How to Start a Carwash: The story behind a successful carwash chain - Professional Carwashing & Detailing

How to Start a Carwash: The story behind a successful carwash chain

President/Owner Scott Knight shares his tips on success

1.     What is the full name and locations of your washes?

Rain Tunnel Express Car Wash

Three in Illinois, three in Missouri

2.     What is your title?


3.     When did the washes open?


More articles on: Stories from the Trenches

4.     What type of carwashes are they?

Express Exterior.

5.     Number of employees?

There are 8-10 employees per location; currently 60 employees in total for 6 locations.

6.     When and why did you get started in the carwashing industry?

My father was a distributor for the nation’s leading carwash equipment manufacturers (most notably Coleman Hanna), so I grew up in the industry. Then in the fall of ‘94 with the help of my kindergarten best friend, Mike Burns, I decided to enter into the industry.

7.     What do you like most about running a carwash?

      My answer for this one is twofold:

1.      Learning from and working with the leaders in the industry

2.      Quarterbacking my team in a way that orchestrates success

8.     What advice do you have for other owners that are just starting out?

Open your eyes and ears, do quality site visits and observe multiple carwashes, establish an industry network and be aware of the many facets of running a successful carwash.

9.     What is the greatest obstacle you have encountered with the carwash?

      Weather. In 2008 St. Louis had its wettest year, in 2009 it had its wettest months, and ‘08-’12 were extremely mild winters.

Read also: Financing a carwash

10. How did you overcome the weather obstacles?

Being well prepared to wash cars when the weather does permit so as to maximize volume.

11. Do you have a lot of competition? If yes, what do you do to stand apart from the competition?

Yes, we do have competition. St. Louis offers a lot of carwashing options, and our Illinois locations have some direct competition in terms of our carwashing style. We stand apart in our quality, value and friendliness.

12. What else do you enjoy about the carwashing business? 

I also enjoy the flexibility and freedom that come with owning. I like how each day is different and therefore there’s no monotony. Plus I’m someone who seeks to be a creator or builder, and I enjoy being in an industry in which I can surprise people with our company’s professionalism and polish.

12. What are your goals with the carwash?

Increase car counts, add locations when the opportunity comes about, and take care of my management team so they may have fulfilling careers within the industry.

You May Also Like

What’s the plan for entering the carwash industry?

Win or lose, what matters most when starting a carwash is the details.

AdobeStock_314679993, carwash, tunnel, carwash industry

At its core, the carwashing industry was founded on mostly small- to medium-sized companies led by driven, individual or small-group entrepreneurs. It was built on everyday citizens with the dreams and willingness to risk it all. And, even though the industry is evolving — especially as large investors reshape its landscape and future — the fact remains that with some capital, carwashing is still a relatively easy industry to at least enter. 

Setting up for carwash success

Learn the process for planning and constructing a location that is built to win.

car, blueprints, success, setup, carwash
Q&A: 15 years of CarWash College

Bob Fox reflects on Sonny’s CarWash College’s 15th anniversary of elevating awareness and skills.

Sonny's CarWash College, Bob Fox
Fortune favors boldness in branding

A standout appearance brings in more customers.

bold, Wash Boss, branding
Unlocking the value of your carwash real estate

Demand for net-lease carwashes cleans up the supply.

real estate, value

Other Posts

Carwashing vs. detailing

What are the basic differences between these two services?

carwash, detailing, soap, car
Risk tolerance

As carwash competition closes in, how will your business perform?

risk, money
4 ways to reduce risk in site selection

Everyone knows it’s about “location, location, location,” but those are simply table stakes.

site design, site layout, carwash
Financing distressed carwash acquisitions

There’s opportunity to be had in the downturn.

vintage, carwash, old, distressed