Car wash profitability.

Understanding Car Wash Profitability

If you plan to open a new car wash or car wash services at your business, understanding how much a car wash makes can help you prepare. Many factors go into your car wash revenue, from associated costs to outside elements. However, considering and understanding all aspects can help you determine which type of car wash is best for you and what you can do to help increase your car wash profits.

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How Much Does a Car Wash Make a Year?

Depending on the type of car wash you invest in, your revenue will vary. Many gas station, mechanic shop and rest stop owners choose to add car wash services to existing infrastructure for additional profits. Others might consider opening a space specifically for car washes.

In 2017, the average car wash made nearly $600,000 in sales. However, the kind of car wash you build will play a role in how many sales you make as a business. While some car washes may be more popular than others, every customer will prefer a different car washing style, so you can expect to generate business no matter what kind of car wash you construct.

Self-Service Car Washes

Self-service car washes offer rinsing and soaping services that the customer does themselves. They’ll pay at a terminal or at the cash register to activate tools, and they can wash their vehicle how they see fit. The self-service model is excellent for existing businesses that want to bring in extra revenue, especially if they have fewer employees on hand to wash cars. You can add wax and polish availability for an additional cost.

Because they offer fewer services for customers, self-service car washes are typically less expensive for the customer. However, they made up over $777 million of total car wash sales in the United States in 2017, making it clear they’re a profitable part of the car washing industry.

In-Bay Automatic Car Washes

In-bay automatic car washes require customers to pull into a bay, where they’ll sit while the equipment washes their vehicle. The car will remain still during this time, but it’ll undergo a full range of cleaning services. Like self-service car washes, they’re very popular with existing businesses because they’re easier to install and require less space than other car wash types.

Because you can provide more services and your equipment will work for your customers, an in-bay automatic car wash will increase revenue.

Because you can provide more services and your equipment will work for your customers, an in-bay automatic car wash will increase revenue. This car wash type is extremely popular, contributing to the nearly $5 billion generated by all automatic car washes in the U.S.

Tunnel Automatic Car Washes

This type of car wash is incredibly popular because of its accessibility for customers. Like in-bay car washes, customers can pull up to the start, but a conveyor will bring them through the entirety of the wash and the different services. These are excellent for businesses that have more space or are dedicated to operating only a car wash. However, they can also be excellent add-on services.

Because the equipment is more expensive and offers increased services, you can charge almost double for a tunnel car wash than an in-bay.

Full-Service Car Washes

While the other services are excellent for clearing a car’s exterior, some customers are willing to pay for someone to clean the interior of their vehicle and receive more specialized exterior cleaning. A full-service car wash will offer all services, including interior cleaning, waxing, polishing, drying and more.

You can use a tunnel or in-bay automatic car wash to clean some or all of the exterior, but you’ll need skilled employees to thoroughly clean the car’s interior and provide any additional services not covered by your equipment. This comprehensive care is more costly, so you can charge a little higher than a tunnel car wash, allowing you to make more money than from a car wash alone.

Together, automatic car washing and dealing services generate $6.83 billion of total car wash sales in the U.S.

Common Car Wash Costs

While your services can bring in large sums for your business, you should be mindful of the costs associated with car washing. You’ll have unique expenses you’ll need to pay that will cut into your income. Some standard costs of running a car wash include:

  • Labor: Especially if you run a full-service car wash, you’ll need to account for employee wages when determining your profits. Your employees are the face of your company, so they can be a great asset and continue to draw customers to your business.
  • Utilities: You’ll use various services each time you wash a car. These utilities include water, electricity, detergent and other chemicals. Understanding how much those cost per car can help you predict your expenses and profits.
  • Equipment: Whether you’re starting a new car wash or adding services, you need to invest in new equipment. Consider purchase and installation costs — quality equipment will provide better services, making them a stronger investment. Building structures can drive initial startup costs, as well.

Understanding these costs can help prepare you for your initial and continual profits on your new car wash services. When you know your expenses, you can create a more accurate budget for your business.

Factors That Determine Profitability

While costs can decrease your profit, you can experience fluctuations in revenue from other factors as well, including:

  • Location: Choosing a good location can help boost your car wash business. The International Car Wash Association determined in 2019 that 75% of customers learn about car washes while driving. The best location would be off a major road with high visibility. However, adding signs and directions can help you attract customers if you’re less visible from the road.
  • Marketing: Your marketing efforts can also increase your profitability. Running social media pages, sending out promotions, developing a strong website and hanging flyers can raise brand awareness. You can partner with local businesses to create coupons and promotions, helping you increase both customer bases.
  • Weather and seasonality: The weather and season will impact your business. Rainy days will result in a decrease in business. However, many car washes see increases in the winter and summer when the weather is too extreme for car owners to clean the vehicles themselves. Periods with high pollen can also lead to increased business.
  • Frequency and customer retention: Understanding your ideal customer’s needs is essential. If you want regular customers who visit frequently, then an in-bay or tunnel car wash will be better. You can offer additional services to help improve customer retention, like free coffee or water, discounts and loyalty programs and more.

These factors can help provide you with new strategies for promoting your business and give your awareness regarding how your profits might fluctuate over the year.

Invest in high-quality car wash supplies with JBS Industries.

Invest in High-Quality Car Wash Supplies With JBS Industries

When starting a car wash or adding car wash services to your business, investing in quality supplies can help you provide services that will impress your customers and build a good reputation. With quality supplies, you can help increase your car wash revenue.

JBS Industries manufactures leading car wash supplies and has over 40 years of experience. We create products that serve many industries, including car washes, allowing us to provide you with the quality supplies you need for great business. Explore our car wash supplies today.


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