Cars get dirty. That's a fact of life – but not everyone is going to want to clean them. This is why owning a carwash can be a very lucrative business venture. It's also a great way to generate passive income depending on the type of carwash you choose to own. Self-service carwashes have some of the lowest startup costs with the biggest rewards.
TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, people who work at carwashes make a median income of $25,770 a year which increases if your business is mobile. A mobile carwash operator can generate an average of $100,000 a year with $30,000-to-$40,000 in pre-tax profit.
The job of a hand carwash owner varies depending on whether or not the business is self-service or full-service. Self-service carwash owners spend significantly less time at the business, and it can be a great source of passive income. If your business is full-service, you're probably a little more hands-on. Depending on the number of employees, you may be responsible for cleaning, vacuuming and detailing customers' vehicles by hand. Other duties include fixing carwash equipment, and maintaining customer areas and cleaning bays, which are typically used in self-service carwashes. As a small business owner, you're also responsible for the financial side of things. You must purchase supplies and handle vendor accounts and payroll – anything to make sure that the machine keeps running.
You don't need any particular level of education to start your own carwash business. You only need passion and a willingness to work hard. Of course, many carwash owners choose to attend business school to give them a leg up. In business school, you can learn the ins-and-outs of how to run a successful business, including everything from learning marketing strategies to increasing ROIs. Whether you attend a two-year or four-year school is entirely up to you. Some people choose to launch hand carwashes as a second business to generate some extra income.
Hand carwash owners work in the auto industry, but their specific business varies. Some hand carwash owners go directly to clients and make more per wash, while others have a business location customers can visit. Some carwash owners have full-service carwashes where car owners wait in a plush lounge for their car to be cleaned while they enjoy some vending machine snacks and coffee. In self-service carwash businesses, customers clean their own car and use the tools you provide. A carwash business' payscale varies, and it's as hands-on as you want it to be.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, people who work at carwashes make a median income of $25,770 a year which increases if your business is mobile. A mobile carwash operator can generate an average of $100,000 a year with $30,000-to-$40,000 in pre-tax profit. Remember, the more employees you have, the less money you make. Self-service car wash operators report making around $50,000 a year which increases with the number of stalls and carwashes you own. Many carwash owners have multiple locations, which doubles and triples their annual income.
Years of Experience
Starting a business like a carwash doesn't require previous experience, but like all things, it's trial and error. The more experience you have in starting your own business, the more successful you'll probably be. For carwashes, profit is tied to technology, overhead costs and number of locations. Automatic carwashes generally make more than hand carwashes but launching a full-service, automatic carwash can take a huge chunk of change. It's estimated that you'll need upwards of $700,000 to open a full-service carwash, but a self-service carwash can be launched with less than $100,000.
The carwash industry is expected to continue growing over the next five years, but at a slower pace than before. You can still expect an annual job growth rate of 3.1 percent which equates to $1.9 billion a year in auto-industry profits. According to an IBISWorld Industry Report, carwash revenue is expected to increase by 3.1 percent over the next five years and 0.9 percent more carwashes are expected to pop up across America. The truth is that cars get dirty and people are always going to need them washed, so the growth potential is unlimited.
- Carwash.com: Carwash Industry Growth and Emerging Competition Signals Profits for Existing Owners
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Cleaners of Vehicles and Equipment
- Auto Laundry News: Profit Centers - If It’s Not Making Money, It’s a Loss Center
- LinkedIn: 6 Reasons To Own Your Own Self-Serve Car Wash
- Car Wash Business 101: What Does It Cost To Open A Car Wash?
Mariel Loveland is a small business owner, content strategist and writer from New Jersey. Throughout her career, she's worked with numerous startups creating content to help small business owners bridge the gap between technology and sales. Her work has been featured in publications like Business Insider and Vice.