Selecting Your New Carwash Site

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As an entrepreneur planning to build a new carwash, choosing the right site is a critical decision that can significantly impact your success. Finding a location that is easily accessible, visible, and well-suited to your target market is essential to attracting a steady flow of customers and building a profitable business.

In this blog post, we'll provide you with expert tips and advice on how to select the perfect site for your new carwash. We'll cover key factors such as demographics, traffic patterns, visibility, and zoning regulations, as well as provide you with practical tools and resources to help you make an informed decision.

By following our advice and guidance, you can feel confident that you have chosen the ideal site for your new carwash and that you have set yourself up for success from day one. Let’s explore how to select the perfect site for your new carwash.

Traffic Considerations

One of the most important factors to consider when selecting your new carwash site is traffic. You need to choose a location that is in the eye-line of many customers, and anything that makes it difficult for customers to reach your business will lead to a loss of revenue. To avoid this, consider the following factors:

  • Is the area heavily driven?
  • Can cars access the site from both sides of the road?
  • Is there a median or legal u-turn?
  • What is the speed limit? (It should be 30-40 mph or lower)

It is recommended to have average daily traffic counts of more than 25,000 vehicles within a 24-hour time frame.

However, not all traffic is equally valuable. For instance, a high traffic count on a fast-moving road may not be ideal for carwash businesses as drivers won't have enough time to slow down and pull in. Additionally, a carwash located on a major road between two big retail hubs but without other strong retail drivers in its immediate vicinity may struggle to attract customers. Instead, look for sites near daily trip generators such as grocery stores, restaurants, home-improvement stores, gyms, and schools. Consumers want to check multiple boxes in a row when they run errands.

Remember the Competition

It is crucial to clearly understand your competitors' locations when selecting a site for your carwash business. While the industry standard suggests that 30,000 people per carwash is an ideal target, it is essential to consider other factors such as retail, access, and visibility. If your closest competitor is located 2.3 miles away, but in a different traffic pattern, it may not be a significant concern. However, if your nearest competitor is only 2.8 miles away on the same street, it could be a major problem. In this case, other factors, such as retail and access, become crucial considerations.

It is advisable to check with local planning departments for any active carwash applications to understand where competition may be coming in the future. Ultimately, understanding your competitors' existing locations, potential future locations, and competitive advantage is essential for selecting the optimal site for your carwash business.

Remember the Details

Understand Zoning Restrictions & Processes

Carwash operators should familiarize themselves with the local zoning laws and regulations governing their site, including setbacks, height limitations, and permitted uses. By understanding these regulations, operators can ensure that their proposed carwash project complies with local requirements and minimize the risk of delays or rejections from the planning commission or other municipal entities.

When initially searching for potential locations, it's advisable to focus on properties that are already zoned for commercial or business use. While other options are available, this approach can save time and prevent unnecessary complications that may arise from attempting to rezone a property that seems like an ideal choice.

Operators may also want to consider engaging with land use attorneys and project expeditors to assist in the entitlement process. Oftentimes these professionals have longstanding relationships with city staff, which helps advance the process more quickly.

Navigating zoning restrictions and processes can be complex and time-consuming, but it is crucial for carwash operators to ensure that their proposed site is viable and complies with local regulations. Hiring experienced professionals can help operators achieve their goals and create a successful carwash business.

Consider Property Size

You need to ensure that the property you choose is large enough to accommodate your plan. It is most desirable to have a lot that is about one acre in size, with a minimum distance of 195 feet available in one direction to accommodate a 125-foot conveyor. Ideally, the side of the property with the most street frontage is long enough to allow the carwash tunnel to run parallel to it in order to maximize visibility.

You also need to consider the flow of the carwash to ensure that everything works wonderfully and clients keep coming back. You need to think about how people enter and exit the carwash, how they pull into vacuums, and how they exit after vacuuming. You should also consider where people wait for an empty vacuum stall and whether there is cross-traffic on site. This can decrease the number of cars you can wash and lower your revenue, not to mention hurt your chance for repeat customers.

Ask Yourself, "Is it Worth the Cost?"

Carwash operators should consider paying for the best available spots in order to outposition competitors. The additional cost of obtaining a top-tier location can be spread out over a 20 to 25-year mortgage, making it worth the higher asking price. It's essential to choose a location that gives operators a leg up over the existing competition and potential future competitors, even if it means spending more. The desire for an "A" location is one reason carwash operators are becoming increasingly comfortable with leasing their land instead of buying it. Operators can structure their lease including the necessary provisions to allow them to obtain a loan on largely the same terms as if they were buying the land. 

The shift toward increasing comfort with leased land makes sense for carwash operators who are looking to secure prime locations but don't want to tie up too much capital in the purchase of the land. That way, operators can develop more sites with less capital.

Secure Your Carwash Site

While selecting the right location for a carwash can be a daunting task, it is a critical decision that can greatly impact the success of the business. PetroCal can provide support in a variety of manners including buyer representation or tenant representation in the real estate transaction, borrower representation in obtaining financing for the project, or both. Let us be your trusted source to guide you through the purchase process. Call us at 310.401.0055 to discuss your opportunity or download the loan application checklist so you can get started on your acquisition financing today.

Download the Loan Process Checklist