Starting a Car Wash Business

Car going through an automatic car wash

Starting a car wash business can be a profitable and exciting venture, assuming you take steps in advance to ensure its success. Even with the funds to open this business, planning is critical to its success.

Before Starting a Car Wash Business

According to the Internal Revenue Service, the car wash industry has more than 22,000 facilities located throughout the country. In 1991, the average revenue for a wand bays style car wash was $942 per month. In 2004, this revenue rose to over $1200 per month. Additional services and the reduction of manpower needed, has helped to make car wash businesses profitable even more so. Even still, Before starting this business, gather facts regarding your surroundings, competition and business goals. Ensure that you have considered who your customer is and what they expect when they pull into your lot.

  • Who Is the Customer: Most car wash facilities tailor to customers from a ten to fifteen mile radius around the facility. A small amount of these customers will be regular, coming in weekly or bi monthly to have their vehicle serviced. If you are located near highways or popular travel destinations, this may increase revenue from other drivers.
  • Signage: One critical aspect for a car wash business is allowing customers to know that the business is available. Often times, signage will be enough to draw customers in. However, many customers do not set out to get their vehicle washed. They make a decision at the last minute to have it done. This occurs if signage is visible.
  • Location Counts: The location of the car wash plays an important part in the success of the business. A business intersection allows for more traffic to see the location and to stop. Ensure there is easy access into the driveway from both directions of traffic for the best result.
  • Employees Matter: When t comes to hiring employees, choose respectable ones. All employees should have uniforms from the facility, even if they are just company polo shirts and jeans. A dress code should be in place. Customers expect to find clean, respectful attendants to interact with.

The Business Plan

Before you can start making your business a reality, you need to write out an effective business plan that clearly outlines what your goals are and how you will accomplish them. In the car wash industry, this means identifying the following:

  • Where will the funds come from to start the business? If financing, who's credit score will be used to obtain funding?
  • What services will the car wash offer specifically? What equipment and supplies are necessary? What hours will the location be open? What will the cost of the services be?
  • How many employees will the facility need? Who will manage it?
  • What are the expected profits from the facility and how was this information obtained?

A business plan outlines each detail of the business so that those who will finance it and city officials can clearly see what the goal is. The more detailed and accurate it is, the more impressive it will be.

Getting the Business Started

A potential business owner needs to take a few more things into consideration when it comes to starting a car wash business.

Hand washing a car with a soapy sponge
  • Obtain the proper business licenses from the local government to ensure the business is in compliance with local ordinances.
  • Purchase quality equipment that is priced properly, based on thorough research on the options available.
  • Marketing the car wash is critical. One of the best resources for a new car wash is a frequent user program, where individuals who use the facility frequently qualify for a lower cost. Marketing in local papers and with flyers can also be beneficial.
  • Consider some way of making the car wash stand out from the rest. An example may be that the car wash offers an environmentally friendly approach to car maintenance.
  • Provide customers with a clear understanding of what their options are, including offering several pricing plans. Consider offering automatic service or personal service. Offer a variety of cleansing options.
  • Turn to local banks, credit unions, private investors and other sources for financing the start up business. Compare financing options to find the most affordable solution.
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Starting a Car Wash Business