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Writing for the $3 carwash concept

November 28, 2005
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Writing for the $3 carwash concept
Larry Huggins

In the Detroit area, where my washes are located, the $3 carwash is not hurting the market — it's just not the case.

I think in this area, our wash is in the middle of two different types of thinking, between say the $2 carwash and full-service or hand wash.

I'm not saying that the $3 wash is necessarily helping the market upward, but we're not pulling it down either. There is enough of a diverse customer base to support a $3 carwash without hurting the rest of the industry.

Drawing home-washers out

There are people out there that want a $3 wash, but there seems to be enough that want to pay $5 or more for a wash too. But, we also have people pull onto our property and leave because they want a $2 carwash. There are groups for all markets and all price segments.

I also think that the $3 price might be something to help draw those home washers that are still out there out of their driveways and to a professional carwash. Customers go through quickly and the quality is good and people's time is very short these days.

I think the three dollar pricing in parts of the country could be seen as a negative because of the better prices that operators are able to get in other parts of the country, like $5 for an exterior wash. But, in the Detroit market, where we're up against $2 carwashing as a normal thing, when one operator has 30 carwashes in this area, our $3 is considered a higher priced carwash.

There are a few carwashes near us that are $5 or $6, so I don't think that $3 is necessarily a negative. It is the bottom end of what I think you can do a good job at. I think the $2 ones are cutting the corners a little bit too tight, but I do know they make money.

Is the quality there?

Yes, you can provide a good quality wash even at $3. There's no question about that. With the newer systems, which have an automatic prepping system where high-pressure water is used inside the carwash, and with a 140-foot tunnel we are able to pressure the car and wash the car several times to get it clean.

We're not having a problem cleaning the car, but because we do so much for that $3 our margin is narrow. Yes, we're giving a good cleaning, but it's true that we require a high volume or we wouldn't make it.

In this area especially, the $3 price isn't rare, we actually have people wondering why our prices are high.

But, the price is not necessarily the only thing drawing people in. If your site is well-kept and maintained and it does a good job, that is what will build a customer base and keep them coming back.

The quality is what keeps customers. I think that a $3 wash could work in other parts of the country, but I would say that $5 seems to be the best for most areas. They usually offer free vacuuming with an express exterior wash and we don't.

We make a profit from our vacuums, so that helps us out and makes a little extra for us, allowing for that $3 price, or essentially making up for that $2 price difference.

In most parts of the country they don't do the same volume per location that we do in Detroit. So, they have to have a higher price per car.

Three dollars is our bottom price, but $10 is our top price. We have four prices. I'm not saying that the majority of people choose that $10 wash, but it helps bring our average up per car.

Larry Huggins is the owner of Futuristic Car Wash, Baltimore Cass Auto Wash and Power Shower Truck Wash, all located in the Detroit area. Larry can be contacted at