What Makes an Ideal Express Car Wash Location?

The American car wash industry continues to grow, with ever-increasing customer demand and tremendous opportunity waiting to be claimed. Done right, an express car wash gives operators a steady income stream with no billing or collection problems, a relatively small staff to manage, and a reliable membership pool.

But car washes require a substantial upfront investment in brick, mortar, equipment, and electronics as well as the all-important issue of a suitable location. So, how should one evaluate the ideal car wash location and what factors should be considered?

Traffic Conditions

Peak traffic count should be between 15,000 and 25,000 vehicles with traffic speeds between 25 and 45 miles per hour. This will provide the necessary traffic density to support the business, while also allowing vehicles a good long look at the facility and the time to safely decelerate and turn-in.

Commercial Proximity

Consumers appreciate a good car wash—just not in their own backyard. Car wash sites should not border any residential property, as this can trigger intense resistance during the development process.

Instead, car washes should be developed in a large retail or commercial center complete with grocery or shopping centers, restaurants, and other major brick and mortar locations, OR on a major traffic corridor feeding in to such a center. This way your location will be conveniently at-hand for a much larger number of customers as they go about their daily business or run weekend errands.

A quick and tried-and-true way to evaluate the quality of such a location is to quickly look for the nearest major fast-food franchise store. If one is right around the corner, it’s probably a good location to consider.

Lot Orientation and Size

Rectangular lots, specifically rectangular lots in which the car wash conveyor can run parallel to the road, are generally ideal for express car wash construction. The rectangular footprint provides a simplified traffic flow and facility layout, while offering traffic the best possible view of the wash in action.

 Corner lots are particularly desirable, as they allow greater flexibility, visibility, an additional entrance/exit, and greater traffic exposure.

As a general rule of thumb full-size express car wash locations require .8 to 1 acre, flex sites require 1.2 to 1.5 acres, and mini conveyorized carwashes require around .5 acres. To dig deeper into the topic, consider this blog post.

Competition

Given the shortage of high-quality express carwashes in America there is no sense planting your flag in another facility’s back yard. Instead of battling it out against an established brand and splitting a customer base, the ideal car wash location will have no express car washes in the local area, giving you a complete, un-tapped, and underserved population to colonize.

You can learn more on the subject here. Note that for our purposes, competitive car washes do not include self-serve or inbay washes.

Demographics

Demographics provides an analytical breakdown of the population living or working in proximity your site location, the population from which the vast majority of your customers will be drawn. This breakdown can help identify areas that are or are not particularly suited to car wash success based on a number of factors.

Desirable factors may include:

  • Above Average Household Income – Areas with higher disposable income will better sustain car wash membership participation, and up-menu service options.
  • Dense Housing – Apartments and condos are generally preferable to single family housing, as they suggest a denser population without access to convenient vehicle washing space.
  • Population Growth – A growing population with a wide range of ages represented indicates a healthy economy and attractive area able to sustain your business for years to come.

You can learn more about the subject here.

About Tommy Car Wash Systems

Leaders in car wash innovation and development, Tommy Car Wash Systems produces high quality round stainless steel arches, equipment, control systems, and detergents along with proprietary building designs. Parties interested in high capacity, performance-driven car washing are invited to explore the Tommy’s Express Car Wash franchise, a fast-growing international express car wash venture coming soon to a city near you!

5 Carwash Trends to Watch for In 2019 and Beyond

The car wash industry has entered in a period of rapid transition, with new technologies and practices making inroads and bringing change to both customer expectations and industry norms. As we look forward to the coming year and beyond we’ve come to expect the following five car wash industry trends to play an increasingly central role.

 1. Paid Vacuum Center Systems Replacing Freevacs

Free vacuums were originally deployed as a way for express or exterior-only car washes to compete with full-service model car washes. However, in most of the country there are very few of these full-service carwashes left with which to compete.

So many operators in the country are tired of expending significant resources on high-maintenance, high-cost vacuum centers without a clear return on investment, and systems are being tested to address this issue. We expect to begin seeing operators retrofitting large, costly free vacuum centers with credit-card or membership-integrated alternatives. This strategy has the added advantage of increasing the value that comes bundled inside club memberships.

2. Revival of Interior Cleaning Services

In another strike against free vacs, we anticipate interior cleaning services becoming more common once again. Free vacuums were an effective option to include for the benefit of customers during the great depression a decade ago. However, the economic boom of recent years brings with it a willingness and desire among customers to pay more for expanded services in the name of convenience.

We anticipate slow move away from the current low labor exterior only concept and towards new Flex models which are able to process vehicle interiors far more quickly than traditional full service washes using assembly line-like procedures.

 3. Changing Automotive Technology

Vehicle technology is advancing, and while driverless cars are still years away there are already standard automotive features that that make it difficult if not prohibitive for some modern vehicles to wash in traditional chain and roller style car washes.

Notably these systems include Electronic Parking Breaks (triggered by tire rolling) and Automatic Emergency Braking systems (triggered by incoming objects, such as mitter brushes). Both of these can automatically engage the vehicle’s brakes in the wash tunnel, causing it to jump rollers and collide with incoming customer vehicles behind.

While these systems can *usually* be deactivated, the methods used to do so are non-standard and often complex, and disabling them introduces car wash operators to potential liability. However, both systems are compatible with Tommy Transporter Dual Belt Conveyor system, which carries automatically braking vehicles through the tunnel without issue.

Upgrading a conveyor to a dual belt system costs $100,000 and takes around two weeks. Washes that reinvest in this improvement will gain a quick competitive edge. Overall we anticipate an inevitable cleansing of obsolete car washes across the market.

 4. Inbay Automatic & Rollover Wash Conversions

Most of small-town America is serviced only by old, slow-processing rollover or in-bay automatic washes, each of which is its own missed opportunity. However, these facilities may be readily converted into short, conveyorized tunnel washes.

The conversion process involves removing the floor, re-pouring the conveyor pit, and installing new equipment, ultimately improving the processing speed from 8 cars/hour to 40 or more. This opens up a tremendous opportunity for car wash-minded operators to acquire and execute these conversions now, particularly in small towns unable to support tunnels or in urban centers with no land available.

 5. Teardown & Rebuilds

Even among full-size tunnel washes, there are countless outdated and struggling facilities waiting on extraordinarily valuable land in locations brimming with untapped potential. In the past these aging sites would be readily purchased and propped up with new branding, fresh paint, and maybe an updated equipment package to provide moderately improved performance.

But this practice is no longer sufficient. Old sites will increasingly be closed, demolished, and replaced with modernized buildings and equipment able to take full advantage of the local market.

Two years ago our sister company acquired a car wash that had recently closed, leaving a sturdy building bordering a major roadway. Instead of investing in the old facility everything was promptly leveled and a full acre of concrete removed before being replaced with a brand new 130’ Tommy’s Express franchise.

This modern site, in the same lot that couldn’t support an outdated car wash only years before, washed over 400,000 cars in 2018. We believe this same lesson will soon be proved over and over again in locations around the nation.

About Tommy Car Wash Systems:

Built on fifty years of car wash experience and innovation, Tommy Car Wash Systems provides designer stainless steel equipment, high performance detergents, car wash conversion services, and performance-focused facility designs while supporting the design, development, and logistics of the Tommy’s Express Car Wash franchise.

Tommy Car Wash Systems.

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The location and layout of a new car wash can make or break its long-term success, which makes proper design and good site selection some of the most critical and strategically demanding early steps in the car wash development process.

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Taking Advantage of Blue Water Markets

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Tommy’s Express San Antonio Operating with LEED Certification

From building material selection to interior air quality, low energy use, and water efficiency, LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified buildings represent a considerable commitment to environmental sustainability and responsible practices.

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Take a Video Tour of River Club Car Wash

River Club Car Wash

Check out this tour recorded by Car Wash Studios at River Club Car Wash!

A Totally Tommy Express car wash that opened back in February of 2015, River club is located in Bradenton, FL and features a full dual belt conveyor, self loading entrance module, and other cutting-edge automatic car wash innovations.

You can visit River Club Car Wash’s Facebook page and Website (where they are currently preparing for an exciting Halloween promotion), or read more about the Totally Tommy Express design here.

Tommy Car Wash Systems.

Please note that the above video was not created or sponsored by Tommy Car Wash Systems. The content is embedded here under fair use rules for informational purposes only.

The Tommy Accent Ball

A few years ago, Target department stores introduced a design feature keeping with their overall branding: large red concrete spheres placed outside the their stores. This design turned out to be fantastic for a few reasons: They offered curb protection, they were attractive, and the red circle tied very well into Target’s overall ‘bulls-eye’ symbolism.

These attractive concrete barriers form a good point of reference for the topic of the day: The humble Tommy Ball.

Tommy Accent Ball

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