I can report that we have had a very interesting summer on the West Coast with rain, monsoons and high humidity. In many ways, these weather anomalies provide a quick surge or “spike” in business as customers flood (no pun intended) into the queuing area to get in line for a carwash that will rinse off all the dirty rain and dust. That being said, it can a bummer to have rainy days in the middle of summer.

Let’s move on to this month’s article, which is all about self-serve, in-bay and rollover type models which are still very popular.

Bay carwash overview

First, let’s look at the different bay wash models and compare their main features.

1)      Self-serve models are typically set up as in-bay stalls with high-pressure wands or guns outfitted with the ability to switch from initial prep to soap and even a hot wax application.

2)      Most in-bays are also outfitted with their own individual drainage outlet having one at each stall that feeds into a central system.

3)      Almost all self-serve carwashes have some type of vacuuming set up that utilizes its own pay system with the option of either tokens and/or quarters.

4)      Self-serve carwashes practically invented the idea of having vending machines at carwashes, and with growing popularity, they are now even more prevalent.

The main reason someone like a potential new investor or operator would want to consider a self-serve or in bay automatic/rollover is simply space. The great thing about self-serves is they fit into areas like gas stations or corner lots that are small. If you have around 10,000 square feet, you can put one of these carwashes in and it will cost you a fraction of what a tunnel carwash would be.

Depending on your time and ability to invest, these self-serve models offer a great return on your investment. The only factor that would limit your earning potential is the number of washes that are in your portfolio. To have a high generator capability in this model, it is important to have several washes that are performing well, and of course the key here as always is location, location, location.

The importance of oversight

As with any carwash model, management and oversight are key. With today’s technology it is even easier to properly oversee and manage your carwashes. With the advent of the Internet and the high use of debit and credit cards, we can now replace the old bill changer and coin changer with these much more streamlined and accurate methods of accountability.

This change eliminates problems that are usually associated with less-than-honest managers and maintenance employees. Also, by having your transactions tracked directly through an electronic system, you can check several times a day to see your car count, revenue stream, chemical usage and traffic in and around the carwash.

With the use of cameras at your facility, or potential facility, you can directly monitor all the activity going on at the carwash. This offers many different options to help you control your traffic flow, wash stall time and unwanted visitors that may frequent your carwash. In some cases, loiterers may even try to pander to your customer.

I have seen mobile detail outfits and other people try and approach customers time and time again at unattended wash facilities and attempt to solicit work from the patrons there. There are even some people who will set up their detail services right near the vacuum area and just operate there as if it was no big deal. Of course, in these cases there is usually some sort of kickback going on which allows them to operate unimpeded.

Profitable and easy to run

Even with all these seemingly daunting obstacles, self-serve and in-bay automatic/rollover models can be very profitable and relatively easy to run. The great thing about this particular wash model is that it is easy and affordable to get started in, and again, the technology available today makes it a great choice for new investors that may be on a limited budget.

Other considerations are sewer and water hookups and some of the permits involved with obtaining these. Your local officials can assist with some of those questions, and as always feel free to contact me with any questions or visit my new website.

If there are other factors you may be wanting know, such as specific return on investment (ROI) information or location viability, please give me a call, and I will do my best to help. Also, you can check out the latest issues of PC&D online and search out related topics to give you more on this and other subjects.

Until next time…