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Creating the Ultimate Car Wash Business Plan

A business plan seems like a small step in starting car wash businesses, but it is actually a very important one, and it shouldn't be overlooked.

A business plan is essentially a roadmap for your business that will help you stay on track and achieve your goals. Without a strong business structure, it will be very difficult to make your car wash business successful.

But building a car wash business plan can be daunting, and that is why we're here to get you started on the right foot! This article does not offer an exhaustive list of everything you may need to include on your car wash business plan, but will discuss many very important aspects to include so your car wash business can launch well.

The Car Wash Industry is Competitive but Highly Rewarding

The car wash industry is a rapidly growing industry that can prove to be very rewarding to be part of. It is also a competitive one that can be devastating and stressful if you are not well prepared. That is exactly why you will want to create a thorough car wash business plan prior to diving in head first. This document will serve as your guide to success and help keep you on track when challenges inevitably arise in your car wash service.

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What is a car wash business plan?

A car wash business plan is a document that outlines the goals, strategies, and operational plans of your car wash business.

It should provide a detailed overview of your business, including information on your target market, pricing strategy, marketing plans, and operational procedures. The goal of your business plan is to help you achieve your desired results by clearly understanding your starting point, and outlining the steps you need to take to get to your business objectives.

Creating a car wash business plan can seem like a overwhelming task, but it will prove to be worth the effort once you get your business running.

Why write a business plan for a car wash?

We understand that some may be eager to get their business up and running as quickly as possible, but we cannot stress enough how important it is to have a plan in place.

Establishing a strong business plan will help you avoid common pitfalls, make better decisions, and set your business up for long-term success.

A well-crafted business plan will also give you a much better chance of securing funding from investors or lenders, as they will be able to see that you have put thought into your venture, and understand the car wash industry.

What does a business plan look like for a car wash?

A car wash business plan can be designed many different ways, but as a general baseline, you can think of it covering two major areas: the financial side and non-financial side.  

The financial side will include many things such as your financial goals (short-term and long-term), sales forecast, balance sheet, and budget and cash flow plan.

The non-financial side will encompass everything else that makes up your business plan including your company overview, target market analysis, marketing strategy, and operational procedures.

While there is no one right way to format your business plan, we recommend using a structure that is easy to follow and understand.

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Market Research... a very good place to start.

An important part of opening a car wash business is to know the existing businesses around you, specifically other car washes. You need to know what they're offering, at what prices, who they're serving, etc.

The only way you will be able narrow down these factors is by investigating how other car washes operate. So be sure to do thorough research on your competitors and use that information wisely.

Great things to look for is whether there is a gap in the market that you could fill, and differentiate yourself with (but ensure there are also customers seeking that gap). Customers may be seeking a car washes with a pet wash or vacuums available, but likely not live music, for instance.

You may find that there are many self service car washes in one area, which may say that the people who live around there might want to spend less money on a car wash, or have more time to dedicate to washing their vehicle.   It may also mean that there may be an opportunity for a different type of car wash business, such as a tunnel or in-bay automatic.

Or perhaps there is one huge full service car wash that dominates the market as they are able to provide the whole package of interior and exterior cleaning and their consumers enjoy that luxury. Full service car washes are much more expensive to launch and operate considering the building size, employees, and equipment needed to run it, but they will charge much more than other options for their work.

Likely some clients are seeking a more affordable alternative car wash in that area, that still provides an exceptional clean. How could you as a potentially smaller car wash operation offer that, and communicate it to your consumers?

By discovering what working (or not) in your area, you can judiciously build your car wash business for success, finding your own foothold in the market.

Business Plan Overview: What to Include

When writing up your car wash business plan, you will want to format it in an easy to read way that outside people can understand. Below are some sections you may want to include.

Company Overview

This is a simple description of your business that could include:

  • The type of car wash business you would like to start
  • Its proposed location
  • What you will offer your customers
  • Target Audience
  • The mission and values of your business
  • How it fits in context of your market and competitors

Executive Summary

The executive summary is a brief overview of your business plan, and is similar to a business overview above.

It could include short summaries of:

  • The main points of your market research
  • Marketing strategy
  • Operational procedures
  • Financial forecast
  • Main business Objectives

It can be helpful to write this section last, as it will be briefly addressing the content in the following sections.

Business Description

In this section, you will want to describe your business in more detail.

This can include:

  • The history of your business (are you a franchisee, opening a new location, or starting this venture from the beginning?)
  • Who is involved
  • What products or services you offer, and related operations
  • Short-term and long-term goals
Car wash pricing menu
Turtle Wax Pro operator, Pure Clean Car Wash's pricing menu

Sales Strategy

This section should include a detailed description of how you plan to generate sales to have a profitable business and numerous customers.

This could include:

  • Your pricing strategy
  • Target market
  • Client pain points
  • How your services address them
  • Competitive edges of your services, vs the competition
  • Promotional activities such as providing any car wash discounts.
  • Loyalty programs, or methods to retain repeat customers
  • Supporting solutions, like Mosaic (a cloud-based platform, which you can market directly to customers' phones, where they can buy washes, start the car wash, and earn/redeem free washes for the future)

Marketing Strategy

Greatly related to generating sales, above, your marketing plan will be a guide on how you plan to generate awareness and attract car owners to get their car washed at your business.

You'll need to decide and describe:

  • Where your target market spends time, and their demographic
  • What methods you'll use to reach your target customers
  • What messaging you'll use to attract customers
  • How you will encourage customer loyalty
  • Brand your business
  • Promote your USPs (unique selling propositions) for your car wash business
  • You'll also need to create a budget for your marketing efforts

There are many ways to stand out within the market such as harnessing a great brand and signage at your site (which is a benefit of using Turtle Wax Pro chemistry), using social media, local radio stations, or a local newspaper. We have discussed some of these marketing campaigns or strategies in past articles.

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Competitor Analysis

Harness the market research you used before in a competitor analysis to provide further clarity of the competition surrounding your car wash.

You can summarize your market research, or you may wish to conduct a SWOT Analysis looking at main competitors':

  • Strengths
  • Weaknesses
  • Opportunities
  • Threats

This process can help solve for your own unique selling features and how you can stand apart and gain and retain customers, while also being aware of successful practices that other car washes are using.

Financial Plan

This is your expected financial performance, and will not be exact but will help in the framework of your business structure. Financials can get complicated but we'll keep it simple in this explanation, and if starting a new business, these numbers may be projected.

These are components you should consider for a successful financial plan:

  • Financial Goals (could be short- and long-term)
  • Projected Profit and Loss Statement
  • Sales Revenues Forecast
  • Balance Sheet
  • Cash Flow Statement
  • Anticipated Startup Costs (below)

Initial Financials

This part details your current financial status of your business; it'll show a bank or investor what you currently have to open a new car wash, and what you will need as bank financing. Include anticipated initial spending for equipment, marketing, staffing, etc. to get the doors open at your car wash business. Think of this like your start-up cost, which is what you have to get your car wash up and running.

Operational Plan

In this section of your business plan, you will want to describe how your business will operate on a day-to-day basis. This is the backbone of your car wash, and although these aspects can naturally evolve and change, it will be important to have a thorough plan in place for a successful launch for your car wash business.  

This can include a description and activities of your:

  • Facility
  • Equipment and Chemistry (more on this below)
  • Staff
  • Scheduling
  • Suppliers
Car wash equipment

Equipment Plan

Of course, you will need the right equipment to open a car wash. Whether taking over an existing car wash, or building from the ground up, you'll want to be sure that you have high-quality equipment that gives exceptional performance.

Equipment will also differ for the situation and type of wash. For example, self service equipment will be different than equipment for an in-bay automatic car wash.

Researching and knowing your equipment needs in advance, including installs, any repairs, maintenance or upgrades you will have to make, can save a new car wash business a lot of headaches down the road, as you avoid unnecessary service interruptions, and can get more cars washed for your target customers.  

With this industry, whether a self service car wash, or automatic car washes, there's a lot of equipment that needs to be continually operational. From vacuum cleaners, a pressure washer, your conveyor system, or even office equipment, you'll want to make sure that your equipment is properly maintained and serviced on a regular basis, and certainly ready to go at your business' launch!

Chemical Plan

A pivotal factor in running a car wash service is having the right chemicals. There are many different types of chemicals on the market and car wash owners will want to be sure to pick the right chemicals and chemical representative to support your business. We obviously consider Turtle Wax Pro to be the best chemistry available, helping car washes provide exceptionally high quality service and results with each customer's vehicle.

While picking the exact chemicals at this stage could be a little early, its a good idea to get acquainted with some market research on the different brands available in car washing.

It also is a great idea to seek out a reputable chemistry rep or distributor to aid you in finding the perfect chemistry for your needs: a solid representative can truly help your car wash be set up for success, and shine! They will conduct tests like cost-per-car analysis, chemical comparisons, and ensure your site is optimized for premium results.

Staffing Plan

You'll need to decide how many employees you will need to properly run your car wash business.

What roles will you need filled, and what qualifications and wage will pair with those roles. You'll also want to consider the type of training you will need to provide for your staff to operate your car wash facilities and provide exceptional customer service. (As an added benefit, Turtle Wax Pro customers get access to an exclusive free training tool called TWPLearn which can help them train new and old staff alike in many industry skills!)


Becoming car wash owners may be a big leap, but a car wash business plan can get businesses started on the right foot, and also help in getting bank loans and other support for local businesses, as a financial institution can see you've done your homework discovering business basics like: a solid business location, discovering potential customers, planning an effective sales strategy, conducting necessary market research and developing excellent marketing campaigns, recognizing anticipated start up costs, anticipating staffing and equipment needs, and generally educating yourself in the car washing industry! It's a good deal of work, but has numerous rewards for the business owner of a budding car wash!

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Opening a car wash business? Contact Turtle Wax Pro

Turtle Wax Pro is a leader in chemical manufacturing, and with over 75 years in the car care industry, we believe we have the best car wash chemistry on the market.

But more than that, we have decades of experience supporting car wash operators and businesses in all aspects of their business! We've been through the wash, so to speak!

We know that strong business relationships are vital within the car wash industry and strive to build them with all of our clients and partners. If you have any questions or concerns regarding your car wash business or business plans, and if Turtle Wax Pro chemistry and marketing solutions are right for you, you can reach out to us at any time.

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