Top 10 Do’s and Don’ts for Founding a Car Wash

Tour as Many Successful Car Washes as Possible

Car washes are diverse and complex facilities that require careful planning and no small amount of troubleshooting. So build as much experience as possible and get a sense for what a successful, thriving car wash feels and looks like.

Fine Tune Site Layout with the Help of Professionals

Site layout has a dramatic influence on capture rate, in/out speed, and return customer rates over the lifespan of the car wash facility. A good layout will easily make or break a site, which is why it is so important to perfect all details of the design with professionals who have a background in car wash layout design and day to day operations.

Focus on Quality from End to End

The retail business is extremely reliant on return customers. If you sacrifice quality or customers have a bad experience you will be continually be fighting to get them back. Focus on quality from day one and be prepared to make regular adjustments over time.

Operate Independently

Your team shouldn’t be forced to rely on outside services to maintain or service your wash, and you should never rely on someone else to tell you what your cost per car is. Train the right people and equip yourself with the right knowledge and experience to manage problems as they come up.

Work Hard to Reduce Labor

Overhead and administrative costs add up and are deeply underestimated by most operators. Focus on efficiency and invest in the right equipment to minimize labor requirements on-site.

Use an Invested Operator

The more deeply invested operators are in the car wash, and the more they have at stake, the more involved they will be. If investing in a car wash, instead of acting as your own owner operator, make sure you have the right person taking the lead.

Estimate Conservatively

A bad investment can take a lifetime to recover from. Projecting low can protect you from overextending and makes it easier for your wash to beat expectations as you go.

Pursue Excellence

No matter what you do, do it the best of your ability. Don’t cut corners, don’t reduce value, and don’t skimp. It will end up costing more in the end. Factors like architectural design, quality general contracting, landscaping, modern equipment technology, and total customer experience should never be sacrificed if you expect your wash to thrive.

Closely Evaluate Your Investment vs. Cost of Property Balance

When it’s all said and done you may find the value of your property is your biggest asset, especially if you might consider selling your wash in the long-term future.

Focus on a Revenue Model Rather than Cars Per Year

While cars per year and total revenue are related, they aren’t equivalent. If you allow your overhead to climb or rely too heavily on costly promotions it will affect your bottom line, no matter how many cars are pulling in.

Do Not Underestimate the Draw of Great Architecture

The image you project on the outside of your facility is the impression the customer lives with long before they experience wash quality, value, and customer service. Choose a car wash facility design that is memorable and which makes a powerful statement.

Don’t Under-Build or Under-Spend

If your wash is too small for your location you won’t be able to handle incoming traffic, effectively bottle-necking your income and degrading both customer experience and wash equipment.

Don’t Over-Build or Over-Spend

If your wash is too big the cost of your investment will weigh down your future growth and you won’t be able to maintain an appearance of healthy in/out traffic.

Do Not Rely on the Advice of Salespeople

Take your input from existing operators in the industry who will give you unbiased opinions regarding equipment, detergents, and operations.

Do Not Build Because of Ego

If there are problems with your plans, be willing to back off and reevaluate. Good follow through won’t improve a fundamentally broken plan and sometimes it’s important to take the advice of an expert – even if that advice isn’t in line with your original vision.

Do Not Inflate Numbers for the Bank

Lying to the bank is only lying to yourself; if the bank won’t approve your business plan or financing you should honestly consider reevaluation.

Do Not Underestimate Depreciation

Washes experience significant wear and tear due the presence of water and the operation of heavy equipment. Take maintenance seriously and plan for replacement, repair, and upkeep costs.

Do Not Base Depreciation on Flat Time Schedules

Deprecation doesn’t have to do with time alone. It has to do with the total numbers of cars washed. As traffic increases so will your expenses, and the urgency with which you must address maintenance and upkeep.

Do Not Neglect Marketing

If your belt isn’t running at its maximum capacity you aren’t reaching your wash’s full potential. Modern marketing practices, partnerships, and a flushed out plan relying on a combination of streetside, print, and digital advertising will help you expand your reach, market your promotions and wash memberships, and bring in more first time and returning customers.

Do Not Give Up

Car washing is a growing and changing industry and full-size express tunnels with high-value membership packages are in extreme demand. Don’t give up if you have rough patches, reevaluate your fundamentals, and remember that success is out there waiting!

For more modern car wash fundamentals as well as an overview of the industry today and where it is going on the future, watch this presentation from the Car Wash Show, hosted by our very own Ryan Essenburg.

Tommy Car Wash Systems

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