Car Wash POS: The Most Important Decision You’ll Make For Your Wash

March 18, 2021

Out of all the decisions you need to make for your new car wash, a point-of-sale (POS) system may not sound like the most exciting one. It doesn’t have the whimsy of spinning wraps or the flash of in-tunnel lighting. You may be tempted to just purchase the POS your equipment manufacturer recommends or whichever one is most cost-effective.

Doing so, however, can cause you unnecessary headaches and cost you hundreds of thousands of dollars. The POS decision should be as well researched and thought out as the other purchases you make for your wash. In fact, it may be the most important decision you make.

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car_wash_pos_backbone_of_business.jpgThe Backbone of Your Business

When you think of POS, you probably think of the register at a retail store. The POS software processes transactions, automatically calculating the totals with discounts and applicable taxes. It also handles opening procedures and end-of-day reconciliations and maybe provides you with some reports.

A good POS is much more than that, though. It will track labor, handle human resources, execute marketing efforts and manage inventory. A car wash-specific system will also handle unlimited wash programs, fleet accounts and other programs car washes typically run. It should be collecting and analyzing data at every turn, giving you the insights you need to optimize your business.

The POS touches every aspect of your business: Money, staff and customers. Therefore, we say it’s the backbone of your business, and that makes it truly one of the most important decisions you’ll make for your car wash.

Get It Right the First Time

Some operators learned that the hard way. When Trevor and Matt Gile selected the POS for their first Rainforest Car Wash in Cleveland Heights, OH, they initially shopped mainly on price. They ended up going through two point-of-sale systems that could not efficiently process their unlimited wash plan members before they found the right fit in DRB® Tunnel Solutions.

“We probably spent half a million dollars’ worth on mistakes,” Trevor said.

Not only that but converting to a new POS requires retraining your staff and transferring all your unlimited wash plan members to the new system. This can impact staff morale, customer satisfaction and your own sanity!

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Timing is Everything

So where does the POS decision fall on your timeline? Given its importance, you should select a POS when you choose the rest of your equipment. This is especially true if you want your POS to communicate with your tunnel control equipment. You need to make sure the POS and tunnel controller you select are compatible.

The POS decision is also critical to your site plans. The plans must accurately depict where you want pay stations and how many lanes you want to ensure proper layout and electrical. You also need to know how manager stations should be set up, which you can only accurately determine once you’ve selected a POS.

The Problem with the One-Stop-Shop

Given that you’re selecting your POS along with your other equipment, it might make sense to just select the POS your equipment manufacturer offers.  After all, who doesn’t love a one-stop-shop? But think about it: If you were craving Mexican food, would you go to a buffet that had all kinds of food, or would you go to a Mexican restaurant?

When it comes to your POS, you also want to be careful about relying on a one-stop-shop. Going with your equipment manufacturer may require you to adjust your workflow to suit the compatibility of their equipment.

If POS isn’t their main focus, you may also find that it’s a lower development priority, and they may not have the right resources in place to support the system after install.

The provider may also lack the POS development expertise to build interfaces directly with other software, such as accounting software systems. They may rely on a middleman to get data from their POS to those other software systems, and they may not have the resources in place to support the system.

While it's fine to consider your equipment manufacturer, you will likely find that your needs will be best served by a provider that specializes in POS.

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Finding the Right POS

The best way to find reputable car wash POS companies is to talk with other car washers about their good and bad experiences. One of the best things about the car wash industry is that operators are willing to share ideas and information to help other operators. Attending trade shows is another great way to meet vendors and see their products.

Gather a list of potential vendors and then start your research. Here are questions you’ll want to ask:

  • How long have they been in the industry?
  • How long have they been providing POS?
  • How many of the top car washes use their solutions? Ask for references and a verifiable customer list.
  • How is their support? Do they have emergency support hours? What are their response times?
  • How many members are on their support team?
  • Can they handle multiple sites?
  • Are they open to enhancement requests?
  • Can they interface with multiple tunnel controllers?
  • Can they adjust to various car wash models?
  • Is the system easy to use for both customers and staff?
  • Will I be able to change my workflow, subscription plans, pricing, etc.?
  • Can you help me leverage my own sales data for business growth?
  • Can I easily get my data out of the system if I’m unhappy with my initial POS provider?

If possible, see if fellow car washers will allow you to visit their sites to see the system in action. You may also want to ask if you can tour the vendor’s facilities so you can check out their support department and gauge the culture of the company.

When comparing POS systems, make sure you are comparing all similar modules. For example, one vendor may break out various components, while another will quote on a lump sum.

Make sure you talk with the POS sales representatives about any new technology and pilot opportunities that may be available to new industry entrants.

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Time Well Spent

Your car wash POS is a huge investment that, when properly chosen, can do so much more than efficiently handle transactions. As the backbone of your business, it can support your growth. Taking the time to carefully select your POS from the start will ensure a smooth start and long-term success.

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For more insights on investing in the car wash industry, download our ebook “The Car Wash Journey: A New Investor’s Guide to Point-of-Sale, Optimization and Business Success.”

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