Figure 1 – Exterior express
Figure 2 – Full-service
Figure 3 – Flex-serve after-care

Benchmarking is the process of comparing business processes and performance metrics to industry best practices from other companies.

For example, performance benchmarking allows the initiator to assess competitive position by comparing products and services with those of target firms.

Another form extends the benchmarking universe to also compare peers that can be considered alternative investment opportunities from the perspective of an investor. Dimensions typically measured are attraction rate, cost, revenue, expenses, and returns.

To illustrate, we developed estimates for these dimensions based on information published in Auto Laundry News annual conveyor surveys.

Design is developed with a grid system. Cost estimates to build a car wash are based on U.S. national averages from RSMeans cost data and are derived from a model that assumes basic components, using non-union labor.

A base case, designed to produce a core car wash product, functions as a starting point. Specifications are: 100’ by 150’ or 15,000 square foot parcel, 1,800 square foot building, 60’ conveyor, and space for one row of vacuums.

Grids are used to accommodate turning diameter, building and equipment placement, setbacks, and other factors considered important in determining car wash layouts.

The grid was then extrapolated to accommodate business models for express, full-service and flex-serve, and different conveyor lengths.


The exterior express conveyor is a fully automated car wash with computer-controlled equipment. A car goes inside the tunnel dirty, and in less than four minutes it comes out looking exceptionally clean, dry, and shiny. Free self-serve vacuums are provided.

Exterior express offers investors competitive and financial advantages. It requires only two employees per shift, two seven-hour shifts. Open 14 hours a day, rain or shine. Prices range from $4 to $13; the average is about $8. Average total guest visit on site is eight minutes and virtually no wait time.


The full-service conveyor car wash provides assisted-services such as interior vacuuming, hand towel drying, window cleaning, express detailing services, and most have a separate detail shop.

Full-serve requires between seven and 20 employees. Most stores are open from 8 a.m. till 6 p.m., six days a week. Some close when it rains. Prices range from$8 to $25 and the average is about $20. The average total guest visit on site is 20 to 30 minutes.


Flex-serve combines exterior express and full-service thereby attracting a broad customer base due to range of services and pricing available. A feature of flex is the ergonomically designed after-care center where employees work in teams.

Flex-serve requires half the labor of full-serve. Open 14 hours, seven days a week, rain or shine. The price range is $5 to $25 and the average is $14. A guest visit is 5 to 25 minutes.

Bob Roman is president of RJR Enterprises – Consulting Services ( You can reach Bob via e-mail at