Some of you might remember the days when driving from one part of an unfamiliar city to the next meant unfolding a map, plotting a course and – if you were trying to get someplace on time – hoping your plan would find success.
Today, we simply plug the address into our favorite app and choose the shortest distance. The power rests with the app’s programming. All we need to do to succeed is follow the directions from point A to point B.
If only plotting a course to car wash success was the same, right? Well, it can be.
From point A to point B, follow our guide and learn the key points you need to know about building a successful car wash business.
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How much does it cost to start a car wash business? That depends on several factors, many of which we’ll talk about in this guide, but most industry experts say car wash investors will spend between $2 and $4 million in capital, with real estate – your car wash location – factoring the most in that equation. Most investors finance start-up costs in one of three ways:
Working with a partner like DRB® to map out a clear path toward success can help investors obtain a faster return on investment.
If you’ve settled on starting a business and investing in a car wash, but haven’t taken the leap, start by building a solid business plan. (Already invested in a car wash and want to get started on your larger business launch plan? Jump ahead to Choose the Right Car Wash Point-of-Sale Solution.)
Most likely, you’ll need a business plan to show potential investors that you have a concrete plan in place to open your car wash and see it through to success. A business plan helps you weigh the pros and cons, but it can do so much more.
It can serve as your roadmap, outlining how you plan to grow your business. You can use it to measure the progress of your enterprise or share it with employees and partners to demonstrate how you’ve thought of everything needed to sustain success in the industry.
Take time to understand business plan best practices and apply the following components to your car wash plan:
There’s more, of course, but these business plan must-haves will get you started. The U.S. Small Business Administration’s Write Your Business Plan is another great free resource.
Any car wash point-of-sale (POS) software solution will process transactions, automatically calculate totals, as well as handle opening procedures, end-of-day reconciliations and provide some rudimentary reports.
We recommend choosing a POS car wash solution that automates your monthly plan memberships, provides mobile access, manages self-pay terminals and more.
Exceptional car wash POS solutions provide robust marketing and reporting capabilities, as well as e-commerce capabilities. They track labor, execute marketing efforts and manage inventory, and they can handle monthly wash programs, fleet accounts and other programs car washes typically run.
Carve out enough time in your business plan to adequately evaluate your software shortlist. If you’re not even sure how to get to that shortlist, DRB is here to help.
Choosing the location where you will build your car wash is a critical decision. You may have only one chance to get it right – so choose wisely.
While cost considerations always come into play (is the property too expensive?) and size matters (will your property fit the type of car wash you want to build?), there are several other factors you’ll want to consider before you plant a stake in the ground. Those include:
If it takes a little time to choose the best location, that’s okay. It’s an important decision and one that shouldn’t be rushed.
Now that you have a location, it’s time to determine what car wash model you’ll operate under. Typically designated as either “tunnel” or “in-bay,” types of car washes come in many shapes and sizes, including:
Knowing the difference between each operating model is how you’ll make the best decision for your business.
Even before you cut the ribbon on your new car wash, you need to tell the general public you’ll soon be open for business. To do so, you need to design an effective marketing strategy that gets the word out about your business, generates excitement and continues long after you’ve opened your doors.
Solid marketing strategies use both traditional advertising and online promotions, including social media, direct mail campaigns and more. They are designed to build brand awareness, differentiate your car wash from the competition and attract new customers to your business.
Many business owners will partner with a car wash industry vendor that can help develop successful strategies and campaigns. DRB’s SUDS® car wash marketing services do just that, providing owners with the data and strategic expertise to drive car wash growth.
Unlimited car wash programs have helped drive unprecedented industry growth. Simply put, car wash customers pay a monthly fee for the privilege of washing their car whenever they’d like, how often they’d like – all within regular business hours of course!
Customers have embraced the concept, choosing from a tier of subscription options. For car wash owners, the unlimited subscription means predictable revenue and enhanced cash flow that can help bridge seasonal market fluctuations. They also drive customer retention and customer lifetime value, both of which positively impact a car wash’s overall profitability.
Long-term success means establishing a strong monthly wash program right out of the gate. Creating a competitive or unique car wash subscription model can differentiate you from the competition, as well.
Car wash distributors work with manufacturers and suppliers to source products you’ll need for your business. Choosing a great distributor is as important to your success as all the steps above. So how do you choose? Take time to answer these questions:
Comparing answers will help you pick the distributor that fits your business model and growth strategy.
Your car wash company is open for business and humming along. Take a moment to enjoy such an immense accomplishment – and then start planning for business growth.
Growth may come by way of expanded service offerings that cater to new customer needs or investment in new equipment or technology that helps your business run more efficiently and effectively. It could also mean developing strategic partnerships with companies like DRB that will help you turn data into insights, creating a plan that will increase overall profitability and allow you to make the next step in your car wash journey.
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.”