Opening a car wash business can be a fun, interesting, and profitable business for somebody with business smarts and perseverance. With the right location, good marketing, and top-notch service, you can draw in numerous customers who need their cars washed quickly, efficiently, and at a good price. However, opening a car wash business also requires a significant investment, good planning, and attention to detail in order to make your business profitable.
Research the car wash business.
Even if you’ve worked at a car wash business, you’ll need to be up to date on all the latest trends and technologies to have a good understanding of the industry. Visit other car washes and figure out the type of car wash you would like to open (e.g. self-service, automatic, waterless, full detailing, etc.)
Investigate the competition in your area.
In order for your business to be competitive, you need to thoroughly research the other car washes in your area. If you have already chosen a location for your car wash, scope out all the competition within a 5 mile radius. What services do they offer? What are their prices? How do they market their business? How often are customers using the services?
Draw up a detailed business plan.
A business plan will help you get financing to start your car wash and think through the details of your business. Make your plan as detailed as possible. The business plan should include an introduction (3-5 pages), market analysis (9-22 pages), company description (1-2 pages), organization and management (3-5 pages), marketing and sales strategies (4-6 pages), product/service (4-10 pages), equity investment and funding request (2-4 pages), financial information (12-25 pages).
Get the necessary permits and licenses.
You will definitely need a permit or a license to open your business.
The equipment you buy will depend on the type of car wash you have decided to open and the services you offer. Full service car wash, self-service car wash, and an automated car wash will all have different needs. You will typically need to buy a washing system (e.g. pressure washer, conveyor, self-service equipment, mobile wash systems), chemicals (e.g. cleaning solutions, wax, spot free rinses, protectants, presoaks, etc.), dryers, blowers, vacuums, brushes, towels, compressors, pumps, and a water system (e.g. boilers, water heater, water filtration, extractor, etc.), and billing system.
Market your business.
Use a multifaceted approach to advertise your business that includes flyers, posters, and an online presence. The signage for your car wash should be colorful with clear messaging. Make sure that people can easily see it from the road. A popular way to get new customers is by distributing coupons or discounts for car washes. Also, develop relationships with other small businesses located near your car wash.
Many car washes have combined other services and businesses with their car wash to increase revenue. Additional services will make your car wash more attractive to customers and help your car wash stand out from the crowd. A convenience store restaurant, barber shop, or even an enhanced waiting area (e.g. television, free coffee, comfortable place to sit, etc.) are possible additions. Ask yourself some questions before you invest in an add on service.
Offer express detailing services.
Express detailing services are services (e.g. wax, sealant, carpet shampoo) that can be done in 30 minutes or less and are done to maintain the appearance of your customer’s vehicle. Because you already have the space and equipment, you can offer these services at a lower price than a free-standing detail shop. It is also more convenient for your customers to have their car washed and detailed at one location.