Fuel Marketer News

Three Strategies to Increase Profits at a Car Wash

By David Dougherty

Adding or upgrading a car wash to any facility can boost your bottom line. With up to 80% of each car wash sales dollar representing gross profit, a car wash can be one of the most successful investments on the market today. Of course equipment is important, but these three strategies separate you from competition and help ensure that you exceed your business goals with a car wash system.

Increase Profits with a Car Wash

One: Partner with a Trusted Distributor

Technological advances have made both friction and touchless systems more reliable and efficient than ever before. However, a working relationship with a distributor isn’t an exact science.

From the exploratory phase, a distributor should be trusted as an ally for anything and everything. Successful car wash operators are the ones who have built strong relationships with their local distributors.

Much more than sales agents, these distributors act as your local expert and can provide you with valuable information regarding your local market, your potential customers, and your competition, as well as guide you through the process to make sure your business meets its full potential right away.

A strong distributor relationship doesn’t end once your wash system is installed…it’s really only just begun. They also provide additional revenue-generating equipment, factory-certified technical service, repair parts, and can assist in maximizing your wash and revenue potential. Each distributor’s goal is to develop a long-standing relationship to continually be your partner in growing your business. Some of the areas where you’ll be able to tap into the distributor’s knowledge include:

  • Assisting in site evaluations in order to select the best wash and options for your site
  • Delivering the vehicle wash system with the highest return on investment (ROI)
  • Identifying environmentally efficient solutions
  • Providing installation, preventative maintenance and emergency service
  • Determining a customized ROI calculator that will determine the average number of car washes per gallons of gas sold

Distributors help optimize a car wash to add an around-the-clock profit center and help enhance the experience for your customers.

Two: Optimize your Car Wash Site

Location is critical to the success of any car wash. When selecting your car wash location, your distributor will help you navigate all of the considerations including traffic count/directional purpose, neighborhood characteristics, population size and competition. After site selection, construction and installation, maintaining a car wash becomes a key strategy for continued growth. A car wash adds convenience for any customer and an owner is responsible for keeping the car wash clean, safe and operational for the customer.

In addition to a clean car, customers prefer a clean facility. At least one employee at the facility, or in an area, should be responsible for maintaining a clean site and taking care of sweeping, trash removal and overall cleanliness. A clean site projects success and has an influencing impact on repeat and potential customers.

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Customers also require a safe experience, especially with around-the-clock hours. A well-lit facility is crucial to delivering a safe car wash experience and lights should be replaced at regular intervals. Clear signage also contributes to a safe and inviting atmosphere.

Last but not least, your facility should offer added conveniences for customers and additional alternative revenue sources for you. Think about adding vacuums, vending machines and cash machines to your facility.

Three: Market your Car Wash with a Unique Mix of Tactics

So, you’ve worked with your distributor to build the perfect car wash facility. Now it’s time to drive traffic to your site. Through a mix of tactics, you can stay top-of-mind with existing customers and connect with potential new customers.

First and foremost, make a splash with a Grand Opening event. This promotion will allow you to leverage your new car wash before, during and after the launch. Here are a few ideas to boost the exposure of your special event.

  • The Final Countdown: Feature a countdown on your facility until the grand opening event. This will serve as a constant reminder to all who drive by about the all-new car wash. This could be a digital display or a large banner.
  • Grand Prize Raffle: Host a grand prize raffle where one winner will receive free car washes for a year. Require all entrants to give you their email address so you can build your e-newsletter database and continue to share updates with them.
  • Community Give Back: Partner with a local charity or organization for the grand opening event. A portion of the day’s total proceeds will go directly to the organization. This will generate positive public relations and give a large group of people an incentive to promote your event. It’s a win-win for everyone involved!

Some of the most effective marketing efforts can be done on-site. Take advantage of customers that are already at your location by reinforcing their choice and encouraging repeat visits.

  • Loyalty Program: Create a loyalty program to keep customers engaged with special deals and rewards.
  • Signage: Take advantage of on-site signage to promote your car wash. Large signs on buildings or along the road make for great attention grabbers.
  • In-Bay Wall Space: Leverage the in-bay car wash wall spaces by promoting other revenue streams or sell the advertising space to local businesses. You have a customer’s full attention while they’re in the car wash so make the most of it!
  • Offer Change Mats & Window Clings: Just a few great ways to remind customers about your car wash as they shop and pay in a c-store.

Finally, take advantage of these low-cost opportunities to maximize your exposure in the community.

  • Fundraisers: Similar to the Community Give Back at your Grand Opening event, partner with a local charity to promote car washes on a certain day and the organization receives a portion of the profits.
  • Social Media: Serve digital ads to your targeted audiences through social media. For example, feature a happy customer and their clean car on a Facebook ad targeted at people within a 10-mile radius of your location.
  • Local Media: Local radio and newspapers are cost-effective ways to reach potential customers. You can also work with media outlets to offer on-air prizes in exchange for promotional mentions.

Car wash investors across the country are cleaning up by tapping into the $15 billion car wash industry. With a trusted distributor, optimized site and effective marketing, you can turn a car wash into the highest-margin feature on your property.

About the Author

David Dougherty owned and operated car washes in the Midwestern United States for 10-plus years. Today, David is the senior product manager for in-bay automatics at PDQ Manufacturing Inc. in De Pere, Wisconsin. PDQ Manufacturing is recognized as the technological leader in vehicle wash systems, providing superior quality, outstanding support and products that contribute to its customers’ profitability. For more information, visit or call (800) 227-3373. David can be reached at