Car wash systems and system strategies

With recent economic trends, many car wash owners are focusing their efforts on cost-effective ways to attract new customers and retain existing ones. There are several strategies that can be used when marketing or promoting a car wash business. Most owners are familiar with banners, signs and advertisements in the newspaper. But community involvement, customer appreciation, and in-person product education are also great ways to market.


Banners are an inexpensive way to convey a new message. For example, as the owner, it is your responsibility to encourage the addition of a high-end wax to an automatic vending machine or a triple foam polish in the self-service bays. A 3 x 8 foot vinyl banner can start at $150. Depending on the complexity of the company logo and additional graphics, these costs can escalate. If you stick to something simple — say, “Try our new triple foam polish” — and use a three- or four-color scheme, it’ll cost you around $200 per banner.

How will a banner increase business? A banner’s message grabs attention and engages consumers, especially when potential customers are passing by. If the current location they support doesn’t have the feature highlighted on the banner, they will be curious to try it. The correct positioning of the banner is crucial. The goal is for as many potential customers who come by to see the new banner.


Existing customers want to have the right cove signage to both direct and market service choices. For self-service car washes, the following signs should be posted in each bay.

1. The primary signage should be the instruction menus. The menu should contain brief descriptions of the products available and how the products should be used.

2. Secondary signs should highlight any newly added devices, such as: B. an in-bay dryer, a triple foam polish and a tire care. Based on the number of features, how-to menus range from $50 to $125 per bay. Secondary signs like triple foam polish and tire treatment cost between $20 and $35 per sign. Keep in mind that excessive use of signs in your bays can be confusing for customers.

It can be overwhelming for a customer when entering a cove to see that the entire wall is covered with various signs. In addition, customers may not be able to recognize changes or new products. When installing new marketing or informational signs, evaluate existing signs; Determine the importance of each and if any of them could be removed. Remember that the goal is to market and promote the new features and/or changes.


In-bay automatics have a few options. Appropriate use of banners, menu boards, and Windmaster signs can help increase a wash’s volume and average ticket price. As in the case of self-serve car washes, each time you add a feature like year-round protection, rim cleaner, or triple foam polish, create and hang banners to alert customers to the change. Again, be sure to place the banners in a location that is visible to passing customers.

Another option is to define your car wash packages. A menu board helps customers understand the differences between each package. If the customer doesn’t know what the benefit of the higher value package is, they won’t be willing to pay for it. When the customer pulls up at an automated checkout and looks at this menu (bottom left), what information is available to make the right choice? Looking at the next menu (bottom right) you can see that each washing package is clearly defined.

Customers can see what the top package has to offer, allowing them to make a more informed choice. This not only encourages higher ticket averages, but also repeat business. Customers get what they expect and don’t leave the wash feeling astray.

Ideally, this menu should be attached to your car cashier or printed as a sticker for them. Other options include printing the menu to go with a Windmaster sign holder or driveway wall mount. Select the option that keeps the menu in the closest line of sight for the automated cashier and the customer.


In recent years, the self-service industry has seen many upgrades, especially in the appearance and function of car wash meter boxes. Standard counter boxes with eight functions are replaced by 10 and even 12 functions. The upgraded boxes feature credit card readers, bill validators, and fleet card systems. Given the magnitude of these device changes, does the customer really know how to use them properly? More importantly, do they understand its benefits? What can you do as an owner to market and drive the changes?


Many owners spend countless dollars upgrading the equipment at their facility, but lack in-person customer training. If customers don’t understand the changes, they’re less likely to try them. Even with the right information signs, a small proportion of customers will shy away from new products. This is a great opportunity to start and develop personal relationships with customers.

It might sound a little dated, but the time you spend in your laundry educating customers about product benefits and proper usage is priceless. For example, a car wash owner spends money to upgrade his bay package to include dryer systems in the bay. He installs the units, hangs up the signs provided, and months later is upset at not seeing the announced profit increases. Where did he go wrong? Again, don’t underestimate the benefit of walking into a bay and tossing a few quarters in the meter box to demonstrate the proper use and function of a new product. The time you spend physically training your clients is time you spend building future equity. Don’t forget that the goal of a self-service owner is to sell time to customers. The more features they use on each visit, the more time on the bay – and therefore more sales.


With in-bay automatics, the task is a little more difficult. However, it never hurts to help customers rate their choices while they’re waiting in line. Offer a free upgrade to the next or best available package. Be sure to point out the differences between the packages and why they get more value from the top package. With the current economy, customers will be more interested in the maintenance of their vehicles. Explaining how the high quality wash packs help maintain the car’s finish is a must.


Another easy way to promote your laundry is to host a customer appreciation event. This annual event should focus on thanking regular customers while trying to attract new customers. Typically, events take place over the weekend and offer customers discounted laundry rates. Be sure to bring refreshments like soda, popcorn, and hot dogs. Don’t overcomplicate the event; Keep it simple and focus on face-to-face conversations with customers and showing them your appreciation.


Many car wash owners overlook the fact that they care about their local communities. Getting involved in Rotary or local children’s groups can help grow your wash-through association. Dedicated long-term clients are typically involved in local fundraising groups. Working with these groups can help boost regular business. People are willing to help those who give back to the community. Volunteering to wash for a local fundraiser is a diamond in the rough. In the short term, it can add a few bucks to the wash in chemicals and running costs. In the long term, the fundraiser will attract new customers who may not have tried the detergent under normal circumstances. Second, you support a good cause and help the community. In economic times tough as they are, reaching out to your community will go a long way in increasing business and building a loyal customer base.

The marketing of an automatic self-service car wash will evolve as new car wash equipment, parts, systems and services are introduced and new advertising techniques emerge. In this article, we’ve only scratched the surface of this vast and much-discussed topic. Ultimately, any opportunity or effort taken to promote and market your lingerie is a wise investment.