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Factors to Consider When Choosing the Perfect Location for Your Car Wash

The old adage is true: The three most important things to consider when buying property are location, location, location. And this is especially true when starting a car wash. Choosing the perfect location is a make-or-break decision that can determine whether your business thrives or fails. In particular, it is important to consider who your retail neighbors are and how they can help drive business to your location.

First, Consider the Big Picture

When weighing the decision on which city or town to locate your car wash, you need to begin by looking at the big picture. In general, the more vehicles that pass by your location, the greater your chances of bringing in new and repeat customers. Gathering traffic data from local or state government agencies for each of your potential locations can provide great insight into commuter flow. You’ll also need to research local zoning laws and regulations to determine if any operating restrictions may apply to car wash businesses. Consider property taxes as well and what municipal services are provided. Next, look at the demographics of the people who live and work nearby. A slightly older or upscale population with a higher-than-average income is more likely to make car care a higher priority. Finally, you’ll want to select an area that has strong growth potential.

Next, Take a Look at Your Retail Neighbors

Once you’ve selected an area for your car wash, it’s time to look at specific locations and the retail businesses surrounding each site. Each type of location comes with its own advantages and disadvantages.

  • Neighborhood/Convenience Site – These are the kind of locations that people frequently visit as part of their daily routine or to pick up items on the way home. But that means there may be less traffic during certain times of the day, and drivers may have more of the “get in, get out” mentality that comes with running errands.
  • Lifestyle/Power Center – These areas typically see less daytime traffic, so consumers are more likely to visit the location while out and about during the day. However, these areas are often eschewed during high traffic hours.
  • Regional Mall – Unfortunately, many malls are not the thriving attractions they once were, so today’s shoppers may not readily seek these areas out. Yet, if the mall is successful or undergoing a rebranding that will increase its popularity, this can be a great location since consumer traffic will be on the rise.
  • Highway Convenience – Commuters must contend with congested traffic, short tempers, and often, long, grueling commutes. Highway locations that are difficult to get in to or out of discourage patronage, while sites offering easy off, easy on access to hectic highways are exceedingly convenient for busy travelers.
  • Urban In-Fill – During the normal workday, countless businesspeople employed within urban centers consider these locations as a time-efficient way to get a quick car wash during lunch, or on their way in to or on their way home from the office. Unfortunately, car washes located in these areas may not be highly visible to those unfamiliar with the area, while urban traffic patterns add an additional challenge. Further, a location within the city may translate to slow evenings and weekends.

Finally, Choose the Right Partner

Weighing all the factors involved with selecting the perfect location for your car wash can be a challenge, so the most important thing you can do is choose a partner who can help guide you through the process. The Iron Fox crew of car wash specialists consists of advisory and technical teams with the experience and expertise in retail real estate site selection, accurate proprietary volume estimation tools, project development, and overall operational management. In addition, we maintain a professional network of architects, engineers, real estate brokers, and car wash savvy lenders to support your car wash endeavor. With Iron Fox, you’re never alone. From site selection to opening day, through the entire life cycle of your car wash business, we’ll be your trusted partner to help guide you every step of the way.

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Location, Location, Location


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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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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.