7 Key Considerations When Choosing a Location for Your Car Wash
Location. Location. Location. Perhaps no factor is as important to the success of your car wash business as its location. Here are seven points to consider when choosing the ideal spot for your new car wash.
1. Make sure the site is zoned for a car wash.
This is probably the first question you need to ask. To build a car wash, your site will need to be zoned for commercial use. Zoning requirements can vary from one municipality to the next, so do your homework. Rezoning can be an extremely difficult process that will involve public consultation and hearings – and the outcome is far from guaranteed.
2. Choose a site with high traffic counts.
Because washing a vehicle is often an impulse decision, car washes rely on drive-by traffic. Do your research and pick a site that has a high daily traffic count (both weekdays and weekends) – ideally along a busy commuter route.
Traffic counts can be provided by your commercial real estate agent, or by contacting the municipality. Be sure to take future development along the route into consideration (that new subdivision a kilometer away could soon mean an extra thousand vehicles a day!)
Pro Tip: What’s the speed limit? At 50 – 60 kmph, vehicles are going slow enough they can turn into your business with relative ease. This may not be the case on a street with a posted limit of 80 kmph. And having multiple lanes makes it easier to merge.
3. Know the demographics.
It’s important to know your potential customer base. Are they car owners? Do they drive to work or take the bus? Do they have discretionary income to spend on a car wash? The higher-end the vehicles, the more inclined owners are to take care of them.
4. Pick a high visibility site with easy access.
If you want cars to get cleaned, you have to be seen!
Signage should be easy to spot well in advance so drivers have plenty of time to turn in. Consider the sightlines from both sides of the road and try to avoid lots where signage could be obscured by tall trees or billboards. Your design and engineering consultant can help you choose high-impact signage that meets bylaw requirements. Proper illumination will make your business more visible at night or during those dark winter mornings.
Ideally, vehicles should be able to conveniently enter and exit the site from the main street, without having to turn off onto a side road.
5. Your other facilities may dictate how much space you have for a car wash.
The size of your site and other services/facilities will have a big impact on the type of car wash you are able to build.
Typically, an automatic wash will have an interior width of approximately 4.5 m (15’). The exterior width is dependent on the number of bays, as well as the space required for mechanical/ electrical equipment and utility room. The length can range depending on the type of car wash.
Naturally, you’ll need to factor all buildings into your site plan (eg. fuel service and convenience store). Will you be offering a vacuuming station? Don’t forget to include that in your calculations.
6. Ensure you have adequate room for queuing.
Municipal bylaws will dictate minimal requirements for vehicle queuing. Engineering and design firms often use traffic modeling software to design the site for maximum safety and efficiency.
Multi-bay wand washes with separate doors will have separate queuing lanes, while a ‘barn style’ wash will have a single lane. Conveyor-type washes have a higher throughput than a ‘rollover’ wash.
Wait times between cars will vary with wash systems, types of wash (basic or full package), on-board vs. separate drier, etc.. High capacity multi-bay wand wash and/or high volume conveyor involve shorter wait times but may be popular, and thus present a need for longer queuing lanes.
7. Of course, check out the competition.
Before you commit to real estate, see what competition you’re up against. If there are other car washes nearby, is your business model is different, and does it offer you a competitive advantage? For example, do you have a different car wash system (touchless vs. wand wash)? Do you offer luxury wash features they do not? Are you providing a complimentary service (like fuel) that may give people an extra reason to choose your car wash? Will your newer facility be more enticing to customers than an older one a block away?
Design your business to clean up!
Once you’ve selected your site, you’ll need to pick an engineering and design consultant and have them submit a design package to the municipality for approval. With the right site and the right engineering partner, your business will be on the road to success.