Over the last decade, car owners are steadily taking their cars to washes instead of cleaning them at home. With how busy our lives are today, people prefer the convenience of paying someone else to wash their car, and, with annual revenues for carwashes exceeding $24 billion dollars it’s definitely a lucrative investment opportunity for entrepreneurs. Building a car wash in Alberta can be a profitable business, but just like owning a gas station or self-storage facility, research and planning are essential to your success. If you’re thinking about building a carwash in Alberta, Cormode & Dickson’s team of experienced carwash builders can provide invaluable advice, guidance, and insight from your project’s outset through to completion.

As with any new business, the first step is research. You’ll want to begin by deciding on building an independent or franchise car wash, once you know which route you’re going, we’ll sit down with you to offer guidance and expertise on writing your business plan. Your business plan should include your location, a market and competition analysis, design and construction plans, land and construction costs, operational and equipment costs, and profit projections, as well as organization and management, and advertising and marketing strategies.

Start with researching locations. Meet with a commercial real estate agent with experience in lot purchases for gas station or carwash locations. You want an easily accessible location with relatively high traffic to attract customers. The location you select must have a demand for a car wash and be correctly zoned. Find out what carwashes are in the area and how they market themselves – you’ll want to find a good location that’s not too close to competitors. Determine what site work your location will need and involve your contractor as early as possible to ensure that your budget can account for the cost of construction. At this point, we’ll discuss building types and aid you in selecting the best option for your business strategy.  

Next, you’ll need to know what kind of carwash you want to build to figure out the construction and operational costs: a full service carwash, a self-serve carwash, or an automatic carwash (either in-bay or conveyor). Check out as many successful carwashes as you can and compare them to figure out which option best suits your needs.

Essential to your organization and management, and next up on your business plan, is how involved you want to be in the day-to-day operations. A carwash is easy to run and typically has low operating costs, but you’ll want to outline your plan for manpower operations and maintenance. If you want a hands-off investment, it needs to be in your business plan you’ll need to demonstrate how you’ll train and mentor a manager who is invested in your success.

To get a feel for the costs and projections for a carwash, resources like the Canadian Carwash Association and the International Carwash Association can provide essential insight and information. Researching and writing your business plan should fill in all the gaps and give you all of the information you and your financers need to begin construction. At Cormode & Dickson, we’re here to help you every step of the way and can offer valuable feedback and expertise as you develop your business plan.

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Look for part 2, where we’ll be tackling heavy duty and truck car washes!