A Guide on How to Start Your Car Wash Business

Carwash businesses provide services such as washing, waxing, and cleaning for trailers, vans, trucks, and small vehicles. Currently, there are more than 60,000 retail car wash businesses scattered all over the United States and their combined annual income amounts to nearly USD 10 billion. It is considered one of the most profitable industries in the country because its continuous demand is driven by one of the things people need daily: transportation.

Secure Legal Paperwork

Once you have made up your mind that you want to open a car wash business, the first thing that you need to do is to apply for the necessary paperwork. Among all the legal documents, the business permit is one of the most important pieces of paper that you should have before beginning operations.

Generally speaking, a business license is a proof that you are a legal entity. It is also needed for several functions associated with social impact, public safety, zoning, and taxes. To make sure that you are following the correct process, you need to check with your local Small Business Administration (SBA) or County Clerk.

In addition to the business permit, you need to register with the local Department of Treasury for you to get a State Tax Number. You would also need an Employer ID Number (EIN) which you need to apply for at your local Department of Labor office. Other legal documents that you are required to have are:

  • Building Permit – must be signed by the State Highway Department, Fire Chief, and a Building Department Inspector.
  • Discharge or Sewer Permit – must be issued with approval by the local water authority and/or municipality
  • Sign Permit – the local municipality will send a building inspector before giving you this permit
  • Water Service Approval – the fire department and/or the water authority will check if your location has a sufficient water supply
  • Occupancy Permit – You will need this before moving into your business location. Your local municipality will grant you this permit once you have completed all the paperwork mentioned above. This will serve as your go signal to start conducting business on-site

car inspection

Invest in Equipment

Some of the items used in the car wash business are a bit pricey and financially wise, you can just buy the basic equipment first and just add later on. One of the top things that you should have on your list is an electric compact pressure washer that is at least 1600 watts. It is mainly used for siphoning detergent and heavy-duty cleaning. One unit of this can hold up to 5.5 liters of water.

Another important piece of equipment is the spot remover and shampoo station. It is used both for detailing and cleaning tough stains on the interior carpet. This can be wall-mounted or installed as a pedestal. This unit usually weighs 150 lbs and can hold 1 gallon each of spot remover and shampoo. You will also need a heavy-duty vacuum cleaner to collect dirt from hard-to-reach areas.

Detailing is also part of a car wash business. You will need foam cannon, plastic razor blades, drying tools, applicator, and brushes. In addition to that, you will need the means to lift the vehicle above ground and heavy-duty mobile column vehicle lifts are the perfect equipment for the job. Other items that you will need include:

  • Power sprayer with ½ horsepower
  • 340 liters pressure tank
  • Ladders
  • Large water containers
  • Water hose
  • Buckets and pails
  • Car shampoo
  • Hi-gloss finish car wax
  • Tire black
  • Car polisher

Operational Expenses

Operational expenses refer to the money you spend on things that keep your business up and running. At the top of your expenditures list is water. On average, you will need 45-65 gallons of water per bay which puts you at USD 0.16 cost of water per car.

When it comes to electricity, the equipment that uses the most energy is the blowers that you used to dry off the vehicles. To save energy, it is more practical to leave them on during the whole day rather than switching them on and off multiple times.

Potential Earnings

In general, people are more willing to spend money on a full-service car wash that is done by hand. This type of service is appealing to customers that do not wash their cars as often because they do not have spare time. The average cost of a full-service can range from USD 15 to USD 19 per vehicle.

If you are planning on putting up a self-service car wash, the US Census Bureau puts your potential income at around USD 1,500 every month or roughly USD 135,000 per year. An in-bay car wash, on the other hand, can yield a profit of USD 5 per wash while a conveyor-type service will give you an average income of USD 15 per vehicle.

Starting a business from the ground up is not an easy thing. It takes patience, determination, and hard work. With all these virtues in play, you can rest assured that your business will be a success.

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