The analysis presented in this article is based on information obtained from Auto Laundry News operator surveys for years 2013 through 2022.
As shown in Figure 1, the trend in annual average wash volume has been positive during the period (not statistically significant). The median value was 60,650.
As shown in Figure 2, the trend in capture rate has been positive during the period (not statistically significant). The median value was 0.0056. The busiest time of the year reported by most operators is the winter months whereas the slowest time is fall. Spring is the slowest time in the Mountain region whereas it’s the busiest time in the Midwest. Summer is the busiest time for operators in the Mountain, South Central, and Pacific regions. Regardless of region or season, operators report that more than 50 percent of their business occurs on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Between 20 percent and 30 percent of full-service washes are closed on Sunday. Typical extra services are detailing (77 percent of operators), impulse sales, and quick lube.
As shown in Figure 4, there has not been much change in the non-auto related profit centers on site that ALN tracks.
Conversely, there has been significant change in the number of car wash products offered and percentage of operators offering them.
For example, between 2017 and 2022, the percentage of operators offering lava application trended upwards from 21 percent to 67 percent. Similar results are seen for rain repellant (73 percent), sealant (47 percent), and ceramic coating (73 percent).
Consequently, it’s no surprise to find operators reporting increasing average sales during the period. In 2013, 48 percent of operators reported average gross revenue per car of more than $18. In 2018, 56 percent reported more than $18. In 2022, average gross revenue is more than $22.
Operating costs as percentage of total revenue has not changed considerably during the period. Cost of goods tracked by ALN include chemical, utilities, maintenance, and claims. Generally speaking, these costs have been trending at around 20 percent of sales.
Operating expenses in terms of advertising, insurance, rent, and labor have trended at around 60 percent of sales. Expenses showing the most change over time included insurance and labor, both of which increased as a percentage of total sales.
According to the 2013 survey results, 59 percent of operators reported paying an average wage of between $8 and $10 per hour whereas only 16 percent paid more than $10 an hour.
In the 2022 report, 44 percent reported paying an average wage of between $10 and $12 an hour and 39 percent paid more than $12.
of operators with
a website is only 73.
Crew size has also trended upwards by 20 percent since 2013 from 16 to 19 full-time equivalents.
In terms of advertising and promotion, operators are no longer relying on yellow pages, radio, or TV to get the word out. Here, the use of social media has trended upward from 54 percent of operators to 89 percent. Operators still indicate a preference for direct mail and newspaper ads.
Internet access has trended upward from 85 percent to 100 percent, but the percentage of operators with a website is only 73.
The percentage of operators reporting a water reclaim system has also not budged much over the period. Although the results vary considerably from year to year, the median is 50 percent.
Bob Roman is a car wash consultant. You can reach Bob via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by visiting www.carwashplan.com.