How to Start a Car Wash Business

January 23, 2012 | By | 12 Replies More

QUESTION on How to Start a Car Wash Business

I would like to start a small car wash business. Do you have any figures as to how much money I can possibly make or profit from a car wash business? Thanks.

Paul (San Antonio, Texas)


Dear Paul:

It is hard to categorically say how much income you can expect to make from a car wash business. The rule of thumb is 15-20% return on investment on a 5-7 year window. It really depends on the type of car wash you decide on and the services you will offer.

You need to consider the following factors to ensure greater profitability in your car wash business:

1. Location – you need to choose a location that will support the operations of your business, and it should be very visible. Notice that most car wash businesses are along the main road, and often near malls and strip malls. Visibility and traffic are key in choosing your location. However, visibility often comes with a high price tag so expect your real estate cost to be substantial.

2. Type – The type of car wash operation that you are you planning to operate (self service car wash or in-bay automatic, which can either be friction automatics or touch free automatics) will also factor into your cost and profitability.

3. Equipment – Unless the car wash business you are thinking of is the self service type, an automatic car wash business requires significant capital equipment.

vehicle-wrapOne good resource I found in the car wash business is Hill and Foss Car Wash Business Systems. They have an FAQ section that answers some of the common questions in starting a car wash business.

Also check the resources of car wash associations starting with the International Car Wash Association They publish a quarterly magazine called Car Wash Magazine and run the largest car wash convention and trade show, The Car Wash Show.

There are also a number of regional, state and local car wash associations. The International Car Wash Association has some listings of these car wash associations.


Isabel Isidro

Recommended Books on How to Start a Car Wash Business:


Article originally published December 2005. Updated on January 21, 2012


Isabel Isidro

Isabel Isidro is the co-founder of A mom of three boys, avid vintage postcard collector, frustrated scrapbooker, she also manages Women Home Business, Starting Up Tips and Learning from Big Boys. Connect with her in Google +.

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    I must say a very well compiled post on the important legal, financial and operational preparations that a car rental startup needs to take before it launches. Once start-ups do get finished with all these activities, there is another big challenge waiting for them and that is to get noticed, get the word out to gain visibility, and win clients and retain them.
    Ask any successful business startup and they will tell you, the first stride towards success starts with creating a corporate identity – knowing your target audience very well and then composing a message that speaks uniquely to them. And the first creation of that attempt is almost always a professional logo.
    Displaying your logo, company name, message (tagline) and contact information near a busy road, lawn signs, on your car window decals or door, business card and flyers will quickly introduce your business to targeted customers for a very small investment. Exhibiting the logo on all forms of signage will facilitate the community to remember the service you provide.

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