Touchless Car Wash – How Profitable Is It?

Touchless Car Wash – How Profitable Is It?

What sort of money can you expect to make from a touchless car wash? It is the question an ambitious entrepreneur asks when considering his or her car wash options. You will naturally want to have an idea of the financial projections before you invest your time and money in a car wash business. It means researching startup costs, maintenance costs and revenue-generating options. Profits will also vary according to customer demand, pricing strategies, wash times and techniques. Read on to look at these considerations in more detail.

What Is a Touchless Car Wash?

The automatic touchless car wash is a hands-off experience. It only uses high-pressure water jets and detergents to remove road grime, dirt and other deposits. No one physically touches the car. Automatic spinning brushes are not required. Many customers prefer this kind of brushless car wash system because there is no physical contact with their car, thus minimizing the risk of damage to the exterior paintwork of their vehicle.

How Does a Touchless Car Wash Work?

There are different touchless systems although the basic concept of touchless washing is the same. Equipment with vehicle-sensing technology carries out the work utilizing high-pressurized washing techniques. The touchless in-bay automatic car wash requires the customer to simply drive into a bay. Once in a stationary position, mechanical wands or “arms” with sensors navigate around the car while jetting water and car shampoo over the exterior to remove dirt and grime. The touchless conveyor tunnel system requires the customer to drive onto a conveyor. Then the car is rolled/pulled through the tunnel while the pressurized wash system operates automatically.

Touchless Car Wash Costs

Costs to Enter the Market

You need to think firstly about location, then the land, equipment and construction costs. An automatic touchless car wash machine with a dual-arm jet wash design can range from $21,000 to $23,000. Expect to pay up to $80,000 for more sophisticated designs with wheel-cleaning systems and dryer facilities.

Do you plan to purchase or lease land? Due diligence is essential because costs can vary considerably between different locations and states. Buying real estate can add value to your business but leasing may be a more affordable option for small business owners who want to acquire a larger site when first entering the market. Also, think about future business growth. If you can budget for a larger lot, it opens up opportunities to add more bays and services further down the line. As a rough estimate, budget around $45,000 per bay to cover costs for touchless car wash equipment, land and construction. Bear in mind, if you go for higher-end equipment and purchase a site in an expensive area, your costs will be considerably more.

Maintenance Costs

High-tech touchless wash equipment relies on intricate electronic components and hydraulically-powered parts, such as motors, sensors and a high-pressure pump system. Even high-quality systems can sometimes experience faults or failure. This means you may find yourself having to pay for costly repairs. Proper equipment maintenance is necessary. Carrying out regular checks will cost you money but it will hopefully save you money in the long run by identifying any potential problems before they arise.

Operating Costs

Your monthly expenses will include general utilities such as water and electricity and also maintaining a stock of chemical cleaners. In particular, pay attention to water usage. The pressurized jets used in a modern touchless car wash can use up to 15 gallons of water per vehicle, although some systems will have a degree of water recycling measures in place. On the plus side, you will be able to keep recruitment costs down with a self-serve computer-controlled touchless car wash. Leave it to the customer to input wash instructions, preferences and payment.

The Average Income of a Touchless Car Wash

Time is money. A touchless wash and rinse can be done in 5 minutes or less. Adding wax and dry options can increase the time to 8 minutes per wash but you will charge more for the service. There is the potential to wash 8 cars per hour. However, some conveyor touchless systems are even faster with capabilities of washing up to 30 cars per hour. Price per car wash can range from $7-$15.

Statistics reveal that the average annual revenue for a single in-bay automatic car wash is $147,000. This is based on washing 21,000 cars annually at a basic $7 per wash. This equates to washing around 80 cars per day, operating for 5 days per week. In the first year of business, once you deduct your fixed and variable costs, the average profit is in the region of $50,000-$60,000. Adjust this figure accordingly to suit the pricing strategies for your car wash business and turnover of vehicles washed per year.

How Profitable Is a Touchless Car Wash?

Research shows that rollover or in-bay automatic car washes accounted for the largest car wash market share in 2019, accounting for at 49.7% of the market. The high-volume of car washing achievable per hour can make a business very profitable. However, location is important. Go for an accessible site in a high-traffic area. Research the population and demographics of the neighborhood. Can you attract potential customers from local businesses or nearby busy residential areas?

To get a better idea of the potential profits, look at existing businesses for sale. For example, a self-serve car wash including two automatic touchless tunnels with real estate (2,840 square feet) in Dallas, Texas, is around $1,390,000. The business maximized profits by adding 4 additional self-serve bays. Gross sales are around $150,000 per year.

How to Maximize Your Profits

Think about auto detailing services to start offering when growing your business. It is entirely possible to double your profits by the time you reach the 5-year mark in business. For example, you could make $100,000-$120,000 per annum by offering more than just the basic touchless car wash. Give customers the option to purchase add-ons, such as tire shine, wax treatments or a hot water wash. These have the potential to raise revenue by around 20% per vehicle. Upgrade a basic 5-minute wash and rinse to a deluxe wash, wax and dry. This will typically take just a few minutes longer but at a higher price point. Offer interior detailing services. This can be another way to boost income and profits.

Maximize profits by washing more cars. One way this can be achieved is by expanding your business and opening up another car wash. You may choose to increase the hours you are open – 24/7 availability will also make a huge difference to your bottom line. Customer loyalty programs can help to boost profits too.

Other Options

Be mindful that the chemicals and detergents used in a touchless car wash may not always be environmentally-friendly solutions. You may decide to use products that will promote a “greener” image for your business. You will also need access to an efficient sewer system to manage your runoff water so it does not pollute the environment. High-water usage is not the hallmark of a green business either. If you want to be more environmentally friendly, explore options that match the mood of the socially conscious consumer. This includes making your car wash an eco-friendly business, using eco detergents and adopting water-saving methods, such as cleaning cars with steam.


The overall concept of a touchless car wash is speed and convenience with the potential to make good money in the first year and maximize profits in the years thereafter. However, speedy car washes do not guarantee the wow factor in the same way a professional detailer can. Furthermore, this kind of car wash focuses on the exterior wash only. If you are unable to expand your list of services by offering interior detailing, for example, you will miss out on potential profits. Additionally, interior detailing also addresses the demand for deep-clean sanitization services since the coronavirus outbreak.

However, if you take a versatile approach and pay attention to consumer trends and demands such as mobile detailing and green business models, there is the potential to make a touchless car wash with add-on services a profitable success. There are also other business models to explore with exciting potential to make a lot of money. For instance, take a look at DetailXPerts’ car wash business opportunity. It might just be the perfect fit for you.

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