Industry sector:

Car valeter: Market research


When you plan your new business it's important to check how much demand there is for your services, what people actually want, and how much existing competition there is.

Estimating demand

It's very important to find out whether there is enough demand for your car valeting business in your area. Car valeting is quite an easy business to start up, so you may find there's a fair bit of local competition. You need to consider the level of local competition that you will face - a look through the relevant classifications on Yell.com and other similar online directories will give you an idea of how many car valeting businesses there are in your area. You could also look at local print directories. Car valeting is available from various sources and your local competitors might include:

  • other independent and franchise-based valeting businesses (ranging from small mobile outfits and 'pop-up' roadside operations to firms with large premises or a fleet of vehicles)
  • franchised motor dealers and used car dealers that offer valeting services
  • auto-centres (superstores with service bays attached) - Halfords, for example, offers a professional valeting service in some of its outlets
  • car body repair centres
  • garages offering general vehicle repairs and servicing

In some areas car cleaning businesses complain that they face unfair competition from 'cowboy' car wash businesses that keep their costs low by avoiding their legal obligations.

Petrol stations with car vacuums, drive through car washes or jet wash machines may also take trade away from valeting businesses.

It may be that you will only be competing directly against some of these outlets because you will be targeting a particular segment of the market or offering extra services which are hard to find elsewhere.

Have a good look at existing car valeting businesses in your area to establish:

  • what prices they charge
  • what range of services are offered (for example full valet, interior only, steam cleaning)
  • how knowledgeable and helpful their staff are
  • whether they operate a mobile service or have fixed premises
  • whether they offer to collect and deliver customers' vehicles
  • whether the premises and fittings are modern and smart
  • if they undertake valeting of lorries, coaches, caravans and so on
  • if they offer any additional services such as small paintwork repairs
  • if they offer inside and/or outside detailing

Try to find out if there is a gap in the market that your business can fill. Be aware that car cleaning and valeting businesses have been quite a popular start-up option among the eastern European migrant community, many of whom are prepared to work very hard for relatively low pay, sometimes working in supermarket car parks. Old disused petrol station sites and other low cost premises are commonly used, and they sometimes incorporate a cafe. These types of business typically offer a thorough service at very competitive prices, and they may be difficult to compete against.

If you're planning to specialise in detailing and paintwork correction, be aware that many of your competitors are prepared to travel quite considerable distances to work on customers' cars, particularly at the upper end of the market (classic cars, supercars and luxury cars etc).

Bear in mind that the number of potential customers depends on how many vehicles are in use in your area - which will in turn depend on the size of the local population. Obviously this is likely to be higher in large towns and cities, although car ownership may be lower in inner city areas. In rural locations, there may just be too few vehicles to generate enough work. Generally speaking, owners of newer more expensive cars tend to use the services of a professional valeter. Businesses like car dealers, taxi firms and hire companies commonly use valeting services too.

Find out what people want

As you may face quite a lot of competition it's important to find out what people want and whether there are any particular services you can offer which will attract customers. You could talk to potential business customers like car dealers and find out what services they might use and the prices that they would be prepared to pay for them. If they already use another valeting business you could ask them how much they pay, whether or not they're satisfied, and what you would have to do to make them switch to your own business. Remember that market research should be ongoing - once you've started up in business talk to your customers and make sure you're still meeting their needs.

Use the record sheet to note down the results of your market research.