By Bud Abraham, DETAIL PLUS Car Appearance Systems, Inc., Portland, Oregon, United States

With the ever-increasing cost of vehicles, extended length of ownership, desire to protect leisure time, and the fear of damaging paint or interior materials, more motorists are seeking the expertise and knowledge of detailing professionals to care for their vehicles.

When choosing a detailing business, you should consider the following questions to ensure quality and professionalism.

Business Background:

1. Experience: How long have they been in business? Although length is not a guarantee of quality, there is something to be said by a long-running operation with loyal returning customers.

2. Membership: Are they members of the International Detailing Association (IDA)? You can ask to see their membership certificate or look for it proudly displayed in their shop or mobile unit. You can also use our “Find a Detailer” tool to see if they are a current IDA member.

3. Certification: Are their employees IDA Certified Detailers (CD) and Skills Validated (SV)? You can ask to see their certificate or check their profile, which will list all employees who hold the CD and SV designations. You can also check if they hold any specialty certifications, such as Watercraft (CD, WC) or Motorcycle (CD, MC).

4. Insurance: Do they have liability insurance and worker’s compensation insurance for their employees?

5. Payment: How do they pay their employees? Are they paid by the hour, by the job, or by commission?

6. Chemicals: Where do they purchase their chemicals? Professional detailers should use quality products from reputable detail chemical suppliers who are members of the IDA.

7. Guarantee: Do they guarantee their work? What happens if you are not satisfied with the results?

8. Referrals: Can they provide referrals from previous customers? You can also check online reviews and ratings from sites like Yelp or Google.


9. Equipment: Do they have both a rotary buffer and a dual-action polisher for paint finishing?

10. Pads: Do they have a selection of foam pads for paint finishing?

11. Process: How many steps are in their paint correction process? You can also ask them to explain their 2-step or 3-step process and what each step does.


12. Extractor: Do they have and use a heated soil extractor for cleaning and shampooing carpets and fabric upholstery?

13. Procedure: How do they remove stains, dirt, and odors? Consider asking them to describe their carpet and fabric upholstery cleaning and shampooing procedure.

14. Finalizing: How do they clean and protect the leather, vinyl, plastic, and metal surfaces? You can ask them to describe their final detailing process.

By familiarizing yourself with these various questions, it will help you select the proper detailing professional to fit your vehicle’s unique needs.

About the Author: Bud Abraham has been in the car care industry since 1969 as a manufacturer, distributor, operator, and consultant. He writes on all aspects of detailing for several industry publications and has conducted seminars and training sessions all over the world. He was the founder and first executive director of the Professional Detailing Association (PDA), the forerunner to the International Detailing Association (IDA), which he established with several other industry leaders and served as its first executive director in 2006. Now in semi-retirement he continues to write articles on detailing for several industry publications and does consulting to new and existing operators on how to set up a successful detail business and improve existing businesses.