How To Start A Car Washing Business

How To Start A Car Washing Business

Last Updated on March 31, 2023 by Chase Manhattan

Have you ever thought while you are in a car wash: How much money do these places make? It must be a lot right? Well, a successful car washing business actually makes a lot.

That must give you the idea to open up a car wash business. If you are going to be doing that, you will need a plan. First, you must find out what it actually means to open a business. Here’s a guide on how to start a car washing business.

  1. Learn about the car wash industry.
  2. Look up the competition.
  3. Prepare a business plan.
  4. Find investments.
  5. Choose a business location.
  6. Get permits.
  7. Get equipment.
  8. Hire employees.
  9. Advertise your business.

That’s a quick list of what you have to do. Don’t worry though, a thorough guide follows. There’s a lot more to know.

9 Must-Know Tips For Opening A Car Wash Business

9 Must-Know Tips For Opening A Car Wash Business

Here, we will list the essential things you need to know before opening a car wash. Other car wash owners may give you the secrets though.

1. Learn About The Car Wash Industry

The first thing you need to do is research. You can’t really open up a business if you don’t have a good understanding of the industry.

My advice is to speak to someone that has worked in a car wash before, someone with car wash experience. The thing is, no business owner would share information. So, if you have a friend that has worked in a place like that. Just ask around, maybe a friend of a friend will help.

Also, you can visit some car wash places. You don’t have to ask anything. Just take a look at some of the places. Both places that work really well, and places that work poorly. Here, you can find out what’s working. What type of car wash do people prefer? Stuff like that.

Decide if you want to open up the traditional car wash. Maybe a self-service facility will be a profitable business in that area. Is there an automatic car wash in that area?

Research the type of car wash places too. See what kind of technology is being used. You can do this online, check places where business advice is shared. Make sure it’s legit though.

[Washing The Undercarriage of A Car]

2. Check Out The Competition

2. Check Out The Competition

The second thing to do is find out who is your competition. To do that, you should have at least an idea of where the car wash will be located. We will talk about the location later. Anyways, I guess you at least know the area where you want to open up.

You need to know who you are competing against. What are the best places around that area? What are doing right and what are they doing wrong? What type of equipment are they using?

Basically, you are trying to find out if people would quit those places if you open up. The thing is, you can’t have a profitable business close to a place that has an excellent record. People will never quit that place.

For instance, if you know for a fact that there are a lot of customers in an area but people don’t visit the nearby car wash, you know that they are doing something wrong. Try to find out.

Ideally, there won’t be any competition in your area. Or, the car wash located in that area is not working well.

3. Make A Business Plan

Some of you may not know anything about a business plan, if so, that’s okay. Not everyone has studied business. Either try researching how to make a plan, or ask someone to do it for you.

The point of a car wash business plan is to have a strategy for growth. If you stick to this plan and follow the marketing strategies everything should work well. You will also find out what future costs are awaiting you. If you are planning on attracting investors, the plan is a must.

In simple terms, you are doing a market analysis of the target market, deciding how you will enter and proceed. You are estimating the average profit you are going to make. Also, you are estimating the start-up costs.

4. Find Investments

4. Find Investments

Now, I’m guessing that you will need financial help if you are going to be opening up a car wash. Getting the equipment and permits is quite expensive.  Some of you may already have the capital needed. If so, just skip this step.

There are a lot of places you can get investments from. You can go with a bank investment if you have a good credit history. Check out some federal or state grants. Of course, there are private investors. These are hard to get but they can work out.

When looking for investors, the business plan is the most important thing. So, before asking for investments, make sure your plan is bullet-proof.

5. Find The Right Location

Honestly, this is the most important part. No matter how well you are executing the car wash, if the location is not right, you will not succeed.

There are a couple of things you need to consider when choosing a location. Can you get a permit for the location? Are there any zoning restrictions? Are there a lot of passing cars? Do people stop by that area? Are there a lot of nearby car wash businesses?

Your ideal location would be an area where a lot of cars pass and stop by. An area that does not have a successful car wash. Or, an area that does not have a specific type of car wash that people are looking for. Lastly, the car wash should be visible, and the traffic should not be fast so people can see your place.

Think of a location where you can place a sign that people will most definitely see. So, while people are driving towards your car wash they can see the sign.

6. Get Permits

6. Get Permits

This all depends on the state you are planning to open the business in. All states require a business license and a car wash license. Some states may require something else. For instance, if there are specific zoning regulations, you are going to need a license for that too.

You will have to research this on your own. The Small Business Association has all the information you need. You can find the information there, you can also find out how to get the permits.

7. Get Equipment

Now, getting the car washing equipment is probably the most expensive part. The actual price of the equipment depends on the type of car wash you are opening.

For instance, the equipment for automatic car washes is the most expensive. From which wash equipment manufacturer you are buying matters too. A self-service car wash is also expensive.

The equipment for a full-service car wash is the least expensive but you will have to pay employees so that’s that. If you need help getting the equipment, check out the International Carwash Association.

If you are going with an automatic car wash, you will need equipment maintenance too. I recommend buying manufacturers that also offer maintenance.

Some of the equipment you may need.

  • Mobile Wash Systems
  • Self-Service Equipment
  • Pressure Washer
  • Conveyor
  • Cleaning Solutions
  • Wax
  • Protectants
  • Towels
  • Brushes
  • Vacuums
  • Dryers
  • Blowers
  • Water Heater
  • Extractor

That’s about it, oh, and don’t forget, you will need a billing system too.

8. Hire Employees

8. Hire Employees

Lastly, you will need employees. All types of car wash places need employees.  Of course, a self-service car wash does not require employees, but I still recommend having someone there that will keep watch of the equipment.

Think about how many employees you will need and conduct interviews. Carefully choose your personnel. You want the car wash to be efficient.

9. Advertise

Once you are all set, it’s time to put your business out there. Every type of business needs ads. Choose where you will place the ads. Social media ads are most efficient right now.

But you can go with other types of ads. Find out what will work for you. The main thing about ads is that you always should target a certain group of customers. Make sure your ad looks nice and attractive.

What Car Wash Business Mistakes To Avoid

What Car Wash Business Mistakes To Avoid

  • Don’t expand too quickly. 
    I see that as soon some places make a profit, they try to expand. That’s a mistake. I can’t stress enough how many businesses went down because of expanding. The thing is, expanding is too expensive. And, the reason why the current place is working out may be pure luck. So, when expanding, make sure you have enough profit and everything is planned out.
  • Don’t stagnate after a certain amount of customers come.
    What I’m saying is that you should always keep making your business better. Don’t let the daily customers fool you. If you are not getting better, someone else will become better.
  • Don’t buy the location before you are sure you will get the permits.
    Some people are too confident that they will get all the needed permits. That’s also a mistake. Just make sure everything is in order before buying the location.
  • Don’t save on equipment to increase profits. 
    This is also a common thing among car wash owners. They get cheap, low-quality equipment to save costs. Then, they are wondering why the customers are leaving. Good workers and high-quality equipment will always leave the customers satisfied.
  • Don’t do things as everyone else does.  
    If you are planning on copying how other places work, you are making a mistake. It’s okay to copy some things but not everything. You have to be better than everyone, at least the local car wash places.
  • Get business insurance. 
    Sometimes there is a loss of profits but it’s not your fault. A number of things can go wrong with the market. Let’s say the price of oil goes way up, and fewer people start driving cars. Business insurance protects you from risks like that. Check what’s the insurance requirements.

How To Increase Profits

  • Invest in better equipment.
    If you see some new technology coming out, be quick to get it. Usually, the first ones with brand-new equipment are the first to increase profits.
  • Start doing quick detailing. 
    A lot of customers will want that 30-min detailing. So, get a worker and equipment for that. You can charge extra for that. This increases profits a lot actually.
  • Start giving out text coupons. 
    If you pay a service where you give out coupons to text numbers, customers will want to use them. Try that out if everything is going well. This is a good way to also advertise your car wash.
  • Offer a loyalty program. 
    If you see a lot of regular customers, that means you can probably get them to buy a subscription. You can offer the basic stuff with that subscription. They will have to pay for the quick detailing and extra stuff.
  • Offer more wash services. 
    All professional car washes offer multiple wash services. It’s just a way to increase profits. Customers come with different needs, and you can charge extra money for these additional services.

Related Questions And Other FAQs

Is Owning A Car Wash A Good Investment

Owning a car wash business can be a good investment. It all depends on how well you execute your idea. Any business can be a good investment. Car wash places can bring in a lot of profits, so yes, it’s a good investment.

Is A Car Wash Business Profitable

A well-executed car wash that is efficient in all aspects can be really profitable. On average, a self-service car wash brings in about 40,000 dollars in profit. Other types of car wash places can bring in more. If you are washing luxury cars exclusively the profit can be way higher.

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