|Running a Coin-Operated Car Wash
|Coin-operated car washes can earn a steady
cash flow with a modest investment of time.
If you are more aggressive and have the
funding, you can leverage your time to own
and operate a number of locations simultaneously.
In the typical self-service coin-operated
car wash, the customer does all the work.
In a sheltered “bay” the customer sprays
water, soap, and/or wax on the car from a
metal “wand” with a nozzle. Each bay also
typically has a “foaming brush” for removing
heavy grime. Also on site normally are coin-operated
vacuums for cleaning car interiors and mats.
The self-service car wash is a model of simplicity.
In a well-designed setup with quality equipment,
the amount of downtime and maintenance and
time you devote to resupplying the equipment
should be minimal. However, you must monitor
the coin boxes and bill (paper money) changers:
if they run out of coins or fail to accept
legitimate paper money, customers will be
turned away. Accordingly, be sure that this
equipment is of the highest quality, and
is secure against break-in.
You can also consider operating an unattended
automatic car wash that is activated by the customer,
who either drives through or (more commonly)
has his car pulled through. Inside these,
the car passes through a succession of equipment
that washes and dries it. This level of service
commands a higher price than a pure do-it-yourself
car wash, but you will have a larger investment
in equipment and more maintenance needs.
Unattended automatic car washes are increasingly
found on the grounds of gas stations. Some
operators of self-service, do-it-yourself
car washes also run unattended automatic
car washes on the same property.
In buying an existing location or in setting
up a new one, pay close attention both to
the number of cars within a few miles of
your operation and the number of other car
washes. Keep in mind that other types of
car washes may not be competitors since some
car owners may prefer self-service and relatively
few may switch between self and full service.
Your opportunity probably is greater in an
area with a large number of car-owning apartment
dwellers without places to do the washing
at home and where conditions mandate frequent
washings (dust or road salt).
Investing in professionally prepared market
research before taking the plunge can be
advisable. Pay very close attention to local
regulations, especially environmental regulations.
There may be restrictions on fresh water
and wastewater discharge, with possible requirements
to reuse and/or filter it.