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Franchising a Car Wash: What you Need to Know

The car wash industry is a great opportunity to own and operate a profitable business. But there are many factors that go into running a successful car wash business and that can make the task of starting one daunting.

Opening a new car wash franchise location is an option to consider for potential car wash owners to mitigate some of that difficulty and risk instead of starting a wash from scratch.

In this article, we will discuss some pros and cons behind franchising a car wash with the goal of helping you decide if it is the right choice for you.

How to Start a Car Wash Business

There are different ways to open car washing businesses, and we'll briefly cover a few of them here.

From Scratch

Starting a car wash business from scratch involves doing everything from the ground up:

Finding a suitable location and building, getting the permits and legalities sorted, finding a car wash supplier, etc.

All of these variables can be difficult to manage and sometimes carry a high amount of risk.

On the other hand, it gives you ultimate control on your car wash which if done well, can bring great results and profits. We have a great article on how to start a business plan.

Buying a Car Wash

Buying an existing car wash is another option. In this method you can find a car wash already in operation and buy it from the current owners (if willing).

This can be a great way to enter the market quickly with an established business, but it also means you won't have as much flexibility over the operation or potential for growth of the business.

You may have to overcome some mistakes and challenges from the previous owners, but having the business foundation already set can be of very good value, and can make financing easier!

Franchising a Car Wash

A third option is franchising a car washing business.  

Car wash franchises can provide a great way to get your foot in the door of the car wash industry, plus you will be gaining business experience and guidance from an established business.

By franchising, you are essentially entering into an agreement with an existing car wash brand and using their business model, branding, and technology to quickly enter the market, but you will have other expenses such as franchise fees to consider.

That said, navigating challenging details such as finding a car wash supplier, getting your chemicals and equipment combination right, and training become much easier when you are learning from an existing successful car wash.

Turtle Wax Pro operator, Wett Car Wash, in Chicago, IL

Pros and Cons of Car Wash Franchises

A car wash franchise offers a few unique benefits that makes it an attractive option to some investors.


Operations & Support

Franchising a car wash comes with operations and support from the franchisor. Their existing car washes already have a day-to-day operations strategy and car cleaning processes that lead to results, and is something that will be adopted to the new wash as well.

This support should help you navigate challenges that may arise as you start your business and give you access to proven methods of running a successful car wash.

Branding & Marketing

Another benefit of franchising is the ability to leverage an existing brand identity for marketing purposes.

Since the franchisor already has an existing brand identity and customer base, you can tap into their marketing channels to quickly generate leads for your car wash.

Turnkey Solution

Franchising a business also eliminates many of the up-front challenges and costs associated with starting from scratch.

With franchising, many of the details are taken care of, guiding you through the process of getting started, and you can have a turnkey solution ready to go with the help of the franchisor and their established methods.


Lack of Flexibility

Since franchising is buying into an existing car washing company, you will have to follow their rules when it comes to business.

This can lead to a lack of creative control and flexibility for the new business owner.


Franchising also comes with high costs associated with it due to royalty payments, start-up fees, etc.

This is something that needs to be taken into account when evaluating the option.

Should you Franchise a Car Wash?

Car wash franchises offer an attractive option for entrepreneurs looking to get their foot in the door of the industry quickly and with minimum risk.

At the same time, franchising comes with additional costs and less control than starting from scratch. Carefully reviewing the many pros and cons and researching various franchise options, and how they meet or don't meet your needs is critical before making your decision.

Regardless of the option you choose, getting a car wash business off the ground successfully requires research, planning and hard work. But going through a franchise may make the path to success a little easier than other avenues.

How to Choose your Car Wash Franchise

Once you have decided to pursue a car washing franchise, the next step is to pick the right one.

There are many factors to consider when selecting your car wash franchise. Of course, the franchise and the franchise owners may not deem everyone acceptable as there is usually a process to screening franchise buyers.

Existing Clientele

It is important to research the existing customer base of a potential franchisor.

A successful car wash franchise should have solid customer base of car owners and positive reputation in the area where you plan to open your business.

Quality of Services

The quality of the car wash is one of the most important factors you should be considering.

A stellar car wash is what all your future customers will be expecting when coming to your business, thus, you will want to be sure that the franchise you are considering provides a quality car wash.

You can be sure the best car wash franchises utilize quality car wash equipment and chemistry, and have trained their staff well.

Price & Fees

The price and fees associated with a potential franchise should also be evaluated when considering car wash franchise opportunities. Different franchises will have varying amounts of initial and reoccurring costs that you will need to be prepared for. The initial franchise fee and royalty fees are usually set standards by the franchise and you may need to look around before finding the ideal range for you.

Values and Similar Goals

You will want to consider the people-side of the business as well. This entails personal/business values, necessary skills, business goals and expectations. If something does not align, it may be an important sign to look at another franchise opportunity.

Different Types of Car Washes to Franchise

Even when franchising, you will want to consider what type of car wash do you want to operate. That may even help you narrow down which franchise you will like to pursue.

Mobile Car Wash Franchise

Mobile car wash franchises provide services to residential and commercial customers at their own home or desired location.

This eliminates the need for a physical location, allowing you to operate your business anywhere at any time with fewer overhead costs.

This type of business uses more manual labor than automatic options.

Self-Serve Car Wash Franchise

This type of car wash involves wash bays that offer application wands for customers to apply product and rinsing to their own vehicles. The car wash equipment, and start up costs are often cheaper than other systems, but customers will also generally pay less to wash their vehicles as well.

In-bay Automatic Car Wash Franchise

In this type of car wash, everything is done by machines. Cars drive into an available bay, and machines start cleaning around the parked vehicle.

Expect minimal employee involvement in the cleaning process but they will need to help behind the scenes such as loading chemicals, customer service, and ensuring operations run smoothly.

Automatic washes can come in both friction and touchless varieties and are both lucrative options to invest into.

Tunnel Car Wash Franchise

Tunnel car washes involve cars driving through a 'tunnel' of automatic car wash systems, cleaning multiple vehicles at once.

Tunnel car washes can handle the most traffic of any car wash option but usually need a substantial investment compared to other options, due to extensive equipment setups and more land to build the tunnels.

Full Service Car Wash Franchise

Full service car washes are car wash businesses that will not only clean the exterior of vehicles but other car wash services as well, such as detailing services and interior cleaning.

This type of car wash will charge consumers the most but they also are the most time consuming and will need many employees as most of the process will be manual.

Truck Wash Franchise

Truck washes or fleet washes are similar to car washes, only they generally service larger vehicles such as pickup trucks and buses. The chemical and equipment selection for truck washes can be different than for regular vehicles.

These can also be a very lucrative business, with less competitors (but also less customers on the road than standard vehicles).

Considering Joining a Car Wash Franchise?

Turtle Wax Pro and our parent company Transchem Group support car wash businesses of all types around the world. There are many benefits as well as cons to a franchise to consider, but they ultimately can be an opportunity for you and the franchise owners to make high profits!

If you would like to look at options for getting started in the car wash industry, Transchem Group offers consulting services. If you're considering the car wash franchise route, but aren't sure it's right for you, we can support in finding a great choice for your business goals!

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