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Starting a carwash

How to start a carwash: The secrets to successful carwash ownership

September 02, 2013
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When it comes to owning a carwash, there are many facets involved. Equipment, water, chemicals, marketing, advertising, customer-retention, signage, pricing, and so on. And, while there isn’t an exact blueprint to follow, there are certain ways to enhance success, and certain ways to fail. Steve Gaudreau,  president of BRINK RESULTS, and a 25-year carwash veteran is the author of Creating Exceptional Managers and So You Want to Own a Carwash, the latter of which goes into great detail about how to be a successful carwash owner. The following are excerpts from his book, available in the www.carwash.com bookstore.

Know your strengths

If you’re going to own and operate a carwash , what activities involved with that do you enjoy?

Form example, carwashes have a lot of equipment that has to be maintained every day. If you love working with your hands on equipment, a carwash is a fabulous business to own.

If changing a light bulb is a challenge and you don’t enjoy getting your hands dirty working with equipment, you’re not going to enjoy very much being an owner/operator of a carwash. If you are not running the day-to-day business because you are more of a hands-off investor, then you can hire someone who does know how to take care of this end of the business.

The point is this: Know what you like to do, know what is needed to operate a carwash business, and figure out who is going to do what before you get into the business. By doing this, you will have a better chance of personal satisfaction, as well as financial success.

Look to others

If you are new to the business you need to find resources to help you and you need to listen to their advice. When selecting that assistance, you do what you would do in any business: Check references, visit successful carwash sites to see what success looks like, and ask operators their opinion of whomever you are thinking of working with. And, then, once you have selected your carwash resource(s), follow their counsel for at least your first carwash. The reality is that everyone needs more knowledge of the carwash business than they think that they do when they first start.

Check your surroundings

Determine the frequency of consumer visits for the type of carwash that is planned. Take into account the particular aspects of your business model for the type of carwash planned that could affect frequency, such as price, range of services offered, etc.

Identify on a map all of the competition within a 5-mile radius and determine what their trade area is, what your natural trade area is, and understand where there is an overlay.

Choose the right manufacturers, suppliers

Selecting a good manufacturer, being sure that the equipment is being installed correctly, performing the preventative maintenance properly, and obtaining assistance for repair and service are all major challenges to your carwash business success.

The key issues regarding chemical usage are understanding the connection between equipment and chemicals, defining the desired quality for your wash, deciding how much equipment is needed in conjunction with the chemicals to produce the desired aresult, controlling the cost of the chemicals, and ensuring a high level of service by the chemical distributor, as well as taking advantage of wheatever marketing assistance is provided by them.

What's your sign?

All of the variables that affect signage can be found in a careful anaysis of the local sign code. These codes are being revised periodically, and it is necessary to ask whether there are any intended revisions being discussed when you visit with the officials that control this area of code enforcement. Sign codes can also be slightly different, depending upon how the real estate is zoned. Therefore, there are genearl requirements, as well as specific requirements to be aware of.

The grand opening

A successfully executed grand opening for a new carwash or a recently refurbished one is ma marketing activity that is considered by most retail businesses to be essential to their initial success. Linking the use of several media to a community fundraiser gives people strong motivation to turn out on the big day.

A grand opening should not take place for at least 30 days after a carwash opens. A soft opening is always recommended. The grand opening should occur as soon after 30 days as an operator feels comfortable with the operation of their wash.