How to Start and Grow a Boat Cleaning Business on a Limited Budget

How to Start and Grow a Boat Cleaning Business on a Small Budget

According to the Small Business Administration (SBA), in 2018, there were 30.2 million small businesses in the United States. 

77% of those small businesses relied on their personal savings to start their business. The average small business needs around $10,000 of startup capital to get their business off the ground. 

But if you're thinking of starting your own boat cleaning business and you don't have $10k, that's okay. A third of all businesses start with less than $5,000. 

We want to help you become a successful entrepreneur even if you're on a budget. Keep reading to learn our favorite boat cleaning tips for starting your own boat cleaning business on a budget.

How to Start a Boat Cleaning Business

The first step in starting any business is to figure out your budget. One way to do that is to write a business plan. 

These plans will help you write out a plan from a financial, marketing, and operational viewpoint. It will also help you avoid many mistakes because you'll have a plan on how to avoid them or resolve them quickly. 

You'll also need some equipment and supplies to help you operate your boat cleaning business successfully. 

Boat Cleaning Mop

Boat Cleaning Supplies

You'll need a few tools if you're going to do an effective job. You'll also need some cleaning materials, such as those listed in our marine maintenance supplies category.

Cleaning Tools

Boat cleaners need a few marine maintenance equipment tools to help them get the job done such as:

  • Mop
  • Brushes
  • Cloths
  • Towels

You'll also need to invest in machines that help you clean such as a vacuum and a steam cleaner. 

Cleaning Materials

You'll need cleaning products such as:

  • Polish
  • Vinyl
  • Detergent (or boat cleaning products)
  • Wax
  • Glass cleaner
  • Wood polish

You can find all of these items on our site or in our Amazon Store Here.  You may want to look into purchasing only green cleaning products for your business. It's a good marketing tool and you won't be harmed by any of the harsh chemicals included in many cleaning products. 

However, no matter what products you use, always make sure you're wearing safety materials like gloves and protective eyewear.

Work truck for boat servicing company

Expensive Purchases

While the above purchases aren't very expensive, you may have to invest in a few big-ticket items for your boat cleaning business depending on how you plan to operate. These could include:

  • A drive-in boat wash system
  • Workboat
  • Trailer
  • Vehicle for transporting tools and materials

You may also need to rent office space and a port where you can clean the boats. If you have contacts in the field, check to see where you can rent these spaces inexpensively. 

Identifying Your Target Market

Once you know what boat cleaning supplies you need, it's time to identify your target market. Doing this will help you figure out how to effectively market your boat cleaning business. 

Create a list of common attributes that you think most of your clients will share such as:

  • Income level
  • Hobbies
  • Geographical location
  • Career

The more you know and understand your target market, the easier it is to provide them with the types of services they're looking for. 

Legal documents how to start a boat business

Filling Out the Legal Paperwork

You'll have to decide what type of business to form. Every state has its own set of rules and regulations on how to form a business. 

There are also different rates on how much it costs to get your business license. Also, keep in mind that an LLC is taxed differently than a C-corporation. Also, a sole proprietorship can leave you more liable should something go wrong. 

Check with your city and state about any additional permits and licenses you may need to start your business. You can do all of this for nominal fees if you do it yourself rather than hiring an attorney. Make sure you do your research properly so you avoid problems and potential fines. 

How to Make Money with Your Boat Cleaning Business

It's best to offer cleaning and boat detailing packages for set fees rather than an hourly rate.

You can keep it simple by offering two basic packages and then charge extra for additional services. 

How to Set Your Rates

You can base your rates on the following:

  • The size of the boat
  • The condition of the boat
  • Services requested

To find out what rates you should charge, take a look at what your local competition is charging. 

Keep in mind that how much you can earn depends on how many boats you can clean in one week. Keep in mind that if you live in the Northern U.S., the boat cleaning business is a seasonal one. 


You have tons of options when it comes to marketing. Here are a few  boat business ideas that are low cost, yet highly effective:

Business Cards

Business cards are cheap. Make sure you include the name of your company and how to contact you on your business card. 


Ask local businesses where your target market is likely to shop in such as boat shops, bait shops, and marinas and ask if you can put up a flyer or leave business cards. 

How to be successful at networking event


Get out there and spread the word. There are tons of networking opportunities available. 

There are networking groups you can join including your local chamber of commerce. You can also join groups through MeetUp that are for boating enthusiasts. 


Get your business online. You can create a free or low-cost website. 

Create profiles on social media sites where your target audience spends most of their time. 

Advertise in your local paper or, if money is tight, submit a press release the paper can print letting everyone know you're in business. 

Offer Specials

Word of mouth is often the best form of advertising, and it's free. 

Start by offering anyone you know who owns a boat a free service if they refer a friend. Offer a discount to a first-time customer as a way to encourage them to book a cleaning with you. 

How to provide good customer service

Always Provide Excellent Customers Service

The fastest way to start bringing in new customers is to create a brand known for its good customer service. Your goal is to find and retain new customers for a long time. 

Always be thorough and become the best expert in detailing boats in your geographical area. Offer a fair price and be reliable. 

Team Up With Other Companies

You don't have to build your boat cleaning business all by yourself. Many companies out there who provide similar but non-competing services can also help you spread the word. 

And we're one of them. We're looking for boat cleaners to work with to help us cross-promote our products and services.

We'll even provide you with free samples of our products. Click here to learn more.