Vending Machines - Professional Carwashing & Detailing

Vending Machines

Variety is the spice of life, and customers enjoy having a variety of services to choose from when they’re at the carwash.

Variety is the spice of life, and customers enjoy having a variety of services to choose from when they’re at the carwash. Having a vending machine at your wash gives customers some control over what scent their car smells like or the type of tire shine they desire. Providing your customers with quality choices and keeping your machines well stacked with the most recent products can be a deciding factor in whether or not they choose your wash in the future.

Tips on vending machines and product choices

Lindel Creed, vending machine consultant at, said that some of the most popular items in a carwash vending machine are the air fresheners and tire shiners. He recommends some ways that owners can enhance the vending experience for customers. “Make sure that you provide items that customers use for detailing such as tire shiners and towels as well as a mix of air fresheners,” said Creed.

Jim Holve, Designer/Builder for ShurVend Vending Products, said while the “product mix” over the years hasn’t changed much, that new vending products can be a welcome addition for customers. “New fragrances seem to catch on quickly and become good sellers,” he said.

If your wash has a combination vending machine, you can provide your customers with even more variety, and offer food and drink choices. Creed believes it’s a good idea to explore purchasing this type of machine to offer a greater variation of services. “Keep in mind that not only [do customers want carwash items] but also snack and drink services” as they’re waiting at a carwash, according to Creed.

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ShurVend starts each vending machine with certain best-selling products it calls a “starter kit,” Holve said. “The product mix that sells at each wash will be different from any other wash, so we tell operators to open the vendor for use and then reorder the products that sell,” he said. It is also a good idea to test new products from time to time, and to see which ones catch on.

An additional profit center

A vending machine can be a way to add additional revenue to your carwash, according to the experts. Holve said it’s an “impulse sale” item, and if presented the right way, can be mutually beneficial to the wash selling the item and the customer purchasing it.

When you give your customers the items they desire, and some variety, they’re more likely to choose your wash next time, according to the experts. Tire dressing, air fresheners and towels are three things that your vending machine must have, Creed said.

The non-stop worker

Creed said many wash owners don’t realize that a vending machine is something that can work for your 24 hours a day, seven days a week. One great thing about a vending machine is that it “can provide customers access to items when there would normally not be anyone at the wash,” he continued.

Another great thing about them, he said, is that they are not an item you will need to put a lot of man hours into fixing. “The vending machine has some regular items that need to be cleaned out but overall is a low maintenance item.”

Location. Location. Location.

The big mistake that many operators make, according to Holve, is installing the vending machine in the wrong place at the carwash. “The myth that the vending machine must be near the bill changer is still very strong.” He said that advancements in technology, such as bill validators and credit card readers on vending machines has allowed more options for vending machine placement.

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The location of the machine can play a significant role in its success or failure “The [vending machine] must be very visible to the customer and in or near the vacuum area of the wash,” said Holve. Another important thing to take into consideration for your machine is how its placement will impact its ability to be secure, according to the experts. You do not want to put it in a place that will leave it susceptible to vandalism or theft.

Vending machines and credit cards

More and more vending machines are being installed with credit card readers. People are carrying less cash around than they previously did, and the ability to be able to make a purchase without using paper money or coins can lead to more profits. “We find that sales do increase with credit card readers,” said Creed.

“The younger generation uses credit cards for everything, so, if your site is near a university or college, then the credit card option may be necessary,” said Holve. Do you need to have a machine that can read credit cards? Or is your customer base the type that doesn’t mind carrying cash and using it at a vending machine? These are questions you need to ask yourself before making a purchase.

The problem of bill jams and maintenance

The vending machines that are now sold do not have great difficulty with bill jams, according to Creed. “Today’s vending machines are manufactured to make sure operators can clear bill jams and take care of other devices on the vending machine with little effort,” he added. If there is one component of the machine that is defective, it can be unplugged, and a new component can be fitted.

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Having a good sales person is also important to proper maintenance, according to Creed. A good sales person will “know the ins and outs of the machine.” They will be the person you go to when there is a problem that you cannot easily fix, he said.

The new bill validators and coin changers are very reliable, Holve stated. “Money is very dirty,” he said, “and eventually the bill validator will have to be sent in to a service center for maintenance and cleaning.” Holve said that this will only be necessary every three to five years.

Advances in security features will make theft less of a problem as well. “With the new security features on the [vending machine], the only way a bill validator can be vandalized is to stick a screwdriver into the bill receiver and try to break something,” said Holve. Doing this will cause damage to the machine, but will not lead to a successful robbery, so he said it is rarely done.

Vending machine success

Once you’ve figured out if a vending machine is the right choice for you, it’s a matter of following the advice the experts have provided, and analyzing and listening to the advice your customers are giving you about what they want in your vending machine. Holve said that the profit margins on the machines are in the range of 50 percent, and that “the payback on the machine is very quick.”

While vending can be a great choice for your wash, it is important to set realistic expectations, and do your research before making an investment, said Creed. Wash owners should be cautious about listening to a salesperson who is guaranteeing big results from a vending machine, he said. “If you find someone that says, ‘look you will make this much money or your return will be in this amount of time,’ get away from them as they are just giving you numbers to make the sale.”

There’s an easy way to measure the success of vending machines, according to Holve. “I do know if they buy one vendor for a wash, when they buy another wash they always come back to buy a vendor for their new wash,” he said. “If they weren’t doing well on the first vendor, they wouldn’t buy that second one.”

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