Are you looking to start your own car wash business? You may wonder how much money you can make owning a car wash. In other words, how cost-effective can a car wash be?. With strong market growth, increasing demand, and industry sympathy with small businesses, you may be interested in learning more about starting a car wash. The type of car wash you choose to open will affect how much money you'll need to start your business, how much it will cost you to operate it, and how much you'll charge per wash.
If your operation is going to involve washing cars by hand, your initial costs will be lower than they would be for an automatic car wash, but your ongoing labor costs will generally be higher. On the other hand, if you're going to open an automatic car wash, you'll be able to wash more cars per hour without having to have a lot of people on your payroll. However, you will usually need to replace your equipment every 10 years or more often if it is not properly maintained. As you determine what type of car wash business you want to own, consider the amount of money you can charge for services.
While prices change depending on the location of a car wash and other factors, each type of car wash has a relative price. Since self-service washes make the customer do the cleaning themselves, they have the lowest price of the four. They tend to charge customers in 15-minute increments for the use of washing equipment or vacuums. Basic hand washes also tend to be quite inexpensive.
Automatic bay car washes and outdoor conveyor washes tend to have higher prices than self-service or basic hand wash options. A full-service car wash with car detailing usually has the highest price. In addition to viewing general car wash prices, you can check prices for other car washes near your business. By reviewing your competitors' prices, you can get an idea of the prices you'll want to set for your customers.
Once you have an idea of the type of car wash you want to open, you'll probably wonder, “How much does it cost to start a car wash? While certain upfront costs may be the same or nearly the same from place to place, many factors that affect how much you'll have to pay to start your business depend heavily on where you're going to open your car wash. If you're not buying an existing car wash, you'll want to know some of the main costs of starting a car wash. For example, the costs of acquiring land, construction and equipment are all the costs you should expect. Because the rates for these costs change based on location and other factors, it is important that you thoroughly research the current rates in your area to accurately estimate your capital needs.
Before you start building a car wash, you'll want to buy land. Ideally, the land you purchase does not have any pre-existing structure on it. If you do, you will need to factor in the expenses related to its demolition and the removal of debris in your acquisition costs. You should look for viable lots that are close to frequently traveled areas, close to other businesses, and active, densely populated neighborhoods.
Your location will need to be large enough to support the type of car wash you intend to open and have enough space for vehicles to line up even after your physical business has been built on the lot. It should also be large enough that you can expand your operations as your business grows. If you are going to own and operate an automatic car wash in the bay, you will need approximately 7,000 square feet of land for a bay. If you're opening a full-service car wash, you'll need to have enough land to create a waiting area for your customers.
The need to create a staging area means that you also need enough space for a retail area so that they can shop while your staff works on their cars. If you are combining an automatic car wash in the bay with self-service areas, you will need approximately 18,000 square feet for two automatic car washes and two self-service bays. You'll also need approximately 22,500 square feet if you're going to have the same number of in-bay automatic car washes and four self-service bays. Where you set up your business is an essential factor that will make your car wash succeed or fail, so it's essential that you choose the right location.
If possible, buy a lot on a road that has a speed limit of 40 mph or less. By placing your business in a location with a lower speed limit, you'll give drivers the opportunity to see your company sign, which could inspire them to make a planned or impulsive decision to have their vehicles cleaned at your facility. Before buying a property for your business, you need to make sure that it is zoned for what you are going to use it for. If it isn't, you may need to start the zoning change process or apply for a special use permit.
You'll also need to review local utility usage codes and sanitary sewers to make sure they're adequate to withstand a car wash. Some on-site work will need to be completed before construction can begin on the building you are going to use for your business. Onsite work includes earthmoving and laying asphalt for your parking lot. You can also include preparing your external work areas based on how you are going to configure them and lay the foundation for your building.
Like the cost of land, the cost of construction varies greatly from place to place. Your construction costs will include the electrical and plumbing work your business will need, as well as expenses related to paying for your location to access utilities, including sewer and water. Construction costs tend to be higher for automatic car washes than for self-service or handwashing companies. While a typical car wash measures approximately 1,700 square feet, it's important to think ahead when planning your business so that your initial construction can adapt to the future growth of your car wash.
If you build a larger building than you need to when you start your car wash, you'll have the opportunity to add new services and expand your operations as your business thrives in later months and years. If your structure ends up being too small, it can have costly consequences. You can give a competitor the opportunity to offer the services they simply don't have the space to offer, for example, and extend the time it takes them to recover the initial investment they made in your company. Car wash equipment prices change depending on the type of car wash you open, the brand of equipment you choose to purchase, and your location.
Self-service car wash equipment tends to cost much less than automated car wash equipment, as automated equipment tends to be more complex. Your car wash sign is one of the most valuable marketing tools you have to promote your business. It has to be easily visible from the road and that passers-by can read it quickly. Don't clutter up your sign with too many illustrations or words, or use a color scheme that makes it difficult to read when it's illuminated.
The cost of signage varies based on several factors, including the size and complexity of your logo. You may want to turn to a professional sign company to help you produce your signs. As you determine your signage costs, it's a good idea to get free quotes from a few different sign providers to ensure you get the best deal. With the costs of construction, signage, and other things, it's obvious that the cost of owning a car wash will start to grow even before you open your doors to the public for the first time.
Additional expenses you'll need to cover before you're ready to welcome customers to your facility include labor and marketing costs. While you won't need to hire employees until your car wash is relatively close to opening its doors, you'll need to hire people before you open your doors so they can be trained to operate your company's equipment and treat customers appropriately. The number of people you'll need to hire is directly related to the type of car wash you choose to own and operate. If you have a full-service car wash, where you need staff to wash the interior and exterior of a vehicle manually, you're likely to need more employees than the national average of 3.5 employees per car wash and detailing center.
By contrast, automated car washes inside the bay can operate unmanned 24 hours a day, reducing the need to hire employees. Keep in mind that even if you run a mostly automated car wash, you'll need to hire someone to maintain your equipment regularly to avoid unnecessary or premature repair and replacement costs. When you have a car wash and you want to offset the costs of having one, you need to start cleaning some cars. One of the best ways to attract new customers is to devise a marketing strategy.
Regardless of how big or small your marketing budget is, there are many ways to access your target market before and after your trade is up and running. If allowed, hang signs on telephone poles and other places that see a lot of foot or vehicle traffic. Depending on the relationships you have with other business owners, you may even be allowed to hang a poster in your storefront, especially if you give your customers a discount on their first car wash at your facility or offer another attractive incentive. If it's affordable, you can also promote your business by sending postcards to your neighbors who live near your car wash.
You can include a voucher in your postcard or use it to invite people to attend the grand opening celebration. In general, it is not advisable to organize a grand opening until it has been open long enough to resolve any issues that may be present in your operation. If you're having a grand opening, consider scheduling it for a month after it's open to the public. You don't necessarily have to pay for radio airtime to promote your business.
Instead, you can schedule a visit with a popular local radio personality to talk to them about your new car wash in an interview. You can describe the benefits that your company will bring to the area, such as new job opportunities, and mention any charitable campaigns that your company will support in the future. You can also ask a radio station to broadcast one of its popular programs from your car wash location during the grand opening or other high-profile event. Using social media is one of the most cost-effective ways to promote your business.
After an initial investment to create a website for your business, you usually only have to invest time on social media such as Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter to promote your business and offer special offers that are only available to your social media followers. Of course, you also have the option to purchase advertising that specifically targets people who live and access the Internet close to your business location. Even before opening to the public, you must establish a loyalty program. This type of program will encourage people to return to their car wash the first time they use your services.
As you gather contact information from your customers, you'll be able to implement a text messaging program. Depending on the ages included in your target demographic, your customers may be more likely to use a mobile or digital coupon rather than one that they have to cut out or print. You can use text messaging to affordably notify your customers about current or future offers and events. For example, you can offer them a discount that will automatically apply to their account if they respond to your text message with a certain word or sequence of numbers.
Be sure to limit the number of text messages you send to about one per month to avoid irritating your customers with continuous pings that could be embarrassing if they are in a business meeting or are busy with a sensitive personal matter. As in any industry, the highest potential cost of owning a car wash is failure. Fortunately, there are many resources available that can help you succeed in the short and long term, regardless of the type of car wash you ultimately decide to own, including people who are already in business. Many small business owners like to help other entrepreneurs succeed, often because someone helped them when they were starting out.
With this in mind, visit other car washes and talk to their owners. If you have questions, ask them. If you need advice, ask. Learn from their experiences and apply what you learn to your business.
Learn everything you can about the car wash industry by reading the relevant print and online materials, and continue training throughout your career as a business owner. Keep up to date with the latest industry innovations by joining organizations such as the International Car Wash Association and attend seminars and workshops. While the costs and labor involved in starting a car wash can seem daunting, the rewards of being an entrepreneur can be immeasurable. Respected industry authority Fred Grauer claimed to have been “seduced, mesmerized and captured by the car wash business shortly after he began working in his uncle's car washes in the 1950s.
What was supposed to be a temporary job turned into a passion and a lifelong career for Grauer. If you're a car wash owner, you're no doubt very familiar with the common car wash repairs and costs that take place on a daily basis throughout the company. You know that no matter how well the business goes, there are likely to be a lot of repairs and the like behind the scenes that customers would never imagine. Preventive maintenance is the category of maintenance and related expenses completed before something has been broken or damaged.
While it may seem silly or unimportant to perform maintenance when everything is working in a perfectly normal way, the exact opposite is true. By keeping your equipment running and in good condition, you're helping to increase the chances that it will ever break down and need real repairs done in the first place. You can compare this type of maintenance to a dental appointment twice a year. Even if your teeth are perfectly healthy, experts recommend that you visit your dentist regularly.
Why? Because the dentist can provide you with a more thorough cleaning than you normally receive, and this helps lower your chances of developing a more serious problem in the future. In addition, your dentist will take this opportunity to check if there are any problems that you may be developing that you would not notice at home. Similarly, Preventive Maintenance performs these same functions for your car wash and equipment. It helps prevent future problems that could end your operations or cost you a lot of money.
Preventive maintenance also gives you the opportunity to check for the start of serious underlying problems that you might otherwise miss until they become major problems and it's too late to do anything other than replace the item in question. Reactive maintenance is the opposite of preventive maintenance. As the name suggests, reactive maintenance is about reacting to the damage that has been done. This type of maintenance occurs after the equipment has already broken down.
The maintenance of this variety seeks to repair this damage or replace the broken part so that your car wash can resume operations, just as again. To continue our analogy with the dentist, if preventive maintenance can be compared to your regular checkups, then reactive maintenance could be compared to trips to get a cavity or remove wisdom teeth. In other words, something has gone wrong and reactive maintenance is needed to fix the problem or problems and restore things to their current state of normal operation. While preventive maintenance serves the dual purpose of preventing further damage and detecting the onset of damage before it worsens, reactive maintenance has a single purpose: to repair existing damage.
However, the two types of maintenance are related, since the lack of preventive maintenance will almost certainly lead to an increase in reactive maintenance. And because reactive maintenance often involves solving a real problem rather than just routine maintenance, this type of work usually costs more. There is no doubt that maintaining your facilities and equipment will cost money. Even basic preventive maintenance inevitably reduces your profits to some extent.
However, consider what could happen if you stop performing preventive maintenance. With nothing to stop your tools and installations from being damaged, things could start to go bad. And while preventive maintenance costs money, reactive maintenance is often much more expensive. If the equipment breaks down so much that it needs to be replaced, you will have to spend even more money.
In addition to these expenses, you will also have to deal with the cost of the company that could be stopped due to its facilities being repaired. Compared to this type of disaster, we can see that preventive maintenance is very affordable. If you're struggling with the idea of spending money on preventive maintenance, it might be helpful to think of it as just another cost of running a business. In your calculations, simply include it with business costs, such as keeping the electricity on and paying your employees.
Another way to think about your maintenance work is as an investment. By keeping your facilities and equipment in good working order, you are investing in the future of your business. You are investing your time, money and people to ensure that your business remains functional and healthy for the foreseeable future. It may seem contradictory, but the fact is that the more attention, time and detail you devote to preventive maintenance, the more money you'll save overall on car wash repair costs.
These savings are often due to preventative maintenance spotting larger problems while they are still in their infancy. Based on these definitions of the different types of maintenance, we can conclude that, while reactive maintenance only occurs as needed, preventive maintenance should be performed regularly. But how do you know how often you need to do this? We recommend that you create a checklist of the tasks you perform regularly. As a car wash owner or operator, you need to try to develop a clear awareness of where the pain points are in your facility.
By this, we mean that you need to know where things are most likely to break or get damaged. Depending on your operations, areas can become problematic for several reasons. It may be that they see the most traffic, are the most sensitive, are the most difficult to maintain, or any combination of these reasons. No matter why certain points in your operation are problematic, it's your job to find out where those places are and keep a close eye on them.
Pay special attention to them when cleaning and performing preventive maintenance. Take a quick look every time you have a spare minute. By doing these things, you're more likely to be able to prevent damage at these points before it happens. Ideally, your car wash should be a place where everyone respects both the equipment and the installation as a whole.
You want it to be a place where things are kept clean and tidy and where tools are handled with care. One of the first ways to create this impression is to practice what you preach. Establish dress codes that dictate that employees must dress in clean clothing. Don't allow dirt and grunge to build up anywhere in your premises.
Create a work environment that sets punctuality, accuracy and cleanliness as high standards that must be respected. When you set a good example and have clear standards, your employees will follow suit, and customers will also be less likely to create a mess as they pass. To truly realize that your equipment is wearing out or damaging, you'll need to develop a level of deep familiarity with it. After all, you'll rarely notice a problem if you never leave the office and interact with the team yourself.
Don't be afraid to get familiar with your team. Learn how they're supposed to move and trade. Get an idea of each piece of equipment individually. By becoming familiar with your facilities when they are working properly, you will be more likely to realize that something is wrong.
You'll notice that a brush is loosening or that a hose doesn't work as it normally does. Because you are familiar with the equipment, you will detect these small irregularities that would otherwise go unnoticed. One of the best ways you can help yourself when it comes to maintenance is to buy high-quality equipment in the first place. If you simply buy the cheapest option, the odds are good: it will break in no time, regardless of the maintenance you perform on it.
Instead, buy quality equipment that lasts. It will cost more upfront, but it will save you money on both maintenance and loss of business if you have to close due to equipment failure. When buying new equipment, you should also be careful to purchase equipment that is easy to maintain. No matter how many fancy bells and whistles a piece of equipment may have, be careful to buy it, unless it looks like it will be easy to maintain.
One of the best ways to maximize your maintenance and repair budget is to equip your car wash with high-quality supplies and chemicals. To do this, you need to find a chemical supplier in your area that you can trust. If you are looking for such a partner, we hope you will consider us here at JBS Industries. Our products are at the top of the range and we are also known for our exceptional customer service.
We respect all of our customers as valuable people who want nothing but the best for their business, and we pride ourselves on offering it to them. Save my name, email and website in this browser for the next time I comment. Every time that car wash reopens, it's usually a new owner who starts a car wash and takes customers to you, and if your debt is low, you may be taken out of the market. The bank is likely to take that car wash, sell it for pennies on the dollar, and a new owner with a much smaller debt service than you open.
All of them will need to have their cars washed at some point and most will be happy to pay for the convenience of someone else doing their dirty work. If you're considering starting a mobile car wash, you can make extra money servicing fleets and dealerships, not just focusing on private owners. Competition can take the form of a nearby car wash, upgrading your equipment to attract your customers, mobile car wash services popping up for service customers in your area, or opening a new mega car wash in your neighborhood. If you want to learn more about specific models that might be suitable for your particular business plan, you may want to join a car wash trade association near you.
In that article, I cover some big businesses that can generate attractive levels of profitability without a large daily owner participation (obviously, automatic car wash is included in the list, but there are many more). If you want to be successful in this business, you need to have a great location, buy the right equipment, keep abreast of local competition, and generally make sure your car wash works like a well-oiled money-making machine. Unlike an automatic car wash, a contactless car wash means less chance of damaging the vehicle's paint. It may be easier and cheaper to find a resale wash for less than the value of the land if the business has been neglected.