Car washes can develop into lucrative businesses when established with solid business plans. Ideally, you will start with one car wash and expand, instead of opening multiple locations at the start. If you can control costs while satisfying customer demands, your car wash likely will succeed.
Explore car wash business models. Determine if you want to establish an automatic-only car wash, such as those that usually are located near gas stations. Automatic car washes require few or no employees, though you will make high initial investments for equipment. Another business model is an exterior automatic car wash coupled with hand interior detailing. Evaluate if you should hire (full or part time) employees or independent contractors. Also establish a customer lounge or waiting area that maintains an appropriate atmosphere. For instance, if you are targeting high-end clients, build a lounge that is clean, contains well kept furniture, and offers items such as reading materials, coffee, and snacks.
Your business should operate at least eight months each year. Decide if you will purchase or rent a space. If you are not operating during winter months, cut your operating expenses, such as utilities and supplies, as much as possible. If your supplier is increasing supply costs or decreasing product quality (e.g., smaller product or poorer quality), find alternative sources and negotiate favorable terms. Although you do not want to hastily terminate business relationships, realize that your expenses will directly affect whether your business is profitable. Always compare actual with projected expenses. If applicable, analyze how a discrepancy is developing.
Your location plays an essential role in your success. Before closing on a location, research traffic flows and accessibility. Places that are inaccessible (e.g., customers have to make U-turns to reach your car wash) or in secluded areas will not generate significant customer traffic. When you find a few locations that might work, analyze customer spending at adjacent businesses -- both unrelated and related. You especially want to study your competitors to find out if your business will be the fourth car wash within a 3-mile radius or if you have comfortable market share available because few car washes exist. In short, find a place that's convenient at a reasonable price.