If you are thinking about setting up in the car valeting business, you could be investing in a lucrative new career, particularly if you have a passion for vehicles and great attention to detail. A car valeter is involved in cleaning, polishing and waxing the exterior and interior of a vehicle including wheels, trims and windows.
While motor trade insurance will cover your van if you choose a mobile business, a specialist valet insurance policy will give you the full cover you need to protect your business.
As a car valet, you are responsible for other people’s vehicles, meaning you need to protect yourself in case something goes wrong. Accidents can happen when you least expect them, so choosing comprehensive valeting insurance can help to cover you against the unexpected and prevent you from suffering any financial loss.
Choosing Valeting Insurance
There are several reasons why a car valeter needs valeting insurance. For instance, it is likely that you will be involved in moving a customer’s vehicle after cleaning it and pending its collection. When driving an unfamiliar car, you may reverse it into another car by mistake or catch it on a wall whilst trying to reverse park.
You will be using cleaning materials and products to valet the car. If you were to accidentally damage the paintwork or leather upholstery, this could cost hundreds of pounds of damage.
A valet insurance policy will protect you should a customer sue for damages. Other areas of cover include your tools and equipment, buildings and premises, liability cover and indemnity.
Before looking at valeting insurance in more depth, here is an overview of how to get started in the valeting trade and what regulations you will need to put in place to get you up and running as soon as possible.
Getting Started as a Car Valet
First and foremost, like many businesses within the motor trade industry, you have to be prepared to roll up your sleeves and work long hours including weekends and evenings. Car valeting is a competitive industry and it will take a while for people to trust you and for your brand to get established. Consistent quality and reliability will soon help you build your business.
If you don’t have any experience washing or servicing cars, it would be better for you to work for a car valet business first to gain a better knowledge of the industry, learn the necessary skills and have an understanding of the equipment and cleaning materials you will need.
Before establishing your business, check out the competition locally and experience the services they offer. Try to aim for something different or superior to other car washes or valeters in the vicinity of your intended business. Look at ways to differentiate yourself - do you live in an affluent area that may make it more profitable for you to market to the luxury end of the vehicle market or would you prefer to remain mainstream?
Staying Mobile or Choosing a Location
Deciding whether to operate a mobile car valet business or manage from a location will be one of the first and most important decisions you will make before setting up your car valet business.
Choosing to run a mobile business will help you to save money on premises, give you the opportunity to reach a wider catchment area and offer customers a more personalised and convenient service. You will need to purchase a van and consider your fuel costs, but this can be a lucrative opportunity if you were to offer your services to corporate companies or large organisations such as taxi fleets.
If you operate from a business premises, you will be able to offer a wider range of services and having a permanent location can give your business a greater air of respectability in a shorter amount of time. Keep in mind though, your start up and running costs will be much higher as you will need to lease a premises and have building and contents insurance.
Decide Which Services You Will Offer
Most car valeting firms offer customers a tiered set of options. A full valet generally covers the interior and exterior of the vehicle including the windows, boot, wheels and tyres, with the carpets and seats being cleaned and the paintwork polished.
Services could also just include the cleaning of the interior or exterior of the vehicle. As your business expands, you may also want to look at some of the following valet options that will help you to differentiate your business from others nearby:
- Steam cleaning engines, underbody and wheel arches
- Alloy wheel refurbishment
- Paint restoration or paintwork correction
- ‘SMART repairs’ to paintwork, windscreen cracks and interior damage
- A complete ‘car makeover’ refurbishment and detailing service – some used car dealers use this service to refurbish new stock before it is displayed on the forecourt
- Vehicle deodorising
- Valeting lorries and coaches
- Cleaning specialist vehicles such as hygienically lined food carrying vans
To offer additional options, some valeters team up with car mechanics to offer car servicing and MOTs. This can help to reduce your overheads and means you can offer your customers a one-stop-shop. However, before joining up with someone, do your homework and made sure you find a reliable business partner with a good reputation and full motor trade insurance.
Car Valeting Rules and Regulations
As well as making sure you are fully covered with car valeting insurance, you will also need to check the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) website for information about recycling wastewater and chemical usage. Failure to adhere to HSE’s rules could result in fines for your business or costly legal proceedings being taken out against your company.
Within valeting there is a specific law called ‘trade effluent’ that states you cannot allow the water from valeting vehicles to enter the watercourse. Any discharge into a public sewer from a commercial or industrial premises is classified as trade effluent and you will need the consent of your local water company.
An application will cost in the region of £200 and is likely to take at least two months to process so you need to start early if you want to be up and running in good time. The water company will want you to estimate how much trade effluent your car valeting business is likely to produce and provide details of what chemicals you’ll be using, sample data, and details of the entry point to the public sewer.
The water board will also set certain conditions that must be adhered to and these will vary depending on the nature and volume of the waste and the provider in question.
Car Washing Equipment
Equipment is probably going to be one of the costliest outlays after your van or premises. When starting out, it’s best to reserve cash and invest in second-hand equipment from online stores. Do your research on what equipment, waxes and polishes offer the best value for money (often not always the bigger names) and the minimum amount you need to get yourself up and running.
Whilst some waxes and polishes may be more expensive, they can also be much easier to apply, making your job quicker and in need of less elbow grease, as well as leading to greater customer satisfaction. It’s best to weigh up all the pros and cons before making your purchase.
One of the largest equipment purchases will be a good quality generator which, if well maintained, will last you up to five years. It will form the backbone of your business, so if you are looking at second hand, do your homework to make sure it hasn’t previously undergone heavy use.
Invest in a cheaper semi-industrial electric jet wash. Vacuums and jet washes tend to need replacing after about six months of heavy use, so it isn’t worth spending out vast sums as the longevity tends to be similar for most brands.
If you are a mobile valeter, you will need to carefully consider the size of van you will need to accommodate all your equipment. Also, think more long-term and keep some room for an expansion of your services.
How Much Will You Charge?
When starting out, it’s tempting to want to undercharge to attract customers. This is not always a good idea. It may give the wrong impression about your company; potential customers may view cut prices as less professional or believe that you are using cheaper products. It’s also very difficult to increase your prices later when more established.
People are passionate about their cars and will happily pay for a job well-done provided you aren’t charging exorbitant prices. Overcharging will more than likely leave people feeling disgruntled and won’t help with word-of-mouth recommendations.
Research the going rate locally and try to pitch your prices somewhere in the middle. You will make more money if you can attract a different audience to your business through a variety of offerings not seen at other valeters. As you grow your business – and perhaps take on staff to help – you can upgrade and expand the range of equipment that you use and services you offer.
Start Marketing Your Business
You could offer the best service in the area, but it will still take time for people to hear about you and trust you with their vehicle. Leafletting locally is one of the best ways for people to find out about you, as well as local and social media advertising. Word of mouth is by far the cheapest marketing method, so as people recommend you, your reputation will grow and your business build.
If you are a mobile valeter, it is worthwhile visiting taxi fleets, rental car firms, courier companies, large corporations, industrial sites and offices to ‘pitch’ to their business. If you can take your business to a captive audience, valeting their cars while they are at work or taking a lunch break, you will save people time and can negotiate a corporate rate to save them money too.
Be personable. Car valeting is as much about customer service as it is about the job itself. Being hands-on and visible will make you the recognisable face of your business. People will see you care about your company and this could give you the edge over local competition. Carrying out consistently high-quality work will help you to quickly build a good reputation.
Will Motor Trade Insurance Cover Your Business?
If you are a mobile valeter, investing in motor trade insurance will cover your van but may not offer the specific insurance you need for your business. If you have a business premises, it will certainly leave you with some gaps in your cover, ones that may leave you out of pocket as your business expands.
Valeting is a specialist trade and, as such, requires specialist valet insurance from an experienced broker that can build the ideal policy for your business. Whether you operate from a building or you’re a mobile valeter going to your client’s premises, having the correct insurance is vital to ensure you’re covered in any eventuality.
Tradex insures valeting companies large and small, premises-based or mobile, and will cover new ventures as well as existing businesses that operate in public and private carparks as well as supermarkets, garages or sites leased by you.
What Valeting Insurance Do I Need?
Road Risks Insurance: First and foremost, if you are driving a client’s vehicle, even if it is on your own business premises, you will need to take out road risks insurance to protect yourself. Road risk cover ensures you can legally drive other peoples’ vehicles during the course of your business.
Tradex’s valeting road risks motor trade policy will cover you to move a customer’s vehicle up to a specific value whilst it is under your control. You will also be insured to drive your customers’ vehicles on the road (such as collection and delivery). As part of the policy, there are options to bring down the premium including limiting the area of your operations.
When selecting your road risks insurance, it is recommended that you choose a fully comprehensive policy to ensure that you are also personally covered should you damage yourself or the company’s vehicles during the normal running of your business. Third party or third-party fire and theft may seem a more cost-effective option when you are just starting out, but it means your or your vehicles won’t be covered should an accident occur.
Public Liability Insurance: This will cover you for legal liabilities arising from claims by customers or members of the public for injury or damage to property caused by the actions of you or your employees. For example, if a customer came back to pick up his or her valeted car, slipped on a wet floor, banged his or her head on a piece of equipment and suffered concussion or, worse, brain damage, you could be looking considerable damages. Public liability insurance would provide you with cover towards meeting the financial claim on you from legal to health costs.
Products Liability Insurance: This is generally recommended alongside public liability insurance, covering your legal liabilities from claims arising for injury or damage to property as a result of products or advice you have provided. For example, if you recommend a certain type of polish or wax that ends up damaging someone’s paintwork, they could sue for damages.
Employer’s Liability Insurance: Once you start taking on employees you are required by law to arrange employer’s Liability Insurance to indemnify you against claims by employees who have an accident at work and hold you responsible. Using chemicals and electrical equipment requires care and attention. If a member of staff were to accidentally spill a chemical on themselves causing skin irritation or burns, they may be entitled to compensation. Employer’s liability insurance will cover your legal costs and the medical expenses of the employee, as well as any compensation you are liable to pay out due to the accident.
Tools & Equipment Cover: Whether you are running a mobile van or have a business at premises, you will be purchasing a considerable amount of equipment. This will cover your goods, plant machinery, stock and portable hand tools kept in your van. Cover is also available for tools left overnight. Should something happen to your tools, for example they were destroyed in a fire or stolen, it is important that you can get up and running as soon as possible, so it is reassuring to know you will be recompensed for any loss.
Business Interruption Insurance: This type of insurance may well help you if you were to find yourself unable to work due to an accident or illness, damage caused to your premises or equipment by flood, fire, or storms, or even the breakdown of essential equipment. This can help tide you over while you get back on your feet and could also cover the cost of trading from alternative premises whilst yours is being restored. You will generally receive compensation for your salary and other expenses you may incur depending on your policy.
Premises Cover: If you operate from your own premises, you will need to consider insuring the building (if you own the property), as well as any contents or fixtures and fittings. If you keep customer’s vehicles at the premises, you will also require stock of vehicles cover in case a car is stolen overnight. If you are leasing the property, check with your landlord first to make sure you are not doubling up on insurance that is already in place.
Home Office: If you are a mobile valeter, you probably complete your paperwork at home and will have some business equipment such as computers and a printer. You need to make sure that your equipment is covered either by your household insurance or through an addition to your valeting insurance trade policy.
No Claims Bonus Protection: You can choose to pay an extra premium to keep the number of years of No Claims Bonus you’ve earned in the event of a claim where insurers cannot recover their losses. This can be a significant long-term saving and worth paying a little extra to protect. Tradex also offers the bonus booster for younger people just starting out in business or for their employees. This gives those without any no claims a six-month policy to accrue a year’s no claims and subsequently use this with Tradex on a full-term policy.
Arranging the Right Cover
Car valeting has increased in popularity in recent years which is good news if you are starting a business. This does, however, mean that there are an increasing number of claims being made against valeting companies for damage to vehicles. Sometimes this may be for minor bumps, scrapes or scratches which were, in fact the fault of the customer.
Having an experienced valeting insurance broker on your side means the claims can be expertly defended by people that have seen these situations many times before and respond in the right and direct way to get the outcome your company deserves.
Generally, valeting insurance will only cover certain types of vehicles and you would be looking at higher premiums if you were to venture into the luxury car market. Tradex prides itself on being flexible in the terms offered and gives discounts for those operating as part of a group or with several sites.
You can also pay for your valeting insurance through financial plans or monthly instalments, which will help you to spread the cost, especially when money is tight in the early days of your business or if trade suffers at certain times of the year.
Tradex has decades of experience working in the motor trade insurance industry and compares quotes from some of Britain’s leading motor trade insurers to find cover that’s right for you. We understand that every business has its own unique set of requirements, and we base our recommendations on your particular valeting business needs, so you can be reassured you have exactly the right insurance for your company.
Where to Go for Help
Here are some useful organisations that can help when you are setting up your valeting business:
Professional Valeters & Detailers (https://pro-valets.co.uk/): This is the UK’s largest trade association for professional valeters, providing a directory of car care professionals in the UK that are skilled, proven and insured.
Car Wash Association (CWA) (https://www.carwashassociation.co.uk): The CWA was originally established in 2007 by wash operators and industry suppliers and is now officially incorporated as part of the Retail Motor Industry Federation (RMI). The CWA represents the major car wash operators and manufacturers of car washing equipment and suppliers.
Health and Safety Executive (HSE) (https://www.hse.gov.uk/cleaning/): Gives guidance on the rules and regulations on how to comply with health and safety legislation together with the safe use of cleaning chemicals and products.