Buying a Car Wash

September 5, 2022

How Much Does it Cost to Buy a Car Wash in 2023?

Read More

How Much Does it Cost to Buy a Car Wash in 2023?

Unconventional Acquisitions

September 5, 2022

Betcha didn’t know that the car wash and auto detailing market is valued at $14.7 billion in the United States? 

And if there’s one thing we know for certain, it’s that becoming an entrepreneur is not an easy thing to do. It takes a lot of energy and determination aaaaaaaand a lot of cash. 

But once you get the hang of it, it can be one of the most rewarding careers you can create and a great way to make a passive income.

You might not know this, but one of those businesses we LOVE for creating more passive income? Car washes. 

If you’re considering opening a car wash business, you’re probably wondering just how much does a car wash cost to buy.

When it comes to buying a car wash, you’ve got three options. You can:

  1. Start a car wash from scratch, including securing the location, equipment, materials, marketing, etc.
  2. Buy a car wash franchise and get support from a reputable brand, including their systems, and business model.
  3. Buy an existing car wash that already cash flows. (If you have read any of our articles before then you probably already know that we will forever choose #3.)

There are a lot of factors that can contribute to the price of a car wash, so if you’re just getting started you may not know exactly what you need yet. Don’t worry…we’re here to help. 

In this article, we are going to tell you everything you need to know about buying a car wash, so you can get started. 

Finding Real Estate

Sometimes, it can take time to find the perfect location for your car wash. Being patient, doing your research, and working with a professional (like a broker) will help you get the best location and deal possible.

After you’ve decided to start your business, the first thing you’ll want to do is to find the location or a space for your car wash.

Talking to a real estate agent that specializes in commercial property may be a really helpful connection for you to have. Your real estate agent will be able to advise you on the population of your future site and what kind of traffic you’ll get.

And as you probably already know, the price of different properties varies a lot. Your location and the amount of space you’ll need will make all the difference as you secure your deal.

When you’re looking at how much a car wash business is going to cost you, you’ll also want to make sure to include the price for the permits and other licenses you’ll need. And if you’re not careful, those miscellaneous fees will add up quickly.

Equipment Cost

There is also a lot of equipment and supplies that you’ll need to factor into your budget. The actual car wash facility will likely be the highest, but you’ll also have to factor in the hoses, soaps, machines, vacuums, and many other items. 

As a business owner, you’ll likely be able to get discounts, and purchasing items in bulk can also be budget-friendly. 

What Size?

It doesn’t matter if you purchase a self-service, full-service, or automatic car wash, you’ll have to decide how many bays you want. The bigger your business, the more you’re going to spend upfront, but you’ll typically make more money back on your investment, too. 

The number of customers you can serve in a day will be your profit cap. How much to buy a car wash business for really comes down to the answer to some of these questions.

Automated vs Staffed

There are pros and cons to having an automated car wash and a staffed one. It’s important to evaluate every type of car wash before you make your decision.


Self-service car washes don’t require you to have anyone in attendance. You won’t have to pay an employee to be there as the customers wash their own cars and you supply the materials.

Keep in mind this option won’t make as much money because the customer does the majority of the work, but it also won’t cost as much to set up.

Typically these are open 24 hours, which is a great benefit as people have different schedules and provides your customers with ultimate flexibility. 

There are also three things that factor into the cost of a car wash: the rent/lease of your land, the property, and all of the materials.

Property rent and mortgages can vary based on the market in your area, but it will be easier to make a profit if you keep the cost below $90,000. The building structure itself will cost about $25,000 to $30,000 and set-up materials will average about $20,000.

In-Bay Automated 

An in-bay automatic car wash doesn’t require any staff to run it either. When you have an in-bay automated car wash, the customer’s car will stay in one place and the car wash equipment will move around the vehicle. 

After you factor in equipment and rent, you’ll likely pay close to $260,000 for a car wash machine of this type. 

Tunnel or Full-Service Wash

If you’re considering a larger investment in your future car wash, a full-service wash is the way to go. It will bring in more money and more customers than the other types, depending on your location, but it is also costly upfront to buy.

How much is it to buy a car wash with tunnels? It will cost about $1.2 million for equipment and rent. While that price may vary based on land values, it’s a pretty good place to start. 

You may be thinking that it’s too much, but each tunnel car wash will serve about 75,000 cars per year. As long as you charge an average of $15 per wash, you’ll make your money back in just over a year of business. 

How to Purchase 

A new business always has start-up costs and a carwash is no different. When you’re first starting out, you’ll need a significant amount of money to get started.

If you don’t have the cash up front, you can ask the bank for a loan. However, this can be difficult to secure and may not be the right financing approach for you. 

Finding a business partner is a great option and may help relieve some of the stress and workload. Leasing the property where you’re placing your business is another option if you don’t have the money to purchase right away. 

Things to Consider 

There are a few things that you can’t forget about when you make your budget. Staffing is crucial if you have a full-service car wash. You’ll likely have to spend a lot of time interviewing and hiring people, or you’ll have to pay someone else to do it for you.

We’ve talked about the cost of equipment, but you’ll also need to invest in maintenance. If you have a single bay car wash and it breaks down, you’ll lose customers and revenue…sometimes for an entire day. Regular cleanings and repairs are a great way to keep your business open and running, but it does cost money to obtain regular maintenance. 

As a buyer, you also won’t have to pay the realtor’s commission, but you will need to pay for marketing your new business, which is not always a cheap or easy thing to do. 

You’ll also need to find a way to budget for the various overhead fees that will take place as well. 

Buying an Existing Car Wash

The cost of buying an existing car wash also depends on a handful of other important components. Even just a quick look on BizBuySell will show you that they can cost as little as $200,000 and as much as $10,000,000.

Here’s what you should watch out for:

  • Location, location, location. Creating a successful car wash tends to be a numbers game. The more cars that drive by your location each day, the more people are likely to stop by and use it.
  • Equipment is costly. Well-maintained car wash equipment that is relatively newer is worth far more than equipment that will likely need to be replaced soon. If your equipment isn’t taken care of, you’ll likely rack up a high monthly maintenance bill
  • How many washes per day can the equipment handle? You could have a million and one cars drive by your business each year, but if you don’t have the capacity to service them…you’re wasting your own potential to profit.
  • Current and past cash flow. You’ll want to know how much money they’ve made in the past—especially seasonally—as well as what their numbers have looked like recently.
  • Owned or rented real estate? Usually, the biggest cost of buying a car wash will be purchasing the land and paying your mortgage. If the space is leased, that lease agreement will be one of the most important components of your deal. 

Buying a Car Wash Franchise 

If you don’t want to build your car wash from scratch, you could also consider purchasing a franchise that’s already established. Knowing how much it costs to buy a car wash franchise varies based on a few different factors.


Similar to opening your own car wash, you’ll need to do some heavy market research around your location. This is where having a really good local realtor can come in handy.

If your business is in a busy part of town, you’ll likely pay more, but you’ll also make more because of demand and traffic in the area. 

Type of Car Wash

The cost of your car wash will also depend on the type of car wash and the services you’ll provide. Is it self-served or automatic? Do you offer vacuums and other upsells?

The size of the car wash will also contribute. The more cars and customers you can serve at a time, the more expensive it will be. 

Costs to Buy a Franchise

You’ll likely have to pay a fee when you are getting set up with a franchise. This can cost between $5,000 and $25,000 depending on the type of car wash and how many bays you decide to have.

When you’re setting up your car wash company through a franchise, you can expect to pay between $40,000 and $300,000.

If you wanted to purchase a mobile car wash franchise, the price will range from $30,000 all the way up to $100,000. You should also keep in mind that these costs do not include monthly bills, fees, and rent. 

Do Your Research

After you’ve answered the question “How much does a car wash cost to buy?” you need to figure out if this type of boring business is a good idea for you and how to go about actually buying it. 

Interviewing other car wash owners is a great way to find out what the business buying process could look like for you. You could also take to Google or take an online course that walks you through the process.

Once you decide that you’re officially ready to buy your first car wash, you’ll need to start making connections with local owners and understanding which type of business is right for you… You will likely need a realtor, an accountant, and a lawyer to help you during the M&A process. 

How Much Does a Car Wash Cost to Buy?

Buying any business is a great goal, but it can also have its moments of stress, worry, and overall doubt. Luckily, we created something that will make the process a LOT easier for you.

Now that you know the exact answer to the question “How much does a car wash cost to buy?” you can get started with the next stage of your process: finding an actual business to buy.

Get Our 6 Figure Cash Flow on Car Wash

If you think a car wash is the right path to passive income for you, you should also check out our Playbook: 6 Figure Cash Flow on Car Washes.

Contact Us

In A Nutshell, Tell Us About Your Goals

More To Explore

Mindset Makeover: Overcoming Entrepreneurial Challenges In Business Acquisitions

Business buyers taking action Hey Biz-Buyers, I can think of only one good excuse why you shouldn’t pursue business ownership: You don’t…


June 06, 2023

Seller Financing in a Shifting Economy

Business buyers taking action Hey there, business buyers! In case you haven’t noticed, things are a little wild economically. But if…


May 05, 2023

From Dreamer To Achiever: Conquer Small Business Ownership In 4 Steps

Business buyers taking action Good afternoon. Picture this: You're sitting at a hipster café, listening to a genre of music…


May 05, 2023