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7 Ways to Help Make a Self Service Car Wash Business a Success

self service car wash business

7 Ways to Help Make a Self Service Car Wash Business a Success

Is it time for a new business opportunity for you in the car wash industry? Reports show that the US car wash service market is expected to reach USD 20.74 billion by 2028. Within this market, a self service car wash business is a viable option. It can operate as a standalone business or it can support an existing business such as a convenience store, gas station or auto detailing shop. Self-serve car wash bays have the potential to do very well because the latest DIY self-service equipment and programs offer more wash options and convenience than ever to the customer.

What else makes a self service car wash business a good opportunity? Primarily, modern car wash systems are easy to run and maintain. You can also reduce workforce costs thanks to new car wash technology, mobile apps and improved payment options that make customers less reliant on car wash staff.

7 Top Tips for a Successful Self Service Car Wash Business

Industry analysis predicts the self service car wash segment is expected to grow at a CAGR of 4.9% from 2021 to 2028. Bear in mind, however, the “do it yourself” approach of a self service car wash is nowhere near as popular as the “do it for me” trend that has boosted the market for on-demand mobile car wash and detailing. This is why it is important to research what type of car wash is the best fit for you. Market trends may influence your decisions but it is also worth noting that there will always be customers who want to wash their own vehicles. If you want to run a successful self service car wash business, take a look at these tips:

1. Join a Self Service Car Wash Franchise

Get the support of an established franchise. Some car wash franchises incorporate a self serve car wash into their business model. For example, IQ Car Wash started as an in-bay automatic (IBA) business on a shared site with a convenience store. It expanded with additional self serve car washes including a standalone operation. This chain of self serve car washes now offers a selection of wash programs including soft-touch and touch-free. IQ Franchise encourages entrepreneurs to own their own IQ Car Wash. Franchise costs are available on request from the company.

Jet Point Car Wash is a self service car wash franchise based in Europe but the company has ambitions to expand globally. The initial cost of opening a location is around $30,000. The franchise fee is $2,500. Estimated monthly net income is $4,300-$11,400.

There may be other car detailing franchises that you might feel more passionately about. So it is wise to explore all your options before signing the final franchise agreement.

2. Research the Self Service Car Wash Competition

Look at what your competition is doing. How do other successful self service car wash businesses operate? Study them carefully to see what they do to keep their customers happy. This includes noting the self service car wash location. Prime spots are close to busy roads or next to gas stations, garages, supermarkets and shopping centers. The following companies include self-service options in their business model.

  • Brown Bear self serve car wash business has multiple self-serve locations that are open 24 hours. Customers can choose from a range of self-serve options such as high-pressure soap, foam conditioner or a clear coat protectant. It also offers different wash packages to cater for those who don’t want to wash their own car.
  • ProClean Auto Wash has self service car washes and touchless in-bay automatics. At some of its locations it offers monthly memberships that give customers unlimited washes at a much lower rate than the single pay-per-wash price.
  • Bonnie Mist Car Wash offers full service and express tunnel washes. It also has self-service bays at some locations for those who prefer to wash their own vehicles. Professional detailing is also offered to boost sales. Customers choose different priced packages to suit their preferences.

3. Invest in High-Quality Self Service Car Wash Equipment and Detergents

If you want to own a successful self service car wash business, you will need to invest in high-quality equipment and detergents. Newer technology enables a greater number of cars to be washed per hour. However, self service car wash startup costs can quickly escalate. So you might want to think about seeking a partner to help pay for some of the following:

  • Modern touch control panels with intuitive navigation. Color-coded control panels with an illuminated program display also make the car wash more user-friendly.
  • Green biodegradable soaps and detergents. Eco-friendly chemicals won’t harm your customer’s car or the environment.
  • Innovative self-serve systems that include a wide variety of wash cycle features. For example, high-pressure soap and wax, low-pressure pre-soak, bug cleaner, foaming conditioner and spot-free rinse.
  • Powerful foam pistols with consistent spraying patterns.
  • Efficient water-recycling systems for a greener car wash experience.
  • State-of-the-art tire shine wand applicators for a spotless finish.
  • Blower to dry the vehicle.
  • Vacuum stalls should the customer want to clean their car interior.

4. Make Self Serve Car Wash Payments Easier for the Customer

You can have a coin-operated self service car wash business. However, customers are increasingly adapting to cashless transactions because it is quicker and more convenient. The latest payment systems now offer multiple end-user payment options including credit and debit cards. Digital tokens are also another way to accept payment. Mobile apps can process payments and pre-paid monthly membership, too, see below.

5. Use a Mobile App to Help Grow Your Self Service Car Wash Business

Integrate a mobile app program with your self service car wash business to grow your customer base and increase profitability. For example, encourage customers to purchase individual/monthly washes or wash bundles directly through the app. You can also send push notifications to alert customers to deals, discounts and promotions. A points loyalty system can feature on the app too. This allows customers to work their way towards a free car wash or other bonuses.

6. Offer Monthly Membership Programs to Increase Customer Loyalty

Unlimited car wash club membership is a popular invitation at many established car washes. The benefit for the customer is better value; the more you wash, the more you save. There is usually a monthly rate and customers are invited to wash their vehicle as often as they like. The aim is to increase customer loyalty and provide your self service car wash business with regular income.

7. Include Add-On Services to Boost Your Business Profits

Encourage the customer to spend more at the self-service bay by maximizing upsell opportunities. For example, additional profit centers could include a vacuuming station, interior detailing or a hand car wash for those customers who are driving the “do it for me” trend.


A successful self service car wash business means less maintenance and fewer employees for a business owner. Choosing a location near filling stations, convenience stores or other high-traffic areas is the important first step. Additionally, this type of car wash can be used to expand an existing business. However, you need to be at the top of your game by investing in the latest wash programs and technology if you want to make it a success. This requires considerable investment. Therefore, it might make more sense to look for a partner. There are environmental considerations, too. This type of car wash uses a lot of water compared to other greener car washes.

Check out the DetailXPerts franchise opportunity if you are more inspired by a water-saving car wash. Our steam-cleaning methods return exceptional results and are recognized as the future of detailing.  It is good for the car, good for the people, and good for the environment.

Be sure to follow DetailXPerts on LinkedIn to keep up to date with business news and the latest developments in the franchise world.


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