How Much Money It Costs to Build a Car Wash

Understanding the True Construction Costs of Car Washes

Key Takeaways

  • There are several different types of car washes that can be categorized by several different terms, including machinery, structure, and washing method.
  • Car washes can be further described by their features, like manual, automatic, in-bay, tunnel, conveyor, friction, touchless, and more. These terms can be mixed and matched to discern between the many different types of car washes.
  • Understanding the different types of car washes, as well as the cost of building a car wash, is critical in successfully making the purchase or sale of a car wash business.
February 22, 2022

How Much Money It Costs to Build a Car Wash

Understanding the True Construction Costs of Car Washes
tunnel car wash build conveyor equipment costs

Tunnel & Support Equipment

Blowers, Tire Shine, Conveyor, Hydraulics, Pumping Stations, Arches, Boiler

Base Cost $650,000

Range of Variance +/- $150K
Primary Cost Variance Drivers
  • Type of Conveyor Mechanism
  • Belt conveyors have some clear benefits over the tried and true chain conveyor car wash systems, but those benefits do come at a higher ticket price
  • Length of Conveyor
  • Which has implications on arches and other supplementary equipment as well
  • Ancillary Equipment Choices and Levels
  • High level of discretion up to the owner and car wash tunnel designer here

carwash water treatment reclaim system building budget costs

Water Treatment System

Water Reclaim System, Water Filtration System

Base Cost $150,000

Range of Variance +/- $100K
Primary Cost Variance Drivers
  • Whether you implement a reclaim system at all
  • Level of water filtration and type of water filtration and softening system implemented

carwash building fixed structure foundation build costs

Electronic Components

Paystation(s), Tunnel Controller, Relay Station(s), Misc. Electrical

Base Cost $275,000

Range of Variance +/- $125K
Primary Cost Variance Drivers
  • Anticipated volume will have the largest impact due to the level of capacity your systems and payment terminals / auto-cashiers (if implemented) will have to be able and capable of processing

landscaping and site costs building carwash

Site & Landscaping

Paving, Leving, Asphalt, Greenery, General Landscaping

Base Cost $200,000

Range of Variance +/- $100K
Primary Cost Variance Drivers
  • Size, shape, and frontage of lot
  • Level of landscaping and extras desired by owner

how much car wash vacuum systems cost for new carwah build

Vacuum System

Motors, Drops, Accessories and Hoses, Plumbing, Related Cement Work

Base Cost $180,000

Range of Variance +/- $100K
Primary Cost Variance Drivers
  • Anticipated volume will have the largest impact due to the level of capacity your vacuum system and setup will need to be able to accommodate
  • Type and quality of vacuum system and setup

costs building carwash plumbing water routes

HVAC & Plumbing

Furnace, Heaters, Misc. Electrical, Misc. Plumbing

Base Cost $80,000

Range of Variance +/- $40K
Primary Cost Variance Drivers
  • Geographical location of wash is important
  • Levels of seasonal and temperature variation that will need to be accommodated for

signage costs budget new express car wash

Signage & Marketing

Main Signage, Menus & Price Boards, Brand and Logo Design & Launch Marketing

Base Cost $150,000

Range of Variance +/- $100K
Primary Cost Variance Drivers
  • Desired level of passerby visibility
  • Amount of street frontage available on site

permitting zoning costs build carwash

Planning & Permitting

Engineering, Architecture, Required Permitting

Base Cost $175,000

Range of Variance +/- $100K
Primary Cost Variance Drivers
  • Geographical area and local government

The Highly Variable Costs

With the more predictable of the car wash construction and build costs now established, along with a reasonable range of variance conveyed depending upon the specifics of the wash you are looking to build, the time has come to focus on the hardest of the costs to predict and which vary the most from one car wash build to another.

price cost to acquire real estate to develop carwash and build car wash

Real Estate and Land

Land costs vary widely

Base Cost $1,250,000

Range of Variance +/- $750K
Primary Cost Variance Drivers
  • Geographical area
  • Quality and grading of site
  • Size of the lot

cost of financing new car wash development

Consultant & Third-Parties

Not always necessary and very situation dependent

Base Cost $250,000

Range of Variance +/- $250K

These add a meaningful cost line item to your total build cost. Whether correct for you will depend on your situation, desired level of time involvement, your goals – and most importantly – the quality and tangible value the consultant brings and provides during the build process.

cost of financing new carwash development

Financing and Debt Service

Car wash financing varies greatly. Financing for building car washes vary even more than acquisition financing.

Base Cost $175,000

Range of Variance +/- $75K
Primary Cost Variance Drivers

Carwash Build Construction Costs Summary

Cost Component Lower End Base Costs Higher End
Building & Fixed Site Improvements $1,000,000 $1,250,000 $1,500,000
Water Treatment $50,000 $150,000 $250,000
Primary Tunnel & Support Equipment $500,000 $650,000 $800,000
Primary Electronic Components $150,000 $275,000 $400,000
Site & Landscaping $100,000 $200,000 $300,000
Vacuum System $80,000 $180,000 $280,000
HVAC & Plumbing $40,000 $80,000 $120,000
Signage & Marketing $50,000 $150,000 $250,000
Planning & Permitting $75,000 $175,000 $275,000
TOTAL - KNOWN QUANTITIES $2,045,000 $3,110,000 $4,175,000
Consulting and Other Third Parties $0 $250,000 $500,000
Real Estate and Land Costs $500,000 $1,250,000 $2,000,000
Financing and Debt Service Costs $97,605 $176,802 $255,999
TOTAL - HIGHLY VARIABLE $597,605 $1,676,802 $2,755,998
GRAND TOTAL - CARWASH BUILD COST $2,642,605 $4,786,802 $6,930,998


The cost to a car wash varies. However, hopefully the above analysis does provide a meaningful starting point and bounds for estimating how much you should anticipate spending to construct and build the car wash you considering making a reality.

Final Word

Although we’ll certainly have some pieces and materials coming out more specifically on this topic, the CWA team would like to leave you with one final thought and suggestion for those considering building a new car wash (regardless of whether or not deciding between building vs. an alternative route of acquiring or not).

We highly recommend being heavily focused on a single measure and metric of potential operating and financial performance when considering the potential payout and financial prudence (not to mention the site, path to build, etc..) when building a wash – your breakeven annual car count. As with anything, or at least we’re believers in this, it’s always safest to hope for the best, but plan for the worst. So when considering building a car wash, go to your downside case that you have built pro-forma projections for, extract the effective ticket price (make sure to keep anticipated unlimited membership pricing and expected volume attribution and not just use a simple and dangerous weighted average single wash ticket, along with your anticipated downside annual car count volumes, and figure out what level of safety and margin and error from this scenario you have in comparison to that of the ongoing maintenance costs and debt service costs given the total build cost you are expecting now after using this guide. If your downside / conservative pro-forma does not realistically have a considerable margin of error in comparison to your ongoing simple total maintenance and “keep-the-lights-on” costs – please don’t take this lightly. It may be the case that you have an error in your math, or you need to revisit and further sensitize your underlying projection assumptions. But this number, the minimum cars you have to wash to service the ongoing debt service based on your new build as well as the standard operating, maintenance and payroll costs to run the car wash – please make sure the math works before committing yourself to building a new wash.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much does a car wash machine cost?

For a conveyor car wash system, you can expect to spend anywhere from $1,400,000 to $2,100,000. The costs of car wash equipment can vary based on features, and size. Costs can change based on decisions by the owner, as well as the car wash tunnel designer.

How much does it cost to own a car wash?

Operational costs of car wash businesses vary greatly based on several factors, including employed staff, the type of car wash system or systems your business uses, real estate costs, and more. Therefore, it’s difficult to estimate exactly how much it costs to own a car wash.

How much does it cost to buy a car wash business?

The cost of a car wash business widely ranges based on several factors, including the type of car wash, the location of the car wash, and its overall revenue. Reference the chart above to see how much it costs roughly to construct a new car wash business, or contact us today to learn more about buying an existing car wash business.

How much does it cost to build a car wash business?

Building a car wash business is an expensive undertaking, and tends to cost millions of dollars in equipment and construction costs. On the low end, Car Wash Advisory estimates that a car wash costs approximately $5,560,000 to build. Higher-end car washes can cost closer to $7,660,000 to build. These high entry costs make the idea of buying a car wash business a much more attractive idea to those looking to break into the industry.

How much money does a car wash make?

The income provided by a car wash business is also highly variable. For a standard, self-serve car wash in a fairly populated area, you can expect to bring in roughly $40,000 to $100,000 a year from your business. On the other hand, large, multi-bay car washes in a highly populated area can easily net you $500,000+ annually. It’s all about the kind of car wash that you own.

Frequently Asked Questions

Related Resources

February 14, 2023

Before You Sell Your Car Wash: Information Checklist

Read More
December 22, 2022

High-Interest Rates, Economic Uncertainty, and Car Wash Acquisitions

Read More
February 7, 2022

Car Wash Advisory Featured in's 2022 M&A Predictions

Read More