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In today’s fast-paced world, it is quick and easy to wash vehicles through a tunnel. While this is one great option, many car wash customers and owners also find value in the self-service wash. This is due to several reasons, including versatility and wash quality. Several different car wash owners agree that when you invest in your self-serve business it can yield fantastic results.
Accommodating to vehicles
John Edmondson of Rain Tunnel Car Wash in Chambersburg, PA says, “I don’t think you can live and die by the tunnel alone.” Certain vehicle anti-braking systems may lock up and cause problems in the middle of a tunnel. The vehicle may be too large to drive through the tunnel. Sometimes vehicles carry excess dirt and mud with them when they pull in to the car wash lot. Rather than turning any of these customers away, you can still direct them to your self-serve bays. Hand-washing offers greater versatility and can accommodate larger vehicles, trucks, and small boats.
“Hand-washing bays are probably the most steadily used of all the [car washing] choices here,” Edmondson says. “It is a lower ticket, of course, but I still see a lot of business.” Customers are more in tune with their senses while hand-washing. They can feel and control the movements of the brush and see the cleanliness of the brush with their own eyes. This helps reduce the risk of unwanted dirt or scratches.
Edmondson has recently been concentrating on the self-serve side of his car wash business by adding more options. He added a designated wheel cleaner and bug remover. He swaps out the bug remover and replaces it with DeSalt salt remover for the winter months. To advertise these new options, he added new bay signs. Once customers began noticing and understanding the added features, they began to spend more time in the bays.
Terry and Marla Weiss of Weiss Guys Express Wash say, “We have seen significant growth over the years in our self-service business. We attribute this to keeping up with current technology and adding extra profit centers in our bays. We’ve added tire shine, air dryers, and dog washes. We also make sure that we maintain our facilities daily. The customer in the self-serve industry loves taking care of their vehicle. This, we believe, will not go away.” Especially now as dog washes are becoming more popular, the whole family can come to the car wash and spend lots of time in the bays.
Quality and conservation
Curtis Tremblay of Bubbles Car Wash in Scottsdale, AZ says his self-serve numbers have tripled over the past couple years! He values maintenance and invests in good cameras to ensure his wash stays clean and functional. He finds many customers with luxury vehicles or older cars who prefer to hand wash their vehicles in the self-serve bay. “If you’ve paid a lot of money for your car and take pride in the way it looks, you don’t want to risk scratches,” Tremblay said.
Tremblay also considers water conservation. A self-serve bay generally pumps water at 3-4 gallons per minute. Automatics typically pump 30-40 gallons per minute, and sometimes over 60!
Jerry Nix of Speedi Car Wash in Tacoma, WA says, “My self-serve has done remarkably well. I have had the best year ever this past year.”
Customers often feel that they are receiving a better value by controlling the quality of the wash themselves. And that their car is safe and not subject to unforeseen risks inside the tunnels.
Wash models have different levels of success in different markets and demographics. It is common for owners to find success with 3 or 4 self-serve bays with 2 unattended self-service automatics. In conclusion, different types of wash models will succeed, but it is up to the car wash owner to find the best model for their market. With proper care and upkeep, many will find that traditional self-serve washes are here to stay.
Looking to upgrade or add more options to your bay? Check out Kleen-Rite’s large selection of self-serve car wash bay equipment and tools: https://www.kleen-ritecorp.com/c-16-bay-accessories.aspx.