How To Start A Car Wash Business

How To Start A Car Wash Business: What You Need To Know Before Starting

Elena Hudgens
By Elena Hudgens 21 Min Read

If you’ve ever wondered how to start a car wash business, this article is for you. The car wash industry is booming, and plenty of people want to get in on the action. However, it’s not as easy as just opening your car wash. 

You need to make sure that you plan carefully and make smart decisions before taking the plunge. Here are some things to keep in mind about how to start a car wash business:

  • What kind of equipment do I need?
  • How many employees will I need?
  • What will my price points be?
  • Where should I set up shop?

Find a location 

The first thing you need to do is find the right location for your car wash. If you’re building your car wash, make sure that the area has plenty of parking and sightlines so that customers can easily spot your business. You may want to consider setting up in a busy area, making it easier for people to find you.

Site Model Pages offer in-depth information about different locations, and our site development services can help you identify and approve the most appropriate possible locations. 

Start by driving around your target area, paying close attention to traffic levels, types of local businesses near where you want to build a car wash as well as any property for sale signs that are up around town. You should also visit commercial real estate MLS sites online before deciding which one is best for your business needs. Simply put: never rush into purchasing anything!

You need to find a location with easy access and plenty of parking. You also want to be close to residential areas, so many potential customers are nearby. If you can’t find a good location in an area that is near residential neighborhoods or business districts, don’t despair. 

There are still ways you can attract nearby customers without being right in their backyard. For example, you could offer a service for people who live in apartment complexes or have no nearby car wash businesses.

Choose your equipment and employees

You’ll also need to decide what equipment you want and how many employees you’ll need. For example, if you’re starting and don’t have much money, renting a brushless car wash is most likely the best option. 

However, if you have more funds available or are looking to expand in the future, then purchasing a standard brush car wash is better. Either way, there is no one-size-fits-all solution for starting a car wash business, so make sure to do your research about which type will work best with your budget and needs.

The type of equipment you will need for a car wash depends on what you want out of your business. For some owners, the goal is to have many specializations and a higher price point, while others want something more affordable and with a lower price point. There are two main ways to go about this: buying very specific and expensive equipment or buying cheaper, more versatile equipment.

Typically, your car wash will have two main people: one person who does the soaping and the other who does the drying. You also might want to hire a third person to handle customer interactions at the entrance.

As far as actual equipment goes, you’ll need a water hose with a nozzle, a soap dispenser with different soap solutions, and a few buckets for rinsing the cars off. You’ll also need some towels and squeegees for drying and detailing. Inspect each of these items before opening your store.

Ultimately, the price point will depend on where you set up shop and how much equipment rental or purchase costs end up being for you. You might also want to consider whether or not there’s a demand for what you’re selling in that specific area before opening up shop, as this will make pricing easier later on down the line.

Lastly, once everything has been decided on from location to equipment rental or purchase prices, and employee needs – it’s time to open up shop.

Pricing

One of the most important aspects of how to start a car wash business is pricing. A higher price point might deter some people, but you have to remember that your prices will be commensurate with the amount of work your business does.  

As you’re deciding on the type of car wash business you want to own, consider how much money can be charged for services. Prices for this service change based on a car wash’s location and other factors, but each type of car wash has a relative price point.

A thorough car wash at a luxury car wash will cost more than a quick dusting done by hand. For this reason, it’s important to determine what kind of service you want to offer and what people are willing to pay for it.

Self-serve car washes have the cheapest pricing of any type. They are priced in 15-minute increments for washing equipment or vacuums, and customers can wash their own cars. 

Basic hand car washes also tend to be inexpensive as well. In-bay automatic self serve style auto detailing is most expensive at the end of the spectrum with exterior conveyor models in between on price point there, but all types offer a fairly low-level service if not using high-pressure hoses which do more damage than help when it comes to getting stains out or blasting dirt off your vehicle’s bodywork.

You can find out what your competitors are charging for car washes, which will give you a general idea of the prices to set. It’s important to review pricing to stay competitive in your industry.

Analyze your competition 

The local car washes in the area might be a good place to start. What will happen when you start your wash? How many customers do they have, and what is their marketing strategy? Are their customers loyal or waiting for something better?  

And finally, if we think about it realistically – single-stall automatic car washes seldom last through even one winter without getting flooded – let alone make money–so don’t worry too much about them. You’ll be working at a weight class well beyond theirs and there’s plenty of room between you and any other competitors nearby.

Build a business plan 

Before starting a company, it is important to have a business plan. This document will provide you with an overview of how you will run the business now that it has started on its own and help keep track of future aspirations. 

It outlines your ambitions for this start-up, the associated costs, and industry research too. You may want to update your plan from time to time to reflect any changes in goals or needs for finance by your business.

Finally, you might need a solid business plan for financing and small business loan applications. Business plans are helpful in providing lenders with information about your business and overall vision. 

By making a plan, you’ll save them time and make the process easier for them to decide whether they should provide funding or not. Developing a robust business plan is easy thanks to templates out there!

Set up a business structure

Setting up a business entity is the first step to being self-employed. There are many different types of entities, so it’s important to choose one that will meet your needs and best suit your situation.

A limited liability company (LLC) is a popular option for most businesses because they can be set up easily and quickly, taxes can be paid in several ways depending on what you need, etc. 

Your choice may also depend on factors such as how complex or simple an entity you want or regulating requirements that might dictate what type of entity must exist to operate legally within the given area. 

On the more complex end between S-corps and C-corps, there are stricter rules about how employees get paid. However, S-corps and C-corps offer more control over taxation policies. 

Depending on the area of jurisdiction, there would be different sets of laws related to S-Corps and C-Corps. These need to be carefully scrutinized while deciding to set up the business structure. 

To avoid such complex governance structures, limited liability companies are best suited for such a business. 

Get licensed

For the requirements to open a business, you should ask for an application from your local city or county department. You will also need information regarding utility usage codes, insurance requirements, tax rates, and other criteria. 

To ensure that there are no legal conflicts in your company’s name with another party’s trademarked name- legally required protection when registering a trademark-check it on the U.S Patent and Trademark Office’s search tool before applying for one of your own.

Every municipality has different requirements for business licenses and permits. It’s important to remember to register for each of your locations, as they can keep a set of standard practices between businesses. 

Your state or town could even shut down your business if you don’t have them. Be sure to check with both your local secretary of state’s office or chamber of commerce in order to ensure you have everything you need. 

The SBA website also has resources to help ensure you get all necessary licenses and permits; their site will walk through some questions that every new entrepreneur should know about starting up a small business at home or abroad.

Get funding 

A solid business plan that includes a revenue model is the most challenging part of how to start a car wash business. Your success will also depend on how well you research and prepare your car wash facility ahead of time. Raising money for your business seems confusing at first, but with the right guidance, it can be highly rewarding. 

You need to be prepared for investors to invest in your car wash if they are convinced by a sound, high-quality revenue model with strong return potential. Building up an impressive resume with previous experience in the industry or operating a successful car wash may also convince them, so you have to have both great marketing skills and experiences when it comes to the day-to-day operations as well as any major expenses like equipment costs and infrastructure investments required for opening such storefront location.

If you’re looking to get a small business administration loan, more commonly known as an SBA loan, we’ve got good news for you! These kinds of loans provide large sums of cash to qualified applicants at low-interest rates and with generous repayment periods.

Equipment financing can be used to obtain the money needed for equipment you may need to operate your car wash. Equipment financing is unlike the SBA 504/CDC loans, which are usually granted on a case-by-case basis based on the track record of the borrower and the time they have been operating their business. This alternative model provides an attractive option.

Build the right wash 

Fast-paced car washes thrive when they take advantage of the local marketplace and are designed to make a turn in, purchase a wash, and move through at a fast pace. A perfect car wash should draw large numbers of passing customers with its great-looking exterior design, perfected layouts inside, and fast service menu. 

Proven time after time around America’s countryside; each component has been carefully thought out during construction to create one cohesive investment that pays off.

Hand Car Washes

Hand car washes are becoming popular because they are more affordable than self-service car washes. They are cheaper to maintain, and they require less space to operate. Many people find them to be more convenient as well. If you want the low investment, the minimal upkeep, and the convenience of a hand car wash, this might be the best option for you.

Self-Service Car Washes

Source: Carwash

Self-service car washes are the most common type of car wash. This is because it is less expensive, takes less time, and doesn’t require a lot of equipment. However, this type of car wash does have a drawback. The customer may not feel as satisfied with their cleaning because they don’t have the opportunity to wash.

 

Mobile Car Washing Units

If you’ve decided to start a car wash business, you may want to invest in a mobile car washing unit. These are designed for convenience and are easy to set up. You can find these units online or at your local hardware store.

Mobile car washing units are an excellent investment if you’re looking for a way to set up your business quickly and easily. They also make it easier for you to be flexible with where you can wash cars by moving your location if necessary. 

You could even move the entire unit if needed. Mobile car washing units are environmentally friendly as well, as they go straight from one location to another without using any water or needing any electricity or gas.

You need access to water, electricity, and gas– this means that mobile car washing units are not always the best choice for those who don’t have access to these utilities.

Market your business

Customers will not know about your wash without some campaigning on your part. Make sure to advertise in order for them to know, and be prepared with different types of advertising from billboards, mailings in the 5-mile radius around the carwash, promotional washes at grand opening events, or radio commercials. 

You should have a starting place of $15,000-$1 per car as a standard ballpark for initial marketing including these options- you can adjust it based on what gets the best results going forward though! Also, make sure you collect feedback and create an efficient program moving forwards by testing out social media campaigns or incentivizing customers with free washes.

Here are some marketing strategies : 

  • Posters

Posters are permitted to be hung up on telephone poles or places with a lot of foot or vehicle traffic. You can even hang posters in the storefronts of other business owners, as long as you give their customers discounts on car washes at your facility and offer another attractive incentive for them!

  • Social media

Social media is a cost-effective way to advertise your business, so after having a website created for your company you can invest time in social media such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to promote what specials are currently available. Have knowledge of basic SEO management to up your social media game. 

  • Customer-centric programs

One of the things you should do as soon as your car wash opens to the public is set up a loyalty program. This type of program will encourage people to come back, starting with their first time using your services. CRM tools are a great way to create maximum customer satisfaction. 

You can use text messaging as an affordable way of notifying customers about deals and events that happen within your business. If you are collecting contact information for your clients, you’ll be able to offer them text messages. They may be more inclined to use a mobile or digital coupon instead of one they have to clip or print if the ages included in their target demographic are older.

Conclusion

Running a car wash business can seem like a daunting task, but you can start your own profitable and successful business with the right guidance and support. There’s a lot to learn about operating a car wash, but with the help of this guide on how to start a car wash business, you’ll be on the right track in no time.

Starting a car washing business is not an easy task. To do it right, you need to take time and check things off your list one by one. 

You should know how to operate your company, what financial needs you have, and how these all can be satisfied if appropriately done before starting any business venture like this. 

With this in mind, you’ll save yourself the headache of doing more paperwork when running daily operations and will be better prepared for success down the road too.

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Posted by Elena Hudgens
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Elena Hudgens is an entrepreneur with 10+ years of experience. She started her journey by building her own e-commerce website on Shopify and turned her $1000 savings to millions in just 2 years. Soon she started different ventures in which she failed and succeeded. And now, she's on a mission to help other entrepreneurs with her life and business lessons.
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