The American car wash industry continues to grow, with ever-increasing customer demand and tremendous opportunity waiting to be claimed. Done right, an express car wash gives operators a steady income stream with no billing or collection problems, a relatively small staff to manage, and a reliable membership pool.

But car washes require a substantial upfront investment in brick, mortar, equipment, and electronics as well as the all-important issue of a suitable location. So, how should one evaluate the ideal car wash location and what factors should be considered?

Traffic Conditions

Peak traffic count should be between 15,000 and 25,000 vehicles with traffic speeds between 25 and 45 miles per hour. This will provide the necessary traffic density to support the business, while also allowing vehicles a good long look at the facility and the time to safely decelerate and turn-in.

Commercial Proximity

Consumers appreciate a good car wash—just not in their own backyard. Car wash sites should not border any residential property, as this can trigger intense resistance during the development process.

Instead, car washes should be developed in a large retail or commercial center complete with grocery or shopping centers, restaurants, and other major brick and mortar locations, OR on a major traffic corridor feeding in to such a center. This way your location will be conveniently at-hand for a much larger number of customers as they go about their daily business or run weekend errands.

A quick and tried-and-true way to evaluate the quality of such a location is to quickly look for the nearest major fast-food franchise store. If one is right around the corner, it’s probably a good location to consider.

Lot Orientation and Size

Rectangular lots, specifically rectangular lots in which the car wash conveyor can run parallel to the road, are generally ideal for express car wash construction. The rectangular footprint provides a simplified traffic flow and facility layout, while offering traffic the best possible view of the wash in action.

Corner lots are particularly desirable, as they allow greater flexibility, visibility, an
additional entrance/exit, and greater traffic exposure.

As a general rule of thumb full-size express car wash locations require .8 to 1 acre, flex sites require 1.2 to 1.5 acres, and mini conveyorized carwashes require around .5 acres. To dig deeper into the topic, consider this blog post.


Given the shortage of high-quality express carwashes in America there is no sense planting your flag in another facility’s back yard. Instead of battling it out against an established brand and splitting a customer base, the ideal car wash location will have no express car washes in the local area, giving you a complete, un-tapped, and underserved population to colonize.

You can learn more on the subject here. Note that for our purposes, competitive car washes do not include self-serve or inbay washes.


Demographics provides an analytical breakdown of the population living or working in proximity your site location, the population from which the vast majority of your customers will be drawn. This breakdown can help identify areas that are or are not particularly suited to car wash success based on a number of factors.

Desirable factors may include:

  • Above Average Household Income – Areas with higher disposable income will better sustain car wash membership participation, and up-menu service options.
  • Dense Housing – Apartments and condos are generally preferable to single family housing, as they suggest a denser population without access to convenient vehicle washing space.
  • Population Growth – A growing population with a wide range of ages represented indicates a healthy economy and attractive area able to sustain your business for years to come.

You can learn more about the subject here.

About Tommy Car Wash Systems

Leaders in car wash innovation and development, Tommy Car Wash Systems produces high quality round stainless steel arches, equipment, control systems, and detergents along with proprietary building designs. Parties interested in high capacity, performance-driven car washing are invited to explore the Tommy’s Express Car Wash franchise, a fast-growing international express car wash venture coming soon to a city near you!