Why Convert a Carwash Bay into an In-bay Express?

Several people have asked me lately why I converted one of my touch-free in-bay automatic washes into a friction, in-bay express rollover. The answer is simple: throughput and increased revenue per car. With that in mind, here are some other frequent questions and answers concerning in-bay express rollovers:

What is throughput?

Throughput is the number of vehicles that can be washed within a calculated period of time. This is important because the more cars you wash, the more money you make. The average throughput of my touch-free in-bay automatics is around 13 to 15 cars per hour. The average throughput of my in-bay express rollover is around 20 cars per hour.

On a busy day that could mean a difference of more than 70 cars or $900 in additional revenue. I have talked to a few in-bay express operators who average around 35 cars per hour. Their higher numbers are attributed to longer bays with additional equipment to handle a large volume of vehicles.

How are revenues per car increased with an in-bay express rollover?

Revenues are increased because the model allows you to offer a la carte (fancy wording for “extra”) services. In addition to the normal wash packages, the customer has the choice to add additional services to any wash package. Approximately 25 percent of my customers choose an additional service.

Is there an equipment cost difference between an in-bay automatic and an in-bay express rollover?

An in-bay express rollover does cost more than an in-bay automatic. The express rollover requires additional arches be placed in the bay to produce a faster carwash. As a result, the in-bay express rollover can wash more cars per hour than an in-bay automatic. These additional features may include wheel/rocker panel blasters, presoak arches, triple foam arch, rinse arch, clear-coat protectant arch, surface sealant arch, high-pressure rinse arch, drying agent arch, spot-free rinse arch, tire gloss unit and a dryer.

You may also need to upgrade the user interface (coin box) to allow for additional services on the express rollover. It is critical not to skimp on the user interface because this is where customers make their decisions to upgrade services or not.

How long does the wash bay need to be?

The minimum inside bay dimensions need to be 16 feet wide by 50 feet long. Remember, the longer the bay the better. I have seen bays up to 85 feet long.

Why offer both a touch-free and friction automatic wash?

The advantage to offering both touch-free and friction automatic washes at one location is the ability to provide customers with a choice. Based on preferences, you also stand to capture potential customers who may have been going elsewhere.

Why go from a touch-free-only carwash to one that now offers friction?

Customer demand and all of the latest advances in friction cleaning changed my mind. I started out in the carwash business selling touch-free in-bay automatics. I lived, ate and breathed touch-free automatics. I studied the science of touch-free cleaning and figured out how to provide the best possible carwash using this method.

A friction carwash operator once told me that he made great money with his friction units, but he set aside $2,000 per month to handle damage claims. He said he paid for new paint jobs all the time. That conversation stuck in my mind, but my thinking has changed now that I have had the opportunity to learn the latest techniques in friction automatic bay washing.

When I opened my carwash company, friction washing was not even an option for me. I did not want to deal with the potential damage claims. However, as I visited various carwashes throughout the nation, I began to notice that more and more operators were adding friction in-bays next to their touch-free bays.

Surely these operators were not setting aside $2,000 per month to handle damage claims. I took a closer look at past problems with damage claims and also researched new techniques to solve the dilemma. This is what I found:

First, the material that is used to clean the vehicle on a friction in-bay automatic has changed. In the past manufacturers would use nylon bristles or cloth to clean vehicles.