How to Start a Hand Car Wash Business? – Three Stages

Written by

Bruce Sonnier


Marcus Dutton

how to start a hand car wash business

A hand car wash is a profitable business that many people would like to indulge in. With enough skills and preparation in opening one, this venture will surely be successful.

Get acquainted with how to start a hand car wash business and discover what works best for you. We’ll explore three stages of the process: planning, launching, and operation.

Starting a Hand Car Wash Business


Here is the step-by-step guide to starting a car wash business:

1. Planning stage

Step 1: Find a strategic location.

To start a car washing business, finding the site where you want to build your shop is a must.

A very nice spot for a hand car wash business should be accessible to customers, located near markets, apartments, common recreational centers, and situated in an area with a high volume of traffic.

If you live in a community where car washing is in demand, you can start a car wash business at home to minimize rental expenses and travel time.

Step 2: Do car wash center hopping and keep an eye on the competition.

When we talk of car wash business ideas, solicit suggestions or recommendations from other car wash owners, and from there, find your kick-off point.

Have a five-mile radius investigation of other car washes that opened near you or where you are planning to build one. Which places are the most popular? What services and pricings do they offer?

Learning the new trends in the car wash industry will also give you ideas on the best business practice. Membership plans, use of ceramic technology, and customer tracking are just a few of the growing trends.

Step 3: Compute the cost.

Before you open a hand car wash business, familiarize yourself with its cost estimates. Your investment capital will be spent on the following:

  • Business registration and permits – $2,250
  • Business consultant fee – $3,000
  • Business insurance coverage – $30,800
  • Marketing price – $3,600
  • Utilities (water, phone, internet, electricity) – $3,500
  • Software assistance and website fees – $3,600
  • Equipment, tools, store furniture, and logistics – $44,000
  • Monthly leasing – $80,000
  • Miscellaneous and other operational expenses – $5,000

Based on the listed expenses, this will amount to $175,750 in all. This number will also go up once you’ve factored in salaries for employees.

In addition, the more services you offer, the higher the cost of your business will be. For example, if your shop offers vehicle detailing as well as cleaning, know that the cost to start a detailing business is $5,000 to $100,000.

Step 4: Determine financing method(s)

Financing should be your primary concern. You can open a car wash business through:

  • Bank financing – where banks can lend you 75% of the fair market value, while you finance the other 25%.
  • Small business association (SBA) loan – where SBA connects you with entrepreneurs with lenders who assist you with funding, so you can start your operations and grow your car wash business.
  • Private investors – Networking opportunities and business connections can bring you people who want to invest in your venture for a profit.

Step 5: Starting a car wash business plan.


By now, you should have a business plan for car wash services. Expect to change it several times until you’ve come up with a clear and vivid scheme.

Your goal, vision, strategies, and services to offer should be included in the document, along with your expected income and any debt(s) you have. Make some predictions regarding the success of your business, and what you can do in case of failure.

You may also draft a self-service car wash business plan separately in addition to your hand wash business plan.

2. Launching stage


Step 1: Prepare the necessary business documents.

Complying with the necessary legal requirements is a must. Otherwise, your car wash business will be closed or fined. One state may have a different set of license requirements from another, so consult the SBA website for the list of business licenses.

Generally, you will have to get the following common documents:

  • Business Name Registration
  • Employer’s ID Number
  • Occupancy / Building Permit
  • Environmental Permits (e.g waste discharge permit)
  • Employees’ Compensation Coverage
  • Compliance Certification from the local business-issuing agency
  • Surety Bond
  • Articles of Corporation/Limited partnership/LLC, whichever applies to your business

Step 2: Invest in high-quality machinery

Do not fail your customers with the services you offer when you run a car wash business.

Check the International Carwash Association’s guide for help in finding high-quality supplies and legitimate suppliers. A hand car wash business may need the following:

  • Monthly Water Supply – $20
  • Soap – $20
  • Sponges – $10
  • Chamois Cloth – $10
  • Window Squeegee – $10
  • Wet/Dry Vacuum Cleaner – $100
  • Buckets – $10 each

Get an equipment distributor that is always ready to service your machinery in case of trouble with your washing and water system set. Some equipment providers you may check out are GinSan Industries, Petit Auto Wash, and Mark VII Equipment.

Step 3: Design some marketing strategies.

Think about how people can become aware that you open a car wash business. Market that business through advertisements and signages to lead people to you. You can also distribute flyers or make posters visible as a marketing strategy.

You can also create a social media page and increase your network of connections, so customers would know you exist. Make it as updated as possible, and keep your audience informed of new offerings.

You may also use print relays such as newspapers and magazines, or pay TV or radio broadcasts to promote your car wash business.

Step 4: Build strong manpower.

Have people to help grow your business. A few but true employees to assist your customers’ needs can add up to a successful hand car wash business. Hire those who can also market the car wash business because of the better customer service they give to your customers.

If looking for trustworthy people to work with seems impossible, you can open a hand car wash for rent, and have somebody else contracted to run the business on your behalf.

Step 5: Conduct your car wash business opening.

Conduct a soft opening 30 days before the grand launching to have time to check on what to improve and add. Offer promotional discounts, coupons, or vouchers on the first, second, and other visits of customers, so visiting the store would excite them.

3. Operating stage


Step 1: Offer other services.

Add other services if your budget permits. A corner store or cafe can be a great outlet for customers’ hungry stomachs or boredom. Offer them confectionery, drinks, snacks, cigarettes, and other grocery needs.

If there is still available space, improve it with a lounge area, where you can have customers wait for their car wash service conveniently.

With this setup, you are hitting two birds with one stone. It is like opening a one-stop-shop with more profit than usual.

In starting a hand car wash business, do not solely focus on car washing. You can offer detailing services, car repairs, and even preventive maintenance checking.

Having more options can increase the customer base for the business. At least, they can choose from the services you offer, and you are guaranteed money back from them.

Step 2: Have different subscription offerings.

Offer your regular customers a monthly subscription for a discounted price or a membership in the form of a semi-annual or annual plan. You can also combine car wash services for a lower rate, so people can enjoy different offers.


Nowadays, a lot of drivers do not have time anymore to clean their cars. So, opening a hand car wash business becomes a trend and may help them with their vehicle maintenance needs.

Learning how to start a hand car wash business will entail careful study and observation, and the process may take quite long, but the returns can be very satisfying if the venture becomes a success.

We hope this article was helpful to you. Thanks for reading!

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