the ultimate guide to detailing a limo

So you’re thinking about washing and detailing limousines? It can be a lot of work, but the good news is that you’re likely to receive a lot of repeat business if you’re able to establish a solid client base. 

With that said, there are some things to keep in mind.

In this blog post, I’ll break down everything you need to know about getting started with limousine detailing – from actual detailing tips, to a few business-related best practices.

3 strategies for how to price for detailing a limo

charging customer for detailing

One of the most important aspects of limo detailing is understanding how to charge your customer in a way that makes sense for both parties. It really comes down to a few basic pricing strategies.

Limos obviously aren’t the easiest or fastest to detail properly, so your pricing strategy should reflect that. As a general rule of thumb, do your research to get a feel for what the going rate is in your area, and adjust your price based on your skill level and experience.

Charging an hourly rate

Since limos can sometimes take 2 or 3 times as long to properly detail, many auto detailers choose to go that route of charging the customer by the hour.

If you are dealing with independent limo owners (and don’t have a crew)  this is typically a good strategy since it will take you longer per limo. I would probably charge per linear foot (which I’ll discuss next) vs hourly if you’re dealing with fleets, since you will have at least two people detailing simultaneously.

Charging per linear foot

Depending on how sophisticated you want to get, it’s not uncommon to price per linear foot. Some detailers will start at $10-$25 per linear foot (variable based on if it is an interior or exterior detail), but you can adjust as needed.

Since many limos are around 30 feet long, an exterior detail at $10/linear foot would cost the customer $300 (30 feet long x $10 per linear foot = $300). 

Charging based on frequency

If washing more than one limo on a regular basis, another pricing strategy is to charge per vehicle based on how often your customer requests service.

While I wouldn’t recommend offering too much of a discount, you can price more competitively so long as the limo owner is willing to offer work to you on a regular basis.

Maintenance price vs reconditioning price

The last pricing strategy I want to discuss assumes that either the limo falls into one of two categories:

  1. The limo looks like it hasn’t been detailed in while
  2. The limo has been detailed but is just dirty

Reconditioning price

One tactic I’ve heard many detailers use is charging a reconditioning a price to get the limo ‘up to spec’, which will cost more than a regular maintenance wash.

If you receive a limo (or fleet) with tons of scratches, it’s okay to communicate to the customer that it will cost more initially to remove these.

Once scratches are removed, you can explain to them the cheaper option from that point forward: your maintenance price.

Maintenance price

As opposed to the reconditioning price, setting a lower ‘maintenance price’ encourages your customers to return to you more often to receive a better discount.

Since maintenance washing usually doesn’t involve claying or polishing scratches, it will mean less time for your crew, and more recurring revenue over time. 

9 limo detailing techniques and tips

tips for washing and detailing a limo

Customers have an expectation that a limo (both interior and exterior) is going to be spotless and professional whenever they arrive at a party or other event.

Since you will always want to wow your customers, here are 10 tips to consider whenever detailing a limousine:

1. Use a glaze, or product to enhance shine

Since your clientele (whether a limo owner or company) will be expecting to wow customers, adding an extra touch to the exterior is a must. With most limos likely being black, a product like Black Light by Chemical Guys can help to really create a show-car like gloss as you can see in this video. It also has great reviews here on Amazon.

2. Use a foam cannon and power washer to wash and rinse faster

When maintenance washing or washing several large limos, using a foam cannon to apply soap is a no-brainer a really a must for these types of jobs. If you normally use a waterless wash product for most detailing jobs, picking up a nice detailing cannon and pressure washer isn’t a bad idea.

I outline a few of my favorites in the recommended gear section.

3. Carry plenty of disinfectants for the interior

Bachelor parties, people who have had a little too much to drink…the list goes on. Especially in the current post-COVID-19 climate, stocking up on disinfectants is an absolute must for limo detailing.

From sprays to sanitizers, I would recommend picking these up in bulk and mixing them yourself. Disinfection services you can also be a great marketing strategy for giving potential clients peace of mind over your competitors

4. Stand behind your pricing model and quality standard

With the cost of living continuing to increase, always stand behind your pricing model, assuming it is reasonable.

Especially when dealing with larger limousine companies, you have a reputation that is worth charging for if you truly are the best detailer in town. Your prices should reflect that!

5. Invest in a steamer for interior detailing

Although often overlooked, a steam cleaning machine I also highly recommend for cleaning the interior of limos, due to it’s ability to help remove stains on carpets, as well as sanitize in general.

Bissell makes a couple of entry level spot cleaners like the one pictured above I found here on Amazon, and are great to use after wiping down the seats and applying other cleaners or disinfecants.

6. Make sure you have a large enough team for the job

If washing and detailing fleets like limos or vans, you’ll want to consider having at least 1 or 2 people on your crew to help. This obviously also can be a prerequisite to landing contracts with larger companies.

The more work you’re willing to take on (and can handle), the less fuel costs you will have travelling throughout a given week, and the fewer client’s you’ll need in a given week to stay busy.

7. Offer volume discounts

Whenever pitching limo or other fleet-based companies, having a pricing structure that reflects discounts based on more work can be more attractive that simply a flat rate. You can also offer additional perks for your customers giving you a lot of work to keep them loyal.

8. Consider an auto detailing shop

While mobile detailing has been on the rise in recent years, an auto detailing shop may be the best route for some limousine owners who are looking for something more advanced, like paint correction.

Offering both mobile and in-shop detailing options can really open the door for limo owners who may prefer an indoor detail vs. an exterior job.

9. Use an extendable detailing pole for those hard to reach areas

With such a large top area to reach, it can also be help to purchase an extendable pole with a cleaning head like this one. While I don’t recommend using a brush to avoid scratching, you can pick up a chenille mitt attachment to make cleaning this area easier.

Conclusion

Overall, getting into limo detailing can be a great way to have a consistent stream of income throughout the course of your detailing career. While they are significantly more work, you can charge more and will likely have limo companies who schedule routine service.

The good thing about limos, is that they should be detailed by a professional, and not simply dropped off for 20 minutes to be wiped down at a local full service car wash.

Once you get familiar with detailing limos, you may want to move on to detailing RVs, or even consider starting a fleet washing business. I outline a few tips for starting this type of business in this blog post.

While limos obviously need to be detailed, washing fleets is a different business altogether, since they don’t require the same level of attention on the exterior. It all depends on your business model!

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