Types of Car Washes: How much they usually cost

types of car washes

When starting a new car wash, it’s important to consider the needs and wants of your main customer base. Since there are various types of car washes, you have to choose the best one or combination of multiple to suit your customers’ preferences. This article will outline the 4 main types of car washes and their costs. It will also cover what types of customers use them.

In-Bay Automatic

These types of washes remove most if not all of the work for your customers. They typically will have the wash equipment moving back and forth over the customer’s car until it is cleaned. These either clean cars with high pressure sprays or cloth rollers. Though these are typically the most convenient and popular, they have gained a bad reputation for their lack of thoroughness and ability to scratch cars should any debris get caught in the cloth rollers. Many new car owners and younger consumers will try and avoid these washes for the fear that their vehicle will be damaged by the wash.

If you’re in a high traffic area with lots of daily commuters, setting up an automatic wash can be a great choice. Many car washes combine in-bay automatics with self-serve options as well. According to JBS Industries, in-bay automatic washes tend to range from $31,000-$49,000 per bay.

Tunnel Wash

Tunnel washes are similar to in-bay automatics in their convenience, but differ slightly on the washing process. Customers will still have very little involvement in the process, but instead of the wash equipment running over the car, the car is put on a conveyor and moved down a tunnel with varied static wash equipment. These washes provide a much more thorough wash than in-bay automatics. However, they require quite a bit more maintenance and are usually more expensive. Tunnel washes tend to do better in areas where there is high commuter traffic. They are usually chosen as the more thorough wash so they would do better in a more aesthetically inclined demographic. Tunnel washes tend to be standalone since they require very large spaces. These washes can cost upward of a million dollars not including land purchase costs.

Self-Serve/Wand Wash

Self-serve washes require a high degree of involvement from the consumer. These are usually chosen for their lower price and reduced chance of damaging cars. Many consumers tend to choose these because they can wash their own car as they please. However, consumers are aware that sometimes dirt particles get caught in equipment and can damage their car. Self-serve washes do well in most areas, though busy commuters tend to go for the automatic alternatives. Setting up a self-serve wash in a lower income or more residential zone would capture price conscious consumers. You’ll also reach those that aren’t as concerned with time. Equipment for self-serve bays can start at approximately $15,000.

Detailing/Hand Car Wash/Full Service

Detailing bays are a type of car wash that also require limited involvement from consumers. However, they take a lot more time and cost a lot more money. These are more popular in wealthier areas where consumers care deeply about the quality of their wash as well as about the well being of their paint job. Combining a detailing bay and a self-serve set up can capture both convenience-seeking and price-conscious consumer bases. A combination of self-serve, in-bay automatics, and a detailing bay can allow you to capture all three consumer bases. Detailing bays will vary in cost depending on your staff, land, and supplies.

No matter which type of car wash you choose to build or buy, make sure you have the proper equipment to make the most of your investment. For self-serve and in-bay automatics, Wiz-tec offers a full suite of payment points and point of sale systems. Take a look at our ONICS Series and ZoomOne Series payment points as well as at our iPOS for Wash point of sale system.

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