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How To Start a Car Wash Business in Six Simple Steps [2023 Update]

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As an entrepreneur, starting a business can be both exciting and daunting.

Are you beginning to explore the idea of launching a car wash?

In our 2023 update, we provide step-by-step guidance on how to start a car wash business.

You will gain insight into conducting market research, developing a strategic plan, hiring employees, and marketing your new venture.

With these resources in hand, you’ll arrive one step closer to getting that car wash off the ground.

How Profitable Is Owning a Car Wash Business?

The profitability of a car wash business can vary widely.

It depends on the business location, the cost of labor, and the level of competition.

However, it is also among the most popular businesses to buy.

Depending on the type of services offered, you can earn anywhere from $50,000 to several million a year.

Most full-service car washes can expect to gross between $100,000 to two million dollars.

To get a sense of the average car washing business profit, see this International Car Wash Association report.

Close to 63,000 car wash businesses in the U.S. produced $15 billion.

That is an average of approximately $240,000 per business.

What You’ll Need To Start a Car Wash Business [& Associated Costs]

Before launching your car wash business, consider these elements to ensure a successful journey.

  • Location: Find a suitable location with easy access and good visibility. Consider the cost of renting or buying the land and property.
  • Equipment: Include various hardware in your plans. You may need car wash units, ventilators, hoses, buckets, and mats. Depending on the size of the facility and your services, these costs can range from a few thousand dollars to several hundred thousand dollars.
  • Labor: If you plan to hire employees, factor in wage costs for their salaries or hourly wages.
  • Marketing: Advertising your business is essential if you want customers to know about it. It could include promotional materials such as website design, signage, or flyers. These all come with associated costs.
  • Water supply and treatment: You need a reliable water supply for the car wash and its treatments. You may need to install or rent a water treatment system.
  • Insurance: Put insurance in place to protect your business from any potential liabilities.
  • Supplies and chemicals: You will need to stock up on materials such as soaps, towels, waxes, and other cleaning supplies used in the car wash process.
  • Maintenance: You’ll need to use regular maintenance to keep the car wash running in top condition.

Do I Need a License or Certificates to Start a Car Wash Business?

Depending on your location, it may require a license or certificate to operate the business legally.

Each state has specific laws and regulations for operating this kind of business.

Contact local authorities to determine any licenses to acquire.

Why You Should Consider Starting a Car Wash Business as a Side Hustle

Learning how to start a car wash business includes attractive benefits.

Here are just four reasons that make this venture worth considering.

  • Investment potential: Starting a car wash can become lucrative compared to some other business types. Additionally, the car wash industry is fairly recession-proof, so you can expect a steady stream of customers and profits over time.
  • Flexible schedule: If you start a car wash as a side hustle, you can work on your schedule. You can decide how much or how little time you’d like to commit to it.
  • Easy to manage: With basic equipment and proper training, running a car wash is relatively easy to do. Machines do most of the work.
  • Low overhead costs: Operating a car wash business requires relatively low overhead costs. There are minimal expenses involved in maintaining the business.

How To Start a Car Wash Business in Six Simple Steps

With our comprehensive guide, you can set up a prosperous car wash business.

Your customers will enjoy the high-quality services that you provide.

Decide What Type of Car Wash You Want To Open

The first step in starting your car wash business is deciding what facility you want to open.

Do you want a hand car wash, an automated car wash, or a combination of both?

Consider the amount of space you have and the budget you have available to determine the best option for you.

Secure Funding

Once you have decided on a type of car wash, secure funding for your venture.

It can include obtaining a loan from a bank or other financial institution or getting investors to invest in your project.

Make sure you understand all the terms and requirements before signing any agreements.

Find the Right Location

Your car wash’s success depends largely on its location.

Look for areas close to sources of customers, like highways, shopping malls, and other local businesses.

Ensure that the area has safe access roads.

Can you provide plenty of parking spots for customers?

People don’t want to wait long when they come to use your services.

They also need space to dry their vehicles.

Purchase Necessary Equipment

Depending on the type of facility you open, the equipment could range from hoses and water tanks to automatic drying machines and high-pressure sprayers.

You will also need various shampoos, waxes, towels, brushes, and other supplies for washing cars properly.

Stock up on cleaning supplies to keep your facility clean and presentable.

Obtain Any Required Licenses or Permits

We mentioned this above.

However, you need to now do the work of getting your licenses or permits in place.

Contact your local government office or agencies responsible for regulating businesses in your area.

Ask them how to comply with all laws and regulations.

Hire Staff Members and Train Them Properly

Hire staff members capable of operating the equipment at your facility safely and efficiently.

Pay attention to finding people who possess excellent customer service skills.

Take some time training them thoroughly on how each piece of equipment works.

Teach them customer service tips, such as how best to interact with customers while maintaining an appropriate level of efficiency.

Things To Consider When Building a Car Wash Business

Before launching your car wash business, there are some other crucial aspects to consider.

Can You Run a Car Wash Business by Yourself?

Think about how much time you can devote to your car wash business.

If you don’t have enough time, then you may want to hire someone else to handle operations for you.

One or two employees will go a long way in helping you maintain your business.

What Does Your Competition Look Like?

Do some research and identify the competition levels in your area.

Find out how many other car washes are there in the area.

Identify how they differentiate themselves and how you can stand out in the crowd.


Consider ways to keep your car wash business environmentally friendly by using water-saving technologies, such as low-flow nozzles and water recycling systems.

These measures can help you save money and reduce your impact on the environment.


Take steps to ensure the safety of customers and employees, such as providing adequate lighting, security cameras, and alarm systems.


Have a plan in place for regularly cleaning and inspecting equipment to make sure it is functioning properly and safely at all times.


Develop a marketing plan that will get the word out about your business, attract new customers and keep existing customers coming back.

Investigate which types of advertising work best in your market area, such as print ads, radio ads, or a social media presence.

INSPIRATION: Car Wash Business Ideas

Are you eager to revolutionize the car washing industry by creating your very own business?

Here are four types of businesses that can help bring your vision to life.

  • Full-service car wash: Here is the most popular option for car washes. It includes a service bay with employees that will wash, dry, and wax the vehicle.You can use subscriptions for income. Subscriptions mean recurring revenue.
  • Self-service car wash: A self-service car wash allows customers to use machines or hoses to clean their cars at an affordable rate. Customers can purchase detergents and other cleaning products to use on their vehicles.
  • Tunnel car wash: Tunnel car washes use automated systems to move vehicles through a washing tunnel. They use high-pressure jets of water and specialized brushes to clean the exterior of the car.
  • Mobile car wash: Mobile car wash businesses come to customers’ locations of choice including homes or offices. They provide convenience for customers who do not have time or access to traditional car washes.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do you still have some questions about how to start a car wash business?

Here are answers to two commonly asked questions.

What are the cons of owning a car wash?

The start-up costs can be expensive.

You will likely need to purchase or lease the property for the car wash and install any necessary hardware.

Additionally, the upkeep of your equipment is essential and costly as it becomes exposed to the elements.

Is a mobile car wash profitable?

Going mobile means you can delay hiring employees immediately like you would with a traditional stationary car wash.

In addition, from a profitability standpoint, you can keep more of your earnings due by avoiding the need to buy large equipment.

As well, you don’t need to invest in expensive real estate.

Similar Businesses To Consider Starting

When looking to break into the car wash business, consider exploring other related industries that may bring more joy and satisfaction.

Wrapping Up

Jumpstart your entrepreneurship journey with a car wash business.

Not only is this an interesting option, but it can also become profitable.

Running it successfully can help you to become flush with free cash-flow.

Do you have a car wash business idea that you would like to share?

Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

Please share this article with others if you found it helpful.

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