Estimated Cost of Building an Automatic Car Wash in 2022 (2022)

Do you want to start a car wash and want to know the cost? If YES, here is a cost breakdown for building an automatic car wash and the profit margin / ROI. With industry revenues of nearly $6 billion and consumer interest in car washes continuing to grow, it is easy to understand why someone looking to strike out on his or her own would be interested in opening a professional car wash. Automatic car wash structures are popular and tend generate high revenue for commercial operations.

Table of Content

    • What is an Automatic Car Wash?
  • Cost Breakdown for Building an Automatic Car Wash
    • Location
    • Permits, Licenses, and Professional Fees
    • Efficient Waste Management System
    • Automatic Car Wash Equipment
    • Insurance, Safety, and Security Systems
    • Advertising and Promotion

What is an Automatic Car Wash?

Automatic Car Wash is the type of car wash that you will normally see at a convenience store or gas station, because it generally requires less space and labour than other car wash formats. When you use this type of car wash, you will pay for the type of wash you want, your vehicle will be pulled into the car wash from a starting point, and you will wait in your car as the exterior of your vehicle is cleaned. Around 58,000 businesses in the united states are in-bay automatic car washes.

(Video) HOW TO FIND CAR WASH BUSINESS'S TO BUY! My approach to becoming a self serve car wash owner!

How Much Does It Cost to Build an Automatic Car Wash and What is the Profit Margin?

If you are going to open an automatic car wash, you will be able to wash more cars per hour without having many people on your payroll, but you will have to replace your equipment every ten years or more often if it is not maintained properly. This type of operation requires a significant investment of up to $500,000 because it is a much bigger facility than a self – service car wash.

Water is really costly, especially in places like California where the water is in short supply. Reclaiming water is important. This requires capturing the water and pumping it through a filtration system to clean it before it is used again. Automatic car washes use a lot of electricity as well. Labour is paid at the minimum wage because the workers also get tips.

For automatic car wash systems, the average charge is $10. Most customers like to add some extras and can pay as much as $15 for a wash with the extras of interior cleaning, freshener, tire treatment, and the application of car wax. An automatic car wash operating at 100 cars per day at the average price of $10 per car will make $1,000 in gross profits per day.

Labour will cost about $60 per hour so for an eight – hour shift, that is $480 plus $120 more for employment taxes paid by the employer. Electricity will be about $200 per day and water about $75 per day and supplies about $25 per day. Insurance will cost $2,000 to $3,000 per month.

Taking these expenses into consideration gross profits per day would be about $220 per day. The owner of a modestly successful automatic car wash would make around $6,600 per month in profits after paying all the expenses. In really busy areas, it is possible to make up to ten times this amount.

(Video) How Much Money $$ a Car Wash Makes - in 1 Week!

Cost Breakdown for Building an Automatic Car Wash

There are several variables that must be determined before you can realistically estimate your costs when opening an automatic car wash. For instance, the size of your building, the type of construction and even development expenses can vary significantly.

Have it in mind that the building is the first thing your customers will see when they are deciding whether or not to visit your business. Consider the importance of making a great first impression. Below is the cost breakdown of building an automatic car wash:

  1. Location

Note that where you will build your car wash structure is one of the most important decisions you will have to make in starting up this business. You have to know whether the area is accessible to your target market and if the neighbourhood is safe and secure.

Meanwhile, the space needed for one bay of an in – bay automatic car wash is around 7,000 square feet. You have the option of building from scratch, buying an existing car wash structure or renting a car wash building.

In general, land acquisition costs are estimated at $100,000 – $200,000. Site work that includes building the foundation and landscaping costs around $200, 000 – $300, 000 while building construction (including electrical and plumbing) is at $350,000 – $500,000.


  1. Permits, Licenses, and Professional Fees

To successfully start this business, some of the required paperwork and professional fees that you need to pay for are: architectural fees, engineering fees, studies and appraisals (e.g. impact, traffic), construction permit, business license, and environmental and safety permit. The cost of permits and licenses is $150 – $200 on average. Including professional fees, the total of this part of the cost can go up to $50,000 – $150,000.

  1. Efficient Waste Management System

In the United States, environmental authorities mandate car wash facilities to have an integrated system to collect and process and reuse wastewater. The more contaminants in the wastewater, the more you will spend on your wastewater recycling. A closed – loop system that can restore water for reuse right in the car wash facility costs from $35,000 – $100,000.

  1. Automatic Car Wash Equipment

For automatic units, the cost of equipment can go as high as $31,000 – $49,000 per bay. Always ensure to do a canvass of equipment costs with your local distributors so you can compare prices. You may also want to consider buying used car wash equipment for lesser cost or getting them on consignment.

  1. Insurance, Safety, and Security Systems

It is necessary to protect your business from potential risks and accidents that will cost you money. Types of insurance coverage that are recommended for car wash businesses are those that cover general liability, professional liability, and commercial property. You will need to prepare at least $500 up to $15,000 for insurance coverage alone. It will help to research what specific insurance coverage you will need for your business and for your team.

  1. Advertising and Promotion

As a new entrant into the industry, you will need to put the word out to attract potential customers. Advertising campaigns can cost $2,000 – $5,000 on average. Signage costs roughly $15,000 – $25,000.

(Video) Is washing your car yourself mathematically any cheaper? (vs Automatic Car Wash)

From the detailed breakdown above, the estimated cost to build an automatic car wash is $500,000 – $1,400,000 (including land and construction costs), depending on the factors mentioned above. To further cut down on startup costs, consider getting a car wash franchise. Through franchising, you will save on a number of expenses while banking on an established brand and Business model.


Building an automatic car wash offers an excellent opportunity to sell additional items to clients who are waiting for their cars to be washed. One terrific and very successful idea is to have a drop – off dry cleaning and laundry service associated with a car wash.

Additionally, offering fast food is another revenue source. The typical automatic car wash customer can wait for about 15 minutes at a minimum for their car to be washed. This is an excellent time to sell them other things. Consider making deals with auto dealerships to wash cars at night as this is a great way to make extra money.


What type of car wash is most profitable? ›

Exterior Conveyor Car Wash

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.

Is car wash a good business? ›

Among the many advantages to owning a car wash, one of the most attractive to new business owners is the amount of profit one can generate. Small-scale, self-service car washes average just over $40,000 per year in profit while larger luxury car washes can net owners more than $500,000 per year.

Is a self-service car wash profitable? ›

When you buy a self-serve car wash you can expect to generate between $1200 $1600 per bay, per month. Average operating expenses for an automatic car wash are around 35% of gross sales. Labor costs are generally low, usually running around 13 percent of gross sales.

Are car washes high profit? ›

The Houston Chronicle, reporting on a survey conducted by Auto Laundry News, a leading car wash industry publication, said that profits can range from $55,000 to $100,000 per year for a self-service car wash to $500,000 to $900,000 for a full-service business.

How do car washes attract customers? ›

5 Tips to Attract More Car Wash Customers
  1. Use the Internet and Social Media. ...
  2. Implement a Frequent Buyer Program. ...
  3. Host a Fundraising Event. ...
  4. Make up Contests and Giveaways. ...
  5. Offer a Referral Program to Your Car Wash Customers.
22 Jan 2013

What is the target market for a car wash? ›

The target market for a car wash includes people who have a need to keep their car clean but are not willing to do the work themselves. However, even within the car wash target market, different people have different reasons for going to the car wash.

How do I start a carwash business? ›

10 Steps For Starting a Car Wash From The Ground Up
  1. 1) Location is Everything - Go Scouting. Car washes aren't automatically successful. ...
  2. 2) Review the Competition. ...
  3. 3) Do the Paperwork. ...
  4. 4) Planning and Approval Process. ...
  5. 5) Research Car Washes. ...
  6. 6) Operations Decisions. ...
  7. 7) Make a Business Plan! ...
  8. 8) Get Financing.
3 Jul 2015

What is a good cap rate for a car wash? ›

Car wash real estate cap rates generally fall within the 4.5% - 7.0% range. The majority of the variance surrounding such is well warranted via the existence of corporate level guarantee's, quality of earnings for which cap rates are based, and pro-forma / utilization of full potential the current wash is operating at.

Why are car washes booming? ›

Customer demand for more convenience.

Busy schedules and time constraints have prompted more consumers to use professional car washes, rather than cleaning their vehicles at home.

How much does it cost to build a car? ›

For every car, the auto manufacturer makes an estimated $17,000. This makes the cost of manufacturing about $ 33,000 to $ 133,000. Ford – for every average priced car that Ford sells for about $ 22,000, they make $ 2,200 as gross margin.

What is a conveyor car wash? ›

When most people think of a car wash, they tend to think of an exterior-conveyor wash. These are the washes that put cars on a motorized track and drag them through a tunnel where they are rinsed, soaped up, washed, rinsed again and possibly waxed.

How much does it cost to build a car wash in Canada? ›

With self-serve bays, depending on your local climate, equipment will cost approximately $15,000 to $25,000. Building costs vary, but the simplest structures will start at around $25,000.

What is the profit margin for an automated car wash? ›

The profit margin that your car wash will make per vehicle is last and most crucial number when you are calculating the cash flow and profitability of your car wash. Brandongaille reported that the average profit per car for in-bay automatics was $4.35 (or 29% of an average ticket price of $15).

Are express car washes profitable? ›

Profitable business

These generate $24 billion in annual revenues and have up to 4% growth potential per year, according to NCS, a leading car wash operator and the parent company of the industry's leading brands. Some 15,000 of car washes are express tunnels.

How much do car wash owners make in California? ›

What are Top 5 Best Paying Related Car Wash Jobs in California
Job TitleAnnual SalaryMonthly Pay
Car Owner$78,555$6,546
Car Engineer$65,539$5,461
Car Services$65,473$5,456
Wash Engineer$64,467$5,372
1 more row

How can I make my car wash more profitable? ›

5 Secrets to Generating More Revenue at Your Car Wash
  1. Carefully calculate the base wash price. There is an exact operator cost for a single car wash. ...
  2. Price car washes for the area you serve. ...
  3. Add features to enhance the wash. ...
  4. Turn an errand into an experience. ...
  5. Incentivize customers to purchase a membership.
13 Mar 2020

Is the car wash industry growing? ›

The U.S. car wash service market size was valued at USD 14.21 billion in 2020 and is expected to expand at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 4.8% from 2021 to 2028.

How do I write a car wash proposal? ›

The best way to write a car wash business proposal is from a template like this one. Introduce your company, list your services, accompany them with a schedule, operating hours and completion time per service. Then describe the equipment you use and your insurance policies.

How profitable is a car detailing business? ›

Profitability Scenarios

According to, a one-person detailing business can bring in as much as $90,000 per year. That figure is based on an average of three jobs per day for five days at $120 per job.

How much water does it take to clean a car? ›

Rinse vehicles with a hose equipped with an automatic shutoff nozzle. A standard garden hose uses about 10 gallons per minute. This means you use 100 gallons of water with only a 10-minute car wash.

How much is a car wash in UK? ›

Mobile car wash prices in the UK
ServiceCost - lowAverage cost
Basic body wash£15£18.50
In and out clean£25£32.50
Mini valet£35£36.50
Interior valet£45£56.50
1 more row
31 Mar 2022

How much do mobile car Valeters earn UK? ›

Car valets in the Uk can make around £600 – £800 weekly. Here's a simple calculation. A valet can charge about £30 depending on the size of the car. It could take them an hour or so to work on which means theft could work with 30 cars per week.

Do you need a license for a car wash UK? ›

What licences does a car valeter need? There are currently no licensing requirements relating specifically to car valeting businesses.

What kind of water do car washes use? ›

In general, there are three types of water that are used in carwashes: Hard water, soft water, and reverse osmosis (RO) water.

How much water is used in an automatic car wash? ›

Friction in-bay automatic systems use approximately 35 gallons per vehicle. In-bay automatics that employ the high-pressure touchless method use 70 gallons per vehicle. The tunnel wash, with its multitude of high-pressure applicator gizmos, can use 120 gallons of water per vehicle.

How many cars can a 100 gallon tank hold? ›

These 100 plastic gallon water tanks are the most popular size for mobile detailers, giving them enough water to last the day and then some! Depending on how conservative you are, you can wash (full exterior wash, wheels, wheel wells, bed liners, etc.) 10 to 15 car on average.

How long does a car wash take? ›

Several factors can affect car washing duration like the car wash type, car wash process, etc. But typically, the average car wash time is three to four minutes.

How much does it cost to wash a car by hand? ›

Manual hand car wash locations are more expensive than automated car washes and will cost you $20 to $30 for a single wash.

How much does it cost to vacuum a car? ›

Basic car detailing service should include a wash, wax, interior vacuuming, interior polish, window wash, mirror and trim cleaning and tire cleaning. You can expect to pay $50 to $125 for an average sized vehicle and $75 to $150 for an SUV or van.

Are mobile car washes profitable? ›

The car wash industry is a massive one, with a market size of more than $30 billion worldwide. Thus, starting a mobile car wash is a lucrative opportunity for entrepreneurs, or for people who simply love cars. Also, new car prices are continuously rising every year, with an average increase of around $1,000/year.

How do I start a carwash business? ›

10 Steps For Starting a Car Wash From The Ground Up
  1. 1) Location is Everything - Go Scouting. Car washes aren't automatically successful. ...
  2. 2) Review the Competition. ...
  3. 3) Do the Paperwork. ...
  4. 4) Planning and Approval Process. ...
  5. 5) Research Car Washes. ...
  6. 6) Operations Decisions. ...
  7. 7) Make a Business Plan! ...
  8. 8) Get Financing.
3 Jul 2015

How many Litres of water does it take to valet a car? ›

10 minutes of rinse / shampoo / rinse @ 7 litres per minute. So about 100 litres per car max. 1 litre of water = 1 Kg in weight = 10cm x 10 cm x 10 cm in volume. Don't you just love the metric system.

Why do you wash wheels first? ›

First up on the exterior wash "hit list" are the wheels & tires. You'll want to clean these before the paint because they're typically the dirtiest part of your vehicle. Plus, if you wait to clean them until the end of your wash you'll run the risk of splashing dirt & brake dust back onto the clean paint.

How do I start a hand car wash business UK? ›

Follow these steps to start a car valeting business:

Find a car wash site for rent or sale. Choose what services you offer: car washing vs car valeting. Work out what hand car wash equipment you might need. Write a car wash business plan or car valeting business plan.

Do you need qualifications to be a car Valeter? ›

You'll need

There are no set requirements, but it may be useful if you've got some experience in the motor trade, or in a related area like industrial or office cleaning. You may need a driving licence as your duties may include moving and delivering vehicles to customers.


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