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Running a Mobile Car Wash

As the phrase implies, a mobile car wash goes to the customer rather than the other way around. Most commonly, the washing is done in the parking lot outside a plant, office, or shopping center. The customer, accordingly, has one less errand to run, and the washing is done while he or she is already occupied with other tasks.

Since a mobile car wash is run out of a specially outfitted truck, the investment is only a fraction of that associated with a traditional operation that requires land, building, and stationary equipment. Moreover, a significant number of customers may be motivated to have their cars washed more frequently, since they can get it done more easily.

To succeed with a mobile car wash, you must convince the parking lots owners to let you in, preferably on a regularly schedule. If you are trying to gain access to a work location (such as an office building), your pitch may be most successful in locations that already allow other on site operations (such as dry cleaners, shoe repairers, and pharmacies) since these employers understand that they boost productivity by limiting the amount of errand running that takes place during business hours.To be welcomed at a shopping center, you must position yourself as an amenity that will increase customer traffic. In either case, whether at a shopping center or at a company site, negotiate first for free access, but be prepared to have to pay a fee or to share your revenue.

You also can offer your services, perhaps at reduced cost, to organizations that tend to offer car washes as fundraisers, such as scouting troops, schools, youth sports teams, volunteer fire companies, and rescue squads.

Depending on local environmental regulations, there may be issues with what happens to your wastewater. For instance, letting it flow into storm drains may not be acceptable in some places. Additionally, some organizations that might otherwise offer a base of customers for you (especially colleges and universities) may have adopted their own “green” policies on water usage and wastewater discharge.

Lastly, if you are in an area with freezing winter temperatures, recognize that your

operations will be limited. While drivers will be anxious to rid their cars of salt, sand, and mud in winter, it may not be feasible for you to prevent frozen locks, doors, and windows, or to avoid creating icy parking lots. If, on the other hand, you are eager to take winters off, this can work fine for you.

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