Professional Carwashing & Detailing

Increase profits by adding an in-bay automatic

October 11, 2010

Editor’s Note:
While many self-serve owners and operators consider the addition of another bay to their line-up, some add an in-bay automatic to appeal to a wider variety of clientele. Jeff Leadbetter comes to us from the latter, recently adding an in-bay to an already profitable convience store chain.

Our family has four conveniences stores in Bangor, Maine. They all do fairly well by most standards. We also have deli’s that serve everything from homemade soups to fried chicken. We added our first in-bay automatic to a store located on a heavily traveled road; roughly 18,000 cars per day, on the way to several malls and restaurants.

The main reason for this addition was driven by a desire to increase profits. Our search led us to the carwashing industry where we had several conversations with successful owners and operators.

Information gathering
We started researching different manufacturers, obtaining prices and traveling throughout New England to view different sites. After shopping around quite a bit, we decided on an Autec model based upon the company’s service to our business.

We got down to the numbers and figured we had a $400,000 investment to add to the convenience store. This number includes:

  • The Autec touch-free wash with all options;
  • A 20x40 glass building;
  • Groundwork;
  • Extra power; and
  • Water and sewer.

Location matters
We are located in central Maine and it gets cold! When the salt sticks to the cars it actually makes them look white. We found that heating the presoak before spraying on the vehicle really gets the grime out.

Our in-bay automatic runs without an attendant, so we can avoid labor costs. A customer can pay for a wash at the wash entrance, at the gas pumps, or in the store.

Having the IBA visible from the gas pumps is critical because it increases both gasoline and carwash sales. We also have the ability to operate 24/7 unattended, but on cold sunny days we have an attendant to help move the line along.

Additionally, we give away free soda, coffee, air fresheners, etc. to customers while they wait.

Family appeal
Our average wash is about $9.50 with a $7, $9, and $12 option. The $12 wash has the triple foam and we have 10 neon light sticks that blink when the foam is being applied throughout the wash cycle. It is amazing the amount of vehicles that have children who are screaming for the top end wash with the psychedelic colors.

Since being introduced to the carwash market and the IBA, we are in the process of buying a dual bay for our busiest location on the other side of town.

Initially, we were looking to add an express tunnel at this location, but after analyzing the costs involved, we concluded we would reap a better return on our investment with dual in-bay automatics. With dual machines we will always be in business, even when the equipment needs servicing and cleaning.

This decision was an easy one to make because extra revenue for gas and inside sales is a guarantee. We’ve decided on an extra-tall machine, which is perfect for our area because we have so many 4x4 extended pick-up trucks of various sizes, making it very versatile for any vehicle to be washed.

Surpassing expectations
Results have exceeded our expectations and we are consistently washing over 100 cars per day. As an added bonus to customers, we offer discounts on all wash packages with the purchase of gas and deli items.

If traffic counts are high and extra room is available the addition of an IBA definitely produces extra revenue for years to come.


Jeff Leadbetter is the owner of Leadbetter’s Super Stops in Bangor, Maine.