Close this search box.

Starting Your Own Car Wash Business

If you are considering starting your own car wash business, you likely have more questions than answers at this point. There is an abundance

Subscribe to OUR blog

If you are considering starting your own car wash business, you likely have more questions than answers at this point. There is an abundance of information to gather and process about starting and owning your own car wash. From location, equipment, maintenance, installation, operation and even marketing, we help you sort through the clutter and give you answers to all those questions swimming around in your head! 

First Things First: Is A Car Wash Profitable? 

The most important question of all: Is a car wash profitable? The short and long answers are both ‘Yes!’ Of course, there are many factors that play into the profitability of a car wash, or any business for that matter. But the bottom line is that as long as cars are on the road, there will be a demand to wash them. The demand for car washes has increased over the past few years due to several factors.

First, people are busier than ever and always looking for the fastest and most efficient way to get things done. Secondly, the care of our environment is more prevalent than ever. Commercial car washes are better for the environment mainly due to their efficiency of water usage and safe handling of wastewater. Also, with the rising costs of purchasing a vehicle, it is more important than ever to preserve the quality of that vehicle as long as possible. Lastly, the rising popularity of ridesharing is responsible for an uptick in car wash demand because of the need for drivers to maintain clean vehicles in order to keep customer satisfaction ratings high. More information about the car wash target audience can be found here

Location, Location, Location! 

As they say in the real estate biz, location is everything! Deciding on the location for your car wash is hands down the most important factor in your car wash’s success. Scout out locations, pay attention to traffic patterns, population, competition, surrounding businesses, etc. Because of the importance of this decision, consider using a trusted and experienced real estate agent to help you find the right location for your new endeavor.

The location you choose plays a vital role in what type of car wash you decide to open. If space is limited, a self-serve or in-bay automatic may be your best option. If space is not a limiting factor, maybe a tunnel wash system would better fit your needs. As stated previously, location is everything!

Car Wash Type 

When deciding on the type of car wash to open, you have several options, each with their own list of considerations. As we said above, the location you choose is extremely important in what type of car wash you decide to open. Being aware of city ordinances and guidelines can affect your decision. Depending on your demographic, water usage and treatment can also, drastically change your car wash plans.

Are you building from the ground up? Some car wash types have significantly higher car wash installation, building and maintenance costs. Be sure to consider all the facts and figures before making your final decision. 

Below is a brief description of the most popular types of car washes:

Tunnel Wash Systems: Cars drive onto a conveyor system and the car is pulled through the tunnel. Depending on the wash selection, various steps and options are performed along the way.

Full-Service Tunnel: Offers both exterior and interior cleaning of your vehicle. Usually done by a concierge or employee of the location.

Express Tunnel: Customer stays in their vehicle for an exterior wash. Very quick process

Flex Serve Tunnel: A combination of full-service and express. Customer’s choice.

Self-Service: This type of car wash provides the customer with the tools to do the job themselves. Customers use a wand to clean their car and can use coin-operated vacuums to clean their interior.

In-Bay Automatic: This is the typical car wash found at a gas station or convenience store. Customers decide what kind of car wash they want, drive into the bay, place the car in park and stay in the car while the machine washes around their car. This type of car wash typically requires less space than a tunnel car wash.

Site Design and Installation

Taking extra time on the front end for your car wash site design is crucial when planning your car wash. Poor layouts can lead to longer lines, decreased revenue and unhappy customers. Take the time to carefully plan your site design with an experienced expert and you will have satisfied, repeat customers! 

Quality installation is equally important. Quality installation leads to more uptime/less downtime, higher revenues, more satisfied customers, and less money spent on parts and labor. Skimping on quality in the installation stage will not save you money in the long run. In fact, you’ll likely spend more time and money on car wash maintenance while losing money to car wash downtime and unhappy customers. 

The Fine Print

There is more to opening a car wash than just building the structure and hoping for the best. A car wash works like any other business. You need to understand how to run a car wash from every side. 

  • Business Plan: A car wash business plan clearly lays out the opportunities, risks, execution, and financials. Your business plan doesn’t have to be elaborate, but it does need to be clear, practical, and thorough.
  • Business Model: Will your car wash operate as a franchise, LLC, S Corp, or will you run it independently? Find out the pros and cons of each to determine the best fit for you.
  • Permits, paperwork, and planning: Before breaking ground or starting any construction, you need to do the behind-the-scenes work. There will be plenty of paperwork to fill out- licenses, applications, tax forms, permits, insurance, etc. Do your research to find out exactly what you need to do, follow it to the letter, dot all your i’s and cross all your t’s. Don’t let a paperwork snafu be the reason your project is delayed, or worse, not approved.
  • Staffing: Think about how hands on you want to be. Do you want to manage your staff, or do you want to hire a manager? Don’t overlook staffing at a self-service car wash. It may be self-serve, but you still need someone available for maintenance, cleaning and repairs.

Car Wash Maintenance and Equipment

It doesn’t matter which type of car wash you choose; car wash equipment and car wash maintenance will always be on your to-do list. Maximize your uptime by scheduling planned maintenance for your car wash. It is always cheaper to fix a small issue before it turns into a larger one. Plus, this gives you as the owner and operator more flexibility to schedule maintenance and equipment repairs. Wouldn’t it make more sense to schedule planned maintenance during non-peak hours, when your customers will not be disrupted, or to pay extra for emergency repairs during your peak hours and risk unhappy customers? We think the answer is obvious! 

A Reliable Partner You Can Trust

At Reliable Plus, we can help you bring your dream of starting your own vehicle wash business to life. We are experts in taking your car wash from grand design to grand vision. Our team can develop a custom plan for your one-of-a-kind car wash dream! Contact us today to learn more!


CTA Module

Lorem donec massa sapien faucibus et molestie ac feugiat. Non diam phasellus vestibulum lorem sed risus ultricies tristique. Penatibus et magnis dis parturient montes nascetur ridiculus.

Subscribe to OUR blog

Tell Us How We're Doing