Convenience Stores Step Up Car Wash Game

Better Wash Quality, More Options and Speedier Service Woos Customers


It seems counter intuitive in these uncertain times, but the trend in the convenience store/petroleum retail sector of investing in upgraded car wash operations remains stronger than ever. According to research from the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS), as gas margins and tobacco sales continue to thin, one category that has seen an evolution towards higher profits is the car wash. We list some additional reasons why at the end of this article.

First, let’s define what an upgraded c-store car wash might entail.  From a customer standpoint, it means a clean, bright and more inviting environment versus the typical mold-covered, claustrophobic wash bays with noisy outdated equipment. 
Mach 1 – Mt. Vernon, IL


Midway Marathon – AlpharettaGA
Neil Saunders, managing director and retail analyst at GlobalData Retail, a research firm based in Paradise Valley, Ariz., said to build car wash revenue, convenience stores should consider taking any of several steps, beginning with adding new features to the car wash itself.  This often includes illuminated entry and menu signage listing add-on/premium wash choices.  Many of these treat the vehicle occupants to colorful foamy soaps, delicious scents, entertaining lights and softer sounds than ever before. Of course, the most delightful change customers find is upon exiting with their cars sparkling clean and dry without streaks, scratches or missed spots. Saunders also recommended convenience store operators offer ‘smart’ services like automatic payment or pay by apps available for use with the car wash.


Store operators view a car wash upgrade a bit differently.  New signage, systems and state of the art equipment must drive strong financial results in revenue, profit, and efficiency.  Consider that perhaps a small percentage of patrons select a c-store/gas station on factors other than location convenience and that a gallon of gas or a Snickers bar are nearly impossible to differentiate except on price. On the other hand, the vast differences in car wash experience, options, and quality serve to strongly influence consumer’s purchase decisions and loyalty. 

A superior grade wash is a distinct competitive advantage that translates into greater market share and revenue. Plus, with premium wash levels and add-ons customers are no longer looking for a “Free with fill-up” inferior wash, but one they are willing to pay extra for.  Needless to say, the profit margins on these “Deluxe” washes are astounding! Finally, the store manager will discover an immediate improvement in efficiency from an equipment upgrade by lowering chemical, water and electricity expenses and increasing speed and throughput than older, economy model systems.  We should also emphasize the owner can expect practically an overnight elimination of customer complaints and vehicle damage claims

Wheaton’s Corner Texaco – Bend, OR


Stepping Up a Grade

We’ve described the benefits of an enhanced car wash for c-store/petroleum retailers and their clientele, but how exactly is this achieved? The simple answer is technology.  There’s a world of IQST_Bay_Red_Camaro_Webdifference between advanced car wash systems and “old-school” machines with hydraulic mechanisms, inverted “L” wands,  clunky, error prone, high maintenance beasts inoperable half the time.  For example, the IQ 2.0 System from D&S generates a flawless profile scan for every vehicle which then directs the machine throughout the cycles providing an utterly unique wash.

 It’s that individual scan that reduces excess chemical and water use while minimizing missed spots and the risk of vehicle damage.  With systems like the IQ 2.0 and especially the IQ Express, both wash speed and overall capacity increase substantially while offering menu features like Bug-Off, Triple Foam Wax and Tire Shiner to boost revenue per car by 20% or more.  Other big advantages come from the ability to remotely manage and monitor the wash system and also the space-saving design of its pump system.    


Why Some C-stores are Upgrading their Car Wash


Ageing Car Wash Equipment Fleet

C-store operators seeking solution to higher operating costs maintenance and repair expense of older machines 

Request a Free Car Wash Assessment and Professional Consultation  

Consumer Demand

Customer preference for high quality wash with same upgrade options as retail car washes.


Car Wash / Gas Price Tie Ins 

Per gallon discount with car wash purchase drives profit and builds loyalty


Limit Liability

C-stores can greatly reduce insurance claims for vehicle damage on occupant safety with upgraded equipment and bays.