Should You Convert Your IBA to a Mini Tunnel?

August 22, 2019 | Rich Hays

It’s no secret that there has been a noticeable shift in the industry toward express exterior tunnels. And that shift has given way to another new trend – IBA-to-mini-tunnel conversions.

While converting your IBA to a mini tunnel can be a great way to infuse new life into your car wash business, it’s not the right move for every IBA. How do you know if it’s right for you?

To determine that, it’s helpful to first understand the advantages of each model and why this trend has emerged.

IBAs vs Tunnels

IBAs initially had an edge over tunnels. It costs half as much to equip an IBA wash as compared to a full-length tunnel. Their small footprint (typically 40-60 feet) allowed for low real estate costs and made them a natural choice for gas stations and convenience stores looking for an additional revenue stream.

IBAs require little to no labor and can generate sales 24/7/365. They can also be operated with little owner interaction, making them a popular option for people with a lot of irons in the fire.

Despite these advantages, the popularity of express exterior tunnels has boomed in recent years. This is largely because they simply can wash more cars– typically 10 times as many as IBAs can. The ability to push more cars through, especially during peak times, is enticing. Plus, customers love the shorter waits and attractive unlimited plans the tunnels offer.

Changing with the Times

While IBAs still have a large presence in the industry, many are facing stiff competition from nearby tunnels. That’s why more IBA operators are considering mini tunnel conversions.

Advances in car wash equipment is making this possible. In the past, tunnel wash equipment just couldn’t provide a quality wash in the space provided by an IBA. Now, technology has improved to the point that an effective tunnel can be as short as 35 feet.

Is Conversion Right for You?

But just because you can doesn’t mean you should. You want to make sure you can wash enough cars in a mini tunnel to offset labor costs and fewer operating hours. You also have to consider the expense of the new equipment that will be required and the loss of sales from being closed two to four months for construction.

Here are some signs that converting to a mini-tunnel might be right for your business:

  • The surrounding area is growing
  • If you sell gas and are concerned about the impact of electric cars on sales
  • Customers are leaving due to long waits
  • You want to wash more cars/make more money
  • You’re facing increasing competition from nearby express exterior tunnels

Taking the Next Step

The in-bay-to-mini-tunnel trend is one that is only going to grow in the coming years. If you’re ready to jump on board, make sure you find the right equipment and technology partners to ensure success.

Specifically, you’ll need a point-of-sale system tailored to the needs of an express exterior model. You’ll want to be sure it can provide enhanced marketing capabilities and can handle unlimited plans with ease. Contact a sales representative to find out how we can help.

About Rich Hays

As a sales manager for DRB, Rich has been connecting car wash operators with solutions to drive growth since 2004. His experience has provided him with insight on how to run profitable unlimited wash plans, maximize tunnel productivity, implement creative marketing strategies and promotions, provide a memorable customer experience and foster customer loyalty. Connect with Rich on LinkedIn

More posts by Rich

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