How to Start a Carwash Business
As a car lover, chances are at some point in your life you’ve squeegeed a windshield and scrubbed down a rim or two. It’s easy to mistake having experience washing cars with having experience running a carwash, but the two are very different.
The carwash business is one as old as the car itself, and even if it seems simple, there’s a great deal to know before jumping in and getting your feet wet. Much of what we’ll explore here holds true to any business, but there are also some industry-specific items to look out for.
How Will You Choose to Wash?
A carwash business can be a number of different things. Maybe you’ve got an automated wash in mind, the type that people can drive through while they wait in their cars. A full-service wash adds the luxury of interior cleaning as well, but requires that you hire staff.
Alternatively, you could offer a self-service wash by providing a pay-as-you-go facility where people can drive their car in and use the equipment and cleaning materials. You could even opt for a mobile washing and detailing service that markets to local businesses and does the job in the parking lot. Understanding your approach will determine the business model you build out.
Find a Spot and Make a Business Plan
With your game plan in mind, you’ll need a base of operations. Unless you plan to be mobile, that means finding a spot with the right traffic patterns. Look for areas where traffic moves slowly and drivers will be able to spot your advertising from a distance.
Consider the costs that your business will incur. These will vary depending on how your wash is set up. For example, if you run an automatic wash that requires pressurized hot water, you’ll need to purchase water pumps, boilers and a fan drying system. Hand washes will have costs associated with more employees.
You can get some ideas of what works where by observing the competition in your area. Draw up a plan that includes an estimate of your monthly and yearly costs to get an idea of the capitol you’ll need to open your business.
Start the Marketing Machine
With your business plan in place and a location selected, it’s time to promote. Consider ways to get your name out there, but make sure to allow for a break-in period where you familiarize yourself and employees with day-to-day tasks. When you’re ready, hold an event and follow it up with social media and other forms of marketing.
Arrange business deals with other local businesses to cross promote, and run promotions for loyal customers. For example, you could start a promotion for regular visitors that allows them to buy up to four washes in a month at a discounted rate, and then market the plan that covers six months of visits. This way, you bring in more revenue, and most customers won’t take advantage of the deal all the time.
Evaluate and Reinvest
The trick to staying successful and keeping your business churning is to observe what’s working and what’s not. Remember that most businesses will make the vast majority of their revenue from a small number of services. Configure your wash to feed business to those services, and then add smaller offerings to them to collect extra revenue.
Look at the statistics of your business and find places to save money. Perhaps you can change to a more affordable brand of microfiber towels and save $100 per month in material costs, or reinvest time during slow hours into training new staff.
Those little things add up, and pretty soon you’ll be moving the cars through like a pro.