When it comes to taking the leap into refitting an existing in-bay automatic car wash with new equipment, it is important to recognize that there are some key factors to consider before you sign on the dotted line.

From choosing an experienced distributor/supplier that has a strong reputation for delivering quality equipment and service upgrades, to remote-access technology and pay-station ease, the decision to refit an existing in-bay car wash presents a myriad of consideration — all of which can mean the difference between a successful business that thrives for decades, or one that slowly fades away into obscurity.

Place yourself in the customer’s position and ask whether you would be happy with the results of the in-bay automatic car wash process and whether you would be willing to return again? Getting someone to wash a car once at your establishment is important, but it’s getting them to return regularly that ensures long-term success. The following are five questions to ask before purchasing an in-bay automatic car wash:

Is my supplier experienced enough to guarantee minimal downtime during installation while providing local support once the equipment is operational?

The importance of an experienced car wash distributor cannot be overlooked. A good distributor provides the expertise and product knowledge for your installation and operation which, along with local access and support, can reduce the possibility of potential downtime. While purchasing a TV or a cell phone direct or online may work, a piece of capital equipment such as a car wash requires strong local distributor support to provide guidance through the entire process. An experienced distribution network will help get you one step closer to a successful business.

What new services can you market as enhancements and improve ROI?

Car wash operators are in business to make money. If they can find a partner that offers services to help improve their ROI, they can have the confidence to proceed with new programs knowing they have the resources available to be successful. A good distribution partner will offer equipment enhancements and products, along with various loyalty programs that provide flexibility and help improve the operator’s ROI. There are three key areas in which a manufacturing company can help improve ROI:

1. Offer a machine that increases throughput

2. Offer more revenue-generating services

3. Lower operating costs

It makes sense that if the supplier can help car wash owners wash more cars, collect more money per vehicle, and reduce operational costs, step one of the partnership can be scored as having been achieved. Step two is helping the wash owner gain and retain loyal customers.

Are you considering the exterior appeal in addition to the operation inside?

Curb appeal and drive-by signage goes a long way in attracting new customers to a business. If you are refitting an existing structure, do not miss the opportunity to refresh the bay walls. Consider fresh paint, fiberglass surfaces, or a colorful graphic print for the interior. To help build brand equity, consider branding your machines with special colors and/or logos. And since ease of operation for the customer will improve throughput volumes, don’t miss the chance to refresh directional ground markings and upgrade exterior landscaping and lighting.

Can you remotely monitor and adjust wash speeds and make wash-package changes?

The best car wash machines have the capability to communicate remotely. Avoid trips to your facility for issues that can be handled remotely. Whether you are at home or on vacation, the best car wash machines offer constant status updates and communications. A simple machine interface provides easy configuration changes to introduce special packages or to simply increase operating speeds.

Can the pay system handle credit cards, paper money, loyalty cards, and codes?

As the link to most of your customers, the pay station is a critical piece of a successful car wash. A simple, easy-to-use system will relax customers and improve the odds of them returning. The pay station you choose should be able to handle all types of transactions including cash, credit card, access codes, and loyalty.

A solid loyalty system is essential when looking at a pay station. Being able to offer your customers a variety of services and packages will help with customer retention. Choose a terminal that can handle numerous transaction types. It is important that the unit you choose be safe and secure. Having a pay station that has a secure vault that holds all incoming and outgoing currency will help keep cash safe. It is critical that any pay station be Payment Card Industry (PCI) compliant. To avoid credit-card issues at your site, operators should ensure the device they are considering is listed on the PCI website.

David Dougherty is the senior product manager for in-bay automatics at PDQ Manufacturing Inc., De Pere, WI. Brands include LaserWash® and ProTouch® In-Bay Automatic Vehicle Wash Systems, SwingAir® and MaxAir® Dryers, Access® Wash Activation Systems, Cortex, and WALS. For more information, visit www.pdqinc.com. David can be reached at David.Dougherty@pdqinc.com.