How to Start your Car Wash Business

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One true statement about cars is that they will eventually get dirty. If you’re not afraid of a little manual labor, you may want to consider starting a car wash business. Starting a car wash business requires hard work and careful planning. Cash wash businesses experience volatility because of non-operation days due to inclement weather. People are not enthusiastic about getting their cars washed during snowy, rainy and cold seasons. However, a car wash business has the potential to produce great profits. Knowing the requirements of starting a car wash business will give you the right tools to open and operate a profitable business.

Choose the type of car wash you want to open. Common types of car washes include full service, in-bay automatic, self service and a mobile car wash. Each type of car wash has its own startup requirements. The type of car wash you choose depends on your startup capital, profitability potential and personal preferences.

Find a location. The location you choose will depend on the type of car wash you intend to open. Consider your competition, visibility and neighborhood demographics when choosing a location for your car wash.

Obtain business licenses, permits and liability insurance. Contact your local and state business offices to inquire about the requirements for opening a car wash. Liability insurance will protect your business and your clients if anything happens to their vehicles while in your possession.

Finance your car wash. The amount of money needed to start a car wash depends on the type of car wash you choose to open. Full service car washes require the most startup capital and mobile car washes have low startup costs. If necessary, apply for funding with banks and the Small Business Association.

Contact equipment suppliers. You will need equipment for any type of car wash business. You will constantly do business with an equipment supplier, so it is important to establish a good relationship with a reputable company.

Visit car dealerships and limousine companies. This is a good way to find clients if you’re starting a mobile car wash. Discuss your services and prices with management. Leave your business card and any other marketing material with the manager or receptionist.

Advertise your car wash business. Several advertisement options exist for your car wash business. You can pass out fliers, place radio ads and distribute coupons in mailers. You may also want to offer discounts to customers who refer others.


  • You must work quickly but thoroughly when washing cars. Customers do not like to wait long periods of time to have their cars washed.


  • It is possible that damage or theft can occur to cars when operating a car wash business.