8 steps to starting a successful car wash business

December 17, 2014

From a business plan to building permits, follow these eight steps to starting the car wash operation of your dreams.

8 steps to starting a successful car wash business

Owning a car wash business can be a great way to make a living. If you choose a good location, buy the right equipment, provide fast, efficient service at competitive prices, and market yourself well, customers will come and your business will thrive.

However, operating a successful car wash business also requires a significant investment and great planning. Here’s what you need to know before you begin.

8 steps to starting a car wash business

1. Do your research. As with any venture, this is the first and most important step. Visit other car washes, check your city’s zoning and water treatment regulations, learn more about the latest technology and equipment, decide on the type of car wash you want to run, and figure out how much it’s going to cost and how you’re going to finance it.

2. See what the competition is doing. Look at other car washes in the area you’re considering as well as around the city. Find out which ones are successful and why, and on the flip side, which ones are not and why. Learn from their mistakes and benefit from their successes.

3. Write a solid business plan. The more detailed, the better. It should include your investment, financing and projected profits, and all costs such as taxes, permits, construction, employees, equipment, licenses, liability insurance, marketing and any other business expenses.

4. Figure out how you’re going to finance it. Will you require a bank loan? Are you looking for private investors? When you apply for financing, be sure to factor in the costs of purchasing, leasing or renting your building, startup expenses, equipment, supplies and operating capital.

5. Make sure you’re covered. Give yourself enough time to obtain all necessary local business permits, zoning variances, environmental and safety inspections if needed, licenses and liability insurance.

6. Choose a good location. It's the golden rule of real estate and it applies for businesses as well. Location is key. Pick a site that's visible and accessible to drivers passing by, has the physical space to accommodate the bays and equipment, and will meet zoning requirements.

7. Invest in the right equipment. Depending on the type of car wash you plan on operating and the services you want to offer, the equipment will vary. When choosing equipment, consider dependability, warranty, output capabilities, cleaning power, and durability. And don't necessarily opt for the cheapest equipment, because it could lead to more costly repairs down the road.

8. Market your car wash. Decide if you want to invest in advertising, and if so, what kind of media you want to advertise in. Consider your customer demographic and the best way to reach them, whether it’s radio spots, billboards or print ads in a local newspaper. You’ll also need to invest in good signage.

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