Nearly 228 million people in the United States are licensed to drive a car. That’s a lot of potential customers for anyone in the vehicle-maintenance industry. If you’ve ever thought about building or owning a car wash, you may be wondering about the start-up and construction costs.
The cost to build a car wash could be anywhere from $250k to $6 million (or more), depending on the type of car wash, the size, and your geographic location. Self-serve car washes are the cheapest to build, while automatic tunnel washes are the most expensive. The cost of land is also a huge factor.
- What’s the Average Cost to Build a Car Wash?
- Cost Factors to Build a Car Wash
- How Much is it To Build a Tunnel Car Wash?
- How Much is it To Build an Automatic Car Wash?
- Other Interesting Guides
- How Much Does it Cost to Build a Touchless Car Wash?
- What’s the Cost to Build a Self-Serve Car Wash?
- Is Building a Car Wash Profitable?
What’s the Average Cost to Build a Car Wash?
The average cost to build a car wash really depends on the structure’s size and the type of car wash (self-service versus automatic). Still, you should expect to pay between $150 and $300 per square foot to construct your facility.
To build a car wash with all the added components you’ll need (like a water treatment system, piping, and automatic car wash equipment), the price will go up significantly. It could cost $450k to several million dollars if you need a lot of added infrastructure and equipment.
Car Wash Construction Cost Estimate
|Car Wash Size (Sq. Ft)||Low-End Cost Estimate||High-End Cost Estimate|
|10,000||$1.5 million||$3 million|
Cost Factors to Build a Car Wash
There are many factors that impact how much it would cost to build a car wash. The number of variables is what makes it difficult to estimate the cost with total accuracy, but it’s possible to get a good idea of what to expect. Some factors have a much larger impact on what it would cost you to build the facility than others. For example, a tunnel car wash would be much more expensive than a self-service facility.
Land Costs for Building a Car Wash
The first (and most important) consideration for building a car wash (or any commercial project, really) is the land. Where you’re located has a huge impact on how much it costs to buy and develop land.
You also have to think about your location in terms of potential customers for your business. It’s best to operate a car wash near a residential area where there are a lot of neighborhoods, apartment complexes, and shopping centers.
Typically, land costs are in the $100,000 to $250,000 range. Another way to estimate the land cost is by using the average price per square foot (or per acre) in your geographic location.
One sample price to use to get an idea is around $24 per square foot. So, if you purchase a lot to accommodate 5,000 square feet, you should expect to spend at least around $168,000 for the land.
Site Work for a Car Wash
Don’t forget that once you purchase the land, you’ll likely have to do some work to it before you can build a car wash. The cost for site work will vary significantly depending on the condition of the lot you purchased.
For example, you may need to pay for earthwork, leveling, grading, and modifying the site for proper drainage. Then, you’ll need a foundation, asphalt or concrete, and landscaping around the car wash area.
Depending on the extent of the site work needed, you may need to consult a professional architect or engineer, which also increases your costs.
You should budget between $75k and $250k for site work.
How Much is it To Build a Tunnel Car Wash?
A tunnel car wash is the most expensive type of car wash to build. It requires a significant amount of equipment and you’ll often need to build out the structure to suit your needs.
A tunnel car wash costs anywhere from $2 million to $6 million (or more) to build. The cost may vary quite a bit depending on permits and professional consulting fees and the construction costs.
Tunnel Car Wash Sample Costs
|Cost Factor||Cost Estimate|
|Building and Construction||$800k – $1.5 million|
|Closing Costs||$30k – $60k|
|Car Wash Equipment||$500k – $800k|
|Water Treatment System||$50k – $250k|
|Pay Station||$30k – $40k|
|Signage and Marketing||$35k – $250k|
|Security System||$25k and up|
|Professional Fees||$80k – $500k|
|Permits and Planning||$75k – $250k|
|Land Costs||$500k – $2 million|
How Much is it To Build an Automatic Car Wash?
Building an automatic car wash typically costs between $500,000 and $2 million. The actual costs will primarily depend on how much you pay for land, your geographic location, and your construction costs.
The equipment for an automatic car wash is also pricy, but not as expensive as what you’d need to build a tunnel car wash. One of the big expenses to consider is a water reclamation and treatment system. This is a must, especially if you live in an area where water is scarce.
You’ll also need to consider the space required for vehicles to enter and exit your facility with ease, and give them room to line up as they enter the car wash. You may want to build a parking area for people to clean out their car’s and vacuum.
These added features may cost a little extra toward your building and construction expenses, but they also add value to your business and may help you generate added revenue over time.
Other Interesting Guides
How Much Does it Cost to Build a Touchless Car Wash?
Building a touchless car wash is slightly more expensive than building an automatic car wash only because the equipment is more advanced and costs more. It generally costs $750,000 to several million dollars to build a touchless car wash.
In some cases, it may be better to purchase an existing car wash and do renovations than build a touchless car wash from the ground up. However, that will really depend on your geographic location and how much land and construction costs run in your area.
Constructing the car wash building costs around $500k (or more), and the touchless car wash equipment will cost at least $250k. On top of that, you’ll need to consider site fees, plumbing and sewage, water treatment, permits, landscaping, signage, marketing, insurance, and so on.
What’s the Cost to Build a Self-Serve Car Wash?
A self-serve car wash is the least expensive type to build, because it’s the least complicated and requires fewer components than an automatic car wash. Typically, these facilities are just concrete bays with plumbing equipment added to dispense water and soap products.
Building a self-serve car wash costs anywhere from $250,000 to $1 million and up. Like any other business, much of the cost to build depends on your land costs and the specific construction costs in your geographic location.
Construction costs typically run between $160 and $300 per square foot, so those figures can give you a good idea of how much it would cost to build your self-serve car wash based on size.
So, a small 800 square foot wash would cost around $251,000, while a larger car wash with multiple bays would cost much more. Of course, that cost is just the actual building and construction price. So, you would still need to consider equipment, plumbing, site work, and so on.
Is Building a Car Wash Profitable?
Building a car wash is a big expense but it certainly has the potential to be a profitable business venture. Start with a solid business plan and hire trusted professionals to assist you through the planning and construction process. Make relationships with vendors and ensure that you purchase good quality equipment that will hold up over time.
Don’t forget that you’ll need to budget for ongoing costs when building a car wash. Utility expenses will be high and will vary depending on where you’re located. That’s one reason why a water reclamation and treatment system is so important.
You’ll want to keep your car wash looking good and in good repair. Make sure it’s well lit and the landscaping is well kept. The curb appeal will be the difference between customers pulling in to your business or driving right past. A car wash needs to look safe and well-maintained if you want someone to trust you with their vehicle.
You can easily add convenience features for your customers to generate added revenue, like adding vacuums, vending machines, air freshener dispensers, and so on. Think about the needs of the community where you operate and whether there could be demand for a bay for washing boats or RVs.
When you’re dealing with a very common and well-known business like a car wash, it’s always a good idea to think outside the box for ways to set yourself apart. Offering additional services to your customers is one easy way to earn their business and keep it.