Professional Carwashing & Detailing

A look at historical averages

October 11, 2010
Back in the January 2007 issue I wrote about Professional Carwashing & Detailing magazines self-serve surveys and how the comparisons between your carwash and the national averages might help you spot some problems in your operations.

This month I would like to compare some of the historical averages to the latest survey for 2007. The earliest surveys I have in my file are 1993 for both Professional Carwashing & Detailing and Auto Laundry News. Although the survey year is 1993, they have some comparisons from previous years which allow us to go back as far as 1987, the year before we bought our first carwash.

The revenue from 1987 to 2006 went up each year but the net income actually went down for a few years in the 90’s. The figures are eschewed a little because the 1987 figures are based on 5.75 bays and the other years are mostly 5 bays so let’s compare the average revenue and net income per bay (chart).

The net income took a drive in 1991. In looking at the graph in the 1993 survey it came back up a little in 1992 and in 1993 it was back to the 1990 level.

The most common comparison is the per bay/per month. These are the total revenue and expenses per bay which includes income from vacuums and vending.

The totals generally went up from year to year, and over the 20-year period the revenue-per-bay was up almost 95 percent, expenses-per-bay up 119 percent and net -income-per-bay up 89 percent.

All of this increase is due to inflation, so was I spinning my wheels over the last 19 years as a carwash owner? Let’s look at the percent of net profit (per bay) as compared to the revenue.

Incredible. Is this a good business or what? My net profit over the years has been right close to 50 percent. Sometimes we were as high as 58 percent (never 65 percent), and when we had an automatic, down to 45 percent. I think 45 percent was as low as it ever got for us.

I just put our carwash on the market last week, so I ran through the figures for the realty company. In 2006, our net profit was 56.6 percent. To arrive at this “net” I took out the debt service and owner “perks.”

Some other interesting comparisons
In 2006 the most common price/time was $1.50 for 4 minutes (14 percent), second most common was $2 for 4 minutes (15 percent).

That really isn’t much of a rise in 20 years, is it? If you just compare the most common price/time it went up $0.50 (or 50 percent) when the revenue-per-bay went up 95 percent over the same time period.

Also interesting for me is that only 5.3 percent of the respondents get $1 for 2 minutes like we do.

In 1993, 24 percent of washes were attended over 8 hours a day, in 2006 that was up to only 3.5 point to 27.5 percent.

In 2006, 50 percent of self-serve carwashes have security cameras. In 1993, the question wasn’t even asked. The loss to theft in 2006 averaged $1,545.96 (most was $9,999) and, again, the question was not asked in 1993.

The services offered over the years have not changed, but the percentage of locations offering presoak went up from 66 percent to 83 percent, tire/engine cleaner from 78 percent to 82 percent and spot-free took the biggest jump of all from 46 percent to 69 percent. The percentage of locations offering wax and foaming brush at 97 percent and 93 percent did not change.

Looking at the figures another way, there are three percent of the locations not offering foaming brush and 30 percent without spot free. I find that hard to believe that a carwash would not have these services. Even if the carwash is the only game in town why not keep the customer in the bay spending money longer?

Some other stats:
  • Self-serve locations with in bay automatics in 1993 were 31.6 percent. In 2006, 45.7 percent
  • Average income per automatic in 1993 was $2,978. In 2006, $5,315.20
  • In 1993 the most common price/time was $1 for 4 minutes (19 percent), second most common was $1.25 for 4 minutes (15 percent).
And finally, this one I can’t explain. In 1993, Auto Laundry News survey reported that 74 percent of the business was in the months of January, February, March and April. The survey in 2006 reported the percentage of business done in each season to be much more evenly distributed: 21 percent in winter, 26 percent in spring, 31 percent in summer and 22 percent in fall.

Dennis Ryan has been in the carwash business since 1988 and the construction business for 40 years. At one time he owned and operated five self-service carwashes. Currently he owns and operates American Pride Carwash in Evansville, a suburb of Casper, WY. He can be contacted at