Enticing Earning Potential: How Much Money Can You Make Owning a Car Wash?

Written by

Bruce Sonnier


Marcus Dutton

how much money can you make owning a car wash

In our modern fast-paced world that’s often tiring, car owners’ demand for car washes is growing. While owning a car wash would be a great earning opportunity, those considering this business may wonder, “how much money can you make owning a car wash?”

Many factors can affect car wash income, but on average, 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.


Potential Car Wash Profit According to Car Wash Type

Having a car wash business can be very promising. In these fast-paced times we have, wherein people search for quick and easy solutions, most car owners would rather have their car cleaned in a car wash. That brings in a high-profit potential for car washes.

But there are also factors that can affect car wash profit and car wash owner salary. The main factor on how much profit you can earn when you open a car wash is the car wash type. There are many types of car washes, and each can earn a different amount of profit.

Below are the different car wash types and their average car wash income:

Car Wash Type Average Revenue per Month
Annual Revenue
Self-Service Car Wash $1,489 (per bay) $41,000
In-Bay Automation Car Wash $5.00 (per car) $130,000
Exterior Conveyor Car Wash $58,333 (per month)
$700,000 (annual)
Full-Service Car Wash $66,667 (per month)
$800,000 (annual)

1. In-Bay Automatic Car Wash

The in-bay automatic car wash doesn’t require much space and can be added easily to a business that’s already existing, such as a gas station or a mechanic shop. And it also doesn’t require much labor, as it runs automatically the moment the customer pays and enters the bay.

This car wash type has a usual charge of around $6.34 with a profit of $4.35 per wash. It’s third in the highest profit potential next to the full-service car wash and exterior conveyor car wash. On average, it can make an annual income of $139,000, which can result in an average profit of $86,531.

2. Exterior Conveyor Car Wash

The exterior conveyor car wash, or otherwise known as the tunnel car wash, is often compared to fast-food drive-throughs due to some similarities in the service process. Like in a fast-food drive-through, after choosing a service in an exterior conveyor car wash, your car would be moving forward to receive the service, but from a variety of car wash equipment.

It’s one of the most high-profit car wash types, next to the full-service car wash with just a slight difference. Its average charge is more than double the cost of the in-bay automatic car wash at $15. With this car wash type, you can earn an average income of $686,250 annually.

3. Full-Service Car Wash

The full-service car wash provides car cleaning services both on car exterior and interior. It provides additional services, including vacuuming and car detailing services for car interior. In some cases, the exterior service will be done in an in-bay or a conveyor car wash.

It’s the most costly among car wash types, but it also can earn the highest profit. The average charge for this car wash is $15, which is also more than double the cost of an in-bay automatic car wash. In addition, around 20% of this car wash type would charge $18 or higher. So they slightly earn more than an exterior conveyor car wash.

4. Self-Serve Carwash

Similar to the in-bay automatic car wash, the self-serve car wash also makes a great addition to an already existing business such as a gas station or a rest stop because it also doesn’t require labor from the self-serve car wash owner.

It’s the customers that will do the car washing — simply by putting some money into a machine to activate equipment for cleaning their car.

Compared to the aforementioned car wash types, it doesn’t have high business traffic and its profit isn’t very high. But it’s definitely a great way to bring in additional income as an extra service to an already existing business. This is a low-cost business that can earn $1,489 per bay every month and an average annual income of $41,000. For more knowledge about how to buy a car wash business, you can learn more here.

How Much Money Can You Make Owning a Car Wash


Apart from the car wash type, there are other factors that can affect car wash income, which are as listed:

1. Costs

Owning a car wash entails a lot of costs, especially when you build a car wash from the ground up. Some are these costs are:

Land Acquisition

The size of land would depend on the car wash types chosen. For example:

  • One in-bay automatic car wash – 7,000 square feet
  • Two in-bay automatic car washes with two self-service bays – 18,000 square feet
  • Two in-in bay automatic car washes and four self-serve bays – 22,500 square feet
  • Full-service car wash – you’ll also need more land for creating a waiting area and possibly a retail area so clients may also shop while their cars are being washed.

Lot costs greatly vary among different locations. For a successful car wash, a lot that’s at least $3 per square foot would suffice.


Construction costs, too, depend on the location. It also depends on the car wash type:

  • One self-serve car wash bay – $17,000
  • One automated car wash bay – $42,000

Car Wash Equipment

Car wash equipment prices also depend on some factors. For example, the car wash machine price of an in-bay automatic car wash would differ from that of an exterior conveyor car wash. Apart from the car wash types for your business, the equipment brand and location are also two other factors.

Below are the average costs for equipment:

  • Per self-serve car wash bay – $8,000-$10,000
  • Per automatic car wash bay – $31,000-$49,000

Variable Costs

Variable costs are a business’ expenses that vary monthly. Below are a car wash’s average variable costs per car:

  • Electricity – $0.50
  • Water – $0.16
  • Detergents and Chemicals – $0.64
  • Natural Gas – $0.12
  • Maintenance – $0.47

Fixed Costs

Fixed costs are a business’ constant expenses. Below are a car wash’s average fixed costs per car:

  • Site labor – $1.24
  • Administrative expenses – $1.00
  • Rent/mortgage and property taxes – depends on the business location

2. Location

Location is a crucial factor for a car wash’s success. A survey conducted recently by the International Car Wash Association has even shown that 75% of car wash customers discovered the car wash they frequent when they noticed it as they drove by.

If by chance you may have purchased a not so conveniently located car wash, adding highly visible signages that can attract customers from the roadway would help.

3. Population

Areas with high populations usually earn car washes higher incomes. However, if there is a lot of competition in the area, owners need to put up highly visible signages for their business and their wash needs to have accessibility on busy streets.

4. Marketing

Marketing would help increase customers and profit. There are many ways to do this such as:

  • Social Media
  • Setting up a website
  • Fliers – make sure to include links to your business’ website and social media
  • Yellow pages advertising

5. Seasons and Natural Disasters

Business can be slow during periods of rainy weather or natural disasters like hurricanes and earthquakes, while it can be thriving during the pollen-heavy spring or the salt accumulation-causing winter.

So when starting a car wash business, natural disaster-prone areas must be avoided. And car wash owners must forecast their profit by basing on weather patterns and have a financial strategy that would prevent being in debt during low-profit times.


A car wash can generate high income and profit. But how much money can you make owning a car wash also depends on a variety of factors. So if you plan to start a car wash business, just keep in mind those factors to achieve desirable results for your business.

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