A detailing trailer is THE foundation of a good mobile carwash and detailing business, so you want to make sure you have the right equipment to get the job done. There are a few different setups to consider – from building your own detail trailer, to purchasing one pre-built and ready to go. In this blog, I’m going to focus on ideas you can incorporate into an enclosed pull-behind detailing trailer. However, many of these tips can be applied to a detailing van (or open trailer setup).

After checking out several setups I came up with 8 smart ideas you may or may not have thought of to make your entire process as efficient and professional as possible.  Time is money, so having the right equipment on board can really help to streamline your workflow and attract customers.

But First, What to Know if You Are New to Detailing

If you’re new and choose to build a custom detailing trailer from scratch, there are a few options to consider. If you are considering purchasing one, there are several companies like RightLook.com or DetailKing that offer ready-to-go packages as well as fully customizable options – but you’ll obviously pay a little more for them.

The benefit is that these are made with high quality materials, capable of carrying water tanks, and can handle the load requirement due to their steel designs.

If you do decide to purchase a trailer or van, just make sure you know what materials were used, and it’s carrying capacity.

Open or Enclosed Trailer? Or Van?

transit van for detailing

Before purchasing any other equipment, it’s important to determine what size trailer or van you will need. This really dependent on what type of business you have. It may be better to have a detailing van if you are catering to businesses where parking may be limited and you have to work in tight spaces.

Many detailing trailers I’ve seen are either 5′ x 8′  in length or 6’x10′ dual axle trailers. If you are considering working out of a smaller vehicle, you may want to check out our post: Building a Pressure Washer Skid Mount for Detailing for more ideas.

For residential jobs where you are parking in a driveway, space shouldn’t really be a problem, so a trailer should be fine for this type of application and give you a little more room. Many companies do use longer transit vans, so it’s something to consider if you are considering expanding and deploying a fleet at some point.

However, many of these ideas I’ve seen can be applied to both types.

8 Ideas to Consider in Your Detailing Setup

While everyone’s setup and gear preferences will vary, below are a few simple ideas for keeping your rig organized and ready to win new business against competitors:

1. Bins and Mounted Racks

Every setup is different, but it’s crucial to have a setup for your trailer that makes it easy to access on the fly. Having towels and bottles unorganized and scattered can obviously make you much less efficient and send the wrong message to potential customers.

Towel bins on shelving

As a detailer, you probably have several different types of microfiber towels, shammys, and other cloths and towels used for applying product. One trailer that I’ve seen by RightLook contains a shelf with fresh towels and applicators.

As pictured below, having the shelf suspended from the two sides of the trailer makes access much easier than side-mounted shelves. Another nice touch is an attached wire rack for hanging detailing brushes. I’ve also seen these in vans as well, and are usually oriented  facing the door, in reach of hose reels.

detail trailer shelving

Another option I’ve seen that is a pretty nice option are bins for dirty towels and trash that you can easily mount to the side of one your doors or walls. Dirty rags can really get in the way over the course of a day or week, so keeping them separated will make it a lot easier when doing laundry.

I’ve also seen plastic drawers (i.e. 6×6 or 8×8) attached to the side walls for keeping accessories.

trash bins for mobile detailing trailer

Mounted racks for spray bottles

In nearly every setup I’ve seen, most detailing trailers have racks that contain chemicals in spray bottles you need in a typical detailing job. These I see mounted on dual rear (swinging) doors, within easy access at any time.

car wash spray bottle holder

You can pick these up pretty inexpensively on Amazon, just make sure that the bottles you are using will fit the diameter. The steel ones look the best in my opinion, but there are a lot of other wire holders that may work for you.

Another option is to purchase a small cart for loading bottles and equipment into that you can push around to the customer’s vehicle if you prefer. This setup I liked, since the cart is accessible from the door and everything is together.

detailing bottle rack

2. Dedicated workstation area

This is probably one of the cooler setups I’ve seen, where there is somewhat of an office built into the trailer using some diamondplate shelving. This setup probably isn’t practical for most, but could be an option if you have a 12 to 16 foot trailer with a side-access door.. Check out this YouTube video by Right Look for their complete trailer setup.

auto detailing workstation

Whatever hardware you decide to incorporate, just be sure it is secured since it will be subject to a lot of bumps and motion. I don’t know if I’d leaving electronics out in the open is a great idea, but if I had a diamondplate box to securely store everything, I may consider it.

In general, some sort of mobile workstation is a great idea if you have the space, since you can easily pick up a WiFi hotspot and work remotely if you have to. This is especially helpful if you are at the scale where you need to print invoices or manage appointments.

3. Pop-up Tent

If you’re a mobile detailer, at some point you will be battling the elements. However, one accessory that you can store in one of the rear corners of your trailer is a large pop-up tent that can fit an entire car.

In the event that it rains, you can still offer interior detailing services, put you will obviously want protection from the elements for yourself as well as the open car doors.

car wash detailing tent

The one pictured above I found on here on Amazon. I like this one because it’s long enough to fit a car or truck underneath as well as a shop-vac or equipment you need for detailing. Check out our post Mobile Detailing Canopies 101 [Plus Recommendations] for a complete breakdown.

These commercial grade tents usually come with an extended warranty, and are 100% waterproof. This is ideal if you have contracts with office parks that may not have parking decks in the event of rain.

4. Water Tanks – Sizes and Placement

If you are starting on a budget and decide to purchase a single axle trailer vs. a 2 axle trailer, you may want to start with purchasing a couple of smaller 35 gallon tanks.  According to some, 70 gallons should be able to wash 2-3 average sized cars before needing to be refilled, and is a great option if you are on a budget.

They obviously take up less space than a massive 325 gallon tank that you may not need initially when getting started. Large 300+ gallon tanks can be pretty scary to drive with if you are pulling a trailer due to the trailer sway they can produce.

35 gallon car wash water tank

This one on Amazon pictured above is made by Norwesco and was around $100 bucks the last time I checked, and come in a variety of sizes. Just be sure to pick up the recommended valves to connect to your generator/hose reel or pressure washer you will be using.

Keep in mind many standalone pressure washers require a medium to high pressure feed to operate, and may not work connected directly to the tank, so you may want to run a pump from the tank to your pressure washer.

I’ve also seen these smaller tanks hold degreaser or soap for detailers that also wash houses. If your trailer can handle a larger tank, just be sure you try to balance out the weight.

Another benefit to a tandem axle trailer is that if a tire blows out, you will obviously have another to pick up the slack.

5. Mounted Fire Extinguisher

Since you will likely be dealing with gas powered generators or flammable sprays and liquids, a fire extinguisher is a critical piece of detailing safety. You can simply mount a tank in the corner of your trailer and you’re good to go.

carwash trailer fire extinguisher

While you’re at it, you may want to pick up a small first aid kit you can mount underneath the fire extinguisher and even an eye wash kit since you will be dealing with chemicals on a daily basis.

6. Water containment and reclamation system

If you are planning to operate in and around office parks or commercial space, you need to be aware of the EPA regulations that exist in your area. For example, in Tulsa Oklahoma, you can get fined $14,000 fine if water makes it to the curb. I know one mobile detailing company in my area that actually recycles water in addition to using water reclamation mats, and has been able to grow a lot faster than competitors.

When trying to secure contracts with property management companies (or neighboorhoods), being eco-friendly is a way to set yourself apart from competition and put managers at ease. Anything you can do to minimize your presence (like using low-noise generators) goes a long way.

carwash water reclamation mat

One mat I found by All American on Amazon (pictured above) is one of the more affordable options since some can cost over $1,000. This one can fit full size trucks, and limos at 12′ x 23′. They do make some of these mats with an inflatable ring around the exterior which I have heard can be hit or miss, but this one gives you the option to contain the water with pool noodles instead.

7. Water Recovery and Filtration System

Government storm drain regulations are pretty widespread around the country, but the good news is that you can save water and prevent contamination by using a vacuum like the Alkota VFS-1. I have seen this unit on open-trailer setups, but is something that you could possibly add to an enclosed trailer if you have the space with your water tank.

alkota vfs-1 for carwash water reclamation

This unit I found on Detail King, and can suck up about 5 gallons of water per minute, run everything through its filtration system, and produce clean water you can safely dispose of or reuse. If you are in an area where filling up your tanks is becoming difficult (or expensive) you may want to check out this option.

8. Custom Graphic Wrap or Lettering

detailing trailer custom lettering

The majority of the enclosed trailers I see are all white – which is totally fine if you are just getting started. However, you might want to consider at least getting your trailer wrapped or have lettering applied by a graphics shop in town. Even with the internet, it’s still one of the most effective methods of advertising you can do.

Getting an entire trailer wrapped top to bottom can cost anywhere from $2000 on the low end to over $5,000. It really depends on how big your trailer is. One option that is considerably less expensive is lettering. I’ve heard of custom lettering jobs costing a few hundred dollars like this one pictured above. Definitely not as eye-catching as the full wrap, but it gets the job done.

Conclusion

While there are literally dozens of configurations you can go with, I’d start with a setup that works for your business type. Make sure you ask yourself questions like:

  • How many vehicles can you expect to wash in a day?
  • Will you offer interior detailing?
  • How much equipment can fit in my trailer?

Having a vacuum, a couple of hose reels, a water tank, two generators, a pressure washer, an air compressor, and all the accessories can obviously be really difficult to cram in such a tight space unless your trailer is capable.

Many of the trailers I’ve seen leave enough room in the middle to access all of your equipment needed without tripping over reels, generators, etc. The good setups I’ve seen maximize the available space usually by incorporating racks and shelving, and having systems in place to keep an open area needed to refill tanks/etc.

Equipment can always be re-arranged, so try a configuration that makes the most sense for you.

Have any other ideas or suggestions for creating an efficient detailing rig? Leave a comment below.