How much does it cost to run a car wash in the USA?

How Much Does It Cost To Run A Car Wash In The Usa?

How much does it cost to run a car wash in the USA?

If you have ever wondered how much it costs to put a car wash in the USA? it is because surely something tells you that it can be a profitable business.

And you are right: the car wash business in the United States projects long-term growth, after overcoming the negative economic effects caused by the start of the pandemic.

Factors to evaluate to set up a car wash in the USA

Let’s be sensible, setting a single price that allows you to know how much it costs to put a car wash in the USA is not an invariable formula;

basically because different factors intervene in the process that affect whether the cost is higher or lower, depending on your choice and your investment capital.

Below we detail these factors, one by one, so that you can do the math.


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The place for the car wash

This point is essential. Starting from scratch is not the same as starting with an already established business , either because you buy it or invest in a franchise of one of the many brands in the United States.

Starting from scratch involves studying and finding an optimal piece of land, which must be large enough (no less than 1,000 square feet) to build your car wash and be able to grow in the future.

It is advisable to find a space without previous structures, located in an area with commercial activity and, of course, with a high influx of drivers who need to clean their cars.

Although the cost varies from state to state, the average cost per square foot for land can be as low as $3. Land acquisition costs range from approximately $120,000 to $200,000.


Remember that costs may vary depending on the area where the land is located.

With the selected land you must also consider real estate expenses, qualification and quality of the site, plumbing costs, electrical installation, water and sewage.

In total, the average total cost can exceed $16,000.

The type of car wash

It is also important that you define the type of car wash you would like to set up, because that will determine the investment you must make to start your car wash business.


According to a report by carwashadvisory, building an automated car wash can cost anywhere from $500,000 to $2 million.

Of course, this amount includes all the equipment , permits, construction and adaptation for the integral automation of a car wash. Here are some aspects covered by this estimated investment:

  • Support and tunnel equipment, with blowers and tire polisher.
  • Water treatment system, with filtration and recovery of water resources.
  • Electronic components for payment station and tunnel controllers.
  • Vacuum system, with motors, hoses.
  • Landscaping and paving of the place.
  • Planning and permits.
  • Financing costs and debt service.

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You can also invest in a more modest car wash service that offers car exterior cleaning via a conveyor belt. These car washes may be located in self-service docks.

The cost of the equipment alone ranges from $16,000 to $24,000. And the prices for permits and licenses are around $200 or $250.


Consider something important: many times in the accounts to know how much it costs to run a car wash, the installation of a management system to collect and reuse wastewater is omitted.

Environmental authorities usually require this system whose cost ranges from $35,000 to $100,000.

Another overlooked detail is business insurance coverage that can cost anywhere from $600 to $14,000, depending on the insurance company you choose.

On the other hand, there are the car wash businesses that, in general, work as an annex in supermarket chains, fuel stations or food and beverage outlets on the road or in areas of high commercial attendance.

In this case, you must pay the rent plus other expenses, such as the salary of the washers and managers of the place, taxes and cleaning supplies, detergents, waxes, buckets, sponges, brushes;


as well as water guns, polishers and vacuum cleaners. In sum, for this the average initial budget is above $4,500.

How much does it cost to set up a car wash in the USA with a franchise?

One way to start a car wash is to access a franchise of the most recognized and established brands in the market.

It is an advantage, because you will have the commercial prestige that will open the doors to a greater clientele.

Of course, to be part of a franchise it is imperative to meet several requirements, two of them are the initial fee plus the total investment.

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What are the best car wash franchises in the United States?

Fleet Clean USA: This company requires an initial investment between $100,000 and $346,000 to franchise the car wash with them.

Mr. Clean: This laundry franchise requires an initial investment of $2 million as a requirement.

Prime: This company’s starting fee for a franchise is $50,000.

Detail XPerts: This company that uses steam cleaning technology asks its franchisees for the sum of $35,000 dollars. In sum, the total investment for this franchise ranges between $88,500 and $195,000.

What is needed to open a car wash?

In addition to considering the investment capital, to open a car wash you must also comply with specific licenses and documentation, which will vary depending on the state;


county or city where you want to operate your business. However, some cities coincide in the requested documentation.

Here are some requirements to open your car wash:

Zoning: This is a permit that some cities require according to their ordinances and their local water drainage policy.

Sewerage: In some cities you may be required to obtain a sewerage permit issued by the local authority.

Water: Since your business will use water to operate, then take into account that there are counties that require authorization to use a sufficient amount of water resources.

You usually have to ask for it at your local water office.


Appraisal Fees: This fee applies in some states for new businesses, including car washes. For example, in California , they can charge a fee of up to $300.

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Other important documents to put a car wash

There are documents that, although they seem obvious, you must take into account if you want to open a car wash in the United States. We mention the most relevant:

  • Car wash certification.
  • Document with the commercial name of your car wash.
  • Request or approval of your federal employer ID.
  • Commercial license with rights.
  • Commercial Responsibility Certification.
  • How much do you earn at a car wash in the United States?
  • The answer to this question depends on various factors, such as the daily collection rate, the volume of cars served;
    and expenses for equipment maintenance, taxes, personnel, and replacement of supplies.

Small car wash businesses have reported annual earnings of $40,000, while full-service car washes in the United States can reach $500,000 per year.

What if it is a profitable business? Wow, yes it is. The car wash industry in this country has accumulated a profit of $5.8 billion in recent years, as publicly reported by the United States Census Bureau.

And you, are you ready to start a car wash in the USA?


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