How to Run a Car Wash

Running any business is a challenge, but running a car wash is in a class of its own. Unlike traditional, tangible merchandise, customers are buying a service from you. In order to complete successful transactions, you need to offer customers a good car wash for a reasonable price, a price that is lower than many competitors. You must still make a decent profit from the deal as well. It's a balancing act. While running a car wash is not something one can do on impulse and expect to be an instant success, it is quite possible to run a profitable car wash in nearly any town in America.

Look at the employees who are running the show. A car wash is only as good as the elbow grease from the employees who are doing the washing. If your employees are jaded or angry about such a job, it's best that they begin looking for employment elsewhere. While it's never a good idea to fire someone without a good reason and proper notice, it is important that you find yourself staffed with good workers who will be an asset to your company.

Write it all down. Keep records of everything. Time cards, employee warnings and financial statements should all be gathered in one central location. This should be secure from the curious eyes of any employee.

Keep all towels freshly washed. This means that you need to have a cleaner service your business daily, or you could launder the towels yourself. Washing towels yourself is recommended only if your business is small enough to benefit from quick shortcuts. This is an especially good idea when you are beginning the company. It's never all right to clean a car with an unlaundered towel. Yes, it's simply a car, but each wash represents the professionalism of your business.

Store all cleaners and chemicals in a secure spot. A child, pet or wild animal can easily get into containers that are left lying around. That can result in a toxic dosage or spill. Managing potentially hazardous materials is an important part of running a car wash. Materials should be locked up soundly after each business day, and these materials should be monitored by a trustworthy individual (and perhaps a security camera) during business hours.

Place a sign in front of the car wash to state announcements from your business to the community. When a community leader is in trouble, post messages of moral support. Wish good luck to local sports teams. Advertise weekly specials on the board, as well. A sign is a great investment, as it can put you instantly in touch with the community. A sign can help your car wash develop a conversation with a potential consumer who never would have given the business a second look otherwise. A message board is a powerful business tool. Use it wisely. Invest in a sign only if you plan to make use of it.

Hang out in the front of your business. Greet customers regularly so that you know them by name. A customer is much more ready to send out a referral if she can tell her friends about the great owner or manager who takes such good care of her. Avoid using anybody for a referral, but an owner or manager's good image is a great tool to have for those looking to make extra money while offering a great product.

Offer company incentives to employees. A discount for referred clients is standard. Bonuses at birthdays and major holidays are much appreciated and often are rewarded by a greater loyalty to the company and a harder working employee. Keeping yourself, the employees and the customers all happy in unison is a challenge, but you can succeed with hard work and patience.


  • Offer weekly specials to attract new and repeat business alike.


  • Don't let customers walk all over you. While customers who are genuinely disappointed in the results of the car wash (with understandable facts and reasoning) should be catered to. Customers who simply try to get a car wash for free shouldn't be tolerated. While this stance may result in severe customer complaints on occasion, you will save money in the long run by not developing a reputation as a business that lets people walk all over it.