Description of a Car Wash Business

by George N. Root III - Updated September 26, 2017

A car wash can either be an automated business, or it can be a hands-on business requiring employees. A successful car wash business is one that is reliable for customers, offers quality results and is easy for customers to use. With hard work and a solid business plan, it is possible for a car wash business owner to create a profitable business.


There are two primary types of car wash businesses; one can be operated by the customer and the other has employees on staff to make sure the car is properly cleaned. A coin-operated car wash business is normally a long building with several car wash bays normally the proper size to accommodate vehicles ranging from a car to a Winnebago-style camper. The bays are either self-service where the customer uses a wand with tubes to feed it cleaning liquids such as water and soap, or there are full service bays where the customer can drive their car in and park it while a series of robotic arms clean the vehicle. The full service car wash normally has a long building that contains machines to wash and clean the car, and a conveyor device that moves the cars along at an even pace. Cars go into the wash one at a time, spaced out evenly by employees of the car wash. At the end of the full service car wash are employees there to towel dry the car and remove any excess soap or water.


One of the common misconceptions about a self-service car wash business is that once it is set up it requires very little maintenance or attention and the owner can show up once a week to collect their profit. The truth is that self-service car wash equipment requires daily maintenance in order to run properly, and the liquids such as car wax and soap need to be replaced regularly. It is also necessary to do daily equipment checks to be sure the machines are operating properly so that they can continue to generate revenue.

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A full service car wash has the ability to offer more services than a self-service car wash business, and this allows the full service wash to experience more revenue potential. A full service wash can offer vehicle detailing services, vehicle maintenance services such as oil changes and filter changes and car mat washing services for an extra charge.


While a self-service car wash business requires regular maintenance and does not allow for as many services as a full service wash, the full service wash does have the added overhead of employees. A self-service wash can be maintained properly by one person, where a full service car wash requires several employees. So even though the full service car wash offers more revenue potential, it may not necessarily offer more profit as the additional profit could be taken up by payroll costs.

Expert Insight

Entrepreneur magazine estimates that nearly 40 percent of the car wash businesses owned in the United States are owned by people with five years or less of car wash experience. Entrepreneur also points out that many car wash customers expect a car wash to take no longer than 18 minutes, so it is essential to train employees to be as efficient and quick as possible.


About the Author

George N. Root III began writing professionally in 1985. His publishing credits include a weekly column in the "Lockport Union Sun and Journal" along with the "Spectrum," the "Niagara Falls Gazette," "Tonawanda News," "Watertown Daily News" and the "Buffalo News." Root has a Bachelor of Arts in English from the State University of New York, Buffalo.

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