Professional Carwashing & Detailing

Carwash consumer attitudes & preferences

October 11, 2010

Editor’s Note: This consumer attitudes and preferences marketing research report was prepared by Babak Mir-Eschghi, a student at Penn State University currently seeking his MBA. The report exclusively deals with attitudes and preferences as they relate to in-bay automatic carwashing.

Mir-Eschghi prepared this marketing research report as part of a classroom assignment. His interest in carwashing was sparked by realizing that no carwash he visited in the Central Pennsylvania area could meet the technology and quality standards of the carwashes he was accustomed to in Germany. He is currently researching the idea of establishing a high-tech carwash business in the United States. The tangible part of his business model is based on innovative German carwash technology that washes cars fast, safe, and with “superior quality,” according to Mir-Eschghi.

Mir-Eschghi designed the survey and conducted it with the help of Professional Carwashing & Detailing® magazine. It was out in the field for four weeks and consisted of 24 questions about carwash attitudes and preferences. It was answered by over 100 customers of in-bay automatic carwashes.

The following is his summary of the data and his recommendations for carwash owners and operators.

Washing attitudes / Influencing decisions of using a carwash / Preferences for additional services


Washing attitudes

I prefer having my car washed by a carwash because it is faster overall.

  • Strongly Agree - 48.80%
  • Agree - 40.80%
  • Neutral - 3.20%
  • Disagree - 4.80%
  • Strongly Disagree - 2.40%

I prefer having my car washed by a carwash because it is less work for me.

  • Strongly Agree - 59.35%
  • Agree - 34.96%
  • Neutral - 0.81%
  • Disagree - 3.25%
  • Strongly Disagree - 1.63%

I prefer having my car washed by a carwash because the carwash is nearby.

  • Strongly Agree - 16.26%
  • Agree - 43.09%
  • Neutral - 26.02%
  • Disagree - 10.57%
  • Strongly Disagree - 4.07%

I prefer having my car washed by a carwash because it is easy to use.

  • Strongly Agree - 35.77%
  • Agree - 44.72%
  • Neutral - 13.82%
  • Disagree - 4.88%
  • Strongly Disagree - 0.81%

Price is a decision factor for me when selecting a carwash business.

  • Strongly Agree - 26.02%
  • Agree - 43.90%
  • Neutral - 16.26%
  • Disagree - 10.57%
  • Strongly Disagree - 3.25%

I would spend a few dollars extra if I know the quality of the carwash is superior.

  • Strongly Agree - 45.53%
  • Agree - 40.65%
  • Neutral - 8.13%
  • Disagree - 4.07%
  • Strongly Disagree - 1.63%

The quality of the carwash is very important to me.

  • Strongly Agree - 51.22%
  • Agree - 36.59%
  • Neutral - 8.13%
  • Disagree - 2.44%
  • Strongly Disagree - 1.63%

The safety of a carwash is important to me.

  • Strongly Agree - 44.72%
  • Agree - 41.46%
  • Neutral - 6.50%
  • Disagree - 4.88%
  • Strongly Disagree - 2.44%

Generally, I think that carwashes are safe to the exterior of my car.

  • Strongly Agree - 26.45%
  • Agree - 50.41%
  • Neutral - 12.40%
  • Disagree - 9.09%
  • Strongly Disagree - 1.65%

On average, when I went to a carwash in the past, it was worth the money.

  • Strongly Agree - 20.66%
  • Agree - 57.02%
  • Neutral - 16.53%
  • Disagree - 4.96%
  • Strongly Disagree - 0.83%

Summaries from Section I

  • The price of a carwash is not important when the consumer can save time.
  • The price of a carwash is not important when the consumer can save on work.


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Influencing decisions of using a carwash

If the business offers me a discount on a carwash with a gas purchase, I would go for it.

  • Strongly Agree - 18.97%
  • Agree - 36.21%
  • Neutral - 23.28%
  • Disagree - 18.97%
  • Strongly Disagree - 2.59%

I would get my car washed because I have a discount coupon or I get a special price.

  • Strongly Agree - 25.86%
  • Agree - 49.14%
  • Neutral - 15.52%
  • Disagree - 7.76%
  • Strongly Disagree - 1.72%

I would get my car washed because the appearance of the business is appealing to me.

  • Strongly Agree - 27.59%
  • Agree - 47.41%
  • Neutral - 14.66%
  • Disagree - 7.76%
  • Strongly Disagree - 2.59%

If the business offers me a discount on gas because I purchase a carwash, I would go for it.

  • Strongly Agree - 25.00%
  • Agree - 40.52%
  • Neutral - 15.52%
  • Disagree - 15.52%
  • Strongly Disagree - 3.45%

I would get my car washed because a special occasion is coming up.

  • Strongly Agree - 26.72%
  • Agree - 53.45%
  • Neutral - 11.21%
  • Disagree - 5.17%
  • Strongly Disagree - 3.45%

I would get my car washed because the thought just crossed my mind.

  • Strongly Agree - 11.21%
  • Agree - 31.03%
  • Neutral - 33.62%
  • Disagree - 18.10%
  • Strongly Disagree - 6.03%

Summaries from Section II

  • A discount or a special price is not important when a special occasion is coming up.
  • As a discount or a special price becomes more important, the appearance of the carwash decreases in importance.


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Preferences for additional services

I would prefer a stand-alone carwash with no additional stores on site.

  • Strongly Agree - 11.30%
  • Agree - 18.26%
  • Neutral - 51.30%
  • Disagree - 14.78%
  • Strongly Disagree - 4.35%

I would prefer a carwash with a gas station on site.

  • Strongly Agree - 6.03%
  • Agree - 23.28%
  • Neutral - 49.14%
  • Disagree - 16.38%
  • Strongly Disagree - 5.17%

I would prefer a carwash with express detailing service on site.

  • Strongly Agree - 11.21%
  • Agree - 30.17%
  • Neutral - 41.38%
  • Disagree - 12.07%
  • Strongly Disagree - 5.17%

I would prefer a carwash with an oil change/quick lube service on site.

  • Strongly Agree - 10.34%
  • Agree - 25.00%
  • Neutral - 44.83%
  • Disagree - 14.66%
  • Strongly Disagree - 5.17%

I would prefer a carwash with an ATM machine on site.

  • Strongly Agree - 6.03%
  • Agree - 23.28%
  • Neutral - 48.28%
  • Disagree - 17.24%
  • Strongly Disagree - 5.17%

I would prefer a carwash with a fast food place on site.

  • Strongly Agree - 1.72%
  • Agree - 18.10%
  • Neutral - 46.55%
  • Disagree - 23.28%
  • Strongly Disagree - 10.34%

I would prefer a carwash with a coffee house on site.

  • Strongly Agree - 4.31%
  • Agree - 27.59%
  • Neutral - 43.10%
  • Disagree - 15.52%
  • Strongly Disagree - 9.48%

I would prefer a carwash with a convenience store on site.

  • Strongly Agree - 5.17%
  • Agree - 29.31%
  • Neutral - 42.24%
  • Disagree - 16.38%
  • Strongly Disagree - 6.90%

Summaries from Section III

  • As a convenience store on site becomes important, consumers feel that an ATM machine should be on site as well.
  • When a gas station is on site, an ATM machine is not so important.


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Conclusions
(Editor’s Note: The following was written by Babak Mir-Eschghi.)

The washing attitudes of automatic carwash consumers paint a clear picture.

First, the fact that an automatic carwash means less work and saves time for the customer matters the most. Therefore, convenience is the most important aspect to the customer.

The quality and safety of the carwash is second most important and consumers are willing to pay a premium if higher expectations can be met.

On the lower end of positive agreement responses are value (whether the carwash was worth the money) and safety (whether the carwash was safe to the exterior of the car). This can be interpreted as an area that is in need for significant improvement.

Finally, consumers show the least response of positive agreement to price and location as important decision factors in using an automatic carwash.

Therefore, consumers are willing to spend extra dollars and are even willing to drive extra miles if the carwash can meet the expectations of the customer.

The influencing decisions of using a carwash show several important points:

  • First, consumers tend to get an automatic carwash most often when a special occasion is coming up.
  • Second, consumers feel that the appearance of the carwash definitely matters.
  • Third, they view a discount coupon or a special price as a very important decision factor.
  • Fourth, consumers view carwash discounts with gas or gas discounts with a carwash not as important as an actual discount coupon as a decision factor for purchasing a carwash.

Finally, the least decisions for using a carwash are made out of impulse.

Additional services do not matter very much. Most people feel neutral about it.

However, express detailing shows the most agreement as an additional service if consumers could not be neutral about it. This would be followed by a convenience store and a coffee house on site.

Recommendations

  1. Advertising messages should emphasize convenience, quality, and safety.
  2. Charge a premium price when convenience expectations can be met.
  3. Run advertisements continuously. Special occasions are different for everyone, marketing of a carwash should never stop.
  4. Use coupons during promotions. They are still a great way to increase demand.
  5. Make sure the carwash site looks appealing.


Babak Mir-Eschghi is a grad student at Penn State University. In the future, he would like to own and operate a carwash business. You can e-mail Mir-Eschghi at babak@frontgatemusic.com.