What penguins can teach us about car washes

Did you know that penguins huddle in the freezing cold to stay warm? If one ventures out and stays away from the huddle too long, freezing to death follows. The Huddle is safe; in fact, the center of the huddle can be too warm. The penguins rotate in and out so none of them get too hot within the inner circle or freeze to death in the outer circle. True story!

Why are you reading this? First, many great lessons about business can be learned from nature, and penguins are cute, funny, and can outlast you in the artic. Second, the penguin huddle holds a valuable lesson for those of you who intend or already have multiple locations. The lesson is Huddle them together.

Think long-term.

If your locations or penguins are going to huddle together, make sure the huddle is in a region that can sustain them all. No sense in a plan to build 30 locations in rural Texas unless they can network out with minimal driving distance between each one to weather the storms that will come. Plus, who wants to ship parts or technicians that far?

The lone survivor is a myth.

Some of you think that this should go without saying, but the rest of you need it said. Don’t build a location away from the huddle. It will freeze to death in the cold.

Some investors, in search of the “perfect location,” make hasty moves counter to their survival. They abandon the discipline baked into their investment thesis to join a gold rush, but it’s fools’ gold.

Even if you find the “perfect location” and build, you have missed a valuable lesson.

All business enviroments are the artic. Without support from the huddle, that single location slowly dies from neglect. Corporate support, management accountability, spare parts, and brand recognition are all hundreds of miles away within the huddle.

Don’t buy into the myth. Go local by huddling up.

Have you ever sat in the drive-through line waiting for the car in front of you to decide on its order? Too many options not only slows the line, it can frustrate customers. An old sales tactic to make customers spend more, it now feels outdated and annoys customers. That’s why car washes should reexamine their menus and how packages are structured.

Today, we will delve into the reasons why car washes need to streamline their menu offerings, the benefits it brings, and how it contributes to customer satisfaction and business success.

1. Clarity for Customers

A cluttered and complex menu can overwhelm customers, leaving them unsure about which car wash package to choose. By simplifying the menu offerings, car wash businesses can provide clear and concise options, making it easier for customers to understand the services available. A straightforward menu helps customers make quicker decisions, leading to improved customer satisfaction.

2. Faster Decision-Making

In today’s fast-paced world, customers appreciate efficiency and convenience. A simplified menu allows customers to quickly assess the available services, select the one that best suits their needs, and proceed with the car wash process promptly. This streamlined decision-making process enhances the overall customer experience and reduces the risk of customers leaving without making a purchase.

3. Focus on Quality

When car wash menus are overly complex with numerous options, it can lead to divided attention and reduced focus on delivering high-quality services. By simplifying the menu offerings, car wash operators and staff can concentrate on perfecting the services offered. This focus on quality translates to better results, leaving customers satisfied with the cleanliness and appearance of their vehicles.

4. Upselling Opportunities

While simplifying the menu, car washes can strategically incorporate upselling opportunities. By offering a few well-curated packages, car wash businesses can highlight premium services or add-ons that customers may not have considered otherwise. This targeted approach to upselling enhances revenue generation while providing customers with valuable and relevant options.

5. Improved Efficiency and Throughput

A simplified menu can also lead to improved operational efficiency. With fewer menu options to manage, car wash staff can expedite the processing of each customer, reducing wait times and increasing throughput. This not only benefits the customers by saving their time but also helps the car wash business accommodate more vehicles, thus boosting revenue potential.

6. Consistent Brand Image

A straightforward and cohesive menu reinforces a consistent brand image. When customers can easily identify the car wash’s core services and value proposition, it fosters brand recognition and loyalty. A consistent menu also aligns with the car wash’s marketing efforts, creating a coherent message that resonates with customers and sets the business apart from the competition.

Simplifying menu offerings is a powerful strategy for car wash businesses seeking to elevate their customer experience and drive success. A clear and concise menu fosters clarity for customers, expedites decision-making, and allows car washes to focus on delivering high-quality services. It opens upselling opportunities, enhances operational efficiency, and reinforces a consistent brand image.

By simplifying your menus, you can establish yourself as customer-centric, efficient, and trustworthy establishment that caters to the needs of modern consumers. Embracing simplicity will undoubtedly increase customer satisfaction, stronger brand loyalty, and sustained growth in the highly competitive car wash industry.

Acquisitions are the new car wash buzzword. And with it, operators are starting to discover wash superstars. Two sales, in particular, had many circles talking: Super Star Car Wash, based in Arizona, and El Car Wash, based in Florida.

Do we know their numbers? No. Those are private, but enough people talked that it caught our eye.

As marketers, we’re always looking for trends and how washes grow their revenue. Both of these washes are uniquely strong regional brands that have solid brand awareness and loyalty. That’s because they have developed brand positioning and active marketing.

Take El, for example. It utilizes local influencers to visit the wash and post about their experience. Reaching thousands of people at a time, the brand pops with its pink and teal coloring. Team that with happy, oftentimes dancing influencers and it makes customers want to visit.

As El expands, it is also taking some lessons from Woodie’s with a Miami Heat sponsorship. As it expands through Florida, its marketing budget grows. It is sure to be a marketing powerhouse in the Florida market. Orlando is about to heat up.

What can you learn from these washes? First, that operational standards matter. Second, build a loyal following. Customer service, regular communication, and targeted messaging will take you far.

And if you want to make the most of that marketing budget, grow regionally before expanding. It makes a difference.

In the fast-paced world of car wash businesses, staying ahead of the competition is crucial for sustained success. Artificial Intelligence (AI) has emerged as a game-changing technology, offering innovative solutions to streamline operations and enhance customer experiences. Here are a few ways car washes can leverage AI to drive growth, improve customer satisfaction, and optimize business processes.

1. Personalized Marketing Campaigns

AI-powered tools can analyze customer data and behaviors to create highly targeted and personalized marketing campaigns. By understanding individual preferences, such as preferred car wash services and scheduling patterns, car wash businesses can tailor promotions and offers to suit each customer. This personalization fosters a deeper connection with customers and increases the likelihood of repeat visits.

2. Chatbots for Real-Time Customer Support

Integrating AI-driven chatbots on websites or social media platforms can significantly enhance customer support. Chatbots can provide instant responses to frequently asked questions, assist with appointment bookings, and address customer inquiries, even outside regular business hours. This round-the-clock availability improves customer satisfaction and helps build a reputation for exceptional service.

3. Optimize Pricing and Offers

AI algorithms can analyze market trends, competitor pricing, and customer demand to optimize pricing strategies. By leveraging dynamic pricing models, car washes can adjust prices based on factors like weather conditions, local events, or peak hours. Additionally, AI can recommend the most attractive offers and packages to maximize customer value and increase revenue.

4. Predictive Maintenance and Equipment Management

AI-powered predictive maintenance can help car washes monitor equipment health in real-time and detect potential issues before they escalate. By predicting maintenance requirements, car washes can minimize downtime, reduce repair costs, and ensure a seamless customer experience. This proactive approach to equipment management improves overall efficiency and reliability.

5. Image Recognition for Vehicle Inspection

Implementing AI-based image recognition technology enables car washes to conduct automated vehicle inspections. Cameras can capture and analyze images of vehicles before and after the wash to identify damages or areas that need special attention. This feature enhances transparency and builds trust with customers, knowing their vehicles are thoroughly cared for.

6. Enhanced Customer Insights

AI can process large datasets to extract meaningful customer insights. Car washes can analyze customer feedback, behavior patterns, and preferences to identify areas for improvement. This data-driven approach allows businesses to make informed decisions, refine marketing strategies, and deliver exceptional customer experiences.

7. AI-Powered Advertising

AI can optimize digital advertising campaigns by analyzing user behavior and preferences. AI-driven advertising platforms can target specific customer segments, making sure the right ads reach the right audience. This level of precision minimizes ad spend wastage and maximizes the impact of marketing efforts.

Artificial Intelligence has become a powerful ally for car wash businesses, transforming the marketing landscape and driving operational efficiency. By implementing AI-powered personalized marketing campaigns, using chatbots for real-time support, optimizing pricing, and offering predictive maintenance, car washes can elevate their marketing strategies to new heights.

AI-driven solutions provide car wash businesses with valuable customer insights, streamline operations, and improve customer satisfaction. Embracing AI in marketing empowers car washes to not only stay competitive but also become leaders in delivering exceptional customer experiences. As the car wash industry continues to evolve, AI will undoubtedly play a crucial role in driving success and revolutionizing the way car washes connect with their customers.

For aspiring entrepreneurs looking to venture into the car wash industry, understanding the profit potential is crucial. Car wash businesses have the advantage of serving a steady stream of customers seeking vehicle maintenance and cleanliness. However, profitability can vary based on several factors, including location, business model, pricing, and operational efficiency. In this blog post, we will delve into the factors that influence the profitability of the average car wash and explore strategies to maximize earnings.

1. Location Matters

The location of a car wash plays a significant role in determining its profitability. A car wash situated in a high-traffic area with easy accessibility and visibility is likely to attract more customers, translating into higher revenue. Additionally, being close to shopping centers, gas stations, or residential areas can lead to increased footfall, boosting profitability. Don’t be fooled by traffic count, though. Just because the road has a lot of traffic doesn’t mean it will convert.

2. Business Model and Services Offered

The choice of business model and services offered greatly impacts profitability. Full-service car washes that offer additional services such as interior cleaning, detailing, and waxing tend to generate higher revenue per customer visit compared to automated or self-service car washes. Diversifying your service offerings to meet various customer needs can enhance profitability. Know the market and what customers want before choosing your model.

3. Pricing Strategy

Determining the right pricing strategy is critical in maintaining a balance between attracting customers and maximizing profits. Competitive pricing that aligns with the quality of service provided can help attract a steady stream of customers. Additionally, offering loyalty programs or bundle discounts can encourage repeat business and customer retention. It used to be that car washes were in a race to the bottom for washes. You will see some $5-$8 washes in many markets, but the national chains generally start around $20 for the lower wash. Be sure you know what your competition is doing in the market.

4. Operational Efficiency and Cost Management

Maintaining operational efficiency is key to maximizing profits in the car wash business. Reducing water and energy consumption, optimizing labor costs, and investing in automated systems can help streamline operations and minimize expenses. Regular maintenance of equipment and facilities can also prevent costly breakdowns and ensure smooth operations. Consider a parts closet, so you have any part that can close down your wash for a day or more on hand. The reason? Supply chain issues. Trust us; no one wants to wait a week for a part!

5. Seasonal Fluctuations

The profitability of a car wash may experience seasonal fluctuations, particularly in regions with extreme weather conditions. Winter months might see reduced business in warmer/non-snow climates, while the spring season can bring a surge in customers seeking car wash services. Adapting marketing strategies and service offerings to cater to seasonal demands can help maintain profitability throughout the year. Generally speaking, spring is your most profitable month, hitting a slight dip in summer. Fall is typically the slowest, with winter being dependant on your market.

6. Marketing and Customer Retention

Effective marketing strategies play a vital role in attracting new customers and retaining existing ones. Utilize social media, online advertising, and local promotions to reach potential customers and communicate your car wash’s unique selling propositions. Building strong customer relationships through excellent service and loyalty programs can foster repeat business and word-of-mouth referrals.

The profitability of the average car wash depends on various factors that business owners can control and optimize. Choosing an ideal location, offering a diverse range of services, and implementing competitive pricing strategies are essential elements in driving revenue. Emphasizing operational efficiency and effective cost management helps control expenses and boost the bottom line.

Understanding seasonal fluctuations and implementing tailored marketing strategies can keep the cash flow steady throughout the year. By adopting a customer-centric approach and delivering exceptional service, a car wash business can not only achieve profitability but also build a loyal customer base that contributes to sustainable success in the competitive automotive service industry. Aspiring entrepreneurs should carefully analyze these factors and implement strategic plans to unlock the full profit potential of their car wash venture.

Autobell Car Wash is known as one of the largest family-owned car washes in the country. Started in 1969 by the Howard family, it is still family operated and has around 80 locations in North Carolina and throughout the east coast.

The company is known for taking a PR approach to its marketing. It sponsors professional sports teams, prioritizes news segments, and consistently sponsors community events. But there’s been a shift in its brand positioning, and we have an idea why.

Late last year, Shawn Sluder was promoted from a Creative Manager to Director of Brand Marketing. Without realizing the change, we started seeing a shift in their public presence. The brand seemed to be cleaner. We also started to hear more industry insiders talk about their team, and they seem to be hiring again for various marketing positions. The signs and byproducts of the shift are noticeable, but the fact that all of these subtle branding touches are working together may not be.

Brand launch events may be why authentic branding flies under the radar. Most think branding is an event that launches (or re-launches) a brand in one night with “THIS IS WHO WE ARE” statements. REAL BRANDING is a process.

Like weight loss, it’s not noticeable after one day or one week but takes shape and is noticeable to the public when you have a plan and place the right effort week after week. Stack enough disciplined branding efforts on top of each other, and this compounds into a fantastic brand that is recognizable by sight, and the degree of customer experience and service doesn’t vary by location.

We hope Autobell’s next project on the list is fixing the mixed use of car wash and carwash on their website menu and text – you know it’s our pet peeve.

But until then, here’s a shoutout to the team. We see you.

If you’ve worked in the car wash industry for some time, you’ve likely heard the “secret” to marketing:

Target young moms and sponsor lots of local events.

Should you consider these in today’s marketing? Yes, but it’s time to take what we’ve learned and ask how can we do this better?

As private-equity-backed car washes start to dot the nation, the industry’s marketing is advancing. Data has shown that any wash offering memberships should target men and women in their 50s with an average household income of $100k or more. Raise that income to $125k, and you’re even more likely to convert a member.

Your region and market could be different, but the key is that car wash marketing is changing. Gone are the days when you could spend a few dollars here and there to gain customers.

Tools like Rinsed and OptSpot have helped many smaller wash chains grow, but as competitors start to use the same products, you will need to upgrade your game too.

One easy way is to focus on your go-to-market or new customer outreach. Many operators use tools to sell memberships to cars already at the wash but aren’t using them to market to new customers. Start your ad campaigns today for a leg up on your competition.

Pro Tip: as always, please establish and maintain high standards at the site level or you’ll be the marketing hose will pour into a leaky bucket. “Pouring money down the drain” is a saying for a reason.

AutoLaundry News released its annual self-service survey results this May, pointing to rising inflation and plans to replace equipment throughout the industry.

The survey is conducted through a mailing of questionaries to random select subscribers who own or operate self-service car wash locations and follows years of similar surveying practices to produce industry benchmarks. This year, locations with in-bay automatics made up 51% of respondents compared to 49% without in-bay capabilities.

Some key takeaways from the survey include:


  • 27% of operators plan to add new equipment in the next 12 months.
  • Of the new equipment, in-bay automatics, vacuums, and LED lighting are all popular add-ons coming in at 16%, 11% and 11% respectively.


  • 65% of sites reported increasing their prices in 2022.
  • Of those sites that increased pricing, the average increase was 15.5%.
  • Vacuum prices increased from 27.3 cents per minute in 2021 to 29.9 cents per minute in 2022.

Business Trends

  • Spring and summer still tend to be the most profitable times for businesses around the country.
  • Saturday, Sunday, and Friday rank as the busiest days each week. Tuesday still remains the slowest.
  • 37% of customers show up between 3 pm-7 pm. Only 4% of customers show up between midnight and 8 am.
  • 30% of self-service washes have no employees on site, with 51% having a part-time employee, and 19% having a full-time employee.
  • Compared to 2021, 34% of self-service businesses saw an income increase, with 32% experiencing a decrease.
  • Labor, electricity, and water still top expense lists.
  • The average monthly gross income per bay is $1,810, and the average monthly grow income per vacuum is $331.

While car washes are still making money, revenues are starting to see dips year over year. This could explain the desire to upgrade sites and should include marketing strategies.

Read the survey here or click here to see past and full-service surveys.