Professional Carwashing & Detailing

Operation: Lube & in-bay

October 11, 2010

The combination has been springing up everywhere: lube center and in-bay automatic carwash.

Past reporting has looked into the profitability and procedure of such an undertaking.

Let’s now consider the pros and cons of operating both types of sites, one with the combination and one without.

Pros & cons: Space
The combination of lube and wash is a positive one in most all aspects. Overall, it’s a better draw to the property.

An operator with multiple locations recently shared with us the pros and cons of each scenario and the approach he’s taken to getting it right each time.

When cars are in line for the wash, an opportunity opens up for the site personnel to offer each customer a discounted oil change.

One operator said, “It’s a super idea to cross-market the two…you just can’t go wrong. I’d put a wash at all of my quick lube sites if the space permitted.”

If you plan to add an in-bay automatic carwash to an existing quick lube site, operators emphasize having the right amount of space. A pre-existing site will benefit from the addition of a wash only if the site size permits it.

Pros & cons: Cross-marketing
To add a lube to your in-bay, you must be willing to employ some of the extras that are necessary to make the add-on a winner. This includes having someone on site at all times.

Site personnel do add to the payroll. However, cross marketing isn’t possible without an attendant.

Is this a pro or is this a con?

One of our operators said that he wouldn’t think of operating any of his sites, combo or not, without a site attendant.

Although his stand-alone sites are in-bay automatics, he feels that the general public needs assistance, as they may lack confidence or have questions about the process.

A site attendant adds to their comfort level and encourages them to take advantage of all the site has to offer.

One visit to an attended site is all that it takes; the customer will come back again and again.

Pros & cons: Noise
Noise from the wash has sometimes been referred to as a problem at combo-sites, as it can be disturbing to the quick lube customer that is waiting.

Noise, of course, is not an issue to the customer at a wash-only or lube-only site.

If the buildings are designed properly however, with an insulated waiting area and a basement equipment room, there is little noise that the customer is aware of.

Pros & cons: Combining necessity and luxury
Several multiple site operators said that, at the combo-sites, the carwash is what draws most people in. Not only is there a curiosity factor; their wash purchase is aesthetic.

An oil change — every vehicle needs one. Yet, a visually clean vehicle for that special night out or for that important meeting with a client; that is what people see.

Furthermore, it seems that a person can readily justify spending $12, four times each month before they spend $29.99 at one time for an oil change. That is why the combo-site is such a terrific idea.

People need to get their oil changed. The combo-site attendant can help them to realize this and bring in additional revenue.

Pros & cons: Traffic flow
One downfall to operating a combo-site is trying to separate the traffic flow and prevent stacking issues.

If the site design does not permit this, there is often a major holdup in line for a wash, which interferes with the flow of traffic to the quick lube.

This cross-flow of traffic is a major inconvenience to the customer and, if visual from the road, could possibly deter them from the site entrance. The site design must address traffic flow; otherwise you could find yourself going back to the town to correct the problem.

One operator was confronted with this very issue and he strongly recommends that you not squeeze a combo site into a smaller lot. The big dollars won’t turn in if you can’t fit traffic onto the site.

Winning the battle
With or without — the decision is yours. But, the combo-site does appear to be a sure winner.

If you envision your future quick lube with a wash, plan to cross-market the two and if you want volume and the site warrants space for two in-bay automatics, put the second one in.

With proper planning, a good size site, effective design and appropriate employee coverage, your combo-site will be a success and you’ll need that second wash to keep the traffic flow moving.


Liz DiTommaso is the co-owner of Mark VII Car Wash Equipment of New England. She has several years of experience in the carwash industry with her husband as owner-operator of multiple sites and distributor for major manufacturers. For more information e-mail Liz at markviiofne@comcast.net.