Starting Your Own Car Wash- The Checklist to Get you Going


car wash signageIf you are looking to start a car wash, you’ll have to put in plenty of work at the outset. Let’s take a look at some of the top considerations and items that you’ll need to start a car wash.

1. You’ll need financial advice from an accountant or a licensed financial planner. Every business is risky so don’t dive right in without a sound financial base. Meet with finance experts and other car wash business owners for advice on the necessary start-up capital, estimates of initial costs and the prudence of such an investment.

2.  Choosing the appropriate location for your car wash will prove critical to its success. Choose an area with high traffic flow, excellent visibility and a significant population.

3. Determine zoning rules. Find out which areas are zoned for car washes. Meet with a real estate agent, an attorney and a town planner to verify the zoning and determine if you should rent or own the land.

4. Choose between hand washing or automatic machines. A hand car wash is cheaper at the beginning but its ongoing operational costs can exceed those of automated washes.

5. Obtain local building quotes to find the best deal. Consider the fact that wiring and plumbing is a hidden cost that car wash builders/equipment suppliers often exclude.

6. Contact car wash equipment suppliers. When you purchase car wash machinery, it will likely last for a decade. So choose your supplier wisely.

7. Consider regulations and insurance requirements. You’ll need to comply with all local regulations and purchase insurance like worker’s compensation insurance.

8. Allocate funds for a marketing budget. Use print media, leaflets, signs, billboards and online ads.

9. Obtain an application for a business license. Your car wash will require a business license from the city or county department.

10. Reach out to the Franchise Tax Board. Determine if you can obtain a wholesale permit. It will empower you to buy goods without paying taxes.

11. A sound business plan. Establish a budget with detailed estimates of overhead expenses, revenue and profits.

12. Determine if you’ll purchase a franchise or start your own independent business.

13. Find the EPA’s guidelines that determine how you can manage your car washing business. You’ll have to dispose of waste effluents in a safe and legal manner.

14. Invest in extra products and services that will generate additional revenue. Pick up sealant wax, clear coat protectant, bug removers etc.

15. You’ll need a computerized system that lets customers select their wash type and pay.

16. Invest in equipment that provides an undercarriage wash to clean off salt, oil and dirt from car bottoms.

17. Consider a vacuum cleaning station to generate additional income.

18. If you don’t go fully automated, you’ll need a cash register.

19. Vending products that you can up-sell to customers.

20. You’ll need all sorts of car wash equipment for a standard car wash like hoses, nozzles, tracks, foaming brushes, foaming conditioners and count down timers.


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