Call for Live Order Assistance & Technical Support (7:30am-5pm CST)
All Categories
    Menu Close

    How to Start a Self-Serve Carwash

    -Sunday, 23 May 2021

    Self Serve Car Wash Investment Information

    The following information is made available to help you with investment decisions as they relate to the Car Wash Industry. Click here to download as a .pdf


    Much of the information enclosed was obtained from various periodicals and customer surveys pertaining specifically to this market.

    Dultmeier Sales cannot be held accountable for revenue or cost data that does not meet with or match these studies.

    No Guarantee of income, expenses or profits is made or implied by Dultmeier Sales. Population, location, building layout, management strategies, climate & competition can all have a great impact with regards to this information and how it affects your business.

    For the sake of this information, we will assume all cost and income data is for typical Self-Serve Car Washes.

    Please Let Us Know if You Would Like a Formal Equipment Quote.
    Thank You and Good Washing!

    Ace Roto Mold Tanks Den Hartog Armor All Products Ametek Lamb Vacuum Motors AR Pumps Little Trees Car Freshner Cat Pumps FloJet Pumps General Pumps Giant Pumps Hansen Couplings Honda Small Engines Hypro Pumps, Spray Tips and Nozzles John Guest Fittings Shurflo Pumps Simoniz Spraying Systems Suttner America TeeJet Turtle Wax Pro Products Baldor Reliance Motors Comet Pumps Dema Engineering Kip Valves Laurel Metal Products Mosmatic Pumptec Pumps Telco Sensors Udor Pumps Wanner Engineering


    Starting a Self Serve Car Wash

    Lot Selection

    • A good rule of thumb to follow concerning lot sizing is 100'-120' deep x a minimum of 75' wide depending on the number of bays. (Typical 4 bay self-serve wash would need a lot 100'-120' deep x 100' wide minimum).
    • Good access from both directions of traffic flow is also very important.
    • Ideal traffic speed should be under 40 mph.
    • Lot size and shape will determine if you design a "Drive-in-back-out" or "Drive-through" building. (Income streams tend to favor the "drive-through" design).
    • Ideal locations are near residential areas, apartment complexes or busy traffic flow routes.
    • A good rule to follow regarding the cost of property is that the monthly lease payment should not exceed 15 - 20% of the gross monthly income of the wash.

    Bay & Building Sizing

    • Ideal bay size is 16' wide x 28' long (inside measurements). Truck bays should be 17-18' wide and 28' long. (Smaller bays will work but are not recommended).
    • Typical pump room is 10'-15' wide x 28' length.
    • Typical bay height is 10' for car bays and 12'-14' for truck bays.

    Building Placement

    • Depending on specific codes your building should be placed on the lot to allow for 1-2 cars minimum to be "stacked" behind each bay waiting to wash. Vacuums can be placed in this area but should not impede the normal flow into the bays.
    • Make sure there are adequate drying and vacuuming areas that are out of the main traffic flow.
    • Ideally your bays should have a southern exposure to help reduce ice build-up in cold weather conditions.
    • Local codes will also have "set-back" requirements on building placement.

    Inside Vs. Outside Bays

    • In many rural locations washes can be built with an open outside bay for trucks, trailers, tractors, etc.
    • However, as a rule an outside bay will bring in only about 40-50% of the revenue of an inside bay.
    • It is always better from a revenue standpoint to enclose all bays and build one larger if you feel you will have adequate truck traffic. This bay then can also be used for cars if other bays are busy.

    Revenue Projections-Bays

    • Studies find that it takes a population base of 1000-1500 people to support 1 self-serve bay. ( A town of 5000 people could theoretically support a total of 5 self-serve bays between all competitors).
    • At this population level the National Average is approximately * $1000 - 1500 per bay, per month of gross income for one self-serve bay. (This is an estimate average only, incomes can and do vary).

    Download How To Start a Car Wash Layouts & Designs

    Revenue Projections-Vacuums

    • The ideal number of vacuums to have is 1-1/2 vacuums per 1 bay of self-serve. (i.e., a 3- bay wash should have 4-5 vacuums placed somewhere on the lot).
    • National average of revenue per vacuum is approximately * $200 - 300 per vacuum per month in gross revenue. (Incomes can and will vary).

    Revenue Projections-Vending

    • National average of vending revenue is approximately * $350 - 400 per month gross revenue based on offering at least 4-5 different vending products. Revenue can be increased with multiple product, clear front vending machines.

    Operating Cost Projections

    • Average operating costs (based on multiple sources) is approximately *53% of gross income which includes *13% for attendant labor which you may or may not need. *(Lease payments, income tax, debt reduction or depreciation are not included). These figures can and do vary by region.

    Options & Features

    • Typical self-serve washes will offer hot wash, hot rinse-winter & cold rinse-summer, hot or cold wax, foamy brush and spot-free rinse.
    • An important new feature is "Spot-Free Rinse". This features increases revenue stream due to the fact that customers "buy" another cycle of time to get this feature. This means a potential double the income from each customer using this feature.
    • Tire Cleaner and Pre-soak systems are also options that increase customer satisfaction as well as income stream.
    • It is our strong recommendation that Instantaneous Tankless water heaters also be used in place of conventional water heaters. These heaters can reduce gas costs up to 40% vs. conventional heaters. (If it rains for a week, only the pilot is using gas on these type of heaters vs. conventional heaters which heat the water column continuously rain or shine).
    • Cold climate washes should also not be without a floor heat system. These systems reduce liability and increase customer satisfaction. In-floor circulating systems are most popular. However, above-head radiant tube heaters also give the benefit of heating the floor as well as the customer.
    • For floor heater sizing it is wise to also heat 3'-4' on the entrance and discharge aprons. This will reduce liability in the customer "walk" areas as they use bill changers and vending machines.
    • Bill Changers are also a necessity. Studies have shown a minimum 10% increase in gross revenues in washes with changers. $1 & $5 changers are now the norm in all new wash facilities, with $10 & $20 optional.
    • Vending Products such as towels, Armorall, window cleaner and fragrance trees should not be overlooked as an added revenue source. (Average vending per wash location is approximately * $350 - 400 (estimate only - per month in total gross revenue).
    • We hope this information will be beneficial to you in your investment planning. Please feel free to contact us if additional information if required.
    • Bay meters should be able to accept coins / tokens / bills and/or credit cards.



    Self-Serve Car Wash Package Includes the Following Per Bay:

    Pump Room Equipment

    Bay Equipment

    Please Call for Pricing (Per Bay)

    • 3 HP, Single Phase
    • 3 HP, Three Phase
    • 5 HP, Single Phase
    • 5 HP, Three Phase

    (Quantity Discounts Available)




    * Please call for an exact quote to meet your specific requirements.

    Foam Brush Systems Foam Brush Systems

    Includes stainless wall booms, brush assemblies with handles, automatic mixing tank, foam modules for each bay, stainless solenoids, air-driven transfer pump, supply run lines & instruction signs. Pre-plumbed and pre-wired.


    Tire & Engine Cleaner Systems Tire & Engine Cleaner Systems

    Includes centrifugal transfer pump with motor, automatic mixing tank, stainless solenoids and all supply run lines with fittings. Pre-plumbed and pre-wired.

    Pre-Soak Cleaner Systems Pre-Soak Cleaner Systems

    Includes air-driven or centrifugal transfer pump, automatic mixing tank, stainless solenoids, all supply run lines with fittings. Pre-plumbed and pre-wired.


    Floor Heat Systems Floor Heat Systems

    Includes all underfloor material, manifold boxes, thermostat, boiler and circulating pump. Also features computer schematic drawn to your specific application for ease of installation.


    Spot-Free Rinse Systems Spot-Free Rinse Systems

    Includes RO water production system, chlorine pre-filter, holding tank, automatic shut-off, supply run lines, pressure transfer system to all bays, stainless solenoids, bay instruction signs.


    Triple Foam Protectant Systems Triple Foam Protectant Systems

    Includes 3-compartment stainless steel tank with auto mixing valves, sequence controller, bay signs, run lines, bay hoses with wands and start-up chemicals.


    Water Softeners Water Softeners

    Dual Tank design with automatic regeneration on demand.


    Air Drying Systems Air Drying Systems

    Hand-held, high velocity vehicle dryers for vacuum islands or self-service bays.


    Vacuums, Stainless Steel Vacuums, Stainless Steel


    Bill Changers, Stainless Front or Rear Load Bill Changers, Stainless Front or Rear Load

    Hopper Load and Tube Load ($1, $5, $10, $20 Options)


    Soap & Wax Tanks Soap & Wax Tanks

    Auto Stainless-Liquid, Auto Stainless-Powder, and Auto Plastic-Liquid.


    Vending Machines Vending Machines

    Single Stainless With Security Bar or Multi-Vend Systems.


    Bay Light Fixtures Bay Light Fixtures

    150 - 250 Watt LED or metal halide fixtures.


    Inlet Plumbing Package, Per Bay

    Wire Run Package, Per Bay



    230 Volt Electrical Requirements for Self-Serve Carwash

    110 Volt Electrical Requirements for Self-Serve Carwash


    Typical Electrical Specifications and Requirements

    • All necessary components required for electrical hookup of the items shown or quoted on the enclosed sheet at the amp draws shown. This would include supplies and labor.
    • Running low-voltage lines from equipment to coin meters; includes pulling of wire and labor. (Run lines are supplied in the wiring package shown on the quote sheet.)
    • Mounting and wiring of all vacuums to vac islands, including supplies and labor.
    • Run wires from foam brush, tire cleaner systems, etc. to main electrical panels on pumping stations. Includes supplies and labor.
    • High voltage wiring from breaker box to all pump panels and from pump panels to pump motors. Includes supplies and labor.
    • Electrical hookup of all electrical components on all optional items (foam brush, tire cleaner, soap tanks, water softener, bill changer, spot-free rinse, etc.). Includes supplies and labor.
    • Run lines and supplies for all internal bay lights and external lot lighting. (Note: Some fixtures may be supplied in equipment bid.)
    • External lot lighting if required by contractor.
    • Wiring of thermostats: weep and floor heat. Electrician must be present when thermostats are activated for initial trial run.
    • Wiring of motor and pump on floor heat system. Includes supplies and labor.
    • If a high pressure automatic is to be installed with the self-serve equipment, separate electrical specifications and requirements are available upon request.

    Note: Due to differing installations, electrical requirements and codes may vary. This is an honest effort to describe electrical requirements of a typical car wash installation.



    Typical Pump Room Layout

    Note: This is a typical 3-Bay pump-room layout, installations and buildings may vary causing changes to this layout to be necessary!

    Typical Self-Serve Car Wash Pump Room Layout


    Ref. No's.:

    #1 Foam Brush (Pump System):

    Height: 53", Width: 24", Depth: 12". Water inlet is 3/4" FGTH. 110 Volt req'd. (24 volt hookup from pumping station required).

    #2 Tire Cleaner & Pre-Soak Systems:

    Height: 53", Width: 12", Depth: 24". Water inlet is 3/4" FGTH. 110 Volt req'd. (24 volt hookup from pumping station required).

    #3 Soap & Wax Tanks (Automatic-Liquid):

    20 Gallon Height: 22-1/8", Diameter is 18". Water inlet is 3/4" GHT. Vinyl run lines can be run from solenoids into top of the tank through the lid.

    #4 Air Compressor:

    Sized for 1 cfm per bay. 110 volt required. 3/8" connector from compressor to foam brush tire cleaner systems.

    #5 Pump Stations:

    Height: 62", Depth: 29", Width: 22" on single and 44" on double units. Hot and cold water inlets are 3/4" MGTH. Attach cold water solenoid to main with hoses supplied. Attach hot water solenoid to water heater with hoses supplied. (Note: Heaters are normally mounted above pump stations.) Electrical requirements are as follows: 208 or 230 volt, single or three phase required for each station. Local installation will dictate requirements.

    #5a Weep System:

    Includes thermostat and solenoid. Ports are 3/8" FPT. Tap into hard water line, run separate line to solenoid valve. Plumb valve with unions (not included) and run from valve to weep inlet on pump stations, continue run to weep inlet on brush system. Attach thermostat to solenoid. 110 volt required.

    #6 Water Softener:

    Each softener includes (1) brine tank and (2) mineral tanks. 110 volt required.

    #7 Floor Heat System:

    Varies with number of bays. See separate floor heat diagram for proper hookup.

    #8 Optional Spot-Free Rinse Systems:

    Hookup will vary with specific system.

    #9 Bill Changer:

    Mounts into pump room wall, size will vary with specific model. 110 volt required.

    #10 Vending Machines:

    Mount to external walls. Height: 42", Width: 12-1/2", Depth: 5-1/2".

    #11 Optional Pump Room Heater (With Thermostat):

    150,000 BTU, Natural Gas. 110 volt required. (Not Shown)

    *Notes: For water line sizing, design to handle a minimum of 4 GPM per bay assuming all are running.
    Dimensions and hook up specifications may change depending on which style system is purchased. Please call our car wash technical sales department at 1-888-677-5054 to answer any questions.



    Conceptual Site Plan (not to scale)

    "Two Covered & One Outside Bay: Drive-Thru Design"

    Two Covered & One Outside Self-Serve Car Wash Bay: Drive-Thru

    SCALE: 1 in. = 20 ft. NOTE: Not for construction.




    Conceptual Site Plan (not to scale)

    "Two Inside & One Outside Bay: Drive-In Back-Out"

    Two Inside & One Outside Self-Serve Car Wash Bay: Drive-In Back-Out

    SCALE: 1 in. = 20 ft. NOTE: Not for construction.




    Conceptual Site Plan (not to scale)

    "Equipment Layout, Typical Bay Sidewall"

    Self-Serve Car Wash Equipment Layout, Typical Bay Sidewall

    SCALE: 1 in. = 20 ft. NOTE: Not for construction.




    Conceptual Site Plan (not to scale)

    "Car Wash 2-Bay Floor Heat System"

    Self-Serve Car Wash 2-Bay Floor Heat System

    SCALE: 1 in. = 20 ft. NOTE: Not for construction.




    Advantages of Using Dultmeier Sales:

    • Quality name brand pumps, valves & components.
    • All systems are made to order - this means we can custom build to meet your needs.
    • Technical Sales Support on equipment design and operation.
    • Over 20 years of manufacturing experience in the car wash and truck wash industries.
    • Cold weather Freeze Protection is standard on all equipment.
    • Service and production staff on hand for help with installations or trouble shooting needs.
    • Large inventory from over 350 supply lines means our products offering is vastly superior to competitors and means more variety in system design.
    • Quick turnaround times on equipment, parts and supplies means less down time for our customers.

    Give Dultmeier a try - we think you'll like what you see!