At Oasis Car Wash Systems we manufacture
dependable, high-speed, efficient car wash equipment with the
investor in mind. Our products are made to be the best on the
market. We don't take shortcuts, because there's no substitute
for high quality.
are looking for new and lucrative
business or investment opportunities, you’re probably interested in creative ways
to maximize your profits. If you would like to know one simple
solution to generate an amazing source of income 24 hours a day,
then please watch this important, three-minute message.
This Investor’s guide exists
primarily for individuals who are looking into investing in the car
wash industry for the first time, or who may only be curious as to
what is involved in starting a car washing business. Though the
following information is accurate, factors such as equipment and
land prices, demographics for different areas of the country, and
each investor’s personal expectations make it impossible for these
guidelines to fit everyone. Once familiarized with the subsequent
information, a potential investor should have enough background to
begin researching equipment manufacturers and distributors who will
be able to provide information such as pricing, equipment needs, and
Why invest in the car wash
Owning a car wash can
be a profitable investment opportunity. Here are a few
reasons many invest in a car wash:
– At a
self-serve or automatic car wash, either the customer or
equipment performs the labor, thereby eliminating the need for
many employees. Generally, it only takes one or two workers to
maintain and clean a site throughout busier parts of the day to
keep the operation running smoothly.
– From an operator’s standpoint, a car wash is relatively easy
to run in that there are few personnel issues, minimal product
inventories, and few maintenance requirements. Additionally,
cash flow is not a problem in that there are no accounts
receivable or personal checks.
A car wash has low direct operating costs, and fixed costs, such
as insurance and bookkeeping, are minimal.
High Yield –
The factors listed above, combined with 24/7, all-season demand,
expansion opportunities, and tax incentives can make a car wash
a high-return investment enterprise.
Taking the Plunge
While it takes less work to
run a car wash than many other businesses, an owner must be involved
if they expect to turn a profit. Absentee owners not only make their
sites vulnerable to theft and vandalism, but also compromise profits
if they expect to maintain a clean, efficient site and keep
customers satisfied without dedication. Though it is true a car wash
can “run itself” a good part of the time, owners must expect to be
present to perform maintenance and to handle problems as they come.
In order to grow and profit, an operator must approach car washing
with the same “married to it” sense of commitment applied to any
other small business.
Once an investor decides
the car wash industry is right for them, several factors need
Choosing the right location is the most important to step in
running a successful operation. Some factors to consider follow:
Traffic Count – A count
from 1,000 to 3,000+ cars/day is desirable, but a lower traffic site
may still succeed.
Site Accessibility – A
site should be highly accessible and visible from the street. Corner
lots, access from both sides of the street, multiple driveways,
and separate entrances and exits all make a site more accessible.
Being in a growing community, near a residential area (apartment
complexes and housing developments), and surrounded by other
convenience businesses is ideal.
Diverse Climate -
Some the busiest car washes are in regions where the weather
frequently changes. Adverse weather conditions, especially snow,
boost business considerably.
Zoning Laws – Local
zoning laws should be checked when choosing a site.
Nearby competition should be at least 1 to 2 miles away for a heavily
populated area, and farther in spots that are more rural.
Access to Utilities – Availability of electrical, gas, and sewer services should be
In self-serve and automatic car
washing, equipment is a site’s bread and butter. That is why buying
the cheapest equipment available leads many investors to the unintended
consequences of costly maintenance and down time. Although price will
be one of many determining factors in choosing equipment, the main
thing to consider is value. Dependability, warranty, output
capabilities, cleaning power, and durability are some of the factors
to keep in mind when considering the value of equipment.
With all the different
manufacturers and types of equipment on the market, knowing what to
buy can be difficult. Understanding the basic differences between
makes of equipment helps narrow the choices.
Self-service refers to the type
of equipment customers use to perform the act of washing cars
themselves, using a high-pressure wand and a brush. Many car washes
consist entirely of self-service equipment, while others use a
combination of self-service bays with one or more automatic bays.
Self-service washes tend to
be a planned destination for consumers, whereas using automatics is
usually an impulse decision. Though not as convenient for many consumers,
self-service equipment can be a good investment in small towns that
do not have the population or traffic to support an automatic, or
when used to diversify washing options at a site that does have an
Factors to seek when
choosing self-service equipment include:
– The electronics and computer that control the self-serve system
should be modern and easy to operate, and the mechanical components
should be efficient yet powerful.
Simple to Maintain – Easy
maintenance and accessibility are crucial to eliminating down time
and staying profitable.
Flexibility – A self-serve
system should offer multiple products and service options so the
customer is encouraged to spend more time in the bay. Furthermore,
operators should have the ability to automatically change price/time
options to promote sales during slow periods of the week.
Expandability – The
ability to add more options and expand the output capability of the
unit should exist, and the unit should be easy to update as newer
technology becomes available.
Streamlined Engineering –
A self-serve unit should be designed such that it is self-contained
and compact enough to save space in a control room while maximizing
Durability – As with all
car wash equipment, self-serve units should be able to withstand
years of heavy usage with minimal maintenance.
At the right location, offering
one or more automatic car wash bays in addition to, or even in place of, a self-service operation can substantially benefit profits.
Taking less time to complete while giving customers the convenience
of never needing to leave their cars, automatics outreach
self-serves in a market sector where expediency and ease are highly
Most automatic car wash
equipment available is defined by a few different classifications.
In-bay automatics, the most common type, are available in brush-wash
or touch-free versions. With this type of equipment, the customer
drives their car into the bay, stops, and the wash equipment passes
over the vehicle to perform the wash function. In-bay automatics do
not generally require an employee to guide customers into the bay.
Conversely, another make of
touch-free and brush wash equipment operates by dragging the
vehicle, on a conveyor, through stationary equipment in a tunnel
bay. Conveyor washes, also referred to as tunnel washes, require an
attendant to help customers align their vehicles to the conveyor’s
Among the basic varieties of
automatic equipment, research shows industry trends favoring
touchless, in-bay automatics over the last several years. Several
factors contribute to the steadily increasing popularity of these
machines as compared to in-bay brush and touchless and friction
Since in-bay automatics do
not require an attendant to guide the customer into the bay, owners
can leave their businesses running 24 hours a day, seven days a
week. From a customer’s standpoint, the convenience of being able to
drive into a car wash whether or not an employee is present is a
During a touch-free wash
no equipment contacts the car, minimizing the prospect for damage to
the vehicle. Friction washes, on the other hand, use spinning
brushes to clean the automobile by direct contact. Both methods
produce clean results, but many customers are wary of brushes which
could possibly scratch or otherwise damage their cars.
For an owner, touchless
equipment means drastically lower maintenance costs and downtime
compared to brush washes, as well as not having the liability of
owning equipment that is more likely to damage vehicles.
Though all touchless
equipment uses the same basic concept to clean cars, methods vary
greatly among manufacturers. Variations in operating costs, washing
speed and capabilities, dependability, construction, and washing
techniques are found from one manufacturer to the next.
After choosing a location,
investors should have a good idea about their equipment needs. For
example, an investor with a high traffic count in an accessible part
of a growing community will most likely want to install more than
one automatic and several self-service bays. A car wash owner in a
more rural area may only need one automatic and a few self-serve
bays. Once the investor anticipates how busy the site will be,
considering the following factors will help determine the equipment
– How much will be demanded from the equipment? On busy days when
customers are lined up in front of the wash bay, the speed at which
the equipment can clean cars has a direct effect on income.
– Though costs of water and
power are a factor, the real difference among manufacturers is in
equipment upkeep and maintenance costs. A machine requiring frequent
repair is not only costly from a parts and service standpoint, but
also means lost sales. A machine down for repair is not washing
cars, therefore not making money. Equipment with the most
streamlined construction will require the least amount of upkeep
because fewer things can go wrong.
– To clean cars effectively,
a car wash should adjust to the size of each vehicle. This ensures
that the washing solutions and high-pressure water are able to
perform properly no matter what size automobile comes through the
wash. Furthermore, a capable car wash offers the end user different
options about the way they want their car cleaned. Operators should
be able to program the equipment to suit a wide variety of users,
from those needing a basic wash and rinse to those requiring a wash
complete with wax and a blow-dry.
– A well-designed machine is
built to run efficiently and smoothly, minimizing the number of
moving parts in order to last longer and require less upkeep.
Furthermore, programming and making changes to the machine’s
operating system should be straightforward and simple so the
operator can make changes as needed.
Plain and simple, a car wash is
only as good as the company who stands behind it. A short-term
warranty is a sign of inferior workmanship or trouble-prone
equipment. Protecting an investment with the best warranty possible
is a no-brainer.
– Distributors sell most car wash
equipment to end users. This is an advantage to the investor because
it means someone in their area will be readily available to provide
parts and equipment service. Distributors are also beneficial to
investors who are still shopping for equipment, lending expertise in
everything from dealing with city councils and zoning laws to
selecting a great location. A big part of an investor’s
decision-making process should be allotted to choosing a
distributor. If in a region without a suitable distributor, buyers
should look for an equipment manufacturer with a strong, helpful,
and available support staff.
and automatic equipment is chosen, other important equipment choices
remain. Support equipment, such as changers and cashiers, must be
selected, as well as add-ons such as vacuums, vending machines, and
stand alone dryers, which turn a location into a full service wash,
Cashiers and Changers
Upon visiting a site,
a customer’s first interaction with the wash equipment will be
through an automatic cashier or a bill changer. Therefore, these
machines should not only incorporate modern technology, but be easy
to use as well. Cashiers and changers should offer versatile
payment options and clear instructions for the customer. A versatile
bill acceptor or auto cashier will accept credit cards, wash tokens
and certificates, cash, and coins. Menus and options should be
highly visible and well lighted.
Vacuums and Vending
self-service and automatic wash locations offer customers interior
maintenance options, including vacuums and vending for products such
as fragrance, glass cleaners, and interior cleaners and protectants.
Adding vacuums and vending gives customers the ability to clean
their cars, inside and out, at one location, while maximizing
investment return for the owner.
When shopping for
vacuums and other add-on equipment, an investor should look for the
most flexible, attractive equipment available. A versatile vacuum,
for instance, may offer customers the ability to shampoo their
interior before vacuuming. Vending amenities should also offer a
wide variety of products, from disposable towels to air fresheners.
Providing customers with these products and services not only adds
to the site’s profits, but also gives customers the idea all their
needs are being met.
Vacuum and vending
stations should be colorful and well lighted, and kept in clean,
A good distributor is crucial in helping through all stages of the construction process,
but the general guidelines, which follow, will provide assistance in
Once a location is chosen
and a site plan formulated, construction may begin. Potential
investors are often curious as to the cost of building a car wash,
but with so many construction options available, not to mention
differences in cost by region, it is impossible to give an accurate
cost estimate without knowing site specifics. As a general
approximation, however, cost often runs between $40K and $60K per
automatic bay. Again, this varies widely depending on the structure
type and location.
If a site is deemed
feasible and the decision is made to begin construction, one of the
first necessary steps is to obtain availability letters for all site
utilities. Zoning permits have to be secured as well – a
sometimes-lengthy process on which the investor should have a handle
before investing too much time and money on the site.
Once confident the car
wash will be built at the chosen location, an investor should team
with a distributor and builder to formulate the best site design for
To maximize revenue, a site
should be built for easy customer access, with a separate entrance
and exit. The wash should be attractive and highly visible from as
many directions as possible. To increase security, as well as ensure
customers use the facility well into the evening hours, a site
should be as heavily lighted as possible, making customers feel safe
Good marketing will make or
break a car wash operation. If an investor has the best equipment
available but fails to proclaim it to the world, he has negated his
efforts. Conversely, imagine how a wash could out-perform its
competition if it had great equipment and stellar marketing.
As previously mentioned,
the most important aspect of wash marketing is visibility. In
the automatic sector especially, a car wash is an impulse stop for
customers, so the more visible and accessible a car wash, the higher
Not only should the wash
building itself be highly visible, but wash signs should be well
lighted, informative, and attractive. Signs can be incorporated
tastefully through all aspects of the location, from the sign at the
street advertising the wash, to the smaller instructional signs in
the wash bays. To achieve a professional look, all signs should be
consistent in style and color.
Promotions and Discount
To further market a
location, operators turn to promotions and discount programs. For
example, to generate more business through a slow month in sales,
an operator may offer customers one dollar off all automatic
washes, or give extra time in self-service bays. This is why it is
important, as discussed earlier, to have flexible equipment with
Other promotion ideas include
soliciting local businesses and schools for fleet discount programs.
Some operators also reward customer loyalty by giving discounts to
frequent, faithful customers. For instance, customer purchases could
be tracked and rewarded with a free wash after the tenth one
Updating equipment with new
features is also a great way not only to promote the site, but stay
ahead of the competition. When equipment is updated, an operator
should advertise the improvement and explain how it will benefit the
Marketing should be a constantly
evolving process at any wash, and should be among the highest
priorities of running a site. Through visibility, accessibility,
promotions, and personal contact with the community, operators can
ensure their investment is getting the promotion
To keep customers satisfied
and costs at a minimum, operators should always ensure the site is
clean and equipment is functioning at its best. It is a good idea
for an employee or owner to spend at least a few hours every day
cleaning the lot and wash bays. Proper equipment performance relies
on timely preventive maintenance. To minimize down time, an operator
should perform preventive maintenance during slow periods of the
week and always keep commonly replaced parts on hand for quick
Though this Investor’s Guide was
not intended to answer every question about investing in the car
wash industry, our hope is that it provided a better
understanding of where to begin. Should you have further questions
regarding the issues raised in this guide, please contact Oasis.
Oasis wishes new investors the best of luck in this profitable,
Car Wash Systems, Inc., 2008