“So, You Want to Wash Cars?”

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How to get in the game when you want to open a car wash business.

By Palmer Dean

When I look back on when I got into the car washing business five years ago, my partner and I had no clue how to wash cars or what it would take to bring a car wash site to life. All we knew is we wanted to “do that type of car wash with hardly any workers on site” where the machines do it all. Not like a gas station one, but like one that was in our neighborhood-ish area that had a tunnel and lots of chemicals and somehow pulled a car through all of it.

Thank God for Google! It took just a few quick searches to locate one of the largest distributors of car wash supplies. A couple of meetings later, we were off to the races. Site criteria, where to look, where not to look, and many other items were pouring through my brain as I hit the road in search of our first car wash. I also thought to myself, “Damn this is going to be expensive!”

We found our first potential site and immediately began working a deal directly with the owner. After many meetings over many months, we finally closed on the property and shut down the existing, run-down business that had been there, slowly dying before we arrived.

After our first six months in operations, we had serious issues with the point-of-sale reporting gaps that required additional tools and methods to accurately view the business performance. In no time, I quickly learned nothing mattered except our profit-and-loss, because I couldn’t trust the existing reports or software we had access to at the time, except for data centered on car counts and new membership sales. 

Flash forward two new sites later, and my problem compounded when I brought in a new POS vendor that was a different operating system all together.

Here was my convoluted but necessary process: Pull reports from this engine, more reports from that engine, extract the data points needed, and input to excel models we had created–all to uncover the financial and operational performance of our business. Multiply this process every month of every year across sites, and that equals major time waste! But you have to track historical performance and project future performance.

In the back of my mind, I felt convicted that software was the answer. Somehow, someway, if I could unify the data from any POS vendor with accounting data from QuickBooks to eliminate our manual processes and show our business health in real time, that would be the dream. This would free up my time to focus on our teams, on growing sites, and all the day to day functions of a multi-site operator with ambitious goals for the brand.

When you look at entering the express car wash industry today, you can at least pencil in more than $4.5 million in startup costs. And that number is growing!  4.5+m dollars and growing. The main variables in the equation are land acquisition costs, as well as general contracting costs due to supply shortages, timelines, labor costs etc.

Your equipment cost alone is going to exceed $1 million for a 120-foot tunnel. There are no shortcuts. Buy an existing site? Sure. You will pay up for a well-performing site or spend an arm and a leg to renovate an old dog that just needs new lipstick and tunnel equipment. The market may be coming back down to earth, but only time will tell, as the industry has become more popular than ever before.

Does it make sense to you to spend a million bucks just for the equipment you need, and then operate with technology limited to reporting capabilities from the late 90s? Shouldn’t the technological capabilities you get match the capital investment you made to even get in the car wash game? Shouldn’t you be able to view financial performance in the same breath as seeing how many cars you washed last month? You’ve taken the big risk, and you deserve more. 

Now, through WashMetrix, you have the technology built to grow as you grow, the technology that helps you address challenges and risks, with virtually no stone unturned in your business. Starting a business of any kind is never easy, but WashMetrix is providing that helping hand that car wash entrepreneurs need to grow quickly and sustainably. 

Contact us for your demo today.

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