License Plate Readers Find Success in Car Wash Applications


Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags were a revolution in the car wash industry, giving operators a simple, low-maintenance method to manage subscription membership programs. These memberships, which include loyalty programs and unlimited clubs, stand as a perfect win-win for customers who want to maintain their vehicle’s appearance with more frequent monthly washes at a lower cost as well as sponsoring car washes looking to build a steady customer base. Once installed in the customers’ vehicle, the RFID tags work with the car wash database and point of sale systems to allow automatic wash admittance and wash package selection per the customer’s chosen membership level.


But, innovative and successful as RFID tags are in this role, they aren’t a perfect solution, and already their replacements have begun to make an appearance in the market.


Driven by cloud technology, the proliferation of smartphones, and cheap modern computing power, license plate readers (LPRs) offer all the advantages and functionality of RFID tags while allowing greater and more sophisticated automation at the entrance queue. The systems work thanks to high definition cameras, automatic sensor systems, and sophisticated imaging software tied into the wash’s member database and point of sale system. Instead of manually attaching a tag to the inside of the customer vehicle after every single membership sale, the license plate information can be entered over the phone, at the cashier window, or even by the customer themselves over the internet—a change that minimizes labor and eliminates the recurring expense of new tags. Plus, plate and payment information is retained in the database for easy renewal by the customer in the future.


The real world evidence for the benefits of these plate readers is mounting. Beginning in early 2016 LPR systems were installed on all Tommy’s Express Car Wash locations as they opened, allowing the young franchise to quickly begin building an Unlimited Club membership base. At the same time the franchise rolled out the Tommy’s Express App on both Apple and Android devices, giving customers an interface with which to purchase, change, cancel, or renew their memberships remotely without visiting the car wash, installing or removing a tag, or handing over a credit card at the cashier window.


The response has been decidedly favorable with high membership sales, app downloads, and reduced queue times at wash locations due to the rapid and automatic admittance of Unlimited Club members. The technology has also provided a strong selling point for the brand and has the potential to be used in the future to track non-club member vehicles as their drivers purchase single washes, in order to build customer profiles and market Unlimited Club promotions in the pay lane itself.



For the time being, Tommy Car Wash Systems’ licence plate readers and club application are standard for Tommy’s Express franchise locations. A customizable version of the wash club will launch in January of 2017 and, along with associated LPR hardware, be made available upon request to customers operating four sites or more. For pricing or to request additional information, please visit


Tommy Car Wash Systems

Is your Car Wash Participating in Grace For Vets 2016?

Grace for vets car wash

Each year thousands of independent car washes in several nations join together on the day of November 11th – Veterans Day – to provide free car washes to veterans and active military personnel. By offering something as simple as a free wash, participants honor the sacrifices and service provided by our past and present soldiers, recognizing and rewarding them as valued members our of communities.


This year a number of washes associated with Tommy Car Wash Systems, including Tommy’s Express Car Wash locations, are participating in the Grace for Vets program, and we would like to welcome others around the industry to add their locations and join in as well. Registration is simple and comes with free media resources to help your wash promote the event before and during the day of the 11th.


For more information, including registration and program guidelines, please visit


Tommy Car Wash Systems



Tommy’s Express Car Wash Franchise Gains Momentum

Car washes are time-honored American tradition, but the equipment, architecture, and experience associated with using a neighborhood car wash haven’t meaningfully changed in decades. However, by abandoning convention and embracing a fresh customer experience a new car wash franchise is seeking to change this status quo. Built on a proven, easily replicated platform covering equipment, architecture, and site layout, the Tommy’s Express Car Wash Franchise is now laying a foundation for rapid national growth.


Tommy's Express Logo


Featuring a comprehensive plan for the wash facility, equipment, and operations, this foundation originates from Tom Essenburg and Ryan Essenburg, car wash veterans largely responsible for the success of sister company Tommy Car Wash Systems and the “Totally Tommy” car wash platform. Washes utilizing  this platform are highly recognizable thanks to the commanding nature of their primary and secondary towers, floor to ceiling bay windows spanning the length of the tunnel, sloped translucent roofing, iconic circular car wash arches, and dual belt conveyors.


In each case the entire system is designed from the ground up to promote safe, effective, predictable, high-efficiency, and high-revenue operation.

Tommy's Express of Grandville (Rivertown) Michigan. Opened April 2016.

Tommy’s Express in Grandville (Rivertown) Michigan. Opened April 2016

New washes opening under the Tommy’s Express banner have done more than simply adopt the Totally Tommy site plan. Instead, they feature exclusive innovations that expand upon this proven platform while taking advantage of in-house operations training and marketing support.


Of the five licensed Tommy’s Express locations currently operating in California, Michigan, and Kansas, three represent new 2016 construction packed with cutting-edge technology.  This includes a unique semi-central dual drop vacuum system for improved suction and reduced maintenance, automated license plate readers for automatic vehicle admittance through the entrance queue, and a brand new app allowing users to purchase and manage their wash club memberships from mobile devices. A sixth Tommy’s Express is currently under construction in Missouri with several more in various stages of planning and approval around the nation.

Tommy's Express of Hemet California. Opened May 2016

Tommy’s Express in Hemet California. Opened May 2016

“We are excited to bring our innovative car wash technology and support to car wash operators around the world,” reports Eric OConnor, Head of Franchise Business Development at Tommy’s Express Car Wash. “We’ve taken 40 plus years of car wash experience and developed a truly comprehensive operational, financial and marketing support model. There’s really nothing else like it. We are tremendously excited with our progress so far and always looking for new franchise partners and investors who are interested in taking advantage of what we believe to be the best express automatic car wash business setup on the market.”

Tommy's Express of Overland Park Kansas. Opened September 2016.

Tommy’s Express in Overland Park Kansas. Opened September 2016

Recommended wash pricing for the franchise is affordable, designed promote high wash volumes. Monthly unlimited memberships at top wash tier run $29.99 while the second tier run $24.99 (prices may vary by location). Vacuum service and, in some locations, automatic floor mat cleaning are free to all comers. The total time through the wash is 2-3 minutes total with facility capacity totaling an astonishing 160 vehicles per hour.


Parties interested in the Tommy’s Express Franchise should visit the franchise opportunities page of the Tommy’s Express website to learn more.


Tommy Car Wash Systems


Anti-Collision Systems Promise Disruption for Express Car Washes

Red Car In Wash Tunnel

Read more

The Rhino-Mat Wash & Dry – An Instant Fan Favorite!

In its third month of operation, Tommy’s Express Car Wash of Grandville, Michigan puts the best of the Totally Tommy car wash design on display. At night drivers look through the microbrewery-style bay windows to glimpse the brightly glowing LEDs mounted on stainless steel arches. During the day customers steadily queue in the triple paylanes to ride through the tunnel before pulling out into the free dual drop vacuum stations.


But it’s a relatively new addition to this proven car wash formula that’s creating some new excitement: the Rhino-Mat Automatic Mat Wash & Dry System.

Read more

7 Points for Better Car Wash Call Handling



Incoming phone calls at car washes represent a critical intersection between new customer conversion and customer retention, and poor call handling by employees can be costly to both. Individuals calling into your wash expect to be heard, valued, and respected as their questions or concerns are communicated.

Read more

Hot Tips for the Summer Slump

Car wash summer


Car washes across the nation regularly experience the brutal effects that weather can have on wash volume. One day, conditions such as heavy snow or rain dramatically reduce patronage, keeping customers indoors or satisfying them with a so-called ‘natural car wash’ respectively. The next, bright skies and clear roads trigger soaring demand and long lines at the wash.

Read more