If you enjoy taking a dirty car in need of desperate of cleaning and transforming into an immaculate and sparkling ride, a waterless car wash may be the perfect business for you.
Not only is it environmentally friendly (you are using at minimum around 30 gallons of water to wash a car at a traditional car wash), it’s also affordable to start. You don’t need a physical storefront or lot, a huge drive-through machine, and a bunch of workers.
You can start small and just buy some waterless car wash cleaner, a manual pump to spray it with, microfiber towels and a few miscellaneous items to round out your equipment and supplies (I provide a full list of everything you need below).
In addition to being eco-friendly and tapping into that market, you can also offer your waterless car wash services to people that a traditional car wash can’t service – more on that later.
This article will provide you with an easy step by step guide on how to start a waterless car wash, including what materials you will need, how to create an authentic brand, how to write a successful business plan, how to set up your business entity, and (most importantly) how to develop a marketing strategy that will get customers lined up.
I’ll also include a section at the end covering the pros and cons of a waterless car wash, so you can get a complete picture of what’s really involved and can make an informed decision on whether this business makes sense for you
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The information contained in this post is for informational purposes only. It is not a recommendation to buy or invest, and it is not financial, investment, legal, or tax advice. You should seek the advice of a qualified professional before making any investment or other decisions relating to the topics covered by this article.
Step 1: Establish Your Waterless Car Wash
The first step you should take toward building a waterless car wash business is to establish its identity.
Choose a Name and Logo
It’s never a simple task to choose a name for your business. You need a name that’s concise, one-of-a-kind, easy to spell, and catchy. It also has to reflect your business’ identity and message.
For example, if you are targeting the eco-friendly sector, you may want to use colors (green, duh), words (eco, green, planet, clean) and symbols that convey that theme (planet, etc.)
So, take some time to shortlist a couple of names that you believe encapsulate your business. Most importantly, check USPTO’s trademark search tool to make sure that the names are original and don’t infringe on any trademarks.
You may also need to register your name as a d/b/a, which stands for “doing business as” with you state corporation commission or Secretary of State’s office.
After you settle on a name, you’ll have to create an aesthetically pleasing logo that goes with your business theme. I have no artistic talent, so if you are like me, you can outsource this task.
One affordable option is Fiverr. Tons of designers will create a logo for you for like $5! Or if you prefer to design the logo yourself, check out sites like Looka, which uses AI to generate a suitable logo based on your criteria.
If you’re struggling with finding a name and logo, you can check out my in-depth guide on how to choose a company name and logo.
Set up a Website
No business can survive in the digital age without a website. Through the website, your clients can learn more about your business, become familiar with waterless car washing, book a car wash appointment, and even pay online.
You can get a very simple online business profile for free with Google Business Profile. This will allow you to get found on Google search and at least create a basic online presence for your business.
If you something a little more robust, you can look at website builders like Wix (or even hire a pro to help you develop one). Again, you have plenty of folks on Fiverr who will do this for a reasonable price.
Step 2: Create a Business Plan For Your Waterless Car Wash
Having a written business plan for your waterless car wash can help you steer your business in the right direction. It’ll contain your budget, funding and business objectives, financial forecasts, target market, competitive analysis, and marketing strategies.
For a waterless car wash, the key things to focus on in your business plan should be your target market, your pricing strategy, your competitive landscape and your marketing strategy.
If you research those areas and get them right, you will be positioning yourself for a successful launch.
If you need some help developing a business plan, check out the SBA’s super useful tool here.
Step 3: Establish Your Business Entity
If you prefer to operate your business with a separate legal entity, you will want to do that properly. Having a business entity serves a number of functions, with the most important being liability protection and tax benefits.
It also signals legitimacy to your customers, so may be well worth it.
Choose Legal Entity
You can establish your business as one of the four major types of entities: Sole Proprietorship, Limited Liability Company (LLC), Partnership, or Corporation.
Each entity has its own pros and cons, which is why you should choose the one with the best business structure for your business. To learn more about each of these types of entities, check out my ultimate beginner’s guide to starting a business.
You can use a lawyer to set up your legal entity, but they can be expensive (like hundreds or even thousands of dollars). If you are not creating something too complicated, you can go online and find services that can do this for you much cheaper.
I like Northwest because they can get you up and running quickly and easily. They are also one of the most affordable options that I was able to find that still offered great customer service ($39 as of the date of this article).
According to their website, they are the only national registered agent service that lets you use their office address so you don’t have to use your own. That’s a killer privacy advantage.
Definitely worth checking out.
Obtain Permits and Licenses
After you register your business, you’ll need to obtain the necessary permits and licenses from the appropriate government agencies.
To find out what permits and licenses you need to start your waterless car wash in your area, contact your local business licensing office.
If you’re overwhelmed by any of this, you can always seek the advice of a qualified lawyer, accountant, or financial advisor.
Step 4: Purchase the Necessary Equipment
Now that your business is officially established and ready to go, you’ll need to buy the necessary equipment to get you started.
Here’s the basic equipment you’ll need to start a waterless car wash (with links to Amazon):
- Waterless Car Wash Cleaner
- Pump sprayer
- Microfiber towels
- Microfiber car wash brush mop
- Microfiber towel wash
- Car wash bucket
Your customers may want more than just an exterior clean, so you should also have:
- Portable car vacuum (to pick up dirt and debris from interior areas)
- Multi-purpose steam cleaner (for interior carpets and the like)
- Portable generator (to power your various tools above)
To protect your skin from the cleaning products, you should also purchase reusable hand cleaning gloves and a face shield.
Keep in mind that as your business grows, you’ll need to purchase cleaning supplies on a regular basis. That’s why finding a reliable cleaning products supplier will be more cost-effective. Now Amazon is great because of its convenience and relatively low cost, so I included items from there to start.
But as you grow and gain more experience, you may find specific brands that you prefer to use (a lot of folks really like the Chemical Guys products above, but they are not the only game in town).
You’ll need to first compare product prices and quality across multiple suppliers to get the best deal. And once you’ve found suppliers you like, try to get discount pricing from them while keeping good relationships with them – having reliable suppliers is a huge advantage in any business.
Step 5: Develop a Marketing Plan
A car wash that doesn’t use water is an unusual concept for many car owners. That’s why you’ll need a solid marketing plan to help you build client trust and confidence in your business.
You can begin by relying on word of mouth to get your business’ name out there and attract customers. Offer free car washes to family and friends to demonstrate how effective and environmentally friendly this method is in comparison to traditional car washes.
You can also print flyers and banners and hang them around your neighborhood or in public places that allow it.
Another way you can attract customers is to optimize your website so that it ranks in Google’s “near me” searches. That way, your business comes up when someone searches for car wash services near your location.
Of course, you can also advertise with paid ads on Google or Facebook and even buy space on popular platforms like Yelp.
You should also consider marketing your waterless car wash business on social media platforms like Facebook (local area groups are a great place), Instagram, Pinterest, and the like. You can share waterless car washing tips, show daily activities, and provide business information.
Secret Marketing Tip For Waterless Car Wash Business
As promised at the top of the article, here’s my secret tip for getting customers for your waterless car wash business. Find markets where a traditional car wash can’t effective operate. I am talking about office buildings and cars parked in lots where there is no access to a water hose.
You can talk to the building office manager to learn the process for offering your services to workers in the building.
I know people are doing this successfully.
For example, in my office building, there is a waterless car wash business operating in the underground that services people working in the building. They do the washes during the day and the people are able to walk to a freshly washed car when they leave for the day. It’s a super convenient service and well worth the price.
Pros and Cons of a Waterless Car Wash
Advantages of Waterless Car Wash
Flexibility – Perhaps one of the primary advantages of operating a waterless car wash is that you can clean a customer’s car almost anywhere. As I mentioned, it’s especially useful if you want to market your services to workers in office buildings who park their cars in the office garage or parking lot, but you dont’ have to.
The nice thing is that you are generally just as flexible as a regular mobile car wash (that uses a water tank and pump or available water at the premise) when it comes to servicing customers (with one exception, which I discuss below).
Low Cost – The start up costs of this business are significantly less than the initial funds required to start a brick and mortar car wash and because of this, starting a waterless car wash can be relatively low risk.
Environmentally Friendly – As mentioned above, the average brick and mortar car wash uses at least 30 gallons of water per car. Now, while many car washes try to recycle a lot of the water, that still translates to a ton of water everyday. In contrast, you are basically using a spray bottle and towels to clean a car. Massive difference.
Easy to Start – Starting a waterless car wash has a very low barrier to entry. You don’t really need any special education, experience or skills to do this. You can be self-taught and still be super successful. And it is easy to do this on the side – you can take side jobs when you aren’t working and make some nice supplemental income.
Disadvantages of Waterless Car Wash
People May Not Trust It – This is probably the biggest disadvantage of a waterless car wash. People are often confused by the idea of washing a car without water and are skeptical about how effective it is and whether it is good for their car.
Most people are worried that the harsh chemicals or lack of water when removing dirt may scratch the paint. You will need to reassure them that you use products that won’t strip car paint or damage their cars in any way.
High Competition – Because of the low barrier to entry, there is a lot of competition in the waterless car wash space. You will need to differentiate yourself if you want to thrive. You can do this based on cost, customer service, runaround time, superior marketing or any number of factors, but to gain a foothold and keep it in a highly competitive space, you need to distinguish yourself in some way.
You Cannot Clean Really Dirty Vehicles – Despite the wonders of chemical cleaning, it is simply just not as effective as a water-based car wash when you car is really dirty. Water (coupled with cleaner) is amazing at breaking down large amounts of dirt and is great at rinsing it all. You just don’t get that with a waterless car wash.
So not every car will fit into your business model, but there are plenty of “slightly” dirty cars that will appreciate the convenience that your waterless car wash will offer.
So, there you have it: an in-depth step-by-step guide on how to start a waterless car wash.
If you’re looking for a way to generate passive income in the same industry while building your waterless car wash business, check out my article on automatic car washes for passive income.