Car Wash Menu – Boost Your Revenue

It’s what every car wash owner wants…more revenue! By utilizing proven strategies around effective menu design, packaging, pricing, and signage, you can boost your revenue today.

There are three ways to increase revenue at your wash:

  1. Increase the average amount a customer spends per visit. Typically, this is the easiest way to impact revenue quickly through pricing, menu and offering management, and buy-up promotions. This tactic requires minimal expense to implement and can be easily measured.
  2. Increase the frequency of visits your current customers make. Keep current customers returning through loyalty programs and promotions. Success can be measured by identifying your total customer visits per month, annually, and measuring the lifetime value of the customer.
  3. Gain new customers. Attract completely new customers to your site. While important to continued growth, gaining new customers is typically an expensive tactic. The old adage, “it costs 20 times more to gain a customer than it does to keep a current customer” is true. Consistent outbound communications is required to make an impact, and can be tough to accurately measure.


We’ve gone from being exposed to about 500 ads a day back in the 1980’s (before Social media, etc.) to as many as 5,000 a day today. That’s almost a 700 percent increase over the past 30 years. Grabbing the attention of your customer is becoming more difficult, and we are challenged with finding new ways to sift through the clutter.

Nowhere is this more important than on your car wash menu. Your car wash menu is a critical tool for increasing your average ticket per wash. Effective menus that are designed to increase revenue have colors and images that attract, are easy to read, and are organized to guide consumers to a specific package.

Always place the package you want to have the highest sales where it will be seen first. For most washes, this is your top wash excluding detail services. People read from either left to right or top to bottom, so ordering your wash packages from the best to the most basic in the order that people read will gain better results. For example, in a horizontal menu your best package will be on the left with your basic package on the right. In a vertical menu, your best package will be at the top with your basic package at the bottom.

Your best package should also be the most visible. Make it bigger, taking up the most space, and in a bright color so that it stands out. Indicating that it is your best value will help guide customers to this package. Conversely, your lowest-priced package should be your basic wash with no frills. Don’t give more than a basic clean in this package so you can clearly differentiate higher packages.

Clearly distinguished wash-package names that emphasize the value will resonate better with consumers and guide them to the best selection. Try descriptive package names that indicate the benefit of each offering.

Four or fewer packages on a menu will provide better revenue results. More than four packages can become confusing and cause anxiety with customers. Generally, average ticket for three packages will net better results than four, typically by 5 percent or more.

Take Steps to Increase Revenue 

UpdateYour Menu 

  • Create a clear message
  • Maximize packages to guide customers
  • A new look will stand out

Evaluate Your Pricing 

  • Take an increase — even if it’s your middle wash only
  • Round your price points to even/near break points

Modernize Your Offering

  • Try a new product or packages
  • Offer theatre and customer validation

Protect Your Customers 

  • Reward loyal customers with an effective repeat purchase program

Offer Innovative Options

Make sure your wash is using the newest innovative products and industry trends to create high value for your customers. According to the 2014 ICA consumer study, consumers are willing to pay extra for wax/paint protectants and sealants, so offering this provides extra value to your customers. Studies also indicate that consumers prefer to buy brands that they know and trust. Trusted consumer brands in your menu can also create a high value to your customers.

A major trend in today’s market focuses on “theater” or show. Exciting colors, scents, and lights will highlight the value received at your wash. Consider a grand entry arch, lighting, high impact chemistry, or other programs that offer consumers a great show and validate the customer’s purchase. Wash packages that promote enhanced protection and shine such as new waxes, protectants, and waxes that can be polished in by friction, create high value and satisfaction for your customers and increase top package sales for you.


When done well, a good loyalty program can make you money and can keep customers coming back to only your wash. An unlimited wash program priced from $20 to $50 a month can be very effective. An advantage of an unlimited program is that it allows you to garner a monthly income regardless of weather. To successfully implement this type of program, you’ll need to determine what percentage of your business you want to be part of your unlimited program. Typical redemption rates average from 2.5 to 3.8 times monthly, with 15 percent to 30 percent of overall wash volume coming from a mature loyalty program. Once you determine your target price and mix, you’ll need to aggressively market your program so customers see the offering and value.

Another effective loyalty program is the clean car guarantee, sometimes called a rainy day guarantee. Typically marketed with top packages, it invites the customer to come back two to five days later to rewash if their car gets dirty. Consumers perceive this as high value; in reality the average redemption rate is around 3 percent.

Experiment with new promotions, products, pricing, and offerings for your customers to create new revenue. Programs can be introduced as a limited-time offering. Don’t be afraid of starting with a simple time-bound offer, and determine later if you want to incorporate it long term.

Lee Soap is an industry leader providing turn-key products and solutions for the
Automotive Care, Warewash, Laundry, Industrial and Janitorial industry.

More than just great products, we’re your solution to better results
and more efficient operations.

Quality Products.    Expertise.    P.O.S. Creative.    Training & Follow-up.

Precautions to take when washing a classic car

There are quite a few precautions classic car owners should take to protect their investments and keep their cars in tip-top shape.

When it comes to owning a beautiful classic car, most owners like to see their investment washed weekly to remove all surface grime, dust or even chemicals from the roads that can deposit on the paint and ruin the lustrous shine. Washing away these impurities can help save the paint on the car before it is seriously damaged.

There are, however, quite a few precautions that classic car owners should take to ensure that they utilize the proper tools for overall carwash safety as well as procedures for keeping their classics looking their best without any scratching or marks that can occasionally be found when cars are washed improperly with the wrong materials.

Timing the wash of a classic car

For most vehicles, especially those driven on a daily basis, a weekly wash is going to be normal. Classic cars do not typically fall under the normal standards that are set for modern motor vehicles and if you store your classic or keep it under a tarp or in a garage, a weekly wash may not be necessary. While a great number of classics are stored or garaged, there are also quite a few that are driven heavily and will need to be washed frequently just as any other vehicle.

If you take your classic car to several car shows or events, locally or across the country, it will need to be washed whether you drive it or have it shipped on a professional auto carrier. There are quite a few contaminants in the atmosphere that can cause damage to paint on a car and no matter how one is traveling, these foul substances can, and do come into contact with cars. Bugs are one of the worst when it comes to damaging paint and other surface areas of a car as they not only cause grime to build up when they slam into a car but they can cause paint damaging scratches and even corrosion on the car.

No matter what substance has caused dirt, grease, grime or other marks to be on the car, letting them stay on without a proper washing can really ruin a good paint job and cause the value of a car to rapidly drop. To ensure that this does not happen, it is always a great idea to make sure a wash is scheduled weekly to get the car clean.

Getting the wash started

When it is time to detail the car with a good wash and even possibly a waxing, you need to use the right tools in order to make sure the car is not damaged during the attempt to keep it clean and looking vibrant and shiny. Years ago, many carwashes used hard nylon cords that would essentially scrape all of the dirt from a car while at the same time also leave some pretty hefty circular scratches along the door panels, hood or trunk while in the process of “cleaning” the car.

Today, a great deal of professional carwash businesses have been choosing to use foam spray machines and softer water in order to prevent damage. There are also quite a few carwashes that use eco-friendly soaps that help keep the environment clean as they are washing cars. This is great for not only modern cars, but also for classic and collectible cars and trucks as it helps prevent surface scratches that can cause expensive damage on an expensive and hard to find automobile.

To wash a classic car with a low risk of damage, be sure to use sheepskin or cotton chenille washing mitts when at all possible as they are soft and leave no marks when used on the surface. They also tend to glide along the car’s surface and easily fit into all areas from large, flat areas to the tiniest nooks and crannies from front to back which makes the whole wash go by much faster than when using a heavy brush or large, bulky sponge.

The steps to a good classic carwash

It is very important, especially when you are washing a classic car, to have everything washed in the best sequence possible in order to achieve the best looking end results when you are finished with the wash.

  • Start at the top. No matter what kind of a car or truck you may be washing, starting at the top is always going to be a must if you want the best results. When you start at the top of a car, it prevents grime from falling onto a section of the car that is already clean and re-contaminating it. If you were to start at the bottom of the car, you are bound to get harsh metal shavings from the brakes as well as oils and other dirt from the roadways all over the car. When you begin at the top, all of this safely washes away and is not pulled from one area of the car to another where it could potentially cause paint scratches or other damage.
  • Use the right soap. There are so many people out there that will pull their car into the driveway on a hot and sunny day and wash it with dish soap. This may be great when you want to scrub grease away from pots and pans, but when it comes to a car dish soap can be very harsh and will make the paint look extremely dull and lifeless. Help customers understand that professional carwash soap are thick and foamy and will leave the classic car body looking as fabulous as it should.
  • Get the wheels last. Once you finish all of the painted surfaces of the car, you can start on the wheels and tires. These should always be cleaned last as they are the grimiest areas of the car and tend to have plenty of buildup on them that includes thick grease, brake shavings and thick mud or soil from roadways.
  • Finish it up. Once you have washed the entire vehicle it is best to use a steady stream of free-flowing water to make sure all areas are thoroughly rinsed and soap free. Many carwashes now offer a steady water flow that causes the water bead up on the car which helps to keep the car spot free once you drive away.

After the car has been fully washed, it is very important for a classic car to be completely dried before it leaves the carwash parking lot. Since water contains small minerals, it will dry and leave mineral marks on the paint of a car. Drying is one of the most important steps when washing a classic car and you need to use a soft leather chamois or a soft microfiber towel instead of regular hand towels as these can scratch the surface of the car.

When you are drying, again start at the top and move your way slowly to the bottom of the car. Be sure to dry even the tiniest crevices of the car as rust is very prone to set up in classic cars and always make sure the towel that you are using is clean and dirt free. Always dry the tires and wheels last to ensure that no grease will be spread back across the paint once you have it completely clean and dried. Changing towels often when drying a car is going to be imperative when it comes to having a shiny and clean car when you are finished.

A market leader, Lee Soap’s car wash products set the industry standard for service excellence and product innovation. Product quality, consistency, availability, and packaging are under continual review. Facility upgrades, equipment upgrades and quality control programs assure our customers the best possible value for their money.

Lee Soap
6620 E. 49th Ave
Commerce City, CO 80022
1-800-888-1896     l


Carwash Safety and Hazard Prevention Practices

The success of any safety initiative, with regards to hazards at the wash, begins with the obvious.

Too often, problems are overlooked because carwash professionals become accustomed to these issues on a regular basis. For example, some areas of the wash may become compromised by transfer from the chemicals at the exit. Employees see the discoloration all the time and may think nothing of it. However, added substances can make parts of the property more susceptible to slip and falls, leading to increased liability.

One way to combat this issue is to institute a process of having an employee perform a walkthrough of the wash every day before opening for business.

It is also recommended that this person be rotated periodically to ensure the carwash is being looked over by new eyes and a different perspective. Create a simple form to record any problems employees may detect.

For example:



Creating a process is the first step, but it is then imperative to provide employees a forum where they can share what they have observed. Finally, any hazards that are identified as dangerous to employees or customers must be corrected immediately.

In the example mentioned earlier, power washing the affected areas regularly may be the logical solution to minimizing the potential effect of the slippery surface. And, this should be an easy and cost-effective procedure to implement.

So, owners and operators should ask if their carwash reviews and implements safety initiatives on a regular basis. If not, they should incorporate a plan to start right away.

An example of a consequence when these things are overlooked can be found here.

Also, please visit my earlier blog posted in February 2014, titled “What is a Crushed Foot worth?” You can find this blog post here. Outlined in this post is a detailed explanation of how to develop a formal hazard assessment program.

The bottom line is that developing proactive measures to avoid unintended injuries at the wash is worth the investment every time. Please don’t overlook the obvious, and be sure to have a plan in place now.

Remember, a safe wash protects people and profits.

Taking Strides in Reducing Water Consumption

Historically, the United States has had an abundance of water. The country has about 4.5 percent of the world’s population, but nearly 8 percent of its renewable freshwater.

While there have been serious droughts in the United States, including the great Dust Bowl, which dried up huge areas of the Midwest and northern plains in the early- to mid-1930s, it was not until the late 1970s and again in the 1980s that the water wake-up call sounded.

Droughts in the 70s and 80s

In 1977 and then again in the late 1980s, California was hit by two very serious droughts. The first one only lasted about one year. But, if it had lasted longer, the state would have essentially gone dry.

The drought in the late 1980s was a bit less severe, but still resulted in some of the first water restrictions ever passed in the country. These restrictions required toilet manufacturers to reduce the amount of water their fixtures used to 1.6 gallons per flush down from 2 to more than 3 gallons per flush. Urinals were restricted to about one gallon, which was also a significant reduction.

The Result: Technology Improvements

These droughts and regulations became the impetus for manufacturers to come up with new technologies to reduce the amount of water in products we use. For instance, a recent report by the non-profit Alliance for Water Efficiency compares water-using products we use every day in homes and offices with how much water these products used in the 1980s. Among the report’s findings are the following:

  • Commercial faucets showed an 86 percent reduction (from 3.5 to .5 gallons per minute) in the amount of water used in 2015 compared to the 1980s.
  • Commercial toilets showed a 68 percent reduction (from 5 to 1.6 gallons per minute) in the amount of water used in 2015 compared to the 1980s.
  • Urinals showed a 67 percent reduction (from 14 to 5 gallons per cycle) in the amount of water used in 2015 compared to the 1980s.

Impacting the Professional Cleaning Industry

Almost 30 years ago when manufacturers began introducing portable low-moisture carpet extractors, the goals were to address environmental issues and encourage greater customer satisfaction with faster drying times.

However, in order to build the machines, manufacturers had to either improve the vacuum systems on the extractors so the equipment could remove more moisture or reduce the amount of water the machines used in the first place.

However, what many manufacturers did was a combination of both. Traditional carpet extractors were using 1.5 or more gallons of water per minute. This means a 60-minute carpet cleaning job could easily use up to 100 gallons of water. With machines that consumed less than 1 gallon of water per minute, those numbers could be brought down to 50 to 60 gallons.

Similarly, equipment sometimes referred to as low-moisture floor machines have also helped reduce water consumption. An example of low-moisture equipment is cylindrical brush floor machines. These machines use as much as 30 percent less water than a comparable rotary floor machine, simply by the way they work and their designed.

Even microfiber cloths and mop heads have helped the industry use less water. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), water use is cut by 95 percent when using a microfiber mop head compared to a traditional string mop.

How to Practice Water Reduction

Beyond these technologies, there are ways cleaning professionals can help reduce the amount of water used in cleaning, and help the facilities they clean use less water. Among them are the following:

  • If a hose must be used to clean, do not use an open hose. Instead, use a spray gun that ensures water releases only when necessary.
  • If using a nozzle on a hose, change the nozzle every few months. Orifices on nozzles become wider as they are used, causing the nozzle to use considerably more water.
  • When cleaning commercial kitchens, a wall-mounted chemical/water-dispensing system can be very effective; however, these systems can release more than 10 gallons of water per minute— 600 gallons in an hour.
  • Encapsulation and other dry carpet cleaning systems use no water at all and can help delay carpet extraction by several months.
  • Use chemical dilution systems; while these systems were designed to monitor chemical use, they also monitor water use and can ensure to use enough water only to address the cleaning task at hand.
  • Suggest that facility managers conduct a water audit; a water audit can show where water is being used, misused, or can be used more efficiently.
  • Take a leading role in educating your customers and building users on ways to reduce consumption; this helps build customer loyalty, and using water more efficiently is something all build users must do.

Where it All Stands

Does all this good news mean we are out of the woods when it comes to water shortages in the United States? No. We are far from it. Climate change is having a big impact on water resources. Some areas of the country are experiencing more severe droughts than ever before. Even in water-rich areas of the country, due to warmer temperatures, the rate of evaporation has increased.

While we have made significant progress in reducing water consumption during the past 30 years, we are, at this time, in the second wave of water efficiency. The third wave, which is right around the corner, is going to result in more technologies, procedures, and products that can help us reduce water consumption far more than we have so far.

Convenience Stores and Carwashing: A Bright Future

To begin, I would like to share some information regarding my background as well as why I believe those who are in carwashing are in one of the best industries there is today, and moving forward.

I have been writing articles for convenience store trade magazines for the past nine years, and I appreciate the opportunity to write for Professional Carwashing & Detailing. But, what sets me apart from other individuals who also write articles for trade magazines is that I have owned and operated many businesses. As a result, I write from experience.

To date, I have owned 36 different businesses, including a c-store, motel, manufacturing company, television station, radio station, real estate brokerage companies, a real estate development company, building strip centers, 32 restaurants and 150-plus retail stores located in 27 states and Canada. Additionally, I have taken one company public on the stock market.

I have had as few as one employee and as many as 700 employees, and I have been involved in the sale of more than 500 businesses.

I am sharing all this with you to let you know that I have probably screwed up more things in business than you can imagine — which is what I call “expensive experience.” My goals are to ensure you don’t make the same mistakes I have made and to guide you down the road of profits while saving you time and money.

Over the past 16 years, I have been a business broker helping owners either get involved in a new venture or get out of one; and, with my experience of owning so many different businesses, I have been successful in helping a lot of people, which is something I enjoy.

Because I can relate to the many issues a business owner faces on a daily basis, such as employee challenges, government regulations, cash flow, vendors and bankers, just to name a few, I have had the opportunity to review a lot of profit and loss statements. I know how to follow the money, and I understand the tax benefits of owning a business.

I believe everyone should own a business. I also think you are situated to make more money now than ever before based on where we are in today’s economy.

One lucrative business to own at the moment is a professional carwash. In fact, I was recently talking with a friend who is in the carwash business and owns some self-serve and automatic carwashes, which are all updated and well-kept. The carwashes are not in major cities; instead, they are in small towns within a 100-mile radius of where he lives.

He has minimal employees, which translates into fewer problems and less government regulation, cash flow seven days a week and the business makes money for him while he sleeps. His carwashes are very profitable.

So, why do I think carwashes have a bright future? Because the U.S. retail industry is in turmoil.

Retail is down

The 2015 holiday season for in-store sales was a disaster for many of the largest retailers. Nordstrom Inc., Macy’s Inc., Sears Holding Corp. and Kmart, and even Wal-Mart Stores Inc. experienced down sales last year. Inc. now accounts for roughly 50 percent of all online retail sales growth in the U.S. and 24 percent of total retail sales growth, according to Macquarie Research. For every $1 of e-commerce growth, Amazon will take 51 cents.1 So, if you had any thoughts about getting into the retail business, think again — unless you want Amazon for your partner.

Growing auto sales

How about the auto industry? In 2015 automakers sold 17.5 million cars and light trucks in the U.S., which is a 5.7 percent increase over 2014, setting a record year with automakers projecting a continuation of the robust demand for higher-margin pickup trucks and sport-utility vehicles into 2016 due to cheaper gas prices.

The average length of vehicle ownership has reached 6.5 years, which is over two years longer than the average in 2006. Likewise, the number of cars over 12 years old continues to grow and is expected to increase 15 percent by 2020.2

People are buying more vehicles and keeping their cars longer. Sounds like a perfect storm to me. Why? Simply put, Americans love their automobiles.

The convenience factor

What about the c-store industry? Well, the U.S. c-store count increased to 154,195 sites as of Dec. 31, 2015 — a 0.9 percent increase (1,401 stores) from the previous year. C-stores account for 34.2 percent of all outlets in the U.S., which is significantly higher than the nation’s total of other retail channels, including supermarkets and supercenters (51,055 stores), drug stores (41,969 stores) and dollar stores (27,378 stores).

Overall, 80.7 percent of c-stores (124,374) sell motor fuels. The convenience retailing industry continues to be dominated by single-store operators, which account for 63.1 percent of all c-stores (97,359 stores total) and 74.3 percent of store growth in 2015. Over the last three decades, the c-store industry has doubled in size.3 The future of the c-store industry also looks bright because of the increase in disposable income from consumers saving at the gas pump and due to increased visits to c-stores.

Moreover, it’s good to remember why they are called c-stores. Because most consumers go to c-stores for the convenience over the prices, this allows these businesses to have higher gross profit margins than normal retail stores.

Owning a professional carwashing business has many parallels with owning a c-store. Besides owning a business that offers convenience, the carwashing industry is also experiencing solid growth, as discussed earlier in this article.

Overall statistics show approximately 113,000 carwashes are located in the U.S., which primarily consist of conveyors, self-serves and in-bay automatics. Analysts predict a 2.7 percent growth for the carwash industry over the next 10 years based on economic conditions of the consumer and areas of growth potential.4

Bringing it all together

As mentioned, the retail business is constantly evolving, bringing a vast range of new services for consumers, such as Groupon, Uber, Airbnb and Amazon. Each one is competing for consumers’ wallets, and each one is trying to disrupt the marketplace.

Then, we have the c-store industry, which is growing in spite of the push to end the tobacco market, which was the backbone of the c-store business for decades; and more people are on the roads today than ever before, which is also a key contributor of growth in this market. In fact, at the end of the 1950s approximately 58 million cars were sold, and this time period was considered a boom era for the sale of automobiles. Today, over 255 million cars and trucks are on the roads.

Similarly, the U.S. population was 181 million in 1960; and, at the end of 2015, the population in the U.S. was 323 million.

So, what does this tell us? It tells us opportunities for carwashes, c-stores and auto-related services are on the rise. More people equals more cars, which equates to additional opportunities.

So the retail industry has taken a hit while c-stores are growing. C-stores and carwashes have become destination locations. Why not take your industry expertise and partner with a c-store that doesn’t have a carwash?

Many opportunities are available to apply your knowledge. There are more people and more vehicles on the road today than ever before. All you have to do is connect the dots to see that the carwashing market and the c-store industry are solid business investments.

FROM CAR WASH MAGAZINE: When in drought …

The nearly dry bottom of the Almaden Reservoir is shown near San Jose, California Jan. 21, 2014.

The nearly dry bottom of the Almaden Reservoir is shown near San Jose, California Jan. 21, 2014.

Apr 29, 2016

By Sandy Smith

When it comes to a dry spell, car washes make an easy mark.

“It’s easy to look at a car wash and say, ‘Oh my goodness. Look at the amount of water that is being used,’” said Claire Moore, chief operating officer of the International Carwash Association. “In reality, it is using very small amount of fresh water to get that car clean. The car wash is easy to target because of the consumer view of what they see. They don’t realize those car washes use less water than taking a shower.”

Operators know it, to be sure, but they often fail to communicate with customers and regulators.

“In the last eight or 10 years, I have seen a significant uptick in operators being more conscious about their water usage,” said Gary Hirsh, president of Purclean. It is a trend that he’s seen in other high-water-usage industries too. “Most golf courses for years have been using reclaimed water. It’s very, very common. Professional laundries are now reclaiming water.”

But, like car washes, those industries sometimes stand out when a drought brings dried lawns and concerns over the availability of quality water.

For instance, when drought hit California last summer, car wash owners had a big target on their backs. Auto manufacturer Volvo launched a “drive dirty” campaign — along with its own brand of waterless car wash solution. A Los Angeles-based water conservation organization offered car magnets for those who would “Go Dirty for the Drought.” At the other end of the extreme: California Gov. Jerry Brown’s emergency measures banned car washing, except at professional services firms with reclaimed water.

While these sorts of actions may create a feel-good moment during a significant crisis, they ignore the fact that professional car washes today use significantly less water than at-home washing. An added benefit: Professional car washes treat water while homeowners have no way to recapture the soapy water, allowing it to wash into streams.

Even self-serve washes — including those without water reclamation systems — out-perform bucket washing.

“A professional car wash offers water savings,” said Bryant Ruder, general manager of SoBrite Technologies. “If you’re in a self-service bay, the gun is going to give you 3-4 gallons per minute so you can wash faster than using the garden hose outside. On the conveyor-based wash, the water savings can be anywhere from 40-80 percent, if not more.”

That’s one of the reasons that ICA has developed its WaterSavers program, which rewards car wash operators for improving water quality and conservation. The WaterSavers program was introduced as a way to help educate consumers at the grassroots level by providing marketing resources to help operators communicate their message of environmental responsibility while supplementing those efforts with consumer marketing campaigns, including blogger outreach, pre-packaged press releases, digital media buys and Google AdWords efforts.

The program also created a model drought response plan for operators to use when working with water regulators to help educate them on actions to take during dry periods or droughts. Steps include banning at-home washing except on certain days (in the drought’s earliest stages) to offering a surcharge on commercial water use (with an exemption for locations using treated waste water) during the driest stages.

The States of Drought

Dr. Michael Hayes of the National Drought Mitigation Center (NMDC) would like for droughts to be seen as a “normal part of climate,” meaning that droughts are coming — if they are not currently occurring. He points to a 2000-2001 drought in Maine; the governor sought a federal disaster declaration. “If Maine can have a drought serious enough to prompt the governor to make a disaster declaration, anywhere can.”

The drought in the Southwest — particularly California — is more long-term in nature and won’t be solved with a few rain showers. In February, for instance, much of the state was still in a state of extreme drought, though January brought heavy rainfall and an above-average snowpack. The California State Water Resources Board has extended drought-related emergency regulations through at least summer. According to the federal drought monitor for February (, New York, Hawaii, New Hampshire and Texas also were abnormally dry. Most of California, Oregon, Idaho and Nevada were in various stages of drought.

While drought is apparent in most regions of the country, Hirsh sees plenty of reasons for operators to improve their water usage, regardless. “It is the right thing to do,” he said. “Water is a limited natural resource. For many reasons, what we’re seeing is a major focus on water conservation, specifically for that reason.”

As he works with operators across the country, he sees many municipalities requiring water reclamation systems in new car washes. “Then, there is the other green,” he said. “Water and sewer rates are going up exponentially, because of the drought, but also because of the recognition of the limits of this natural resource.”

Ruder sees the same thing, particularly in the Northeast. “They really don’t have a lot of septic in the area overall,” he said. “Most facilities have leech fields because it is so hilly that you can’t run sewer lines. In the Northeast, there is more of an environmental concern, while in the Southeast and Southwest there is more of a financial incentive to reclaim because of the costs.”

With the aging infrastructure — and the demands on ratepayers to fix it — rates aren’t headed down anytime soon, Ruder and Hirsh both say.

The Story to Tell

Regardless of what is driving the issue — a drought, environmental concerns or financial concerns — the industry has an important story to tell. Moore recommends car wash operators work with their local communities well in advance of any crisis.

“When you get into a situation like there was last year in Texas or California, it’s too late,” she said. “The regulators or the utilities have so much on their minds in cutting down the water to conserve it. They don’t have time to be educated on every single small business using water. Doing so may lead to cost savings for them if their cost of water is cheap now. It will help them immensely if they’re ever faced with any type of drought situation. Most of the world will face a drought situation in some point in the near future. It helps to educate so that when cuts do have to be made, the car wash isn’t the first place they look.”

And it helps to properly explain reclamation to offset exorbitant sewer rates since most municipalities assume that all the water going in must also go out. Not so with reclamation systems.

“It requires educating them on how your car wash works,” Moore said. “You’re taking it in from the water utility, but only a small percentage of fresh water leaves the car wash. The more education and time you can spend with the local utility when not in a state of emergency, the better.”

And take it a step further: Educate the consumers, Hirsh said. “The motoring demographic is becoming much younger,” he said. “They are extremely conscious of the environment. There are numerous studies out there that show they will drive a little further and pay a little more to patronize companies that are environmentally friendly and communicate their environmental role.”

For more in-depth content on topics that matter to your business, don’t miss the latest issue of CAR WASH Magazine.

Three More Car Wash Services You Can Offer To Increase Average Sale Price

Increasing your profit margin is a goal every car wash business owner wants to meet. If you increase the cost of the service without offering anything new or improving the current services, you will push the customers away and lose many potential customers. Here are a few ideas you can implement at your car wash business that will allow you to increase your sale price without compromising quality.

1. New Service Options

A great way to increase your average sale price is to offer additional services to your customers. Expanding your car wash to include additional services will allow you to offer additional options to your customers as well as bring in new clients. Some additional options you could consider for your car wash business could include:

2. Equipment Upgrades

The equipment you use in your car wash is important. Using the best equipment available to you will give you the opportunity to increase your sale price by giving the customer the satisfaction of knowing that their car wash will provide them with the best experience possible. Buying new equipment can be expensive but the benefits will end up out-weighing the cost. Older equipment may fail or damage a customer’s vehicle, which will end up costing you a lot more money in the long run. If you are using new equipment, you could advertise what is new at your business and how that equipment will help and improve the customers experience by using your car wash.

3. Additional Products

Having your car wash business offer additional products to customers is a great way to increase your sales. Products could also be used in promotions and giveaways to attract new customers. Some products you could sell at your business could be:

  • Car soap
  • Interior treatment/cleaners
  • Car mats
  • Seat covers
  • Sponges
  • Car fresheners

With effective marketing and sales, you could increase your profit margins by adding extra products.


5 Eco-friendly Car Washing Tips

A switch to a more environmentally friendly world is occurring right before our eyes. Green products are becoming increasingly popular, and more people are realizing the importance of taking care of the environment.

Do your customers know that commercial carwashes are actually more environmentally friendly than using a sponge, soap and bucket at home? Commercial carwashes throughout the U.S. are required by law to discharge dirty water into state-approved drainage facilities, then treat it or reuse it.

Because of the increasing popularity of environmentally friendly products, a lot of carwash products can be used to help protect the environment.

Whether you are just starting your own carwash or you have been in the business for a while, there is no time like the present to make the switch to green products.

As mentioned in the article “Going green: Save electricity, water and money,” featured in a previous issue of Professional Carwashing & Detailing, Gary Hirsh, president of New Wave Industries Ltd., PurClean™ and PurWater™, says the industry is experiencing an upward trend of carwash operators embracing eco-friendly products.

Just because you decide to be more environmentally friendly doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice the quality of service your company offers.

Check out some ways, provided below, to transform your location into an eco-friendly carwash.

Only use eco-friendly and biodegradable products
They are out there. Many companies are now offering and providing cost-effective and environmentally safe products for commercial carwashes. If there is a supplier that you have been working with and buying your products from, then discuss some greener options with them. Chances are the supplier won’t want to lose your business.

Discuss environmental standards, and make sure your suppliers are meeting them. The more people who make environmentally friendly products an important part of their businesses, the more the trend will catch on and gain popularity.

Make sure when looking for products that you purchase a solution that is both biodegradable and nontoxic. Look for environmentally friendly soaps that do not contain any of the following: petroleum-distillates, kerosene, silicone or mineral spirits.

Recycle and reuse your water
An interesting fact some people, including your customers, might not know is that carwashes use significantly less water when cleaning cars than what is used when washing a vehicle at home. According to the International Carwash Association (ICA), commercial facilities use an average of 45 gallons of water per wash. This compares to about 80 to 140 gallons of water used when washing a vehicle at home. It is important to educate your customers on such crucial statistics to not only help protect the environment but also to help maintain a steady customer base.

While the Clean Water Act of 1972 requires all carwash facilities to drain their waste water into a sewer system, many washes are also recycling and reusing their rinse water. If you haven’t already, look into reclaim technology, which helps to cut down on the amount of water used.

Foam brushes and soft touch technologies also provide a more efficient wash over touchless washes. Touchless washes are more apt to using more water and requiring higher chemical concentrations.

Operate high-pressure washing systems
High-pressure washing systems consume even less water than an average commercial carwash. If your location hasn’t switched to high-pressure water nozzles or a computer controlled system, this might be something to consider.

The high-pressure nozzles use water much more efficiently. These systems are helpful because they only use water when it is needed and measure how much should be used, rather than a water hose that stays on for the amount of time needed to wash a car. This conservation reduces water usage, which in turn cuts operating costs.

Use wind energy and solar power
Take a greener approach and don’t just stop with water usage by utilizing both wind and solar power at your facilities. You can completely transform your carwash and be more environmentally friendly in all aspects by participating in power programs.

Take a look into other energy sources that would be possible for your location. If there is a will, there is a way. By doing this, you can set yourself apart from other washes in your area.

Offer reusable cloths to customers instead of disposable products
If you provide cloths for customers to wipe off their cars after a wash, then make sure they are reusable. A great idea might be to award loyal customers if they bring back their reusable cloth after using to exchange for a clean cloth. Give a discount and encourage customers to reduce the amount of trash by reusing.

Also, if your location has vacuums place recycling bins nearby. Offering these bins will help reduce the amount of trash people toss away when cleaning out their cars that could otherwise be recycled.

These options will help to show your customers the positive effects of recycling and taking care of the environment.

As far as the business side of things, try to use recycled paper or reduce the amount of paper utilized in your office efforts.

Most people probably aren’t aware of the environmentally friendly aspects of professional carwashing versus washing their cars at home. Communicating your environmentally friendly approach can really help to attract customers to your business and to develop a great relationship with your community.

Share information and tips on your social media pages and website(s) to help spread the word. Stress the importance of how taking care of a car in an environmentally friendly way can be very helpful to the appearance of the vehicle for years to come.

Be sure to stay updated with industry associations, such as the ICA, so you can learn more about how to keep your carwash environmentally friendly. Also, do some research in your local area to find out how your business can become a “green carwash.”

Site Selection: Critical in Building a Car Wash

When it comes to selecting a location for a new carwash, owners should look at a potential site the way a consumer would — there is no substitute in committing to a property and building a $2 million facility. For the purpose of this article, we will discuss critical components of site selection for carwashes.


Many variables should be used to determine if a property is feasible and will perform at a high volume. At the top of your checklist should be reviewing the current demographics of a one-, three- and five-mile radius of the property. In my opinion, this is the most important step.

You need rooftops (lots of them) which will create a steady stream of traffic in the community that will patronize and support your carwash. Also, average household income, median income, average age, amount of vehicles in the area, what percentage is under the poverty line and the breakdown of the population are all factors to consider when reviewing this report.


What is the current zoning? Is it presently commercial, or will rezoning be required?

It is difficult, time-consuming and expensive to get a property rezoned from residential to commercial. Usually, the city or county will not consider re-zoning a property for the use of a carwash.

Property size

The property size is extremely important. You want to determine the acreage and actual dimensions. The ideal size for a tunnel carwash is approximately one acre. Additionally, a minimum of 225 feet will be required in one direction to allow for at least a 125-foot conveyor.

If the plan is to build an express exterior model, you need sufficient room for vacuum pads, queuing lanes and turning radiuses. If you want to build a flex-service, room is required for the post-vacuum and finishing area(s).

Building on less than an acre is certainly possible; however, everything will be reduced in size, and it becomes more difficult to perform at a high volume.

The proposed length of the tunnel is also important because the longer the tunnel and conveyor, the more equipment can be installed with proper, required spacing between the components.

With express exterior washes, you need space for required motors in the drying area to ensure a dry car. And, it has been determined in this wash type: The more vacuum pads, the better the operation.


Visibility and exposure are critical. If it’s out of sight, it’s out of mind. You may not want to build behind a service station or another type of business; for example, you do not see a McDonald’s or a major gas station out of view. Having the building out in front and built parallel to the main street is ideal.

If dimensions require the tunnel to be built perpendicular to the street, try to get the building (entrance or exit) close to the street for visibility.

Traffic counts

Traffic counts are something investors and developers put too much emphasis on. Even though we would rather have higher traffic counts than lower traffic counts, this variable is not nearly as vital as demographics. Keep in mind traffic is coming and going — usually heading to work or returning home — and many drivers do not want to get off of the highway to get their cars washed.

I have seen carwashes with extremely high traffic counts not performing the required volume because they did not have the population; and, I have also witnessed lower traffic counts with sufficient population performing high-volume counts.

Sometimes, real estate brokers and parties selling their products/services will put importance only on high traffic counts and do not have the experience or know how to advise if a property should really be considered.

Traffic speed, on the other hand, is important; for instance, if the traffic is going 50 miles or more per hour, drivers are usually going too fast to view the facility or to even want to turn in. It is also difficult for vehicles to exit the property into fast-moving traffic.

Entrance and exit points

The ingress/egress, which is the entrance/exit for the property, has to contribute to producing high volume. Is there a center median where vehicles have to go to the next intersection and make a U-turn? This will reduce the amount of customers who will consider patronizing your business.

Is the property on a service road where the vehicle has to leave the main street to enter a service road and then repeat the process getting back on the main street? All of this should be taken into consideration in analyzing the ingress/egress.

The community

Adjacent surroundings and communities are also noteworthy considerations. You should drive around and observe the businesses, shopping centers, strip malls, office buildings and residential areas.

Bear in mind if the property is in an industrial area, you may only be privileged to the existing traffic on weekdays; and, on weekends when you project your highest volume, streets could be bare and empty of any vehicles.

When driving around the residential areas, you want to view the housing, apartments versus homes, and the types of vehicles parked on the streets. Is the neighborhood deteriorating? Are vehicles so dirty you cannot clearly see their color? Is the neighborhood low-income where consumers may not be able to afford a carwash regardless of price?

Nearby competition

Competing carwashes in a three-mile radius must be seriously considered. Visit local washes that are not service stations or self-serve washes.

If your plan is to build an express exterior wash, can existing full-serves have the possibility of converting to an express or flex-serve? Are there already express locations within the marketing area?

Remember, whatever the population is in a three-mile radius, divide that into how many tunnel washes, including your potential site, are in the area. For example, if the population is 100,000 and you will be the third tunnel wash in the area, that reduces the population to approximately 35,000 for each location. In my opinion, there is too much competition for the population in this example.

Is there space for diversified or additional services or sales? A drive-thru fast food restaurant or a quick coffee shop could be compatible with an express exterior model.

Site costs

The cost of property or proposed ground rental on a lease agreement certainly has to be taken into consideration regarding your total investment cost or the monthly expense of your operation.

In the article “Site planning: Adding to the carwash experience,” featured in a past issue of Professional Carwashing & Detailing, an expert interviewed for the article noted that site selection is no time to penny-pinch, adding, “Never be cheap when choosing a property.” He could not be more accurate.

If the site is right and projects to generate high volume, it is worth paying an additional amount to obtain the property or to agree to a higher monthly rental simply because there is no substitute in obtaining the ideal site. Whatever amount you have to pay for the desired property will be amortized over many years of operating.

In the scheme of things, it will only require a minimum amount of increased volume to offset a high cost for the property or additional rent you projected.

Reports and reviews

You certainly want to check with the city or county planning department to determine the required entitlements, permits, setbacks, landscaping requirements, etc. You also want to review a preliminary title report to determine recorded underground easements.

You or your architect do not want to be surprised to discover underground easements where you are planning your improvements. Typically, it is difficult to get utility companies to agree to rerouting existing easements. It is also extremely expensive to do so even with their permission. Utility and sewer locations have to be determined because bringing these lines into the proposed site could be expensive.

Existing grades should also be reviewed — are they high or low? If you have to remove or bring in dirt, it adds to the cost of your development. The same is true for off-site improvements. If there are no sidewalks, curbs, gutters or area lighting, this cost could easily run $150,000 to $250,000.

Furthermore, you want to make absolutely sure the property is environmentally clean — not just to assure yourself, but a lender will require a Phase 1 report that has been performed within the last six months.

Site analysis

Finally, you must analyze the site; is the property and location viable for an express exterior, full-service or flex-service?  Is there a real need for this type of business in your desired location and community? Most importantly, should you proceed or fall back? And, what should you expect if you do go ahead and commit yourself to the cost of the property and building the facility?

At this point, you would want to prepare a projection statement with what you believe would be reasonable volume, gross income and expenses.

I have witnessed many mistakes with building tunnel carwashes. Some have been minor errors; others were major; and, unfortunately, many were fatal because the development(s) should not have been built in the first place, was not properly designed and/or wasn’t operated effectively, eventually leading to failure.

When building a tunnel carwash, and with the present and potential competition, there is little room for error. If the location measures up, and if built and operated properly, a carwash can be incredibly lucrative.

Courtesy: Harvey M. Miller, Car Wash Consultants


Evaluating Profit Potential By Car Wash Type

For new investors and established carwash owners alike, staying up to date on the various carwash types and trends is critical to ensure optimal and lucrative operations.

While the Professional Carwashing & Detailing team anxiously waits to share some key results of the recently launched 2016 PC&D Carwash Industry Benchmark Survey in our June issue, we created a brief infographic, provided below, which shows a few of the differences among conveyors, in-bay automatics and self-serves.

For new investors entering the carwashing market, staying up to date on the various carwash types and trends is key. And with the prevalent competition in the industry, this holds true for established carwashes as well.

Doing your due diligence, whether a rookie or a veteran carwash owner/operator, to ensure your car care business succeeds means researching the latest technologies and techniques, staying current on industry-related news and trends, and attending industry trade shows, such as the upcoming The Car Wash Show™ 2016.

In addition, implementing effective customer management practices and modern marketing strategies can help carwashes stay ahead of the competition and boost their bottom lines.




Courtesy: Professional Car Washing & Detailing