Side Hustle Series: I Wash Cars!

(Guest post by Cameron from Your Budget or Your Life. As part of our Side Hustle Series.)

First off, I LOVE cars, and the older and rarer the better. And since they’re much nicer to drive when gleaming in the sun – I love cleaning and washing them!

I have been doing it since I got my first car, and it’s a good hobby to get into. They say that if you do what you love then you never have to work a day in your life, and while this isn’t my living, it’s a very good side hustle. It’s fairly cheap too – all you really need to start off is a bucket, a sponge, water and car shampoo (though as you get more into the hobby you can pick up different techniques and supplies to get even better results).

How I Got Started

My friends and colleagues at work noticed my car was always clean and shiny, and one of them asked if I would clean his car for him. At first I was a bit nervous because I was a little scared of washing someone else’s car in case they didn’t like the job I did, but in the end they loved it! And word of mouth spread my reputation from there.

I charge upwards of £5.00 ($8) for a basic wash and vacuum, and then £35.00 ($55) for a complete wash, vacuum, polish and wax including a claybar treatment. In the handful of months doing this last Summer I’ve made over £150 ($230). Which I’m hoping to improve once Summer officially hits here in Scotland as you can’t even feel your fingers in the winter :)

Here is my guide below to getting some good results yourself! I don’t use pressure washers as I think that they can possibly damage your paint by firing the dirt and grit into it. And I would say practice on your own car/cars first before you take on business with it.

How to Clean the Inside of Your Car:

  1. Remove any rubbish present
  2. Remove the removable carpets, and vacuum these.
  3. Vacuum the complete inside of the car, concentrating on the carpets and seats.
  4. If there are stains on the seats, use car upholstery cleaner.
  5. TOP TIP for the trim inside: use baby wipes or dash cleaner. Should leave it looking great!
  6. Spray febreze to give a fresh smell

How to Clean the Outside of The Car:

  1. Rinse the car with a garden hose or a bucket of clean fresh water
  2. Mix a cap-full of car shampoo (wash and wax is fine, and my personal preference) into a bucket of warm clean water
  3. Using a sponge or microfibre mitt (some people say these can cause “swirl marks” so I have recently moved to microfibre mitts to try out) and clean the car FROM THE TOP DOWN, working your way clockwise around the car. Don’t use it on the windows.
  4. Rinse the car again with a garden hose or a bucket of clean fresh water
  5. Dry the car with a clean towel or real/synthetic chamois (I use synthetic)
  6. Using a car polish, apply a thin layer using the towel you just used to dry the car as it will be a bit wet, rubbing on with a circular motion and again from the top down and clockwise. Then let it dry to a haze. (If your car wheels are painted, you can polish those too. You can also use metal polish if your wheels are steel or alloy, but cleaning them normally should give good results. Use a toothbrush to get into the little gaps)
  7. Using a clean dry microfibre cloth, buff the polish off and you’ll be left with a clean and shiny car!
  8. You can now repeat the polishing steps, this time with a car wax to seal the finish (optional).
  9. Clean your windows by using car window cleaner spray. Spray all the windows on the inside, buff on with a clean cloth, and buff off with another cloth. Repeat for the outside. (All buffing on the windows with one cloth, and all buffing off with another cloth)
  10. Use “back to black” or tire dressing spray to spray onto the outside rim of the tire and black plastic trim on the car. You can leave this on as it is for the wet look, or you can buff it off for a dry look.

Set aside a good amount of time to do this, it takes a while! And hand washing always gives the best results for a proper job. There are an UNBELIEVABLE amount of products you can use for cleaning cars too (it’s a big market), but to do these steps it shouldn’t cost you that much. Check out reviews of them first, but you will often find that the cheaper brands can actually get better results!

Anyone else have a hustle with cars?

Cameron is a 24 year old guy from Scotland who has started his first financial blog at: He also has a YouTube channel that shows his build of an electric guitar he made and some other random stuff, check it out:

EDITOR’S NOTE: Back in the day I did something similar for side money, only it was on *damaged* cars coming up for auction, haha… My job literally consisted of spraying down 50+ cars a day, and then going in to vacuum the parts that weren’t totaled, bloodied, or any other version of nastiness. The auction company realized that for every car that was pretty’d up a bit – even though, yes, they were halfway crushed! – they’d get $200-$300 MORE when they sold them. Pretty interesting stuff… Especially since they only paid us $15/car to have ’em cleaned ;)

Have a guest post you’d like to share with us? Let me know!

[Car photo by bikephotomusic]

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  1. Free Money Minute May 30, 2013 at 6:10 AM

    Every little bit helps. Some people enjoy mowing the lawn. You can do very well mowing lawns in your neighborhood if you need extra cash.

    1. J. Money May 30, 2013 at 9:46 AM

      I used to do that as a kid – not very fun (and once I broke someone’s lawn ornament – oops!) but the money back into my pockets was well worth it all :)

  2. Cameron Thomson May 30, 2013 at 7:28 AM

    Wow! Thanks J for posting this! Just to update folks, the weather in Scotland is a little warmer now than when I wrote this, so business has been picking up!

    And yeah lawn mowing is a good side hustle too @free money minute

  3. Edward Antrobus May 30, 2013 at 7:48 AM

    That’s not a bad price for the basic wash. About even with a “deluxe” wash around here that still leaves your car dirty. I need to buy a second hose so I can run it from the tap in the backyard, through the garage into the driveway so I can start washing my car on my own. I work in road construction, so my car gets quite filthy rather quickly.

    1. Cameron Thomson May 30, 2013 at 7:55 AM

      Thats a good idea! Washing your car on your own will save you a lot of money! As far as the road construction goes, I used to live near a coal mine where the coal dust would stick to your cars paint. Try the above steps but add a coat of wax at the end to seal the finish, then you need only rinse it with your hose for the rest of the month :) then repeat about once a month to upkeep those great results!

  4. Michelle May 30, 2013 at 8:24 AM

    Great side hustle! I love that so many people do such different things.

    1. Cameron Thomson May 30, 2013 at 9:52 AM

      Thanks! And yeah, the other side hustles on here are really interesting and varied!

  5. Jon May 30, 2013 at 8:34 AM

    I did this one summer a few years ago. I detailed my uncle’s cars and a few people who work in his office. I did about 7 cars, and made about $80 per car. And since you asked, “Anyone else have a hustle with cars?” I currently work part-time on the weekends at an auto parts store. Not only do I make some extra cash, but I get a huge discount on parts, which I’ve used countless times and has saved me hundreds, if not thousands of dollars.

    1. J. Money May 30, 2013 at 9:45 AM

      Nice man! Way to work the system. $80 a car is awesome too for side money, jeez.

    2. Cameron Thomson May 30, 2013 at 9:48 AM

      Wow thats a lot per car! And well done on getting the discounts on the parts! That would be really useful for me :)

  6. John S @ Frugal Rules May 30, 2013 at 9:13 AM

    That’s a great side gig, especially considering you enjoy it that much which I am sure makes it more enjoyable. That’s a really good price for a basic wash.

    1. Cameron Thomson May 30, 2013 at 9:47 AM

      Thanks! As I said, its a Hobby for me which I have turned into a side hustle, to be honest not many people come to me for just the basic wash, they usually want the full works!

  7. Terry May 30, 2013 at 9:45 AM

    That’s cheap! Around here you can barely get through one of those laser washers for that.

    I used to detail cars to get through college (I worked at a dealership getting paid close to minimum wage though) but picked up some valuable skills including the more “skilled” detail stuff like wet sanding and buffing. I’ve got way too many side hustles going on now though to pick it up but when I do have the time I really enjoy doing it.

    1. Cameron Thomson May 30, 2013 at 9:51 AM

      Wet sanding is a pretty specialised skill! Ive never been brave enough to try it on anyones car but my own though :)

  8. Mike@WeOnlyDoThisOnce May 30, 2013 at 10:58 AM

    Good advice, and sounds like a nice hustle. Seems like you get to see some nice cars, too.

    1. Cameron Thomson May 30, 2013 at 2:43 PM

      Yeah I definetly do! I haven’t had anything really high end yet but I am hopeful! :)

  9. Shafi May 30, 2013 at 12:31 PM

    When I was younger, I used to mow lawns in the neighborhood and wash and wax cars.

    1. Cameron Thomson May 30, 2013 at 2:47 PM

      Wow thats great, hustling from a young age! I didn’t really do anything like that when I was younger, I wish I had!

  10. superbien May 30, 2013 at 2:08 PM

    Wow, $8 is how much a basic drive-through machine car wash costs! The super-cheap hand car-wash place around here is $25 for inside/outside… the good place is over $200 for inside/outside deluxe treatment. I’m not sure if you’re undercharging, or if my city just has way inflated prices (ok fine, I know that my city has way inflated prices!). You might try charging 10 pounds instead, see how elastic the demand still is.

    1. Cameron Thomson May 30, 2013 at 2:46 PM

      The $8 wash is not by any means a comprehensive inside/outside deal. Most of my customers want “the works” (which includes everything except claybar treatment as this has to be requested specially) which costs £20 which is roughly $30 US dollars. Perhaps you may be right about perhaps undercharging though, its certainly something for me to think about thanks! :)

  11. Jacob Erickson May 30, 2013 at 3:19 PM

    That sounds like a great side job for you being that you like cars. I’m not a car guy so I don’t think I’d enjoy it too much, but I would consider doing it if I needed the money. My buddy used to “detail” cars and he’d charge upwards of $100 per car. Not bad for a few hours of work.

    1. Cameron Thomson May 30, 2013 at 3:42 PM

      It is very enjoyable for me, and in all honesty when someone looks at their car after I have cleaned it and is very pleased, then that is a good feeling for me :)

      I know some other people who clean cars and they charge more than me, but I have not really been doing this for THAT long. Perhaps when I have done more cars and become more confident then I will raise my prices, thanks for your comment!

  12. Christine @ ThePursuitofGreen May 30, 2013 at 7:12 PM

    Sounds like great way to make some side money! I live in an apt complex though so I barely manage to wash my own car. I use coin-ops when I can and dry and wax the car myself. I know someone though who details car as a side job, he detailed my car and made it look like new almost! A 7 yr old car too!

    1. Cameron Thomson May 31, 2013 at 4:42 AM

      Its amazing how good detailing can make any car look :) I myself have a 20 year old purple Fiat Panda, and after a good detailing session it looks like new! (If thats possible lol)

    1. Cameron Thomson May 31, 2013 at 4:42 AM

      Thanks very much! Kudos for your nice comment!

  13. Donna Freedman May 31, 2013 at 7:02 PM

    Years ago I worked with a guy who loved detailing cars. He had a friend who was a pretty good mechanic. They’d go to the “repo depot” and buy repossessed cars at auction. My co-worker would make them look spandy-new inside and the mechanic would tune them up. Then they’d sell the cars for less than a dealer would but still make a very nice profit.

    1. J. Money June 1, 2013 at 5:30 PM

      Hustlin’! My kind of guys.