a few 5-gallon buckets to place dirty towels, pads, and anything else used. Just remember to separate your dirty wheel and tire rags from your drying towels to avoid cross-contamination.

Check out our post on washing and drying microfiber towels for laundry tips.

Aside from bins, invest in some spray bottle racks or a detailing cart or caddy.

Spray Bottle Storage Racks

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Steel spray bottle holders that secure the entire bottle cost a bit more, but in my opinion, are well worth it for convenience. In vans, I’ve seen spray bottle holders mounted to doors, but you can technically get away with using hooks (if they secure the bottles well).

2. Water tanks

Depending on your business plan, you may need to carry water tanks in a van, a single-axle, or double-axle trailer. You can begin with smaller 35-gallon tanks if you’re space-constrained since a 70-gallon tank should be able to wash 2-3 average-sized cars.

65-gallon Water Tank for Detailing

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RomoTech makes a few water tanks ideal for mobile auto detailers, like this 65-gallon model; the design is also ideal for anchoring using saddle straps. Just be sure to pick up the recommended valves to connect to your generator/hose reel or pressure washer you will be using.

Check out our water tank setup and size guide for water tank recommendations and setup advice.

Quick Tip

Use straps or zip ties to secure your detailing equipment during travel. Whether you mount heavy items to plywood or use zip-ties for extension cords, get in the habit of securing your equipment any time you hit the road.

3. Detailing skid unit

A detailing skid is arguably the most important component of any mobile car wash setup you can either build or buy. Both RightLook.com and DetailKing offer equipment packages with options like:

  • Water tanks in various sizes
  • Generators
  • Pressure washer units
  • Air compressors
  • Vacuum cleaner
  • Foam cannon and gun (add-on)
  • Pressure hose (add-on)
building pressure washer skid for detailing
Image of custom skid unit with water tank.

If you’re considering a more DIY option, check out our step-by-step tutorial on building a pressure washer skid mount for detailing.

4. Modular storage system

If you haven’t heard of a Packout—it’s a modular storage system made by Milwaukee that allows you to stack multiple toolboxes together. Many detailers use these if providing mobile service from a car or truck because they keep towels, polishers, and everything you need convenient to access and separate.

Milwaukee PACKOUT Rolling Tool Box

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MiIwaukee PACKOUT Rolling Tool Box.

You can get started with a simple rolling toolbox if you need to conserve space and stay organized.

5. Portable canopy for detailing

In mobile detailing, sometimes you need shade to stay cool…even if you can’t find any around. Consider making an initial investment in a simple pop-up tent or canopy that can fit a vehicle, because they do come in handy. On misty or foggy days with light rain, a pop-up tent can give you a competitive edge since you can still provide some interior services while most stay home.

10 ‘ x 20’ Pop-up Canopy

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car wash detailing tent

Check out my post, Mobile Detailing Canopies 101 (Plus Recommendations) for a complete breakdown (no pun intended) of a few of my favorites.

6. Dedicated workstation area

As a business owner, you may want a dedicated workstation if you have the room. If you have the space to create a custom setup, you can technically build an office corner of your trailer using diamond-plate or mountable shelving.

If you run a mobile business and need to print invoices or receipts, it’s not too difficult to mount a shelf, set up a printer, and use a personal hotspot. As with your other equipment, don’t forget to secure everything!

Check out this YouTube video by Right Look for their workstation trailer setup.

7. Water containment mat

Planning to operate in and around office parks or commercial spaces? It’s wise to use a water containment mat because there are runoff regulations property managers are wary of.

This one is large enough to fit full-size trucks, and limos.

12′ x 23′ Water Containment Mat

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water containment mat

You can find these mats on Amazon in a few different sizes; I like the one above because you can use pool noodles instead of air to contain the water.

8. Water reclamation system

If filling up your tanks is getting expensive or if you live in an area with water restrictions, a watery recovery solution can provide good ROI.

alkota vfs-1 for carwash water reclamation
The Alkota VFS-1 can be mounted to most large skid units.

This Alkota unit at Detail King will suck up about 5 gallons of water per minute, contains a filtration system, and can be used to reclaim water from a reclamation mat.

9. Fire extinguisher

Since there’s a good chance you’ll encounter flammable sprays and liquids like isopropyl alcohol, a fire extinguisher is a critical piece of detailing safety. Be sure to mount or store a small fire extinguisher in a safe place.

While you’re at it, pick up a small first aid kit you can mount underneath the fire extinguisher and even an eyewash kit since you will be dealing with chemicals daily.

A fire extinguisher is an example of a startup cost that may pay for itself; many insurance companies offer lower rates if you take safety precautions like adding a fire extinguisher.

10. Custom graphic wrap or lettering

Most of the enclosed detailing trailers are white—which is fine if you are just starting. However, to set yourself apart as a professional detailer, consider getting a vinyl wrap with your logo or at minimum a good lettering job.

detailing trailer custom lettering
Example of a simple vinyl lettering job with name and service offerings.

Even with the internet, it’s still one of the most effective methods of free advertising.

You can have a custom lettering job for as little as a few hundred dollars and is an easy way for future customers to know you exist.

New to the mobile car wash business? Start here

Now that you have a few ideas for your detailing setup, consider what is absolutely essential to your current business model…and what’s not.

If you’re a sole proprietor detailing on the side, you don’t need tons of expensive equipment until you establish a customer base and know what they want.

Instead of overspending, we recommend starting small and focusing on your customer experience. If interior detailing is popular in your market…you may decide to wait until you’ve saved up some cash before getting into exterior detailing.

As you understand the types of services customers in your service area are willing to pay for, you can adjust your setup as you go.

Need take the first step and learn the basics of detailing? Check out our video course, Washing and Detailing for Beginners. Good luck and happy detailing!

Ready to improve your washing and detailing skills?

This video course unpacks the fundamentals of washing and detailing. From exterior cleaning and blemish removal…you’ll learn the secrets that will give you spotless pro-level results!

Baxter Overman is the founder of Carwash Country and has been been cleaning up dirty vehicles for nearly 20 years. Since 2017, he's helped thousands of beginners see better results by learning the fundamentals of washing and detailing. He's on a mission to make the car wash process more fun...and way easier.

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