Investor’s Checklist: Starting a self-service car wash business

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After months of research and thinking, you finally decided to open a self-service car wash and now it’s time for project planning. To help you along the way, we’ve created the checklist below that includes essential steps on how to start a car wash business.

1) Choosing the best location for car wash business

Location is key to the successful operations and overall growth of your car wash business. It plays a huge role in attracting and retaining customers. A good location is:

  • Easy to see and access
  • Along the main road or near a busy street
  • Next to a gas station
  • Next to a vehicle inspection station
  • Next to shopping centres and shopping areas
  • Near residential areas
  • Cities and towns with a population of over 5,000 people
  • Large enough: 30 square metres per each wash bay

2) Choosing a car wash manufacturer and supplier

Here are suggestions about what to look for when choosing a car wash manufacturer/brand.

  • Experience and reputation
  • References
  • Quality products and equipment
  • Value, convenience, affordability
  • An extensive network of service providers
  • Service support

And finally, try before you buy. Don’t hesitate to contact each car wash manufacturer and ask where you can try their car wash. Make the most of your test car washing therefore, you will be able to get the first-hand experience.

3) Selection of professional car wash equipment and washing programmes

According to, car wash owners agree that when you invest in your self-serve business it can yield fantastic results. Therefore configuring your dream car wash can be a challenging task. After you choose a car wash manufacturer you have to decide between the various types of car wash features.

Start by defining a number of self-service wash bays depending on the site and your objectives

  • Choose washing programmes
  • Choose the right structure
  • Choose additional equipment like vacuums, tyre shiners, air dry blowers, perfume etc.
  • Choose payment options and add-on features
  • To enrich customer experience consider adding peripheral equipment such as waste bins, mat holders and mat beaters, traffic lightning, wipe dispensers
  • Don’t forget booms, brushes, lances and lance holders

4) Do the paperwork

Each country/area has its legislation so make sure you take time to understand everything. Find out what are requirements from your local city/county department and collect needed permits. In general, you’ll need to hire a contractor or architect for building supervision and obtain a building permit and service connections (water, electricity, gas/fuel). Obtain a permit and make a connection with public sanitary sewer or build a septic tank and drain line, oil/water separators. You have to talk with your neighbours about how the construction affects them and be sure there will be no neighbour disputes.

5) How to finance your car wash business

You have several financing options to consider; your own funds, SBA loan, conventional bank loan or leasing. Which type of financing is the most suitable for you depends on the circumstances, your financial situation and your long-term plans.

6) Car wash installation

The required activities are planned based on the building plan and the obtained permits. Groundwork can last up to 2 months and onsite installation for 10 up to 15 days. The process of making a car wash takes up to 2 months and varies according to the complexity.