In-bay automatic car wash systems are located primary at convenience store and gasoline sites, standalone car washes, supermarkets, car dealerships, and transportation firms.

Figure 1 – Gantry and Inverted-L

IBAs are generally classified as friction, touchless, or hybrid (a combination of friction and touchless components).

Two common IBA designs are the gantry (roll-over), top left, and the over-head inverted-L, bottom left.

Although most IBAs have an hourly production capacity of between 12 and 15 cars, the in-bay express equipment layout can process 25 to 30 cars per hour.

Historically, touchless represented about 80 percent of installed equipment base whereas the most recent surveys suggest this has dropped to about 67 percent.

The retail price of IBAs varies considerably. Recently, one manufacturer advertised a loaded 5-brush rollover for $99,000 or a $25,000 savings. By comparison, the price for a basic system is about $50,000, whereas the price for an in-bay express may reach $175,000 or more. Manufacturers find the machine exchange cycle is between seven and 10 years. Market share leaders are thought to be Ryko, PDQ, Belanger, WashTec, and, in the car dealership segment, Broadway.

In 2011, International Carwash Association pegged the number of in-bay automatics at 29,000 units, down from an estimated 46,800 units in 1999. In 2006, Booz, Allen and Hamilton analysts fixed IBA equipment spending at $322 million. In 2009, an ICA report pegged IBA spending at about $175 million.

Manufacturers like WashTec believe the market has recovered since 2012 and the outlook is positive. According to our estimates, IBA equipment spending is probably between $225 and $300 million.

IBA manufacturers see opportunities in strong new vehicle sales and gradually rising popularity of automated car washing whereas the principal risk is modest economic growth.

Although in-bay equipment spending may have rebounded, the same can’t be said for the investment trend.

Figure 2 – Plan to Build

After eight consecutive boom years, the number of survey respondents planning to build within the next twelve months dropped considerably.

Figure 3 – Sales Volumes

The trend in IBA sales volumes during the period has been negative but volumes have been edging upwards over the last several years.

Figure 4 – Gallons Sold per Wash

The gas wash ratio for IBAs has varied from one wash for every 60 gallons of gasoline sold to 150 during the period when gas prices spiked in 2006/2007.

Figure 5 – Attraction Rate

After almost a 10-year lull, operators are reporting higher traffic count capture rates.

Figure 6 – Revenue and Expense

According to the 2016 Auto Laundry News survey, average per-car revenue for an IBA is $8.69. The data suggest unit variable cost of $2.63 and fixed cost of about $60,000, with average sales volume at 20,000.

Figure 7 – Earnings per Car

The trend in earnings has been positive.

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