Car washes

32 Replies

I'd like to get some advice and opinions on what to look for whence purchasing either existing car washes or suitable locations for new car washes.

What do you know so far? :)

@John Arendsen  

  I came very close to going into this business... Google Kaady car wash Portland ORegon they by far have the best car wash set up that I have seen its a cash cow .. Especially if you can get a prime location... Like El Camino Real in Palo Alto or Los Altos..

Or in your area of CA.... its a high 6 to 7 figure start up though.. But in the right spot as I said its a awesome cash cow machine.

@John Arendsen  

  I like this company so much I decided to google it for you... If your serious you need to fly up to PDX and check these out.. I will even buy you lunch and show them to you..

@Jay Hinrichs  - I've been thinking along these lines myself, since I am bored and all.  In fact, meeting for a cup of coffee with a guy next week who owns several in these parts.  Who knows, may be he'll take pity on me and sell me one - on contract...

@Ben Leybovich  

  I looked at it very hard about mid to late 90's  ... there are environmental issues .. and the technology is very advanced.. Kaady is the rock star in my mind.. The ones that have too many moving pieces and do a poor job do not get used enough.

A Kaady car was is so efficient and does such a good job your running cars through there bumper to bumper with 3 people total on a super busy sat.

full service in the right locations do very well as well... .Google Lozano's in Mtn. View CA.  now you talk about  the right place at the right time he started that one back before the bay area went tech crazy now he Is located within 5 miles of Palo Alto Los Gatos.. and all those techies driving their Tesla's Porches Mercedes etc etc.. On a sat there will be 40 guys and gals hand drying the cars as they come out of the conveyor..

Kaady is all just drive through  but just does a darn good job for 7 buck aroos and they just raised their price from 5 they were 5 for the 20 years I have been running through them. So in one season they just did a 30% revenue raise and I doubt it cut back on frequencies.

Last year I was in negotiations to buy a coin operated carwash in Cleveland. 

The returns didnt justify the asking price but I would still like to ad one to my portfolio one of these days.

Im pretty interested in hearing what some experienced carwash owners will have to say in this thread.

Labor intensive, not hard, but time consuming, it's a daily job, not what it appears to be. If you have winter, don't forget about winter. Better to have your own well. You will have environmental issues, people wash out all kinds of crap out of trucks (they also dump). Equipment varies a lot, leases can be had. Financing probably at 60%, if you can get it and that's  with experience.

If you must, many are for sale, seller financing is common due to tough financing, then you have the issue of price being too high when a seller carries, so they need to be motivated. There are motivated owner/sellers, there are also those that are always for sale.

Don't believe income claimed, owners lie and it's pretty much a cash business. Look at inventory consumed and consumption in cycles, then you can deduct for waste and arrive at cycles run/income. Computerized systems will show time, you can audit those.

We had a car wash in the family, 6 bay as I recall, not an auto, good business but not a mint overnight. Small town type.  

Yes, there are $M+ washes, there are also 200-300K existing washes, some needing work for less. Metal shed types can be had even cheaper. How good at plumbing are you? :) 

@Bill Gulley  

  would never consider coin operated metal shed type.. the TOUCHLESS state of the art  60 foot drive through in my mind the only way to go.. but as you state it takes some big money to get them going.

I was going to put mine in Napa CA.. and it would have killed it.. I have no doubt.

@Bill Gulley  

 in our area winter creates more use... people want the grim and road film off the car.

The winter is definatly the money making season.

Everyone needs to wash the salt off & nobody is doing that in their driveway when its 8 degrees out.

Originally posted by @Jay Hinrichs :

@Bill G. 

 in our area winter creates more use... people want the grim and road film off the car.

Yes, but not real winters. Have no idea about CA winters.  In the spring they will line up. Even heated water doesn't spray well at 20 degrees!

Now, drive thrus can operate, still not too busy in the muck until melting begins. Road maintenance has a lot to do with that too, major roads can be dry. :)

@Bill Gulley  

  with the new touchless car wash's like I am talking about super simple to have video and POS system to make sure your not getting snookered ...

And you do have it manned so they tape down antenna's and will turn back pick ups with too much gunk in them etc...

Where I live (Fort Bragg NC) TLC Car Wash is killing it on the main drag, Skibo Rd. Every time you ride by there is at least 10 cars out there, and more trying to get into the parking lot. Its like an assembly line and in a city like Fort Bragg where there really is no recession because its Soldiers here its probably a great business. Soldiers love their cars, I pay TLC $60 a month through auto draft for unlimited washes for my truck and my wifes car. You can't beat it, a $1.00 a day for each car, thats a no brainer for me...

Yes, we have them here too, yep, right here in the boonies! Friend of the family had one about 45 years, they have evolved, in HS I worked at one in the summer.

Not just one guy, staff is about 15, pre-soakers, interior guys, wipers, cashier, mechanic, manager. Closed late, opens early 2 shifts.

Wow! Lot's of really great info and feedback from a lot of folks who seem to know the game. We're a franchisor of an existing car wash company. We are looking for viable locations either existing or suitable and/or car wash zoned friendly properties to build out. 

We're only interested in land purchase properties. No leases please. Must be located in the path of progress and demographically conducive to our target market. Thanks a bunch for all your help.

I just re read my question and it did sound somewhat vague. Definitely not trying to be misleading in anyway. When I said "would like some advice" I should have added on locations for sale (land included).

@John Arendsen  

  Sucked us all into that one John  LOL.. your the pro you should be telling the audiance how to do it  !!!  are you familiar with Kaady ?

So sorry. Didn't mean to start out this way. No not familiar with Kady. I'm an investor in the San Diego area and I'm looking for properties to purchase that meet the buying criteria I've described.

going off (but related, sorta) topic: what about laundromats?  Years ago I had the fantasy of buying a small mixed use bldg in the city with a laundromat. Pick up your quarters at the end of the day...plan to pay for as many bills as possible with cash...

But alas, that fantasy came to an end. High water bills scared me, constant maintenance, etc. I also thought they are a dying breed, as areas gentrify, in-unit washer and dryers are the norm.  These days I don't want to bother. But I still see plenty of laundromats still chugging away here...

So anyone here with laundromat experience they care to share?

I don't know jack squat about the car wash business but I did see one built recently. This guy could have bought 3 existings for what he put into this one. This was the Rolls Royce of car washes. Mid century modern architecturally designed two storys, offices, full service detail, oil changes and even a chef inside making steak sandwiches. Well about 12 months later it now stores Range Rovers for a nearby dealership. Not sure what happened but man was that one was a bust. Check it out the next time you pass north bound on Sepulveda and Burbank. The case history on what not to do.

Not interested in laundrymats. I have a vested interest in a new car wash franchise company that will be rolling out Nationwide next year.

Amit, No, I'm actually all in on CW's. My partner just acquired an entire franchise operation in the Southeast (17 operating and profitable CW's). We're looking to expand Natiowide in the next 5 to 10 years but will be targeting San Diego, Orange County, Riverside and San Bernardino Counties for efficient management logistics for the next 2 to 3 years until we have a number of them up and running successfully.

BTW, I'm by no means a seasoned pro when it comes to CW's I'm a RE Broker and General Contractor and will be basically looking for viable properties and locations to acquire and then build out or convert into our model.

A Car Wash business that relies on employees prepping, washing, vacuuming and drying cars can be a liability. In many areas like Southern California, Arizona, and other parts, these existing car washes compete by using a lot if illegal labor. It is the only way they stay competitive and profitable. A word of caution if that is the case, getting busted for hiring or employing illegals can turn into a legal nightmare and potentially destroy a business. 

I had a friend who invested heavily in senior care facilities, he bought run-down facilities, rehabbed them, and resold them at significant profit. His office space was above a car wash. He had the intention of buying the car wash so he could own the whole building. The car wash staff were predominately all undocumented, needless to say he dropped his plans to buy the car wash. Just some food for thought.

Free eBook from BiggerPockets!

Ultimate Beginner's Guide Book Cover

Join BiggerPockets and get The Ultimate Beginner's Guide to Real Estate Investing for FREE - read by more than 100,000 people - AND get exclusive real estate investing tips, tricks and techniques delivered straight to your inbox twice weekly!

  • Actionable advice for getting started,
  • Discover the 10 Most Lucrative Real Estate Niches,
  • Learn how to get started with or without money,
  • Explore Real-Life Strategies for Building Wealth,
  • And a LOT more.

Lock We hate spam just as much as you

Join the Largest Real Estate Investing Community

Basic membership is free, forever.

By signing up, you indicate that you agree to the BiggerPockets Terms & Conditions.