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Definitive Guide To Starting a Car Wash Business


A car wash business is a profitable venture when well-run and strategically located. This is evidenced in the rapid growth observed in the carwash industry. For instance, data from the International Carwash Association indicates that the percentage of drivers in the United States who use professional car wash services increased from 48% in 1994 to 77% in 2019. 

The increased demand for car wash services is associated with their improved speed, convenience, quality, and value. Thus, the industry shows significant potential for growth, indicating opportunities and profit for new businesses. 

Table of Contents
Why the car wash business shows potential
A step-by-step guide for starting a car wash business

Why the car wash business shows potential

A hand washing a car

Despite variations in profit depending on various business models, the gross margins for car wash businesses are very attractive. In addition, increased disposable incomes, convenience, and efficiency have increased demand for professional car wash services, resulting in rapid market growth. 

The car wash industry’s size and growth

Most automobile owners today prefer professional car washing services since they are perceived as effective for automobile maintenance. The value of the global car wash market was estimated at 30.45 billion in 2022 and is estimated to grow at a CAGR of 3.6%, thus increasing up to 40.41 billion by 2030. Moreover, approximately 8 million cars are washed at a car wash every day. Advancements in car wash technology will continue to drive industry growth and demand for car wash services due to increased efficiency, convenience, and safety.

Factors driving demand for professional car wash services

A high-pressure water car cleaning machine

There are various factors helping to drive demand for professional car washing services, including:

  • The adoption of car washing technologies that result in cleaner, drier vehicles in a shorter amount of time
  • Environmental friendliness as most professional car washing businesses now use advanced water recycling systems
  • Advanced automotive protection through additional services such as waxing, polishing, and sealants, which help protect the car’s exterior and prolong its lifespan

A step-by-step guide for starting a car wash business

A hand washing a black car using washer pressure hose

1) Conduct market research

The first step to opening a car wash business is conducting market research, helping to define the target market. In addition, competitor analysis helps you to understand competitors’ strengths and weaknesses. As an entrepreneur, this step pinpoints the opportunities and threats that characterize the car wash industry, thus facilitating effective planning.

2) Choose the type of car wash business model right for you

The business model that you choose to adopt should depend on the target market and the type of equipment installed for the wash process. Examples of various car wash business models to consider include:

1. Mobile car washers

Tricycle for mobile car washing services

Mobile car washers bring professional car washing services to the customers’ most convenient location, such as the home. As people’s lives become more hectic, this type of business model has become increasingly popular as it is convenient and saves time.


  • Convenient
  • Saves time
  • Flexible
  • Customizable
  • Ensures car safety


  • May require the customer to have adequate space
  • Limited equipment capacity
  • Difficult to operate in adverse weather conditions, such as extreme heat, snow, and rain, etc.

2. Self-service car washers

A self-service car wash

Self-service car washers allow customers to wash their own cars. The business typically provides the washing equipment, including a high-pressure washer, a foaming brush, and a vacuum, etc.


  • Self-service equipment
  • Limited staff members
  • Accessible location with ample packing
  • Regular maintenance and cleaning
  • An effective payment system


  • Cost-effectiveness
  • Convenience 
  • Higher customization since customers are in control of the washing process


  • Higher maintenance costs
  • Limited services
  • Increased safety concerns

3. Automatic car washers

An automatic car washing machine

Under this car wash business model, customers drive their cars through an automated car washing system. Since it is fully automated, customers do not require staff assistance, which helps reduce the number of employees hired.


  • Automated equipment
  • Minimal number of staff members
  • Requires regular equipment inspection and maintenance
  • An effective payment system


  • Convenient
  • High-speed, allowing customers to wash their cars quickly
  • Consistent, high-quality wash processes and results


  • Risk of damage
  • Limited customization since customers often access standardized, essential services
  • High water usage, leading to higher water bills and unsustainable environmental practices

4. Tunnel car washers

An image showcasing a tunnel car wash

Tunnel car washers, another type of automatic car wash, incorporate a conveyor system that moves the cars through the washing process. This advanced version of an automated car wash model is therefore ideal for businesses that need to clean a higher number of cars.


  • Characterized by a conveyor system
  • Advanced equipment compared to an automated car washers
  • Ideal for businesses with a high volume of cars
  • Multiple car washing stages, including pre-wash, soaping, high-pressure wash, wax application, and drying


  • High-speed car wash
  • Consistent, high-quality wash processes and results
  • Convenient and time-saving


  • Requires large investment in infrastructure and equipment
  • Has higher operational costs than other types of car washers
  • Risk of damage
  • Lacks personalized services

3) Determine the location for your business

The location of your car wash can determine its success. This is because the location plays a significant role in attracting and retaining customers and employees. A good location can determine a business’ long-term performance as well as determines various business aspects, including:

  • Visibility and accessibility
  • Demographics, which define the customer base
  • Competition
  • Zoning laws and water availability 
  • Costs, including renting or leasing, and utilities

4) Register your car wash business

Registering your car wash business helps to ensure compliance with local and national laws. In addition, registering as a legal entity, such as a Limited Liability Company (LLC), reduces personal liability in case of a lawsuit or other legal action. It also increases credibility, legitimacy, and trust, thus helping build a strong brand identity and attract customers.

5) Invest in the right equipment

It is crucial that you invest in the right equipment as this can influence business performance. For instance, robust and durable car washing machines and systems increase efficiency and reduce downtime. Some essential equipment needed to start a car wash business includes:

  1. High-pressure washer: This equipment helps clean the cars’ exteriors, wheels, tires, undercarriage, and engine compartments. They also use less water than traditional methods, such as garden hoses, thus helping to reduce water bills and environmental impact.  
  2. Air compressor: This equipment is used for drying vehicles, cleaning tools and equipment, inflating tires, and powering tools. Its versatility makes it an essential tool when starting or running a car wash business.
  3. Soap and chemicals: Car care products help to clean and protect vehicles. While there are various general-purpose car wash soaps, specialized chemicals are also used to clean specific car parts. For example, engine degreasers help remove oil and grime from the engine compartment.
  4. Water tanks and hoses: These are needed to ensure sufficient water supply to the washing equipment, support water conservation, and enable mobility, especially in mobile car wash business models
  5. Safety equipment: Protecting customer vehicles is a major priority for a car wash business. This can be achieved through soft brushes, foam pads, spot-free rinsing, microfiber towels, and protective coatings. In addition, the car wash should also have safety equipment, such as personal protective equipment, slip-resistant mats, warning signs, and emergency equipment like fire extinguishers and first aid kits to protect its employees and customers who visit the washing station.
  6. Payment system: This helps ensure convenient, accurate, fast payment transactions, and tracking of consumer behaviors and preferences for better decision-making  

6) Hire and train employees

Well-trained and competent employees influence a business’ success. Hiring and training employees empower them to:

  • Provide quality customer service
  • Maintain high-quality standards
  • Ensure compliance with the car wash industry’s laws and regulations
  • Ensure safety
  • Effectively manage business operations 

7) Create a marketing plan to promote your car wash business

The final step involves creating a marketing plan to promote your new car wash business. This step is essential for building awareness and differentiating your car wash business from competitors in the area. In addition, it should help to attract and retain customers, build your brand over the long term, and provide an avenue for revenue growth.


The car wash industry grows as more people opt for professional car washing services instead of home washing. Customers nowadays seek more efficient, convenient, and safe ways to maintain their vehicles’ quality and durability. The advancements in car wash technologies continues to help  bolster these aspirations. Therefore, the car wash industry’s developments, growth, and insights reflect opportunities for new businesses. For a huge range of products like the ones mentioned above, visit Alibaba.com.

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