Business Overview

Level One

There are five levels in this business. The first is the hand car wash, which is the simplest way to wash a car because everything is done by hand. An example is when you see high school students offering car washes on a busy street in order to raise money for school programs.

Level Two

The second is self-serve car wash. This is a coin-operated car wash that requires the vehicle owner to do the washing. This system works on a timer basis and the vehicle owner gets to choose if they want to apply soap, scrub with a brush, or rinse with high-pressure water. Additional service is also available to pay for a timed use of a high–powered vacuum system to clean the interior of the car.

Level Three

Car detailing is the third level. With this method, you are washing the cars by hand and you are bringing them back to pristine condition as if they are brand new. It may take you many hours to prepare a single car in this way. The results are fantastic. The car is perfectly clean. The hand wax you apply is brilliant. When the occupants enter the car it smells like it is brand new. Maybe it is a “new car” smell or a fresh aroma that the client selected that is their favorite. In any case, this car is seriously prepared and everything is perfect. There is no dust and no odor. The windows gleam with a shine that is better than when the car first left the factory. The tires and the dashboard all sparkle as well.

Level Four

The fourth level is automatic washing. This is a computer managed system that processes each car one-by-one and puts them through an automatic pressure washing. It is somewhat abrasive and can damage parts of the vehicles, especially if they are older. There is a lot of scrubbing by brushes and high-pressure water spray that intends to remove all the dirt and grime that vehicles collect.

Level Five

Lastly, touchless washing is the fifth level and combines the best of the high-pressure water systems, but does not let any mechanical things come into direct contact with the car. The finishing work is done by human beings and done with a gentle nature and by hand.

Who is this business right for?

Some people are naturally attracted to this business. They like to see clean cars and they like working to make cars look clean.

Let us share a real-life story about a man who came to America as a refugee from Myanmar. He was a fairly wealthy businessman in Myanmar and became successful selling the delicacy of bird eggs. The government got jealous of his success and literally took his business from him. He left Myanmar with almost nothing.

When he arrived in the USA, he took a job as a dishwasher at a fancy restaurant. He could not even speak English, but he washed the dishes so well the owner was very impressed. On a lark, the owner, using sign language, showed him the owner’s car and asked him to wash it.

Because the man was previously wealthy in Myanmar and he had a nice car there, which is an incredible luxury for a person in such a poor country, he took very good care of it. In the past, he washed his own car so well and when asked to wash the restaurant owner’s car he washed it with the same enthusiasm. The results were spectacular and the owner was very happy.

In this fine restaurant, the customers would drive up and give the keys to the valet to park their car. Normally they would stay having dinner for two or three hours. This man from Myanmar asked the owner using sign language if he could wash the customer’s cars.

The restaurant owner immediately recognized the opportunity to make his customers so impressed. They could have a dinner and have a hand car wash done while they were eating. He immediately set up the special offer to give a free car wash for the diners. He also took the man from Myanmar off of washing dishes and told him to concentrate on washing the cars of the customers.

Of course, the customers paid a nice tip to the valet for parking the car and paid an even better tip for a perfectly clean and washed car. The man from Myanmar got to share in the tips and the restaurant became even more popular. The reason for telling this story is the only real requirement that you need to enter this business is to love washing cars.

By the way, the man from Myanmar is a real man. He went on to learn English and built up his efforts to wash cars. He now owns two professional car washes in California and he became a multi-millionaire from this effort. His name is Mr. Tan and his car washes are named after him. It all starts with loving to wash cars. You can do this also if you like to make cars look great!

What happens during a typical day at a car wash?

Get the supplies. Turn the water on. Get the equipment ready and make sure the helpers show up. If you need inspiration play this song, Car Wash.

Level One – Hand Car Washing

  • You will want to make sure you will have some cars to wash. The way to get customers is to locate on a busy street or have an affiliation with other businesses. You may spend some daily time looking for other opportunities to find cars to wash.
  • You will check to make sure there are enough supplies. You will make sure the water connection is working. If you have helpers. you will supervise their efforts.

Level Two – Self-Service Car Wash

  • Each day you will need to make sure all the equipment is functioning properly and there are enough soap and wax supplies to feed the systems. You will remove the coins from the coin boxes to collect the money made from the day before. You will fill the bill changer with coins to make sure the customers can get the change they need to use the system. You will make sure the facilities are clean and attractive to potential customers.

Level Three – Car Detailing

  • This can be either an independent business or operated in association with a professional car wash. Car detailing includes not only washing and waxing the car but also bringing the interior back to pristine condition. The main thing you will do each day is to make sure you have enough supplies and if you use helpers you will make sure they show up on time to take care of the clients.

Level Four – Automatic Washing

  • These systems are the most common form of car washing. The simple ones will be offered as part of a gas station. Your daily duties will be to check that the equipment is working properly and replace any worn out parts, such as brushes, with new ones. You will check to make sure there are adequate supplies that are needed for the operations such as soap and liquid wax.
  • If payment can be made by coins or bills at the entry point, you will remove money from the collection device for deposit to the bank.

Level Five – Touchless Washing

  • Touchless washing combines an automated system to do the rough washing with many employees to do the final cleaning. Besides checking the equipment for proper operation and making sure you have enough supplies, the main part of your job is to make sure there is enough staff on hand to help process all the cars that come through. A successful system may wash 200 to 300 cars per day.

What is the target market?

The best customers are the ones that return weekly to get a car wash. Many car wash companies give a free wash after a certain number of washes to get customers to come back again and again.

How does a car wash make money?

Each car wash has a basic charge and there are typically additional things that can be requested by clients, such as using auto freshener or wax that are sold for an additional charge. Detailing is the most expensive because of all the additional services provided.

What is the growth potential for a car wash?

Since getting a car wash is a matter of convenience, there is the possibility of having multiple locations served by a hand-wash company or a detailing company. For self-service, automatic, and touchless car washes, it is possible to have one on any major thoroughfare and even add other locations after the first location is successful.

Having the locations a few miles apart will help to make sure you do not cannibalize your own market.