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Vacuum solutions

October 11, 2010
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Question: How many vacuums should I have at my carwash? Is that old rule of thumb still applicable – 1 vacuum : 1 bay?

Whether building or renovating a carwash, it is important to identify the correct number of vacuums needed before ordering and installation.

While the old rule of thumb is partially true, the ratio of 1:1 vacuums per bay represents the minimum number of recommended vacuums on site.

Evaluate the site
What is the make-up of your facility? Do you have all self-serve bays? Do you have any automatic bays? David VanGorder, president of Doyle Vacuum Systems, LLC and Steve Osborn, vice president of sales and marketing at Fragramatics Mfg. Co., Inc., both agree that having more than one vacuum per automatic bay is the way to go. Because the rate of cars is higher in an automatic than a self-serve, it is important to have the capability to address the needs of all customers.

Are you planning to offer other services (i.e. higher powered-vacs, fragrance, carpet and upholstery shampoo) in addition to the vacuums? “If so, then you will definitely want to add additional vacuums to your plan since these additional services generally cause the vacuums to be used for much longer periods of time,” said VanGorder.

Vend prices should be a minimum of $1. Keep in mind that dollar bill acceptors and credit/debit card readers increase income. Options are available to go cashless by using tokens and credit/debit readers only. Many new credit/debit card readers are wireless and operate on cellular phone technology.

If a regular vacuum has the capacity to earn only $1 in four minutes, it is limited to an “earning speed” of $15 per hour. Offering other multi-profit services in addition to just vacuuming increases the likelihood of higher profit margins.

Higher powered vacs have the potential to earn $1 for three minutes, offering the carwash operator greater earnings potential. “Take for instance a vacuum with three fragrance offerings and spot removing shampoo. Fragrance can bring in a profit of $1 for 40 seconds and $1 for one minute for spot-removing shampoo,” said Osborn.

What is the demographic of your customer base and how do they use your wash? “If many of your customers just come through for a quick exterior wash, then you won’t have the heavy demand for your vacuums, but if they are inclined to do a thorough vehicle cleaning, then your demand for vacuums will be greater,” said VanGorder.

Of course, repeat business requires high performance and therefore, it is important to work with a manufacturer who produces high-quality products appealing to customers and your bottom line.

Most fragrances used in vacuum machines are clear, non-staining, naturally freeze protected, unaffected by heat and near cosmetic grade. Shampoo products introduce a nominal amount of moisture into the carpet and achieve about 70 percent of the results of extraction.

What is the answer?
That all depends on you and your site. At a minimum you need a ratio of 1:1 on vacuums per bay, but you might consider going with 1 1/2 :1 or even 2:1. After all, vacuums are relatively inexpensive pieces of equipment, and the last thing you want is cause a back-up or bottleneck that will deter customers from using your wash to the fullest extent possible.

Vacuums should be properly positioned to optimize traffic flow. Many vacuum manufacturers can look your site-plan and make a recommendation for placement.

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