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Car washing and valeting is a straightforward type of business to start. The primary ingredients for success are a motivated team, and a high visibility site to attract passing motorists. Most car washes providehand washing only on the site of old garage forecourts. However, investing in an automated car washing machinery requires substantial start-up business funding. Consequently, many entrepreneurs provide mobile car washing and valeting services, by visiting the customer at their place of work or home.
This niche business model incurs high transportation costs and therefore demands a premium price from the motorist (typically higher net worth client or company car driver).
Like all small business ventures, there are many management issues to consider before starting. These include raising adequate business finance, employing effective local advertising, employment issues and managing cash flows. Probably the most overlooked aspect is the increasing importance of complying with environmental legislation. Car washing if a low margin, volume business. It relies upon a steady stream of passing traffic in urban areas. Investigate local competitors to decide what a reasonable cost per wash per car should be. Calculate how much to pay your employees per hour and how long on average it will take to clean each car. The aim is to calculate how many cars must be cleaned per day to break even.
When composing a business plan, look carefully at the costs of employing car washing staff. These include employee and employer National Insurance, benefits, holidays and sick leave, among others. Renting a premises means budgeting for the costs of rent, business rates, and public liability insurance. Do not ignore the costs of wholesale cleaning materials (such as car washing liquid, a vacuum cleaner, polish, sponges, buckets, uniforms etc).
Many car washing businesses offer a variety of prices, based on the thoroughness of the car cleaning. For instance, many of a basic hand car wash for £5. For £15 they may also offer to valet the inside of the car as well. Many offer additional services (such as polishing, waxing, touching up of minor scratches, or bringing the tyre colour back to new).
Think carefully about the competition and what is appropriate to charge for the service. As well as being a competitive market, the car washing market comprises both many legitimate operations and dishonest operators. If you are planning to add additional cleaning services while the customer waits, you may need some kind of undercover waiting area room. During the winter months, customers won’t want to wait outside in all weathers. Ideally, select a location which is near some shops, so customers can amuse themselves while you clean their car for half an hour.
You should be acutely aware of any environmental regulations and EPA guidelines which may limit how you manage your car washing business. Legitimate car washing operations need to consider the implications of disposing of any waste effluents safely. In particular when you wash a car with soapy water, you are cleaning off all of dirt, oil, road contaminants, residues and grease. Left unchecked this ‘trade effluent’ may enter the mains water system, and eventually end up polluting rivers and groundwater. It is illegal to discharge trade effluent into ‘surface water or clean water drains’ without prior permission. So you will need to ensure proper drainage of the site, and that waste enters the normal drainage system. The car washing area should be over a concrete floor.
If you are a landlord and allowing your tenants to use the site for commercial car washing purposes, you will be legally responsible for any spillages of trade effluent, surface water and pollution, caused by site contractors, service providers and tenants. As the law tends to change over time, (whether you are a tenant business owner or a landlord), you should both seek specialist legal advice regarding current compliance standards, and best practice environmental guidelines. Similarly, check with the local authority to ensure that any location you rent has prior planning permission for the commercial use it was intended..
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