Carwashes and multi-profit locations strive to become one-stop sites for busy drivers. When more is offered at a wash, customers have less need to hurry to another destination to complete their list of errands. Money that would have been spent at other businesses can stay at a carwash instead.

Additional profit options can provide additional revenue to help the business become more successful. Funds can be put toward more staff and training, building and equipment upgrades, new technology including energy efficient retrofits and maintenance. For these profit options to be beneficial, however, the right products need to be selected.

Many carwashes add more products to shelves inside their lobbies, and some turn to vending food, drinks, car accessories and cleaning products to boost revenues. Additional profit centers like vacuums and pet washes can also be utilized.

A product for every wash format

Michael Toney, partner at the Toney Company, says that no matter the wash format, vending can increase your business’ profits. “Even if you are an express, tunnel or automatic wash there are plenty of opportunities to boost revenue with vending,” he notes.   

Product success can vary by market. Toney explains that the process for finding the right product for a business can be trial and error as customers show what they want to buy and what they are not interested in.

“Different markets like different items,” he shares. “Typically, the more options you can offer the better.”

Even when offering multiple products, carwash owners should keep track of what customers are purchasing to remain profitable.

“Some [carwash owners] like to stick with a few main items that sell well in their market,” states Toney. “If more costly items, like microfiber, do not sell well in a particular market, a carwash owner should look for more economical or smaller towels.”

Once products arrive in a location, they should be marketed well so customers take notice. Organized displays make it easy for customers to see and find products they may want. Clean displays are essential, according to Toney.

“Depending on the location of the vending stations, there needs to be a decision between drop shelf or glass front vendors,” he says. “Glass front tends to be most visually appealing so the customer can see all of their options. Keeping clean and fresh vendor decals and signage is very important.”

Vending opportunities exist for every wash format, but Toney believes the best type of vendor can vary from market to market. For express and automated wash markets, glass and front vendors tend to work best, he adds.

Wash format can also determine how to best market products.

“In these [express and automated] markets where employees are involved, we are seeing a lot of washes sell towels when the customer purchases their wash,” continues Toney.

Carwashes can also use the products during promotions. This helps to promote business’ services and the variety of products it offers, of which customers may be unaware.

“Some washes will have promo weekends where they give away towels to promote their wash and vending products,” notes Toney.

Toney says product popularity does change over the years. In his company’s beginnings, nylon-reinforced paper towels were strong sellers. Lately, cotton and microfiber towels have gained popularity. “Within that category, we have seen the most growth in blue microfiber vending towels and blue cloth towels,” he adds.

Owners and operators should be aware that customer interest in certain products will evolve over time. In order to remain successful, carwashes may have to adapt to these changes.

Managing profits

After carwashes decide what products will work best for them and how they should be displayed, pricing can be determined.

With Toney’s company, individual washes decide what to charge for the items, “which is determined by their particular market. All vending items have the ability to provide excess revenue and good returns,” he explains.

Vacuums as profit generators

Vacuums offer another way to increase revenue. Customers can put the finishing touch on their vehicles while the business becomes more successful.

Jen Wall, sales and marketing manager with J.E. Adams Industries, says vacuums can be a great option for washes looking for more profits because of the variety of services they can include.

“This way [carwashes] can offer customers a vacuum and fragrance or shampoo/spot remover,” shares Wall. “Adding the extra options is a great way for carwash owners to gain extra revenue and offer a variety of services that keep customers coming back.” 

According to Wall, dispensing fragrance has the best return on investment. With some models, one gallon of fragrance yields 85 minutes of vending time.

Dryers can even be added to vacuums, something Wall notes is especially popular with motorcycle owners.

Island and canopy designs can command customers’ attention so they will take advantage of the vacuum service.

“They are bright, eye-catching displays that let customers know where their vacuums are and that they offer these additional services,” explains Wall.

As is true with other equipment, regular maintenance is needed to keep vacuums going and profits steady. Downtime can mean lost revenue, unhappy customers and a reputation for having broken equipment and bad service.

“Regular maintenance to all equipment is a great way to keep your profits going,” shares Wall. “Don’t wait for things to go down; take care of them along the way and you will find happier customers and higher profits.” 

Security

Security is a concern for many carwashes, and many have surveillance systems and other security precautions installed at their facilities.

Toney believe today’s vending machines are extremely secure. Considerations like location, lighting, visibility and cameras can all help with security, he says.

As for Wall, she says vacuum units offer many security features. Today's units can include a number of security features. "Options range from a super secure vault to a simple but safe lock bar,” she explains. Wall adds that often companies can work with customers to find the security solutions that work best for them.