Driver's Guide

How to Start a Hand Car Wash Business

Howdy, Driver? Starting a hand car wash is tasking, yet it is a lucrative business; so far, you employ the right strategy. In this article, I will disclose how to start a hand car wash business with regards to personal experiences.

how to start a hand car wash business

A hand car wash is a profitable business that attracts a reasonable profit depending on your expertise and dedication. I strongly recommend a hand car wash, especially if you have a small capital. Moreover, hand car wash is relatively easy to manage.

To start a hand car wash business, identify a location, register the business, and advertise to the local audience using social media.

Unlike a machine car wash, hand car wash is not bad for a car. The genuine reason is that a car washer is conscious of the washing process. We can practically say that a hand car wash is better, and it makes good business to consider. In the sections below, we discuss how to start a hand card wash business.

How to Start a Hand Car Wash Business

Below are the steps to start a hand car wash business:

Pick a Business Name

A good business name for your hand car wash is as good as the business itself. Of course, you do not have to name the business anything that comes to mind. You might have to sleep over it, or better still, get suggestions from other people.

You may as well use a business name generator software for suggestions. After deciding on a name, check for the availability of the business name online. Of course, you do not want to identify your hand card wash business with an already existing name. If after searching for the trademark, there is none, then check whether there is a website using the name. You might need a website someday for the hand car wash business.

Plan the Nature of the Business

You must work out or define the concept or nature of the hand car wash business. It helps keep you on course with the idea of what you are doing and how it can become better. Figure out whether you will run the hand card wash as a mobile service or car-care from a specific location.

If you plan to operate the hand car wash business as a mobile service, keep in mind that states have their laws governing the run-off water from the hand car wash. You consider employing measures to trap the water from reaching storm drains. You may use a wash mat or any worthy alternative.

However, if you plan to establish the hand car wash at a fixed location, you require a sizeable space. Space should be enough to contain the cars and must be visible to people in the neighborhood. Just make sure to secure an excellent location for the hand car wash.

Make a Business Plan

A perfect business plan will, of course, be presented in a written format. It will cover your vision of the hand card wash business as well as how you intend to run the business.

You will develop the business plan from your concept of the business. And you will have to outline the various steps you will make towards establishing a successful hand car wash. The business plan should explain how you intend to operate the hand car wash for revenue generation. Of course, it will state whether it will be a mobile or a fixed-site hand car wash business.

To put the business at the limelight, reach out to agencies and individuals that may be interested and pitch the plan of the business for possible assistance. You must also highlight the various challenges and the measures you will take to overcome the difficulties.

With time, you could progress to a new setting of the car wash business. By setting, I am referring to a different car wash system, such as the machine car wash.

Structure a Legal Entity

It is still advisable to establish a legal business entity for a hand car wash business. It protects you from being liable if, for any reason, your hand car wash is sued. But I do not expect that you will run your business into trouble sooner. We have several structures you can pick from, and three of such are LLC, DBA, and Corporation.

Get a Liability Insurance

Though a hand car wash may seem like a small business to you, it requires insurance against liability. Do not be tempted to ignore getting the business insured because you never know what might happen. It is especially important if the concept of your hand car wash is a static site.

How much do hand car wash owners make

You would have to research for the best insurance quote and get the business covered. Do not rule out the fact that damage to your client’s car could be all it takes for the business to collapse.

Register the Business for Taxes

Regarding how to start a hand car wash business, you would have to register for taxes. To the government, it does no matter that you are running a hand car wash business. You must make appropriate registrations with both the state and the federal government. To register the hand car wash business for taxes, apply with the appropriate agency such as the EIN. Of course, it comes at no cost, and you will be glad you registered for taxes. Registering your hand car wash further informs your clients that you are not stealing to legalize the car or switch the VIN.

Find a Location

Like I mentioned earlier, you require a strategic location for a hand car wash business. It must be such that it is visible to the neighborhood from various viewing angles.

While picking a location, you want someplace that would be affordable. For a start, trust me; you do not require an expensive rented ground, and the rant must be temporary. My reason is that you first have to figure out how the business fares within a short period. If the conversion is not convincing, I would recommend locating a new site for your car wash business.

If you are plan for a mobile hand car wash, then you need a centralized storage facility for the essential hand car wash equipment.

Obtain Operating Licenses/Permits

You do not want to establish a hand car wash without obtaining the necessary licenses and permits. The government is ever willing to frustrate the business, which would collapse the business.

To learn more about obtaining the operating licenses or permits, ask what other business owners do. Or, inquire about local licensing and permits from the clerk office in your state or county.

Requirements for Labor Safety

If you are starting the hand car wash business without employing workers, you may not need the labor requirement. But if you plan to hire a few hands, your business should comply with the requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration Act of 1970.

Some of the regulations surrounding labor safety include:

  • Potentially dangerous equipment
  • Safety precautions when operating
  • Reports on injury
  • Hazard identification

Certificate of Occupancy

If you plan to run a fixed site hand car wash, you also require a Certificate of Occupancy (CO). It certifies that the car wash site complies with the building code and other laws that qualify its condition as occupiable. However, you may not require the Certificate of Occupancy for a mobile car wash unless the storage facility would be in the open.

Note the following:

For a leased Site/building:

Since you are leasing the location, the landlord is responsible for obtaining the Certificate of Occupancy. So, make sure to find out whether the landlord has the site duly certified for the hand car wash.

You should include language in the lease agreement if you plan on renovating the hand car wash business site. It should state that you will make lease payment after the issuance of a valid Certificate of Occupancy.

For a Purchased Site/building:

If you plan on purchasing a business site or building, obtaining a valid Certificate of Occupancy will be your responsibility. And it should be after you renovate the place. Make sure to structure the site or building in compliance with the laws or codes governing the building. Otherwise, you will not obtain the Certificate of Occupancy which becomes a problem.

Buy the Needed Supplies

Regarding how to start a hand car wash business, you have to know the necessary supplies needed for the business. Why I prefer a hand card wash is that the supplies are easily affordable, and you do not require too much of mechanical power.

At a low-cost, you need non-abrasive sponges, concentrated car wash soap, sealant or finishing wax, orbital polisher, towels, vinyl cleaner, an upholstery shampoo, glass cleaner, and a drying chamois.

As you read down, I will list the hand car wash supplies alongside the estimated prices.

Develop a Marketing Plan.

In this century, social media has a significant impact on whatever business we put out there. Because you have to develop a marketing plan, it should begin on social media in the form of advertisements. You also require sharing flyers containing your marketing plan around the neighborhood.

how to start a mobile car wash business

Your marketing plan could feature loyalty reward programs for returning clients, small gift items, and referral bonuses. Simple strategies like these would seamlessly boost your hand car wash business within a short period.

Working marketing for me is to regularly teach your clients how to care for their cars. You could be sending emails twice a month. Such tutorials could be how to stop a car from overheating, where to park a car for storage long term, how to prep a car for storage, etc.

Farm for Clients

Regarding how to start a hand car wash business, you need the clients or retail consumers to make a profit. As a first-timer, you must convince the clients of the safety of their cars and how you intend to satisfy them. You may as well do what another hand car wash is leaving out—stuff like offering to clean certain parts of the car for free. For instance, you could tell the client that out of four tires, you will charge for washing two tires only.

While farming for clients, you would want to issue them proofs of proper business registration. It is not a complete reason for clients to trust you, but it informs them that you are serious about business.

You can also tell the client that the business is insured if you have. Indeed, the client will take a relieving breath because he/she is assured of the safety of their car. And that you have structured an entity that will be liable for unforeseen damages.

Create Fleet Business

Building a fleet business for a hand car wash is smart, mostly if you are operating a mobile hand car wash. The exciting aspect of a fleet business is that it keeps the car wash lively even when clients are not returning. You would have to reach out to organizations such as rental cars, dealerships, service trucks, taxi fleets, etc. Explain your business model and request for a hand car wash contract to maintain their vehicles periodically.

And if the organizations you contact are contracted already to a car wash service, offer to serve as a backup for business overflow days. They may not immediately demand your service, but when they do, endeavor to deliver a finesse hand car wash. When you impress, you will likely become a priority for cleaning and maintaining the vehicles.

Cost of Opening a Hand Car Wash

The estimated cost of opening a hand car wash is between $15,000 to $25,000 depending on how you plan the concept of the business. This estimation includes the rental of land space and, of course, the supplies, and other building structures. Note that I am considering an estimate at the barest minimum for a decent rented hand car wash site of 0.7 acres.

What Products Does Hand Car Wash Use?

You should know the hand car wash supplies needed for the business. Below are the required hand car wash supplies and estimated costs:

  • Car wash Bucket – $8
  • Non-abrasive sponge – $1.30
  • Car soap – $7
  • Window Squeegee – $13
  • Chamois cloth – $5
  • Finishing wax – $9.98
  • Orbital polisher for waxing – $48.97
  • Wet/Dry Vacuum – $100
  • Shop towels – $98
  • Upholstery shampoo – $5
  • Glass cleaner – $1.98
  • Tire brush – $4.65
  • Monthly water supply – (NA)

The cost of water supply depends on the gallons of water you will use per day. It will cost about $72.93 for a hand car wash water supply if you use about 100 gallons every day. So, you should be able to estimate the monthly cost of water supply depending on the gallons consumed daily

For other supplies, I mentioned only the prices for single products. If you are getting the supplies in twos or threes, the cost will, of course, double up.

Expenses You Will Make for Hand Car Wash

The expenses you will incur for a hand car wash depends on how you will run the business. For instance, a mobile car wash will demand storage fees, and you have to consider the transportation cost of reaching your client’s car with the supplies.

Below is a breakdown of expenses for a simple hand car wash business:


For every 100 gallons of water, you consume in a day, you will spend about $72.93 monthly. For a mobile hand car wash, you may not pay for the water as your client might make water provision.


Expenses on transportation will primarily apply for a mobile hand car wash business. Of course, you might require a work truck to transport the supplies for washing the cars of your clients.


Now and then, you would have to replace worn-out tire brushes, glass cloths, etc. You will also have to buy car soap and other solids/liquids that are consumable.


As a form of enhancing the business, you may have to advertise for more audience. You can spend about $60 on promotional flyers, $60 on signage, and $50 on running advertisement campaigns on social media. Of course, the ads must target residents that own cars in your neighborhood.


  • Promotional flyers – $50
  • Signage – $60
  • Social media ads – $50

Advertising with a local radio or TV station is quite expensive unless you have the funding.

How Much to Charge for Hand Car Wash

You should charge between $6 and $8 for a hand car wash. However, you should not charge the same amount for all vehicles. And if you are operating a mobile car wash or a business fleet, you may charge higher for some individuals.

how to open a hand car wash business

According to the model of the car, below is what you should charge:

  • Sedan – $13
  • Compact Car – $10
  • Sport Utility – $18
  • Pickup Truck – $19
  • Van – $16
  • Minivan – $17
  • Sports Cars – $30
  • Full-Size Car – $20
  • Hatchback – $15
  • Crossover – $18
  • SUV – $24
  • Off-Road – $21
  • Executive Car – $35
  • Limousine – $45

Note: You can always bargain with your clients. I realized that fixing the cost of a hand car wash could deter people from washing their cars with you.

How to Promote Hand Car Wash Business

Is a hand car wash a good business

  1. You can promote a hand car wash business by encouraging existing customers to refer your services to others. Of course, you should give referral bonuses to enable the clients to tell others about your services.
  2. You can as well use your free days to advertise with flyers by meeting people who own cars in your neighborhood.
  3. Another excellent way to promote your hand car wash business is by collaborating with businesses such as parking lots, restaurants, hotels, etc.
  4. You can also establish an online presence by creating social media pages and running adverts that target the local neighborhood.

How much profit can a car wash make?

A typical hand car wash generates an average of $8 per car. So, the hand car wash business profit would depend on the number of vehicles you can wash per day. The profit will also differ on certain days with fewer or more customers/clients.

Do You Need Labor for Hand Car Wash?

Admittedly, you will not have many clients at the start, so you do not necessarily need labor until demand increases.

What Do I Need to Open a Hand Car Wash?

To open a car wash, you need a car wash site/building, storage facility, and vehicle detailing supplies. You will further register the business and obtain the various licenses and permits from the clerk office in your state. I advise you to insure the business against unforeseen circumstances.

How Much Money Do You Need to Open a Hand Car Wash?

You need about $15,000 to open a hand car wash business with regards to a rented site or building. If you are buying a site for the business, you will have to spend more.

Does Hand Car Wash Make Money?

Yes, the hand car wash business makes a lot of money with the right strategy. The hand car wash business profit grows as you create more awareness of the business in your state. And with time, you will require labor for the tasking jobs.

Is Hand Car Wash a Good Business?

Yes, hand car wash is a good business with decent growth potential. Over time, you can switch to an automatic car wash when you secure the finance and demand.

Are Hand Car Wash Bad?

No, a hand car wash and detailing are not bad for the car. Instead, a car washer would be able to find faults in the car, offer proper maintenance, and give a finesse car washing and detailing.

Car wash business profit

Top Lessons for Your Clients

Final Thought

In this article, I disclosed the steps regarding how to open a hand car wash business successfully from experience. Sincerely, the hand car business is easy to manage, and the required capital depends on the level you intend to run the business.

Before you open a hand car wash, you would want to survey the neighborhood. You have to figure out the number of car wash businesses around, and how they each operate the business. And if the hand car wash business is strange to you, consider the taking of just 2-3 months to learn from another car wash.

Lastly, to establish a successful hand car wash, you must do what others do and introduce what they are missing in the business. Do not also joke with the effectiveness of running local ads in the neighborhood for more customers.

Bernard Juchli

Bernard Juchli

Bernard Juchli is an experienced racer, mechanic and team owner who trusts Avon Tyres.Bernard is the lead driver and force behind his Big Dog Garage Race Team. He is the General Manager and Chief Mechanic of Jay Leno’s Garage. Bernard and his crew of seven are responsible for all repairs, restoration and fabrication of Jay’s incredible automobile and motorcycle collection.

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