As long as vehicles travel the roadways, there will always be a need for car washes. For the budding entrepreneur looking to invest in a lucrative opportunity, a car wash business can be just the ticket.
The Houston Chronicle, reporting on a survey conducted by Auto Laundry News, a leading car wash industry publication, said that profits can range from $55,000 to $100,000 per year for a self-service car wash to $500,000 to $900,000 for a full-service business.
If you’re looking to invest in the car wash business, here are five secrets successful operators will tell you helped them get started on the right track.
1. Know What You Don’t Know
There is a lot you may not know about what it takes to run a successful car wash business, including everything from site selection to water conservation to the chemicals and equipment used in marketing, advertising, hiring, pricing and even the software needed to run your business.
There is a lot to learn… and the best place to start is to “know what you don’t know” then task yourself with gaining as much knowledge and expertise as possible about every facet of the car wash operation.
2. Ask for Help
If you are new to the business, seek advice from those in the know — and listen to what they have to say. You’ll save yourself a lot of headaches by learning from the experience of others.
According Steve Gaudreau, a 25-year car wash veteran and the author of “So You Want to Own a Carwash,” when asking for help do what you would do in any business: Check references, visit successful car wash sites to see what success looks like and ask operators their opinion of who you are thinking of working with. The more you learn, the better your chance of success.
A good place to gain insider information is LinkedIn car wash industry groups, such as the Midwest Car Wash Network and others. Industry publications like Auto Laundry News and Professional Carwashing & Detailing also contain a wealth of knowledge.
3. Select the Best Site Possible
“Location, location, location” is the real estate industry’s mantra. It should be in our industry as well. For a car wash business, location is everything, so select the best site you possibly can.
A good site will have the following characteristics:
- Ease of access. Make it easy for customers to find the entrance to your car wash. Situating your wash at a busy intersection won’t do you much good if people can’t easily figure out how to get to it.
- Highly-traveled street or road. Find a location on a highly traveled street or road where the speed limit is set at 40 MPH or less. That way, you benefit not only from a lot of traffic but also a speed limit that gives drivers time to read your signage.
- Sufficient space. Your site should be large enough for vehicles of all sizes to navigate through the car wash lands and access other areas, such the vacuum bays. Also, ensure you have enough room for cars to line up without blocking roadways.
What locations work best for car washes?
Andy Pazz, the author of “How to Set Up an Express Exterior Car Wash,” provides some sound advice about selecting a prime location:
“Primarily, a location that would be in an area like near a Wal-Mart, near a commercial area like a strip mall, close to a light or a stop sign on a main thoroughfare. … You have to be near a destination … where people are actually shopping … Anywhere around a commercial area like that, you’re going to generate a lot better than you are out in an area that’s predominantly residential.”
4. Know Your Competition
Gaudreau says in his book to use a map to identify all of the competition within a 5-mile radius and determine what their trade area is, what your natural trade area is and where there is overlap.
5. Choose the Right Manufacturers and Suppliers
Selecting a manufacturer who provides high quality tunnel systems, components and parts and who backs up sales with prompt, expert support and service is one of the most important decisions you can make.
Also, don’t overlook the importance of the chemicals you use as they are vital to your success.
According to Gaudreau, the key issues regarding chemical usage are:
- Understanding the connection between equipment and chemicals;
- Defining the desired quality for your wash;
- Deciding how much equipment you need in conjunction with the chemicals to produce the desired result;
- Controlling the cost of the chemicals;
- Ensuring a high level of service by the chemical distributor.
You may be tempted to go with the least expensive products but don’t give in. The chemicals you use are like a business card for your car wash. You don’t want a dull finish, water spots and other blemishes to keep customers from coming back.
While these five secrets are vital to the success of your car wash business, they are only the tip of the iceberg. You must also consider factors such as financing, construction, zoning rules and permits, marketing and advertising, employee hiring and much more.
That’s why it’s important to connect with and learn from established operators. You’ll find that most will be happy to share their knowledge.
Motor City Wash Works is in the business of helping new investors get started. Give us a call at 866-362-6377 or send us an email to discuss your interests and needs.