How to Estimate Auto Detailing Charges for Oversized Vehicles

When a customer shows up with a 33-foot-long Fleetwood motor home and wants an estimate for detailing a “toy” that put him and his wife back a hundred grand, what do you tell him?

Scratching your head and saying “we’ll figure that out later,” isn’t going to cut it. You’ve got to be able to look that owner in the eye and say, “It’s going to cost you $17 a foot and I’m thinking you won’t find a better deal.”

Confidence. That’s what you need when estimating a cost for detailing oversized vehicles.

Backing up for a moment…we recently published a blog post about how to properly price an automobile detail job that can help you pencil out the appropriate costs and charges. Today we’re going to help you come up with a fair yet profitable price tag for oversized vehicles — tasks that often take a full day or more to complete.

Pricing oversized auto detailing jobs

When arriving at a cost for detailing an oversized, there are several things to be considered. First and foremost, remind yourself that if you’re a one- or two-person operation, that these types of jobs usually take a minimum of a day to complete, and they can entail a lot of trips up and down a ladder.

Other considerations include:

  • The size of the vehicle to be detailed
  • The type of vehicle (limousine, cube truck, small bus, conversion van, over-the-road haulers, RV or full-size extended crew cab and even boats)
  • The amount of work required to properly detail the vehicle.

In addition, you’re going to need to know the break-even number — what it’s going to cost you to do the job — so you can more accurately determine a charge for your professional detailing services. And, of course, you want to set a fee that is competitive with other detailers in your area.

Lucky for you, Detail King is the best in the business when it comes to products and detailing know-how. We went to great lengths to gather information from various sources — including our instructors and your peers in various parts of the country — in order to come up with what professional detailers typically charge for working on oversized vehicles. And the consensus seems to be a price range of $10 to $22.50 per foot; depending on the amount of work your customer wants to have done.

For instance, if the oversized vehicle is in for a simple wash, the going rate would be anywhere from $5 to $8 per foot. That means the charge for the above-mentioned 33-foot Fleetwood would be in the neighborhood of $165 to $265. Sounds like a lot of money, but typically the people that own these beasts are usually seniors that can’t “do it themselves” or the wealthy that have the disposable income to pay a professional upwards of $200 to wash their home on wheels.

If the owner wants a wash and wax, the cost goes to $10 to $15 per foot. What you charge, of course, might depend on how much oxidation is found on the vehicle, a situation in which some buffing and correction with polishing compounds might be in order. And if you’re getting the car buffer out, you should hike your price to at least to $17 or $18 per foot to cover your labor and detailing supply costs. Some detailers we spoke to charge an additional $5 to $10 per foot more for areas that require a compound or professional buffing.

And if the owner wants the interior of their oversized vehicle detailed, your price could bring in another $10 to $15 per foot, depending on the condition of the living areas. Be sure you have a heated carpet extractor with a floor wand.

It should go without saying that you never promise a specific price until you’ve actually eyeballed the vehicle in person. Keep in mind that oversized vehicles frequently have lots of metal and chrome that needs polishing, as well as large and numerous wheels and tires that require scrubbing, cleaning, polishing and dressing.

If you’re giving a lot of thought about cultivating oversized vehicles as a niche, then it’s critical that you have the proper detailing equipment for these specialized jobs. Your detailing business needs to be profitable and your work set needs to be proficient. You may need scaffolding, and you can purchase used scaffolding for a song and a dance —maybe just a song! You’ll also need wide truck wash brushes with telescoping handles, and RV and Trailer Power Washer Soap that can be dispensed through your pressure washer, as long as it has a soap injector.

It’s also not a bad idea to concentrate your efforts by procuring fleet accounts that need weekly washes, and semi-annual details. Don’t forget the marinas and all the boats that need cleaning and protection at the end of the boating season. Boat detailing is a huge opportunity. You would price these baby’s the same as an RV, and if you get in at a good marina, you’ll be busy throughout the fall.

One final word of advice: If you’re using social utilities like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube and LinkedIn to promote your detailing business, be sure to include a mention that you specialize in oversized vehicles. These behemoths can spell big bucks to a savvy automotive detail expert.

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Comments (3)

  1. Joe S. says:

    For a basic wash on a large vehicle we are in the $4.00 to $8.00. Our goal is to always be in the $55 to $65 dollar per hour range. That is how we come up with all of our pricing.

  2. chris russell says:

    well right now i just do vehicles, so for me i charge 50 for a wash and wax on a sedan or small truck, the most i charge is 225 for a complete detail on an ex large vehicle, ie, suburban,excursion, something along those lines, and i put on there specialty vehicles are subject to price.
    and now i am thinking of doing a boat or more if it turns out nice.

  3. Mark says:

    On large vehicles such as RV’s, motorhomes, boats, etc. it is sometimes helpful to charge by the linear foot. Makes pricing by phone easier and much more simplified.

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