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How to Start a Car Wash Business
Start a Car Wash, Carwash Business

This article covers the steps needed to start a car wash. The statistics mentioned in this guide are taken from a number of customer surveys and are aimed to ensure that your first carwash business is revenue generating.

1. Research the business and conduct a feasibility study.

Read periodicals and trend reports, then launch your own feasibility study before you venture into the business. There are many factors that can affect your own success or failure rate even when reports project otherwise: demographics, marketing strategies, competitors and location, for instance. The succeeding steps will walk you through the primary considerations that are specific to the carwash industry.

2. Select the site where your carwash business will rise.

Choose lots that are close to residential areas and are accessible to traffic routes that do not exceed the 40 mph speed limit. The ideal lot size covers a depth of 100 to 120 feet and minimum width of 75 feet. It must be spacious enough to house the building, bays, pump rooms, and vacuum and drying areas. The width is variable. The more bays you have, the wider the lot. If you are leasing the lot, remember to set a cap on your budget. No more than 15 percent of your projected monthly gross income should go to lot leasing.

3. Choose the type of building to construct.

Because they are more convenient for customers, drive-through types are generally more profitable than the drive-in-and-back-out designs. However, the design of your building will depend on the lot size and shape. The ideal scenario is to put up a building that can comfortably accommodate a minimum queue of two cars per bay. Never start a car wash without checking with the building or zoning department for specific set-back and local code requirements.

4. Decide on the number, kind and size of bays to include.

Base the number of bays on your projected volume of clients. Surveys indicate that for one bay to start generating revenues, a minimum of 1,000 to 1,500 people are required to sustain it. This means that if you are servicing a town populated by 5,000 clients, you can construct four to five self-serve bays. Given this population base, the national average approximates the gross monthly earning of each car wash system to be $1,350 daily.

The bays can either be the indoor/enclosed type or the outdoor/open type. If you want to rake in the most profits from your carwash business though, opt for enclosed bays. According to reports, enclosed bays are 40 to 50 percent more profitable than open bays.

Sizing depends on the type of vehicles you anticipate servicing. The recommended minimum dimensions (length x width x height) are 18 x 28 x 10 feet for car bays and 17 to 18 x 28 x 12 to 14 feet for truck bays. Be sure to allocate some space on the southern end of each bay to cater to ice build-up contingencies.

5. Plan the services you will offer your target market.

Start a car wash offering basic services that include foamy brush, hot wash and hot or cold wax. Hot rinse services during winter and cold rinse services during summer are also popular.

Consider car wash vacuum system as one of the staple services. The national average approximates the gross earning of each vacuum to be $220 monthly. While this may seem like a meager amount, note that you will need 1.5 vacuums for every bay you have. This means that the six vacuums in your four-bay wash can generate an additional $1,320 each month.

Car Wash meters for bill/coin services account for an estimated 10 percent increase on gross monthly revenues. According to survey results, customers deem the $1 and $5 changers a necessity and the optional $10 and $20 changers a welcome bonus.

Don’t underestimate the profitability of vending services as well. The sale of fragrances, towels and glass window cleaning solutions can easily pad your gross income with close to $350 monthly.

Investing in a few innovative features can help you generate a healthy income stream from impressed and satisfied clients. Topping the trend are the following services: spot-free rinse, tire cleaning and vehicle pre-soaking.

6. Optimize your carwash business for minimal operating costs and maximum revenues.

Based on a 2006 survey, more than 50 percent of your gross income gets spent on operating costs, excluding leasing costs, tax duties and depreciation rates. It is therefore essential that you take measures to keep your expenditures in check.

One way you can do this is to invest in equipment like a car wash pump station that can help you save energy and increase customer satisfaction at the same time. For instance, if you are siting your business in a cold region, make sure to get floor heaters. In-floor or above-head varieties are quite common. Also, instead of getting the conventional water heater, go for the instantaneous and tankless variant. The latter reduces gas utility costs by 40 percent.

Make sure you know what you are getting into before you start a car wash. The above steps outlined in this article should help you get started on the road to profitable car washing.


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