A self-service car wash business is a business that provides a facility for car owners to wash their cars by themselves. Car owners that make use of self-service car wash, first pull into one of the empty bays and park their car. Insert money into the pay machine—the more money you insert, the more time you’ll have to clean your car.

You can always buy more time later if you need it. Your time should start immediately after you pay. The self-service car wash business is a niche idea in the car wash and auto detailing industry and the market size of the Car Wash & Auto Detailing industry is $13.7 billion in 2022.

It is important to state that the car wash industry is very fragmented with no company controlling a large portion of the industry. According to the United States Census Bureau, there are over 100,000 car wash facilities in the United States with Americans spending approximately $5.8 billion a year at these facilities.

Steps on How to Start a Self-Car Wash Business

  1. Conduct Market Research

The first step in the market research process for your self-service car wash business is to develop market-based research questions in line with your overall business goal and objective.

In this regard, you should source information that will help you maximize your business, information that will give you a reliable clue of what your potential market will be looking out for from a self-service car wash business and also help you operate your self-service car wash business with less stress and of course, build the business to profitability within the shortest time frame.

a. Who is the Target Market for Self-Car Wash Business?
  • Car Dealership Operators
  • Households and individuals that own cars
  • Taxi and car rental company drivers
  • Drivers for Transport Companies
  • Drivers for Haulage Companies
b. Is Self-Car Wash a Profitable Business?

Yes, the self-service car wash business is very profitable. Statistics show that in the US, players in the industry earn from $41,000 to $686,250 per year.

c. Are There Existing Niches in the Industry?

No, there are no existing niches when it comes to self-service car wash businesses because self-service car wash is a niche idea in the car wash and automobile detailing industry.

d. Who are the Major Competitors?
  • Full-Service Car Wash
  • Splash Car Wash
  • Goo-Goo Express Wash
  • Shine On Car Wash New York
  • Electrajet
  • Canton Car Wash
  • Xtreme Car Wash
  • Cool Wave Car Wash
  • Premier Car Washes
  • Whale Wash
  • 24Hr Car Wash
  • Valet Auto Wash
  • Wilcomatic Wash Systems
  • Wash Tec
  • Zips Car Wash
  • The Auto Spas
  • BlueWave Express
  • Champion Xpress
  • Istobal Vehicle Wash and Care
  • Shiners Car Wash.
e. Are There County or State Regulations or Zoning Laws for Self-Car Wash Business?

Yes, there are county or state regulations and zoning laws for self-service car wash businesses, and players in this industry are expected to work with the existing regulations governing such business in the county or state where their business is domiciled.

f. Is There a Franchise for Self-Service Car Wash Business?

Yes, there are franchise opportunities for the self-service car wash business. Here are some of them;

  • Monkey Shine Car Wash
  • Super Wash
  • Spot Not Car Wash
  • Goo 3-Minute Express Wash.
g. What Do You Need to Start a Self-Service Car Wash Business?
  • A Feasibility Report
  • Business and Marketing Plans
  • Business Licenses and Permits
  • A Well-Equipped Self-Service Car Wash Facility
  • EIN (Employer Identification Number) / Federal Tax ID Number.
  • A Corporate Bank Account
  • Employees
  • Startup Inventory
  1. Choose a Memorable Business Name

When looking to start a business, before you can begin to file the necessary documents with the constituted authorities or start your website, it is necessary that you come up with a name that you will be recognized with. It is essential that the name you come up with can easily be pronounced, is unique and easily memorable.

Some of the catchy business name ideas suitable for a self car wash business are;

Creative Self Car Wash Business Name ideas
  • R Drake® Self-Service Car Wash, Inc.
  • Blueberry® Self-Service Car Wash, Inc.
  • Car Nation® Self-Service Car Wash, Inc.
  • Ted Capstone™ Self-Service Car Wash, Inc.
  • Green Line® Self-Service Car Wash, Inc.
  • Sleek GAP® Self-Service Car Wash, Inc.
  • Auto Jonah® Self-Service Car Wash Company
  • Macron Martins® Self-Service Car Wash, LLC
  • High End® Luxury Self-Service Car Wash, Inc.
  • Wash Master® Self-Service Car Wash, Inc.
  • Vitus Lewis® Self-Service Car Wash, Inc.
  • Bourn Mort® Self-Service Car Wash, LLC
  • Classique Car® Self-Service Car Wash, Inc.
  • All Nation® Self-Service Car Wash, LLC
  • Mark Fernando® Self-Service Car Wash, Inc.
  • Tripod Car® Self-Service Car Wash, Inc.
  • The Kings® Self-Service Car Wash, Inc.
  • George Paulson® Self-Service Car Wash, LLC
  • Ken Garland® Self-Service Car Wash, Inc.
  • Gaggling Jamel© Self-Service Car Wash, Inc.
  1. Register Your Business

a. What Type of Business Structure is Best for Self-Service Car Wash Business?

Even though there are several options when it comes to the business structure for a self-service car wash business, the one that most players in this line of business consider is an LLC. It is common to consider an LLC because providers want to protect themselves from lawsuits.

Please note that an LLC will need an EIN if it has employees or if it will be required to file any of the excise tax forms listed below.

b. Steps to Form an LLC
  • Choose a Name for Your LLC.
  • File Articles of Organization.
  • Choose a registered agent.
  • Decide on member vs. manager management.
  • Create an LLC operating agreement.
  • Comply with other tax and regulatory requirements.
  • File annual reports.
c. What Type of License is Needed to Open a Self-Service Car Wash Business?
  • General Business License
  • Fire and Safety Permit (Fire certificates)
  • Zonal Permits
  • Signage Permit
  • State Occupational Licenses
  • Operational State Facility Inspections (Building Permits)
d. What Type of Certification is Needed to Open a Self-Service Car Wash Business?

You don’t need any certifications to open a self-service car wash business.

e. What Documents are Needed to Open a Self-Service Car Wash Business?
  • DBA
  • EIN
  • Business and liability insurance
  • Federal Tax Payer’s ID
  • State Permit and Building Approval
  • Federal Export Licenses
  • Certificate of Incorporation
  • Business License
  • Business Plan
  • Employment Agreement (offer letters)
  • Operating Agreement for LLCs
  • Insurance Policy
  • Online Terms of Use
  • Online Privacy Policy Document
  • Contract Document
  • Company Bylaws
  • Memorandum of Understanding (MoU)
f. Do You Need a Trademark, Copyright, or Patent?

If you are considering starting a self-service car wash business, usually you may not have any need to file for intellectual property protection or trademark. This is so because the nature of the business makes it possible for you to successfully run it without having any cause to challenge anybody in court for illegally making use of your company’s intellectual properties.

  1. Cost Analysis and Budgeting

a. How Much Does It Cost to Start a Self-Service Car Wash Business?

When it comes to starting a self-service car wash business, the startup costs could range from $150,000 to over $450,000.

b. What are the Costs Involved in Starting a Self-Service Car Wash Business
  • The total fee for registering a business in the United States of America – $750.
  • Legal expenses for obtaining licenses and as well as the accounting services totaling – $3,500.
  • Marketing promotion expenses – $3,500
  • The cost for hiring a business consultant (writing of business plans inclusive) – $2,500.
  • Insurance (general liability, workers’ compensation, and property casualty) coverage at a total premium – $5,400.
  • The cost of accounting software, CRM software, and Payroll Software – $1,500
  • The cost for payment of rent and business office – $75,600.
  • The cost for facility remodeling – $25,000
  • The cost for equipping the self-service car wash – $120,000
  • Other start-up expenses including stationery – $1,500
  • Phone and utility deposits will cost – ($2,500)
  • Operational cost for the first 3 months (salaries of employees, payments of bills et al) – $30,000
  • The cost for start-up inventory – $18,000
  • The cost for store equipment (cash register, security, ventilation, signage) – $3,150
  • The cost for the purchase of office furniture and gadgets – $8,000.
  • The cost of launching an official website – $600
  • The cost for our grand opening party – $3,000
  • Miscellaneous – $2,500
c. What Factors Determine the Cost of Opening a Self-Service Car Wash Business?
  • The size of the self-service car wash business
  • The choice of location
  • The required licenses and permits
  • The cost for branding, promotion, and marketing of the self-service car wash business
  • The cost of furnishing and equipping the self-service car wash business
  • The cost of the insurance policy covers
  • The cost of registering the business
  • Source of your supplies and ongoing expenses
  • Cost of recruiting and training your staff
  • The cost for the purchase and customizing of uniforms
  • The cost of the grand opening of the self-service car wash business
d. Do You Need to Build a Facility? If YES, How Much Will It Cost?

It is not compulsory to build a new facility for your self-service car wash business, but if you have the required finance, it will pay you to build your own facility. The truth is that building or reconstructing a facility for your self-service car wash business will help you come up with a facility that will perfectly fit into your overall business goals and vision.

e. What are the Ongoing Expenses of a Self-Service Car Wash Business?
  • Rent and lease
  • Supplies (office supplies, car wash liquids, and car polish, et al)
  • Utility bills (internet subscriptions, phone bills, signage, and software renewal fees et al)
  • Maintenance of equipment
  • Salaries of employees
f. What is the Average Salary of your Staff?
  • Manager (Owner) – $45,000 Per Year
  • Accountant (Cashier) – $32,000 Per Year
  • Assistants – $26,100 Per Year
  • Security Guard -$24,000 Per Year
g. How Do You Get Funding to Start a Self-Service Car Wash Business?
  • Raising money from personal savings and sale of personal stocks and properties
  • Raising money from investors and business partners
  • Sell shares to interested investors
  • Applying for a loan from your bank/banks
  • Source for soft loans from your family members and friends.
  1. Write a Business Plan

a. Executive Summary

Dennis White® Self Car Wash, Inc. is a registered self-service carwash company. The company will be located in will in Sacramento, California – United States of America and we plan to also cover other cities such as Los Angeles, San Diego, and San Jose et al. We chose to operate in these cities because we know that our self-service car wash will be in high demand due to the growing number of automobile owners in these cities.

Dennis White® Waterless Car Wash Services, Inc. is located in a full-service car wash facility that has the following features: 3 high-pressure wand self-service bays; and 5 vacuum stations complete with fragrance and a host of equipment.

b. Products and Service
  • Provide a facility for a self-service car wash for clients
  • Sale of car wash accessories and supplies.
c. Mission Statement

Our mission is to establish a world-class self-service car wash business that will make available excellent self-service car wash services at affordable prices to the residents of Sacramento, California, and other key cities in the United States of America where we intend opening of chains of self-service carwash franchise.

Vision Statement

Our vision is to establish a standard self-service car wash business that will be among the top 5 self-service car wash businesses in the United States of America.

d. Goals and Objectives

The goals and objectives of a self-service car wash business are to provide a facility where people can go to wash their cars without aid.

e. Organizational Structure
  • Shop Manager (Owner)
  • Accountant
  • Assistants
  • Security Guard

Marketing Plan

a. SWOT Analysis
Strength:
  • Excellent operational history
  • Availability of the latest and easy-to-operate self-service car wash equipment
  • Accurate estimates with no hidden costs
  • Excellent customer testimonials.
Weakness:
  • Not enough existing clientele to run at full capacity immediately
  • We will need a loan to build our self-service car wash facility and to purchase the equipment and related accessories
  • The owner is currently running the business solo and will need to manage construction/build out the existing business
  • Lack of economies of scale.
Opportunities:
  • Increase in the number of car owners in our location
  • Build upon existing clientele
  • Online market, new services, new technology, and of course the opening of new markets.
Threat:
  • Loans diminish profitability until they are paid off
  • The first year will be financially tight while we gain customers and pay off loans
  • Competition in the area could increase
  • Management of employees requires time, money, and efforts
b. How Do Self-service Car Wash Businesses Make Money?

Self-service car wash businesses make money by making available self-service car washing facilities for car owners.

c. Payment Options
  • Insert money into our pay machine
d. Sales & Advertising Strategies
  • Introduce your self-service car wash business by sending introductory letters alongside your brochure to corporate organizations, car owners, taxi companies, transport companies, households, and other key stakeholders throughout the city where your self-service car wash business is located.
  • Advertise on the internet on blogs and forums, and also on social media like Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn to get your message across
  • Create a basic website for your business to give your business an online presence
  • Directly market your self-service carwash services
  • Join local self-service car wash business associations for industry trends and tips
  • Provide discount days for your customers
  • Advertise your business in community-based newspapers, local TV and radio stations
  • List your business on yellow pages ads (local directories) and online directories
  • Encourage the use of word-of-mouth marketing (referrals)

Financial Projection

a. How Much Should You Charge for your Service?

Self-service car washes can cost you $7 to $15, and rates change based on other related automobile detailing services you requested for.

b. How Much Profit Do Self-Service Car Wash Business Owners Make a Year?

It can start from $41,000 per year for a small self-serve car wash to $686,250 per year for a bigger luxury car wash.

c. What Factors Determine the Amount of Profit to Be Made?
  • The capacity of the self-service car wash business
  • The location of the self-service car wash business is covering
  • The management style of the self-service car wash business
  • The business approach of the self-service car wash business
  • The advertising and marketing strategies adopted by the self-service car wash business
  • The number of years the self-service car wash is in business
d. What is the Profit Margin of a Self-Service Car Wash Business?

The profit margin of a self-service car wash business is not fixed; it will depend on some factors that are unique to your location.

e. What is the Sales Forecast?

Below is the sales forecast for a self-service car wash business. It is based on the location of the business and other factors as it relates to such startups in the United States;

  • First Fiscal Year: $200,000
  • Second Fiscal Year: $240,000
  • Third Fiscal Year: $300,000
  1. Set Up your Office

a. How Do You Choose a Perfect Location for Self-Service Car Wash Business?
  • The demography of the location especially as it relates to people who own cars
  • The demand for self-service car wash in the location
  • The purchasing power of businesses and residents of the location
  • Accessibility of the location
  • The number of self-service car wash businesses in the location
  • The local laws and regulations in the community/state
  • Traffic, parking and security et al
b. What State and City are Best to Open a Self-Service Car Wash Business?
  • Brattleboro, Vermont
  • Tucson, Arizona
  • Silver Spring, Maryland
  • Rowland Heights, California
  • Portland, Oregon
  • New York City, New York
  • Atlanta, Georgia
  • Dallas, Texas
  • Las Vegas, Nevada
  • Los Angeles, California
c. What Equipment is Needed to Operate a Self-Service Car Wash Business?
  • High-Pressure Pumping Equipment. Low-Pressure Pumping Equipment. In Bay Equipment.
  • In Bay Dryers. In Bay Services. iShine Rinse System.
  • Splash-N-Dash. Car Wash in A Box System. Spot-Free Rinse System. Self-Serve Signs.
  • Pump Room Equipment, Pumping Station with Cat, Hypro, General, or Giant Pumps. Pre-wired Electrical Panel with Starter, Transformer, and Hour Meter.
  1. Hire Employees

When it comes to hiring employees for a standard self-service car wash business, you should make plans to hire a competent manager (owner), accountant, assistant, and security guard.

  1. Launch the Business Proper

No self-service car wash business opens its door for business without first organizing an opening party to officially launch the business. You can choose to do a soft opening party if you are operating on a low budget or you can go for a grand opening party.

The bottom line is that with the proper launching of the self-service car wash business, you will officially inform people in your city that your self-service car wash business is open for business.

a. What Makes a Self-Service Car Wash Business Successful?
  • Choose a good location and facility to launch the business
  • Install easy-to-use self-service car wash equipment and machines
  • Be deliberate with your marketing sales approach
  • Encourage the use of word of mouth to promote your self-service car wash business
  • Leverage all available online and offline platforms to promote your self-service car wash business
b. What Happens During a Typical Day at a Self-Service Car Wash Business?
  • The shop is open for the day’s work
  • Cars are self-washed and cleaned as requested by car owners
  • Stocks are taken, accounts balanced, and reports are written and submitted to superior officers
  • The business is closed for the day.
c. What Skills and Experience Do You Need to Build a Self-Service Car Wash Business?
  • Attention to details
  • Customer services skills
  • Interpersonal skill
  • Accounting and bookkeeping skills
  • Business management skills
  • Bargaining and bidding skills
  • Work experience in a self-service car wash business environment
  • Experience in managing people
  • Experience in business administration