Mitigate Car Wash Site Selection Risk With the Right Tool

While owning a car wash can be a great investment, it comes with risks just like any other business venture. And one of the biggest decisions you’ll make is also one of the biggest risks you’ll take: your car wash’s physical location.  

Once that shovel hits the dirt, it’s too late to be wrong. That’s why many new investors turn to site selection tools to help them make this critical decision. So how do you select the right tool? 

What Do Good Car Wash Site Selection Tools Do?

Car wash site selection tools use data to determine the best location to build your car wash. They consider data points like traffic patterns, daily car counts and residential population. Some of those models were created to help car wash investors obtain bank financing, so they are driven by assumptions and designed to provide assurance rather than accuracy. They often don’t show the whole picture of a site’s potential performance. 

More sophisticated tools consider factors that have the most influence on a car wash site’s performance, including: 

  • Proximity to High-Frequency Retail – Many drivers decide to wash the car when they are already spending the afternoon completing retail tasks, like grocery shopping, and making quick stops for necessities. Locations, like big box retailers, where drivers visit several times a week, are great spots to set up shop.  
  • Traffic Patterns – Research suggests that if 15,000 to 25,000 vehicles pass your site daily, that volume will contribute to car wash success. Simply counting cars, however, won’t tell you the whole story. Instead, use the data behind the traffic to predict user behavior. For example, make sure drivers traveling at 45 mph can clearly see your signage for 40 seconds or more. That ensures they have time to make an impulse purchase decision but don’t have to slam on their brakes to enter the car wash. 
  • Driver Demographics – Take into consideration driver demographics around the location.  Factors such as income and disposable income, generation, education level, and occupation can tell you a lot about the potential market. For example, apartment complexes and urban areas can be good indicators of potential customers, since residents do not have the space to wash their vehicles by hand. Other demographic targets could include busy professionals, luxury vehicle owners, and climate-conscious individuals. 
  • Visibility – It’s not enough to have a car wash location front-and-center on a busy road. The type of road can also make a difference. Search for a road with good visibility from multiple angles. This provides drivers with a greater chance to spot your car wash from a distance, enhancing its presence and potentially leading to more spontaneous visits. 
  • Ingress/Egress – Consider the potential car wash site layout. How easy is it to enter and exit the site? Roads with clear turning lanes, minimal congestion and well-designed entry and exit points provide a seamless customer experience.

Those factors are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to site selection. As a new car wash owner, you’ll also want to consider things like parking and waiting areas, zoning and permits, drainage and environmental impacts – even future development. Choosing a site selection tool that can leverage data and indicate likely profitability can make decision-making easier and less stressful.  

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What Do Great Car Wash Site Selection Tools Do?

SiteSelect, a location analysis and forecasting tool by DRB® and SUDS, goes a few steps further. Beyond traffic patterns, population trends, customer behavior and demographics, SiteSelect adds consumer behavior and competitive intelligence to the mix. 

While most site selection tools focus on the quantity of people driving by your wash, SiteSelect leverages insights into the lifestyles and patterns of these potential customers. Data such as whether drivers are coming home or going to work or other businesses they’ve just visited can help us understand what motivates drivers to make the decision to pull into your car wash, allowing you to tailor messaging and marketing efforts. 

Competitive intelligence explores what your prospective competitors are doing to be successful, as well as get an understanding of how much your potential market overlaps. By analyzing the strength of nearby competition and the driving behaviors of potential consumers, car wash owners can gain an advantage and attract more traffic to their site. 

SiteSelect also leverages more than 1,500 mobile GPS points to help investors and operators understand and evaluate the growth potential of sites they’re considering.  

Car Wash Site Plans: Benefits Beyond the Perfect Location

Perhaps not mentioned as often as it should be, choosing the perfect real estate for your car wash is only the first step in assembling your car wash business. Successful car washes are designed so they are as user-friendly and efficient as possible on the land they occupy.  

That design is about more than car wash equipment and car wash construction. Lanes, menus and pay stations can significantly impact the purchase decision, explains Scott Ginter, SUDS  creative director. “The stacking lanes are where customers start thinking about the type of wash they want while waiting at the pay station.” 

To influence consumer decisions, car wash entrepreneurs should embrace methods used in storytelling. “Concise and aspirational messages can engage customers emotionally and lead to quick decision-making,” explains Ginter, adding that avoiding information overload on car wash menus and providing visual shortcuts helps consumers not only make a choice but feel good about it. 

Sometimes car wash building design is less about creating something new than it is about upgrading something old. Your perfect car wash location may turn out to be an existing car wash on a great plot of land.  

Choosing that location and upgrading the existing car wash’s building, along with applying new branding, will show customers that there’s something new and worthwhile for them to explore. Give your property “curb appeal.” Give it a fresh coat of paint, plant attractive landscaping and choose signage that’s fun, clear and draws drivers in.   

After all, when customers feel good about your business – when you connect with them on a personal level – they’ll want to return more often.    

Want to learn more about choosing the best location for your car wash? Check out How to Choose the Best Car Wash Location

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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.”