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PC&D's 2007 Conveyor Benchmarking Survey Report

October 11, 2010
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Here’s the scoop: full-serve volumes are down (-5.3 percent), while exterior/flex-serve volumes are shooting upwards (+25.3 percent). And not only are exterior/flex volumes on an upward trend, but annual car counts for these washes have finally outpaced full-serve numbers (67,222/year to 61,356/year) — a first in PC&D survey history.

However, with a meager 5,000 more cars per year, it seems exterior/flex carwashes don’t really have the volume to make up for their lower prices (averaging around $6 per car, while full-serves get at least $8 for an exterior-only wash and usually more for a detail package).

So full-serve revenues and income are still on top. But with an extremely lean bottom-line (just compare labor expenses between these types of washes) this could be the era for exterior and flex serve operators.

More findings
Although, PC&D has not tracked full-serves with exterior-only lanes before, it is interesting to note that over 40 percent of full-serve operators give their customers a basic exterior wash option. This is a number that will only become more important as full-serve operators seek to compete with express exterior and exterior-only businesses.

Exterior/flex operators might also want to look into taking an idea or two from the full-serve operators. Nearly 60 percent of exterior/flex do not offer any vending or lobby services — a notable difference from the 95 percent of full-serves that do. And these full-serves are bringing in, on average, $1-$2 per car in lobby sales. (For ideas on how to appeal to customers that stay seated and buckled during the carwash, see “Impulse vending at the conveyor carwash” from the June 2006 issue of PC&D.)

Another good idea exterior/flex operators could borrow from full-serve carwashes? Sell fragrance. This popular add-on service (over 70 percent of full-serve customers purchase it) is overlooked at exterior/flex washes, where less than 30 percent of the customers are buying in. Could this be one reason that full-serves trump exterior/flex operators in the gross-revenue-per-car category? ($17.61 to $11.55).

Full-serve carwashes are also more likely to dole out the big bucks for advertising, typically spending about $10,000 per year over exterior/flex operators.

And that’s not the only expense that full-serves max out: they’re also spending more, a LOT more, on labor. The average full-serve operator spends $277,234 on its on-line labor, and employs a staff of 32 persons. Compare that to the exterior/flex operators, who spend only $108,119 to keep an average staff of 14 employees busy at the wash.

The data shows it: times are changing. The traditional full-serve carwash is bound to go the way of the dinosaur as customers ask for speed, convenience and, yes, even a dip in pricing. Express and flex operators will want to look into adding services and profit centers to compete with the advantages of full-serve.

The survey
This annual PC&D benchmarking survey is widely considered to be the most thorough study of the conveyor carwash market available in the industry. It is used by operators, manufacturers, insurance advisors and real estate appraisers to gain an accurate view of the conveyor carwash business.

The following pages of data — culled from a 106-answer questionnaire — are separated into five categories of reference:
  1. Income, revenue and pricing;
  2. Discounts, profit centers and advertising;
  3. Assets, liabilities and expenses
  4. Market and demographics
  5. Carwash and owner profiles
Click here to purchase a copy of the survey.

The survey is made possible by the owners/operators of the carwashes who took the time to answer the online survey which was e-mailed to them. The staff of Professional Carwashing & Detailing® thanks those persons for their efforts, as the survey would not be possible without them. If you have questions about participating in next year’s survey, please e-mail the magazine’s editor, Kate Carr, at

Editor’s Note: For the purposes of this survey, data was divided into two categories: Full-serve and Exterior+. Exterior+ includes exterior-only, express exterior and flex-serve carwashes. Full-serve includes full-serve carwashes and conveyor hand washes.