You’ve got the location, the demographics, the business plan, and the financing. You’re all ready to begin construction and launch your own brand new car wash!


Unfortunately, even the best entrepreneurs don’t know what they don’t know and mistakes are bound to happen. At Tommy Car Wash Systems, we’ve been helping new entrepreneurs with building and operating car washes for over forty years and we know what it takes to be successful and how mistakes can be avoided for best overall results.


This knowledge and perspective is available to entrepreneurs through Tommy Car Wash Systems’ personalized car wash consulting services, but to give you a head start we’ve narrowed down some of our best advice into the following top 5 tips for new car wash development.



1) Expand Your Knowledge Base

Successful car wash sites are the result of months of research and scouting followed by years of testing, adjusting, making improvements, and learning from mistakes. Make sure you get the opportunity to visit these successful sites and see what makes them great and how you can incorporate their best ideas and plans into your own car wash. For that reason the national network of Totally Tommy owners, operators, and distributors are available for tours and may be willing to let you observe their operations in detail before you develop your own site. You should also take advantage of any car wash training opportunities and assistance made available at your own site. By actively involving yourself in car wash sites with a proven track record of success, you can get their ‘on the ground’ perspective, learn from others’ mistakes, and increase your own chances of coming out on top!


2) Plan Long Term from the Start

Your wash isn’t going to be established or profitable from the start, so don’t expect it to be and don’t cut corners during development. Instead, focusing on quality and long term sustainability is your best tactic for overall growth and profitability. Customers appreciate quality and will keep returning to car washes they’ve had positive experiences with before. Sacrificing your wash’s performance and aesthetic in order to minimize startup costs may feel like an advantage, but long-term the overall disadvantages are greater. Don’t risk damaging your sustainability and make sure that features like architecture, landscaping, high-end equipment, and accents are top-notch from the start. Outstanding results require the right up-front investment.


3) Architecture and Advertising

Car washes are roadside businesses, and there are entire books written on the best methods and strategies for roadside advertising. However, the absolute best roadside advertising choice any car wash owner can make is to build a facility that is visually attractive. That is, your wash needs to look FANTASTIC. At Tommy Car Wash Systems we are convinced that a car wash’s success largely depends on its aesthetic appeal working in combination with basic site planning practices. The wash should be site-centered, have easy in-and-out traffic handling, have the correct amount parking, and should advertise its identify and value as a car wash in the space of a glance. The Totally Tommy car wash design checks all these boxes, and it’s worth taking a look at as a great case study and investment opportunity if you haven’t done so already.


4) Right Sizing

It’s one thing to not skimp on the investment cost in order to build a car wash with the right look and equipment to ensure long-term success. It’s another thing to over-build for your site or city and end up with an underutilized and unsustainable wash that won't pay out.  If a wash is built too big its revenue won’t match up with overall costs. If a wash is built too small you miss out on business and may lose customer volume due to long lines and packed lanes. Our consultants can help you evaluate the relative demand in an area and help you determine what size wash is most suited to a proposed location.


5) Right Marketing

A successful car wash business plan must include a comprehensive, long-term car wash marketing strategy in order to attract local interest and build up a customer base. Marketing is key to boosting volume and a great marketing campaign can make a huge difference when it comes to long-term success and sustainability. Street side marketing, radio, VT, newspaper ads, social media ads, and online directories may all play a part. And don’t worry if your promotional budget is tight—there are plenty of cheap/free opportunities that can still help you reach plenty of local customers, and seasonal membership sales or incentives often yield more volume than you might expect.


For more information on scouting car wash locations, evaluating car wash demographics, starting up a car wash, or handling car wash marketing, feel free to contact the Tommy Car Wash Systems team by emailing


Tommy Car Wash Systems