Professional Carwashing & Detailing

Vacuum values

October 11, 2010

According to the latest US Census Report, there are 131 million passenger cars on the road in the United States.

For the carwash industry this means that there are plenty of cars that require services. With an abundance of carwash choices, how do you give your self-serve location that competitive edge and win and retain customers?

Offer more

Savvy self-serve owners have learned that the best way to compete is by offering new services and using the right curb appeal. This is what will ultimately increase customer satisfaction and put more money in your pocket.

According to the latest International Carwash Association statistics, 85 percent of car owners love or like their car. This means that carwash owners should focus on detailing areas where a customer can spend as much time as necessary shampooing, vacuuming, cleaning windows, etc., without tying up traffic flow areas.

Making cleaning your car more of an experience than a chore is what gives some self-serve carwash owners the competitive edge.

By working closely with distributors, understanding the competition, the goals and the demographics in the area, owners can purchase the right customization package of products.

Creating curb appeal

You can create a lot of curb appeal with bright colored decals, lighted domes, canopies, and signage that will lure consumers to your location.

Believe it or not, some carwash owners say consumers often associate curb appeal with how clean and up-to-date the facilities are.

The other marketing message that self-serve owners should keep in mind is to make sure the location supports the rise in female customers, who are more aware of lighting, safety, colors and cleanliness.

Winning combinations

Car owners say they feel their car runs better when it is clean and smells good. The right vacuums and accessories can help make customers happy.

In creating your carwash statement, car-care products might be your least expensive way to get a better return on your investment.

One of the hottest trends in the industry is a combination vacuum unit. Today a vacuum function alone seems somehow inadequate.

Multi-purpose machines seem to rule the roost. Some popular options are:

Combo units with scents — they offer the customer a variety of scent choices.

Some of the most popular scents are new car, wild cherry and vanilla. However, many other scents are available and refillable.

Combo units with shampoo — they can usually use pre-mixed shampoo, so there are no vats to fill or clean. Customers use approximately two ounces of shampoo per application.

Combo units with spot remover — they usually use all-season pre-mixed formulas. Approximately one ounce of spot formula is used per application by the customer.

When these products are combined it gives the customer ease of use by not having to walk over to a vending machine or a separate shampooer nearby.

These units also add convenience by sometimes coming equipped with bill validators and digital face plates that will display messages and count-down the customer’s usage time.

How to make it work

When working with customers try to understand the goals that can impact their car-care product choices. There are many things to consider at a self-serve site that will help enhance customer attraction.

If you’re not sure how these factors can influence a customer, look at the following example:

Scenario: A carwash owner has outdated equipment and the location is a little run down. The wash has been in business over 10 years, so there is a pretty good clientele base.

The owner would like to raise his wash’s prices from $.25 to $1 on the vacuums, and add some new products. The wash currently has one shampoo machine that sits off to the side. None of the products are color coordinated.

Suggestions: Instead of putting in new vacuums one suggestion is to add two combination units per tunnel — vacuum shampoo and vacuum scent with dollar bill acceptors.

This way the customer will be getting more value, and the owner has the opportunity to increase revenue by two times the amount with combo units over new vacuums which also justifies the price increase.

With the trend toward dollar bills, a dollar bill acceptor will not only give the customer ease of use but also makes the collection process easier for the owner.

The owner is also looking at color coordinating everything with bright designer decals and matching domes. This will help draw the customer in and help them focus on the different options available.

Combination unit vacuums, along with the right curb appeal and product offerings will help a self-serve owner increase his site’s profits and stay up-to-date with the new carwash trends.

Tracy Roberts is the director of business development for JE Adams Industries located in Cedar Rapids, IA. For more information email Tracy at