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PC&D's 2008 Conveyor Benchmarking Survey Report

October 11, 2010
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The big picture: good news for exterior and express operators who saw profitable increases, not so good news for flex and full-serve carwashes who struggled with stagnant volumes and rising labor costs.

Express exteriors and exterior-only carwashes showed expansive growth in both gross revenue and volume with two-digit increases (19.0 percent and 25.6 percent, respectively). The downside was expenses also showed a marked increase of 26.7 percent.

The story was quite the opposite for flex and full-serve operators. Gross revenue showed a nearly invisible growth of 1.4 percent, while volumes fell 2.0 percent and costs increased 2.4 percent.

Examining expenses
Online labor salaries remain the biggest expense for full-serve and flex-serve carwashes, even though operators cut the number of full-time equivalents (FTE) nearly in half from 2006 to 2007. Last year's survey showed the average number of FTE was 32; this year's operators cut it down to 18. Still, full and flex serve operators doled out an average of over $300,000 in online labor salaries alone, an eight percent increase from last year's $277,000.

Although labor expenses for full-serves dwarf those of express exteriors, the two types are evenly matched when it comes to utilities, chemicals and maintenance costs. One point of interest is damage claims: full and flex-serve operators dole out nearly twice as much to complaining customers than express or exterior only carwashes. Perhaps running a wash with limited staff and limited expectations helped control this expense.

Did you know…?
Some interesting tidbits of data that didn't make it into the pages of this year's survey:
  • Over 55 percent of the conveyor carwashes that responded to this year’s survey have a website for customers;
  • Nearly 80 percent have a surveillance video system;
  • Half of all conveyor carwash operators have a spot-free/reverse osmosis system;
  • Just over 21 percent have automated cashiers/tellers at their carwash; and
  • Almost 82 percent have a computerized cash management (point-of-sale) system.
The survey
In an effort to increase the response rate, Professional Carwashing & Detailing reduced the number of questions from 106 to 50 for this year's survey. Unfortunately, the strategy was not as effective as our editorial staff had hoped. This year’s survey garnered 110 responses, our lowest response rate to date.

The data is divided up into four categories of reference:
  • Volume, revenue & pricing;
  • Assets, liabilities & expenses;
  • Market, & profit centers; and
  • Carwash profile.
PC&D thanks the conveyor operators nationwide who contributed valuable information to this report and Belanger, Inc., for its support of the research. If you would like to offer suggestions to help improve this survey or its response rate, please e-mail the magazine's Editor in Chief, Kate Carr, at

Editor's Note: For the purposes of this survey, data was divided into two categories: Full/flex and Exterior. Exterior includes exterior-only and express exterior carwashes. Full-serve includes full-serve, flex-serve and conveyor hand washes. This is a departure from last year's survey, which grouped flex-serve carwashes (those that offer extra detail services off-line) with exterior-only and express exterior washes.

Click here to purchase a copy of the survey.