Finding a Distributor
As you go through the New Investor section, you may see an "Eco Express"
Eco Express is an express wash built across the street from our facility by the owners and two other investors. The Eco Express icon will take you to specific segments related to its development and construction. These side bars are meant to provide context and reality to the general information we provide on the site.
Building and operating a modern car wash is not very different from building and operating any other service oriented business. It will require a significant upfront monetary investment. It will also demand a committed personal effort, much time and attention to get your new car wash built, started and operating successfully. If all is done correctly, the monetary and personal rewards can be tremendous.
In simple analysis, the most successful and profitable carwash businesses are usually characterized by the following qualities:
• They are located in “unsaturated” markets.
• They are built in convenient locations.
• They are equipped to offer high quality, convenient “vehicle cleaning” services.
• They are well maintained…and kept clean.
• They are well lighted and feel safe at all times.
• They are marketed…regularly…using modern methods.
• They offer a customer friendly environment.
• They are regularly attended, especially during busy periods and busy days.
Modern car washes are often operated in multi-service combinations and target distinct service levels. The three primary types of vehicle washes achieving success in today’s market are:
• Tunnel Wash
• Self Service
Different wash types and different wash type combinations present their own distinct operating challenges…and rewards.
When questioned about the most important contributor to the undeniable success of his motel chain, Mr. Marriott said it best…location, location, location.
Carwashes are location sensitive businesses. Understanding and identifying the factors that influence a location, in terms of both success and failure, is paramount to selecting the right location. Understanding a location’s accurate capacity for profit can be the difference between marginal and substantial success. There are many influences to consider when choosing and locating the type of wash business that best suits an investor’s interests. It is wise for the new investor to seek the experience and advice of experts…
Of all the business relationships established early on in the process… none is truly more important than selecting the right equipment distributor. Often, the very first call made by a new investor is to an equipment distributor…likewise your equipment distributor will be a regular part of your business life long after the plumbers, electricians and bricklayers have all went home. Early partnership with a quality equipment distributor will save an investor much time, money and disappointment. Through a little investigative research, the new investor should be able to choose the right equipment line and equipment distributor.
Understanding the role of your equipment distributor…
A quality car wash equipment distributorship provides an array of specialized services. Your equipment distributor begins providing valuable services the moment you decide to get into the business…and the need for distributor provided services and support continues throughout the life of your carwash business.
Initially your equipment distributor will serve as a resource for knowledge, information and experience. Their first efforts will be to educate and to provide accurate and applicable information that will help you make informed decisions about your future business. Additionally, a good equipment distributor can introduce you to the other necessary professional resources such as lenders, architects, appraisers and building contractors.
As the new project develops, the equipment distributor will share a responsible level of involvement in each of the following efforts:
• Selecting a profitable site
• Identifying the right type and size of wash
• Developing a basic site layout
• Selecting the right equipment
• Obtaining city/regulatory agency approval
• Assisting with architectural design
• Assisting with the development of accurate construction plans.
• Monitoring building and site construction
• Installing the vehicle wash equipment
• Initial start-up and “soft opening” adjustments
• Marketing strategies
• Grand Opening assistance
• Warranty support.
• Ongoing soap, chemical and vending supply
• Ongoing parts and service support.
Early on it was suggested that a little investigative research could help the novice investor with the critical decision of choosing the right equipment line and equipment distributor. Simply asking the right questions and requesting the right information from potential distributors will provide a new investor with valuable insight. Test their integrity, ask potential distributors to provide a list of customer references that you may contact directly. Ask to talk to customers that have owned their wash equipment for a substantial period of time…2+ years. Be sure to ask for references that have built more than one significant project with the distributor.
Visit their headquarters… Ask for a tour. How versatile and complete is the distributorship? Do they offer multiple choices regarding equipment manufacturers, equipment lines and equipment types? Are they truly in-touch with the investor market…or does the majority of their experience come from serving major oil in the convenience store markets? Learning the following business specifics will also give you insight into real depth and value of the distributorship:
• How long has the distributor been in business?
• How many dedicated service technicians do they employ?
• Do they offer a choice of quality equipment lines?
• Do they stock a significant parts and supply inventory?
• Do they offer an easy access parts and supply counter?
• Do they offer in-house electronic equipment repair?
• Can they rebuild pumps, make hoses and provide other minor in-house repairs?
• Are they capable of performing major carwash remodels?
• Are they capable of manufacturing their own specialty line equipment?
• Do they stock and distribute chemical and soap products?
• Do they offer choices regarding chemical and soap manufacturers?
• Do they offer free delivery to their regular soap customers?
Another important aspect to consider…Is the distributorship committed and involved in all important non-profit efforts that benefit, protect, and advance the carwash industry? Environmental, regulatory, and a host of other issues constantly affect and often threaten the industry. It is the responsibility of everyone who benefits from the industry to protect it…and to help shape a bright and sustainable future. Does the distributorship remain informed and abreast the real issues that affect both the local and national industry? Call the local carwash association…ask what role the distributorship serves.
By now it should be easy for you to see how important it is to choose the right equipment distributor. In many respects, the distributor-owner relationship more resembles a partnership. The shared responsibility for superior equipment performance and overall business success only begins the day your new carwash opens.
Just how important is vehicle wash equipment? Some may want minimize the role that vehicle wash equipment plays in modern successful car washes. They lump it all into a homogenous ball based entirely on price. The right equipment distributor will help you to specify and obtain the vehicle wash equipment that is perfect for your business. They should always be concerned with your budget and your profitability…they will guide through the process of selecting the right equipment line.
Consider the facts…modern consumers are not easily satisfied. They are savvy, sophisticated and inclined to get what they want…how and when they want it. They expect quality services regardless of whether they are ordering fast food, surfing the internet or washing their cars. When a new investor selects and purchases new vehicle wash equipment, they are probably making the most profit determining decision regarding their new business. They should choose equipment based upon local market practices…and unmet needs, in other words their customer’s needs and desires. A properly planned, smartly equipped car wash can be the difference between “This is just an ok wash” and “This is the best wash I ever used, I love coming here”.
At the bare minimum, all of the cleaning services offered at a modern carwash site should be attractive, work effectively, offer the perception of value, and be convenient to purchase and use. Think of it along these lines…the entire car wash experience should appeal to the customer’s sensory perceptions: look good; smell good; sound good…and feel good as they’re driving away.
Employing the right equipment in a car wash will also have a positive effect on the bottom line. Truth is not all equipment lines are equal…some are sort of inexpensive, some cost more, and some cost more to operate and own. Any new investor should consider the “long term cost of ownership” before they select any equipment line. This is especially true of modern automated vehicle wash equipment know in the industry simply as the “automatics”. When researching a product an investor should consider some very important criteria…they should talk to existing owners and garner their experience regarding the following:
• Manufacturer Reputation
• Manufacturer Longevity
• Parts & Service Network
• Proprietary Part Requirements
• Distributor Reputation
• Average Monthly Operating Costs
• Average Monthly Maintenance Costs
• Cleaning Ability
No matter how tedious and time consuming this research may seem, it will pay dividends. Owning the right equipment will put more money back into the investor’s pocket.