What’s holding back the carwash industry? - Professional Carwashing & Detailing

What’s holding back the carwash industry?

A carwash guru’s opinion on what’s stunting industry growth.

On any given day, we are looking to increase our profits anywhere from retail sales to service tickets while at the same time feeling like we are managing a circus of unforeseen problems, employee-caused accidents and customer complaints. Meanwhile, we’re competing with other carwash operators looking to take the local market share.

Personally, I have been in the industry professionally since the age of 13 and have a carwash diary full of stories. Regardless of the type of carwash business you may own and operate, we all have the same concerns: the desire to leave all customer vehicles clean and customers satisfied. The ultimate truth is that there are several factors that have plagued our industry for a while and truly caused us all to suffer. But even bad dreams have happy endings, especially if you wake up and escape the pain.


Why on earth do we charge under $10 for any exterior wash service? Five-dollar washes have to go immediately. After all, minimum wage alone is higher than $5 in all states. The most expensive item on a car is not the replacement parts, such as engine, tires, windows etc. — it is the original paint that cannot be replaced. So, basing our profits off of volume instead of quality is a carwash killer.

Also, think about the water, power, chemicals, labor and even just dealing with uncontrollable weather. These factors affect all carwash operators, and having low prices truly devalues our wash community. We have lost value of ourselves, and customers are hoodwinked into thinking $5 is the standard worth for a carwash. Each vehicle has a nice Kelley Blue Book price worth thousands of dollars or, in some cases, hundreds of thousands of dollars. The liability is not worth the risk anymore.

Living expenses have gone up in all areas except for the carwash industry. We overdose in countless hours of education about equipment and training, especially in learning about what works and does not work for vehicles. I suggest $10 minimum the next time a customer wants service.

High employment turnover

It’s funny how we all have a high turnover rate. Is it because we undercharge for our services and can’t afford to pay a decent salary? On average, we staff high school students or college students. The rest of the workforce floats around until giving up on the industry and changing careers. Maybe this is because there are no benefits, but cash tips should also really stay in the bucket.

In order to change, we have to change our staffing solution. Anybody can wash a car, but only a professional can service the vehicle. Unless you love cars and don’t mind a good sweat on a hot day or a chill wind on a winter day, most candidates won’t last. Hiring great help is like finding a needle in a haystack. If your employees are really good, then they will start their own companies. If they are decent, then you might have some unhappy events from time to time.

It’s very difficult to inspire employees to love their carwash jobs when society looks down upon our industry as a professional hobby and not a career. I would suggest reversing the roles to make this a career for those who want to be a part of the greater picture of societal upkeep. A few solutions would be to nationally offer certification with a license number and to provide insurance benefits, more incentives to loyal employees, better wages and profit sharing.

Lack of certification

Currently, anyone can go into business without proper checkpoints in place. This leaves the floodgates open for the uneducated and the unprofessional. Everyone is at risk, especially customers, who give us a great deal of power by letting us into their personal spaces, regardless of whether or not you have in-house training or your candidates are well experienced.

There should be an industry certification program that governs each state to professionally clean cars. Poor education in the industry causes lack of growth, especially in an industry where our income is based upon the details of our customer service skills.

Operators could offer training courses that would solve high turnover rates. Candidates could be granted access to professionally serve and become more educated. MSDS, EPA and OSHA are just a few major organizational regulators that the average person has no clue about, especially in terms of dealing with chemicals and water regulations.

Consider this: a barber must have a license, but if he gives a bad haircut, at least the customer’s hair will grow back. Paint surface damages, however, are far too expensive to waive off, and if a severe situation happens, such as damage to a car, some of us we could be forced to close our doors. That’s why, moving forward, it’s important for every professional to have certification to operate.

Changing the course of the carwash industry

The bottom line is that we have some work to do and a lot of industry changes to make. We are some of the hardest-working people on Earth. We specialize in removing the dirt out of people’s lives and replacing it with sparkling smiles. It’s time for us to stand up and unify the industry and operate as a car culture.

We have made many improvements so far as modern day carwashes. There’s so much opportunity and there are so many jobs that can be created. If we don’t change, it will not shift the vehicle mindset of society. If we continue with the same practices as always, we will experience more chaos and no order. Join me in this fight to stop crushing the carwash industry.

Bentley Brandon is the owner of Luxury Wash, located outside of Atlanta, Georgia. His wash was featured in a recent issue of Professional Carwashing & Detailing and can be found at www.carwash.com/profile-in-success-luxury-wash-bentley-brandon. Brandon started in the carwash industry at 13 years old and over 20 years later, he is changing the way people see carwashes. Bentley Brandon is known as a carwash guru to many of his followers. With a few decades working his way up through the ranks, Bentley set his sights on bringing the carwash industry to mainstream America with entertainment, products, services and education. Keep your eyes on him, as the carwash industry won’t be the same as we know it.   

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