As an operator or investor, when it comes to selecting the ideal location in Austin, TX for a new car wash, you should look for the best possible site you can obtain. A car wash business is completely a location-driven service business so procuring a A+ property is extremely imporant to the success of the site.

Here are 10 key considerations for car wash site selection:

1. Population Demographics

For any site you are evaluating, ensure that you've reviewed the current (ie., most recent) demographics of a one-mile, three-mile, and five-mile radius. An ideal customer base is one that is both large enough to support your business from a frequency/volume perspective, but also one has good household income, medium income, vehicle ownership, and per-capita vehicle spending attributes.

A typical 1,3,5-mile demographic report will give you a baseline, but you should also evaluate a drive-time catchment report before your final selection -- ie., rather than relying on just a radius, use a provider that has mobile data to understand the demographics of your customers who are within a 5- or 10-minute driving radius.

2. Zoning

Finding a site that is correctly zoned for commercial/business use is important. It’s difficult to get a property rezoned from resident to commercial, so it's important to understand the zone plans for the area you're considering.

3. Property Size

One acre is the ideal size for a tunnel car wash. Linear conveyor systems are a minimum 125 feet, so you'll need at least 225 in a single direction for placement. Lastly, your physical footprint can also impact how you maximize visibility from the road to ensure discoverability.

4. Available Space

If you plan to build an express exterior model, allow space for vacuum pads, queuing land and turning radiuses. A flex-service wash will also need room for the post-vacuum and finishing areas.

5. Visibility

A property that is out of sight is out of mind. Ideally, build your car wash in front of other buildings parallel to the main street. If visibility is a concern, understand local restrictions including maximum height or night-time brightness limits of newly constructed signs.

6. Traffic Counts

Traffic counts are important, but remember that it's making sure you have high traffic counts that match your ideal customer profile. Locations can haev extremely high traffic counts but not perform well because the demographics weren't right. (Which is by demographics is #1 on this list.)

7. Traffic Speed

If traffic is going 50 miles per hour or more, drivers are usually traveling too fast to view the facility or signage. Shoot for a location with speed limits less than 45 MPH. Also look at turn lanes and access. If it's difficult for a car to slow and turn into your location, or exit your location once done, then that adds another friction point to the experience.

8. Nearby Retail Area

Commercial density and proximity to other retail businesses is an additional positive factor. For example, you can use the destination draw from a big-box retail store or large supermarket and maximize your performance by being on or close to their out-lots.

9. Nearby Competition

When evaluating a site, pay particular attention to competing car washes located within a 3-mile area. Visit all the local car washes in the area and assess them as a competitor. Look at their pricing, service offering, and convenience factors. Self-service stations may not be deemed a competitor is certain cases.

10. Property Cost

Ensure that you are taking into consideration the purchase/lease, and insurance costs of property as part of your total investment or monthly operational expense. The property cost may worth the premium if the location is ideally situated within the right demographics and the data shows that it could generate a high volume of business. A more expensive property in this scenario may be worth it across multi-year performance projections.

In Conclusion

These are just 10 examples of the many factors to consider when choosing the ideal site for your car wash investement. Others include everything from water restritions, trade barriers, environmental concerns, and much more. It starts first with the data analysis so ensuring you have the right data partner first is critical to ensure you have the right insight to make the right decisions.

If you require help, IdealSpot is here for you. Founded in 2014, IdealSpot is a data and data-services firm specializing in driving smarter growth through actionable site-selection intelligence. Over 25,000 businesses have used our self-service platform to make smarter investment decisions and our data-science consulting teams have helped enterprise clients leverage the power of location insights. Explore more here:

KJ Callahan photo

KJ Callahan

Kevin James has over 20 years of combined experience in commercial real estate, retail, software, and machine learning. He is a data nerd -- He is passionate about turning data into actionable insights so that customers are empowered to make better decisions.