Blog Real Estate

9 Considerations for Car Wash Site Selection

There are plenty of reasons car washes might fail. Poor management and bad employees certainly top the list in the minds of many. Perhaps the most impactful choice leading to success or failure, however, is made before the doors even open. It all comes down to that all too familiar mantra: location, location, location.Pushpin on map

Site selection can make or break a business and so it’s important for entreprenuers to do their due diligence when it comes to choosing where to open shop. Just because a street corner has a lot of traffic doesn’t mean it is a sure thing. Similarly, if an area doesn’t have much competition, it doesn’t mean the opportunity is simply waiting. The decision of where to build your business is as important as it is complex. While we certainly can’t cover every aspect, we’ve put together ten things to consider when picking your parcel.


  1. Define your Target Areas – Do you want to set up shop downtown? Out in the suburbs? By a mall? Right off a highway? Site selection involves narrowing down your parameters to fit with your business plan. You have a vision for the area your business is in, so make sure you’re not straying from that. Being next to daily needs vs. infrequent retail therapy uses.
  2. Identify the Demand Drivers – Just because an area appears to be affluent or booming, it doesn’t mean things are going to stay that way. Do your research to ensure that the area you’re in doesn’t turn into a ghost town as soon as you open. Start by studying traffic patterns and incoming/outgoing demand drivers in the market (places of employment, anchor tenants, etc.).
  3. Visibility. Wherever you go, visibility of your business and signage are key, especially for a car wash. While you’ll certainly have repeat customers, drawing in new ones passing by is crucial.
  4. Ingress/Egress – Just because someone sees your car wash doesn’t mean they’re certain to pull in if it’s going to take some effort. Make sure it’s easy to get onto and out of your lot. Most retailers put a greater emphasis on the ingress rather than then the egress.Architectural drawings
  5. Demographics – The demographics of an area can significantly impact your bottom line. There may be a big population on paper but how many actually drive? Define your customer and look for appropriate levels of income and age groups. Note that this will vary depending on your model. For example, you might want higher income levels for Full Service operations than you might in an Express Exterior. Density usually solves most problems for retailers so be sure to confirm adequate levels of nearby homes and businesses for adequate levels of daytime traffic.
  6. Define your trade area – Your market is most likely going to be everything within a three mile radius of your shop but this isn’t always the case. If your site is in a more rural area, people might travel farther distances for services. If your site is in a more urban enviroment the oppositie is true and you should decrease radius. Be sure to define the market with a real estate professional to confirm there are there enough people to justify the venture.
  7. Competition – How many other car washes are in the area? What kinds? Its not necessarily a zero-sum game, and additional carwashes will generate more total carwashes for a given market but given the choice, its always best to avoid competition.
  8. Look Beyond Rush Hour – Know your traffic patterns. Is there any traffic in the area outside of rush hour? You can’t rely on weekday warriors stopping in on their way home. Find a location that sees a steady stream of traffic at a speed that allows customers to stop and turn in. Its important to visit the site to observe patterns at all times of day, not just on Saturday at noon.
  9. Cost in Relation to Volume Estimates – This is not the time to be an optimist. Don’t plan on your preparations and building costs fitting into some dream budget. Make fiscally smart choices as you prepare to estimate your building costs so that you know what your budget for real estate truly is.

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If you take anything from this blog, note that you should seek advice. Most commercial brokers work off of fees paid by the landlord or property owner. The DIY success story is a great story to be able to tell when you’ve made it big. For now, take the advice of professionals who are willing to help you build your business on sound foundations, and search for the advice from those that are not afraid to tell you the truth.


Iron Fox has created proprietary software using various data points including demographics and historical sales to estimate future volume of sites. We offer a free preliminary Market and Site Analysis from experts in the field, and can use the proprietary software to provide a Site-Yield Analysis to help entrepreneurs estimate car counts. It is important to get this analysis done before you put a parcel under contract as your top line revenue should dictate your purchase price and construction estimates. By leveraging Iron Fox, you are able to better establish the true value of a piece of real estate and thus are better equipped to successfully get your site off the ground. To learn more about Iron Fox, or to see the other services we offer, visit us today at!

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Real Estate Video

What is the best site for you?

Iron Fox provides it’s partners with proprietary software to ensure they’re selecting the best site for their cashwash.

Blog Equipment and Chemicals Operations

Is owning a carwash a good business? Is it easy?

Part II

HFW Portrait low res

by Henry Weinschenk


Months, sometime years, have passed since you first started the project of building a carwash. You have spent a good amount of money on lawyers, architects, engineers, government fees, etc. besides paying for an expensive piece of land.


You are now ready to buy the wash equipment. There are many manufacturers. How do you make sense out of such a great variety? It’s not easy. When all is said and done, the equipment does not look that different, except for some bells and whistles. What’s your next step?


You will be surprised about the price ranges for similar packages of equipment. You may be inclined to go with the most expensive one, assuming that it will be the best, or the one that looks slickest, or the one that is the lowest cost.

The reality is that, these days most equipment performs the job of cleaning cars adequately. What you don’t know is, how will it perform from a maintenance point of view. There is one simple fact, carwash equipment is constantly subject to stress, wear and tear. It just comes with the territory. So, the important questions now are: is it build to last? Is it simple enough that it can be maintained by my own crew? Or, is it so complex that I will depend on outside service people? These are really the most important questions when selecting one manufacturer over another.


Once you have narrowed down your selection, you have another set of questions: who will install the equipment, and who will install all the plumbing and wiring that is required? These last two are not a minor matter. It will take substantial amounts of time and money, especially if you are only provided with minimum information and diagrams.


Finally, the construction starts, the equipment has been ordered and — like all construction jobs — there are delays, unforeseen situations, work change orders, bad weather, etc. But you can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Pardon the pun.


As you near completion, you will have to concentrate on hiring the right people. It does not matter if you are building a simple little car wash, that requires few people or a larger one with a lot of services provided by a crew of people. You will need people.


Regardless of, if you plan to run the daily operations or not, you will have to hire a responsible and capable manager. Somebody that can deal with the maintenance of the equipment, the people in the crew, and the most important people of all: your customers. Who are you going to get and where will you find that person? And, once hired, how are you going to compensate and motivate, him or her. You want to make sure you will retain that person for a long time. That is, if that person turns out to be the right person.


You will also have to interview and hire, assistant managers and the rest of the crew. Remember that these people are not just your production workers, they are your ambassadors in front of your customers.


You are still weeks, if not months, away from your opening day, but you need to start planning for it. How will people know that you are open for business?


Stay tuned for Part III.

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How does Iron Fox train and prepare operators?

Iron Fox provides hands-on training programs for operators and their staff.

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