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Hand Wash or Automate?

Things to consider:

Hand Wash or Automate?

By Tom Settle, Vice President, Automotive Services

Many automobile dealerships have made the decision to automate their carwash operations. If you are weighing your options, there are some significant reasons to consider the move to an automatic wash.

Delivering a consistent level of vehicle cleanliness is the first. Service customers equate a clean vehicle with good service. With hand washing, how clean your cars are depends on several variables. Those include the mood of the porter on a given day, cleanliness of the wash water, and how dirty the vehicle is. Handwashing also introduces the chance for damage—swirl marks from using dirty water, for example.

Next you must consider the cost. Let’s say a dealership is washing 30 cars a day, and a porter is receiving $9.50 an hour plus benefits. It will take 25-30 minutes for a porter to wash each car—roughly 15 hours a day. Two porters working six days a week translates to $864, not counting benefits. That’s almost $3,700 each month.

Comparing hand washing to automation, your cost is roughly $4.50 per car with a porter versus about $3 per car with a carwash. That includes machine cost amortized over five years. And a carwash will deliver a consistently clean car every 2.5 minutes—or 20 cars per hour. At this point, you may wonder what you’ll do with that extra capacity.

Here’s where you need to consider how many vehicles you are actually washing on a regular basis? Your first inclination might be to simply count the vehicles you’re servicing each day. But we’ve found the actual count is much higher. Add in new units delivered to the lot, trade-ins, rental or loaner cars and the need to periodically clean your entire inventory after weather events and you have a much higher actual wash volume.

Last but not least, there is the question of environmental impact. Hand wash using a bucket and hose will use about 40 gallons of water per car. With an automated machine, we’ve profiled the vehicle so we can meter the water. The average automated carwash uses 14 gallons of water—much less than half of that used with hand washing.

One final thought—a growing number of dealerships are making their carwash available to the public as an additional revenue stream. At the least, it is another way to offset a portion of the cost of keeping service and other vehicles clean while bringing traffic—and potential buyers—to your lot.

If you’re considering a carwash for a new facility or wondering if a wash will work in your existing dealership, contact a Mark VII representative. They will be happy to visit with you and see if a carwash makes sense for your dealership.