A car wash business can be quite profitable with annual average profits ranging from a couple of tens of thousands of dollars to way over half a million dollars. The business can be flexibly started on any scale from small to large scale. The cost of starting a car wash business depends on the scale and nature of services offered which will in turn determine the location and equipment matrix. Global statistics show that 9 out of every 10 car washes are run on a small scale. This goes to show you that you can comfortably begin your own car wash business at a small scale and still make significant amounts of money. Despite the majority of car wash owners operating at a small scale the car wash industry is a multi-billion dollar global industry.

Approaches

There are two broad approaches namely, an automatic car wash or a manually-run car wash. Then there are broadly either fixed car washes or mobile car washes. What happens with a mobile car wash is that you go to strategic spots where you are likely to find a lot of vehicles.  Still we can go on to categorize car washes in 4 ways namely, full-service (interior and exterior), conveyor (automatic), self-service and in-bay (automatic). An overarching categorization of the types of car wash services available is as follows, hand wash, self-service, car detailing, automatic and touch-less. Obviously the automatic and touch-less car wash approach require specialized equipment thus making them quite expensive to set up and maintain. Some people also say that automatic and touch-less car washes are detrimental to a car’s paint finish. The statistics even show that people have a lesser preference for automatic car washes. This would mean that a manually-run car wash (i.e. hand wash, self-service and detailing) would be the best fit. After all, the involvement of the human touch makes the whole customer experience more enjoyable.

Market Research

On average a car needs to be regularly washed (a basic one) after 2 weeks, waxed 2 times a year (after 6 months) and thoroughly cleaned in and out after some months (it is up to your discretion). These are just averages and depending on vehicle uses some will definitely need these services even more regularly. Looking at these dynamics you can see how this type of business offers the prospects of having repeat customers. However, this does not eliminate the need to conduct extensive market research. You must have an eye out for competition by studying how they run their car wash businesses. Find out the sizes of their customers bases and the segmentation of those customer bases. Also look at how they conduct marketing for their businesses. Review the types of car wash services they offer, their operating hours and their pricing regimes. In doing all these exercises you will note areas you can use to outsmart your competition. Also you need a good car wash business plan.

Make Sure You Have A Comprehensive Car Wash Business Plan

The failure to plan is the beginning of business failure. The car wash business plan must be clear and succinct enough to give your potential partners, clients and investors an overview of what your objectives are. At the same time, it must be detailed enough to explain the operations of the business that you propose. At the very minimum you need to have the following included in your car wash business plan:

  1. The mission, vision and operational strategy
  2. Market Analysis And Customer Segmentation
  3. A business case showing that the business is financial viable and sustainable
  4. A marketing and customer care plan
  5. An organizational chart and human resource policy
  6. A three-year expansion outlook
  7. A risk and rewards Analysis

Location And Premises

It is advised that critical considerations be made in choosing a location for a car wash. Some of the things to consider in this endeavour are population densities, vehicle traffic volumes, presence of other car wash players, the road networks amongst others. The premises must be adequately spacious to accommodate a car park and working area for the car wash processes. Some projections place the number of cars required to pass through a car wash daily to realize profits to be at least a hundred. This should give you a rough idea of how big your premises must be. The average sizes of car wash premises fall between 465 square metres and 930 square metres.

Equipment

Some of the equipment required are brushes, polishes, towels, buffers, detergents, air fresheners, pressurised water dispensers, vapour steamers, buckets and so on. You will also need dryers, vacuum machines, blowing machines, hoovers, a water system, hoses and protective gear (e.g. gum boots, latex gloves, face masks and the like). Additional equipment that might be required is sponges, shade covers, waxes and water repellents. If you choose to settle for the automatic or touch-less approaches you will need high-tech specialized equipment.

Staff And Management

The number of employees needed obviously depends on your scale of operations. We cannot really mention numbers here as you will have to use to use your own discretion. The general principle is that full-service (this combines hand wash and car detailing plus more) car washes require more hands as opposed to automated car washes such as the conveyor and in-bay ones. We can typify using the 5 categories mentioned earlier so that you get an idea of how many employees can be required. As in, for hand wash (at least 1), for self-service (at least 1 again), for car detailing (at least 3 people) and for automatic and touch-less (you would require at least 6 people). Management can be covered by you and immediate family members where applicable.

As always you must leverage on the use of the internet and social media for your marketing initiatives. You are encouraged to set up loyalty programs that will motivate your customers to become regular, repeat customers. To buttress that you must keep in touch with your customers regularly through low-cost means such as SMSes. It also pays to be thorough and friendly as that will encourage customers to keep returning for more. It is also important to get insured since incidentals are most likely to occur in this line of business.