Professional Carwashing & Detailing

How to start a carwash: Advice from a carwash consultant

June 20, 2013

As a new carwash owner, you probably have a lot of questions, in fact, you might even have more questions than answers. Well, we are here to help. Professional Carwash Consultant Christopher C. McKenna is here to tell you that there is a lot to be gained in turning to an expert in the field; and, a lot to be lost in trying to do it all yourself.

McKenna spent more than 20 years in the carwashing industry as an owner/operator, a consultant and a private investor. He also knows a thing or two about hard work having put himself through college while working as a window line laborer. He also owned his own carwash when he was just 25. 

Below McKenna is offering up his top seven tips on what to do and consider before building or choosing a type of carwash.

How to start a carwash: Tip 1: The best advice I can give, said McKenna, for new investors is to hire an experienced consultant.

How to start a carwash: Tip 2: Be sure to consider:

  • Do you want to be in the business long term or short term?
  • Do you want to be involved in the day-to-day operations?
  • Are you willing to really learn about the business?
  • How far are you willing to travel to get to your carwash?

How to start a carwash: Tip 3: Avoid these common mistakes:

  • Not hiring a consultant (especially at the preliminary stages).
  • Paying way too much for an existing carwash.
  • Buying a carwash based on potential (supposed or otherwise) and not on current net worth. However, there are some variables (within reason) that can be considered.
  • Not doing proper budgeting and having improper expectations.
  • Building (a carwash) in the wrong area.

How to start a carwash: Tip 4: Know your local government. This is the entity that decides your zoning (carwash, gas, oil & lube, etc.) and issues all of your permits (water, reclaim, handicap parking, etc.) and renews all existing permits, including your business license.

How to start a carwash: Choosing your carwash equipment

How to start a carwash: Tip 5: Check the grounds.

Make sure to check for ground contamination if considering building a new facility.

How to start a carwash: Tip 6: Get the paperwork.

On a separate note, it is highly advisable to acquire the city’s and/or the county’s carwash account. They often go by the bidding process, so you’ll have to go through the formal contact procedures (call and ask for the fleet manager and he will tell you what you need to do).

How to start a carwash: Tip 7: Don’t waste time. Time spent should be time invested. In other words, don’t waste time on projects or leads that do not ring true or seem realistic. Know your budget and don’t extend yourself financially on “maybes” or “probables.”