How to Start a Car Wash Business in 10 Easy Steps

Business Management
Nikki Webman December 26, 2021 10 min read

There are tricks to starting a car wash business. With competition high and an even higher demand for car wash businesses, you will want to check out this 10 step-by-step approach to this line of business!

Quick Guide

    It’s a messy world out there, and especially for your car. Storms, family road trips, muddy roads, your spring cleaning to-do and more…whatever brings people in for a car wash seems to be endless and universal. 

    With this extremely heavy demand, you’re in for a treat: profits in the bank. But, be warned, this doesn’t mean the success of it all will come easy. 

    High demand calls for a multitude of competitors. 

    It’s important to differentiate yourself from the other small business owners like you, and on top of that, it’s critical to follow proper procedures that will ensure a long-lasting business. 

    No matter how experienced you are, starting a car wash business comes with its own unique set of standards. Follow this step-by-step approach to learn how to make your car wash business a reality. 

    Find the Right Location

    Think about it. 

    With a Starbucks and McDonalds on almost every square inch, block, and corner, how do you go about choosing the best one for you? 

    If you’ve been to all of them before, you will most likely base your decision on cleanliness and customer service. However, if this is a first time visit, you’ll base your decision on proximity to your current location and/or proximity to other popular vendors around. 

    It’s the exact same with starting a car wash business. As you work to bring in a new client base, location is first on the checklist. 

    The search for the perfect spot requires tons of scout work. Find a place that:

    • Naturally brings in traffic
    • Is conveniently positioned
    • Doesn’t have pre-existing car wash businesses on the same road leading up to where you hope to place your business

    Without the right location it’s hard to make your car wash business successful, so, don’t be afraid to really drive around to find that golden spot.  

    Check out the Competition

    Drive yourself to do better from what you currently know of your competitors. However, you must remain practical in the hardships of being new to the car wash business. 

    To remain aware and placed in a safe zone, ask yourself:

    • How far away from your possible location is the nearest competitor/s car wash/es?
    • If there is another place that’s a known and respected business in the area? (It may not be the best idea to directly compete with them). 

    To work out how well your competitors are working, figure out:

    • The estimate of how many customers your competitors are getting on a daily basis 
    • Are they doing a lot of advertising and marketing?

    If you let your competitors get the best of you, you’ll find that the start of your car wash business will come to a quick end. This is why research needs to be thorough. 

    Understand Car Wash Operations

    Not all who attempt the start of a car wash business are those who have done it first hand. This is a gap in knowledge. You need to be aware of the operational efficiencies that make a car wash business go round and round. 

    Visiting other car washes to see what they’re doing and recognizing what you could do better, is a solid place to start. However, keep in mind that the way to service your business is possible in more ways than one:

    • Automatic car washes vs self-service car washes
    • Do you want to offer one or the other or perhaps give people the option of both? 
    • Do you want your car wash to do detailing and go the extra mile? 

    After all this, keep a remainder eye on the type of equipment the competition is using and how many employees they have working at a given time. This will all be useful information to have when it comes to effectively streamlining your business operations

    1. Put Together a Business Plan

    As much as you want to get to the fun part, putting together a business plan is an important detail that your small car washing business cannot survive without. Hit all the logistical bare essentials and you’ll be off to a great start:

    • Include all of the market research you’ve done about your competition.
    • Add the best possible locations for your new car wash. 
    • Have as much financial information as possible to put into your business plan. 

    Financial specific information should include:

    • How much is in your budget to buy or lease a location and acquire all the equipment you’ll need to run a car wash. 
    • How much are your startup costs going to be? 
    • How quickly will you be able to attract customers?
    • How long will it take after starting a car wash business for it to become profitable

    In-depth answers to all these questions will keep you prepared for what is to come.  

    Get Financing

    family and friends can provide you money to start a car wash business

    Don’t let money-centered steps scare you away.

    If you don’t have enough money for starting your car wash business, that’s not a reason to ditch the dream. You’ll just have to substitute that lack of money for a business loan or investment of some kind. 

    Banks and credit unions will likely be an option if you’re looking for a small-business loan (this is where an elaborate business plan comes into play). Another doable option is to find private investors – yes, that can include friends and family. 

    No matter who provides the funds, they will want to see whatever you have planned for a successful car wash business. This is why you need to know ahead of time how much your start-up costs will be and how quickly you can earn profits.

    Invest in Equipment

    The funds you receive will be the gateway to buying your equipment. To make a shopping list that leaves nothing to chance, pay attention and monitor the following, closely: 

    • Does the location you want have any equipment already in place? 
    • Perhaps more importantly, what kind of car wash do you plan to operate? (The equipment for a self-serve car wash is different from an automatic car wash).
    • Regardless of your specific operation, you’ll need water tanks, hoses, nozzles, and soap dispensers. Vacuums that enable drivers to clean the inside of their car as well. 

    Quality over quantity. The equipment you buy will say a lot about the quality of the car wash business you’re planning to build, so this won’t be an area you want to cut corners on.

    Get Your Paperwork in Order

    You’re inching closer and closer to the opening of your very own car wash. That’s great! 

    But, don’t get too excited yet. There’s lots of paperwork to take care of first. Check your local chamber of commerce to assure all paperwork is in order; it keeps everything legal.

    You should confirm that: 

    • There are business licenses to acquire from your local and state government.
    • There are tax identification numbers to acquire from your local and state government.
    • You will also have patent and trademark procedures to follow after choosing the name of your car wash. 

    Get Your Car Wash Insured

    With almost everything you do in life, getting insurance is priority #1. Yes, the irony is that this falls into 8th place on our list, but trust us when we say: without insurance you are taking a big, huge, risk. Accidents can hit any business, especially when working with cars that could be worth tens of thousands of dollars, so you don’t want to be underinsured.

    Types of insurance that you should be sure to cover, involve:

    • Workers’ compensation insurance 
    • Workers’ general liability insurance
    • Other possible insurance and the total coverage that you’ll need will be determined by the overall scope of your business and may require consultation with an insurance agent (So be it, this could be step #8.5!!). 

    Market Your Car Wash

    Last but not least; marketing!

    Huh? 

    Yes, marketing! Although marketing may not be your strong suit, once you’ve taken care of the fine details and you feel like you’re ready to open, starting a carwash business also includes a little bit of creativity.

    Even with a good location, you can’t assume that people will start flocking to your car wash.

    1. First, you’ll need a logo that you can put on signs and billboards directing people to your car wash. 
    2. In today’s world, you will also need a web presence so that your business appears when people search for car washes in their area. 
    3. A social media presence is also important, especially if you want to grow your business into something special and a name that people know. 
    4. Don’t forget: old-fashioned techniques like flyers and business cards can also be helpful when you’re first starting a car wash business.

    Looking Ahead

    Those who make it in this world are constantly innovating and looking for ways to level up. 

    In today’s world where everything moves fast, company culture means everything, and employee rights are of highest priority, an all-in-one management solution to the ever growing world could be of use. 

    Management is a juggler’s act. Team communication, scheduling, timekeeping, customer satisfaction, overseeing performance, and payroll processes. All this needs administrative management and could become overwhelming when handled improperly.

    And it can be handled properly: and it starts with just one app: Connecteam. 

    With Connecteam, you’ll benefit from all of your business and employee management in one handy smartphone app. It takes under 2 minutes to set up and roll out, and requires no training at all to use! 

    • Maintain online checklists and forms that would make daily task completions faster and easier. (Forms would include: inventory for car washing equipment, automated car wash malfunctioning reports, proper procedure reports, maintenance work orders to approve, etc.). 
    • Mobile phone management: keep your desk-less workers connected
    • Keep professional communication via 1:1 chat, group chat, or even whole company updates in a social-feed style direct to you at the very fingertips of yours and your employees’ mobile phones. 
    • When you hire your first employees, have all of your onboarding and training available right from the app! 
    • Enjoy  geofenced employee time tracking that coordinates time with location for accurate timesheets and 100% accurate payroll.
    • Stay prepared for future setbacks with a contingency plan 
    • Be prepared for twists and turns during the ongoing pandemic 

    In this digitized, 21st century world, don’t be the one to lag behind. Keep up with this fast paced world with a simplified app that helps keep your managerial work on the back burner and the main activities of running a car washing business front and center. 

    Bottom Line of Starting a Car Wash Business

    Are you starting a car wash business and eager to make it come true? Well, now you can go full speed ahead with these quintessential 10 steps. 

    Remember! Everything takes work and proper preparation. Before you go in head first, solidify your starting cash, your business plan, your equipment, and the proper research to keep your car wash business new, exciting, and a one of a kind. 

    Having a solid business plan will help to make all this come true, but be your own manager and get ahead of the crowd with a look into simplified software solutions for you and your employees. 

    On your marks. Get set. GO. 

    Start working on all these steps and see the quick results in all that hard work. 

    Get your car wash business off to the best start with Connecteam!

    Try the Connecteam app today with the 14-day free trial, no credit card required!

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