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8 Steps to Starting a Car Wash Business

Have you ever dreamed of opening your own business but were too afraid of failing? 

An automatic car wash can be a smart business investment because there is still a high demand for high-quality car washes in most markets.  With so many cars on the roads, car washes are needed to maintain exterior appearance and defend the paint from chipping and rust from debris like tar, salt, mud and bird droppings. Consumers will line up for a quality automatic car wash that is affordable, convenient and efficient.  Car washes are also a great way to increase traffic and profits for an existing business; like a gas station or convenience store. But there are challenges of starting any business and there are specific challenges for starting a car wash: What type of car wash systems to build? How to dispose of waste water?  How to make it echo-friendly?  And many other factors!

How to Start a Car Wash Business?

Let’s take a look at 8 steps You Should Know About Starting a Successful Car Wash Business.

Write a Car Wash Business Plan

A solid business plan helps you to bring your car wash vision to paper and create a step-by-step plan on how to make car wash business a reality.  You will need this plan to secure capital when approaching a bank or potential investor for startup funds. This plan needs to convince the lender that you have everything mapped out in order to start and maintain a successful car wash business.   You will also need this car wash business plan when discussing possible locations with a commercial real estate agent and you will need to submit it to the city planner to get necessary approval for your new business.

Include the following in your car wash business plan:

  • Description of your business including: the services you plan to offer; your target market; and most recent census data such as population in the area.
  • Mission Statement including summary of your business’s goals and the philosophies behind them.
  • The steps you will take in order to provide superior customer service.
  • Any specialties of the business such as car detailing business
  • Ownership and staff information including previous work experience and backgrounds.
  • Style of business management you plan to use.
  • Your financial forecast including car wash business profit.
  • List your business objectives, i.e.: Our goal is to become the most visited car wash business in Blue Springs.

Also include reasons your automatic car wash will be a success and any possible drawbacks.  Add any information that adds more credibility to the success of the plan to gain the confidence of investors and city planners.

Scout Potential Car Wash Business Locations

Location is paramount when determining where you want to set up shop.  Visit commercial real estate with the best locations and visualize every aspect of the space and how your car wash equipment will fit in the space.  Your car wash layout should be easily accessible, located in a safe neighborhood and have great visibility from the street.

Also consider:

  • Busiest locations
  • Building and zoning codes
  • Population
  • Type of Street
  • Competition
  • Car counts
  • Merchandising
  • Traffic flow
  • Signage

Monitor Competitor Car Washes

Where is the closest monitor and how long have they been in business?  How are they marketing and what are their prices?  Do they have loyal customers?  How does their equipment compare?  What will they do when you open?

These are all good questions to consider about your car wash competitors.  While competition can be healthy, you do not want to pick a location that is over-saturated with car wash business.

Secure Financing

How much does a car wash business cost?  What is the total investment?  You will need to calculate the total amount of finances that you need to secure including: real estate property, car wash construction, car wash equipment, car wash chemicals, maintenance and staff salaries, insurance and much more.  Make sure you include all the cost to get your business up and running.  Contact a car wash business consultant who will be able to help you calculate how much it will cost to get your car wash built and maintained.

If you present your business plan with a solid revenue model and a strong marketing plan, it gives you the confidence to convince investors to lend you the capital needed for your new car wash business.

Obtain Pertinent Applications and Information

Request a business license application and check your brand at the US patent office and register to claim it.  Gather information on zoning and utility codes, insurance requirements, tax rates, taxpayer identification and any other requirements for opening a new business.  Request information on: utility prices, local sanitary sewers, water usage limits, requirements for disposing water waste and any other regulations.

Acquire Approval from the City Planner

A new business owner needs approval from the city planner/zoning before they can start their business.  It is important to set up a meeting and bring your business plan to discuss all the details of your business.  Ask for verbal approval at the end of the meeting because if you already have the city’s blessing, the whole process with flow quicker.

Decide the Type of Car Wash to Build

The car wash system options are vast so you will need to decide on what type of car wash to build.  Popular car wash systems include:

  • Tunnel Car Wash Systems including Full Service Tunnel Carwash, Flex Serve Tunnel Carwash or Express Tunnel Carwash
  • In-Bay Automatic Car Wash Systems including Touchless Car Wash Machines or Friction Car Wash Machines
  • Self-Service Car Wash Systems includes “Do It Yourself”

While some of these types are more profitable, they cost more to build.  Others require less maintenance and staffing.  Comparing cost and requirements for each type of car wash system will allow you to select the one that best fits your business plan.

Develop a Marketing Plan

You will need to build an in-depth marketing plan to target your audience to ensure the neighborhood knows about your grand opening, your services, your prices and any special offers.  Review your marketing goals to determine a budget for marketing and advertising.  You will need a logo designed, sales collateral and a website.  Purchase a secure, mobile-optimized website and get it launched as soon as possible. Consider hiring a Digital Marketing Company that will manage your social accounts including: Facebook, Google My Business, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn to keep post active and relevant.  Since you will be busy running your company, you will not have the time to keep them updated.  Other digital marketing products to consider: Search Engine Marketing, Search Engine Optimization, Online Listing Management, Mobile Marketing, Online Display Advertising, Reputation Management.  Also consider traditional marketing campaigns such as: direct mail, flyers, newspapers, magazines, radio, billboards and tv.

If you are interested in the prospect of owning your own car wash and these steps look attainable to you, the car wash business may be the perfect opportunity for you.  Nu Look Car Care, Inc. offers expert consultation to help potential new owners with all phases of starting a commercial car wash business.