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Wash operators compete by adding value


Canadians are keeping their cars longer and this is good news for wash operators looking to diversify their services. The average age of a car on Canada’s roads is beyond 11 years and those who are buying new vehicles are holding onto them longer before trading them in. We are also spending more on routine maintenance with annual averages running around $700 per vehicle. This means services such as tire rotation and glass repair as well as lube and oil change are perfect fits for sites that seek to grow revenue.

Industry reports show that customers spend on average more than $50 per vehicle for lube service, and sites see around 1,200 jobs per month at multi-door operations. Typically, lube and glass operations are tied to detail and hand wash centres where customers expect to leave vehicles for care.     

Popular Car Wash lives up to its name

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In Etobicoke, Popular Car Wash has been making a name for itself since 2011 with a wide range of services that include lube and oil change, window tinting and repair, full detailing service, tire shop, and rust proofing. The business started out as a regular full-service tunnel car wash with a 110-foot tunnel (West Mall) and a 135-ft. tunnel (Rexdale Blvd.) and then branched out to offer complementary services to drive revenue. “When we opened the lube shop we found we were doing 400 cars a month with no advertising,” says owner Jolly Thind. The exposure offered by a steady car wash trade was all it took to attract these customers to its secondary services. “We are seeing numbers grow and we are very busy as a result,” he says, adding that they will be adding two more sites this year to create a local chain of four locations.

Thind reports that it’s really all about creating customer relationships and offering services that contribute to greater convenience. “Once people discover all the things we can do for them, they become our loyal customers, and we find the person who uses the lube service also is interested in rust protection or window tinting. The car wash is the draw to get people onto the site. Once we have them, we can suggest other services such as new tires or brake repair.”

Popular Car Wash is seeing gains in rust proofing. The centre offers Corrosion FREE rust proofing products that are a clean, clear and drip-free lubricant gel. “Numbers are growing for this service because only Canadian Tire offers anything similar in our market area.”

Making a big splash

Splashes in Whiterock, B.C. has exceeded customer expectations with a slate of five services to complement their WhiteWater car wash, a site custom built and patented by Splashes. The wash is a flat deck conveyor-fed touchless system that uses robotic profiling to maximize clean on vehicle surfaces. The facility, owned and operated by Greg Horton and Ryan Oliver, opened in 2008.

According to Splashes manager Saskia Goodacre, autoglass is their most profitable service. The site offers window tinting as well as a full windshield replacement and repair service. “We are located in the South Surrey Automall, and as such we have good exposure to new and used car buyers, and we do work for the dealers in the mall,” she says, noting that the close proximity to dealer service centres had them decide not to offer oil change.

Splashes' list of services includes Armaguard protective coatings and packages such as rust protection and undercoating, windshield tinting and full autoglass repair, the X-Kote paint renewal system as well as their tunnel wash and full detailing service. They also sell and install car bras, roof racks and cargo boxes. Goodacre reports that the range of services has seen the business grow steadily. “Five years ago, we had about 20 people on staff. Today we have 40,” she says, remarking that the business is very labour-intensive.

Great Canadian Oil Change beats the competition

Great Canadian Oil Change set up shop three years ago in Terrace, BC, and has become a strong competitive force in the town’s vehicle care sector. According to Grant MacDonald, lead hand at the site, the location’s PDQ LaserWash 360 system delivers three wash packages to customers who come in for lubricants. Oil change clients receive $5 off any package. “Car wash is really the leading service, especially in the summer. But, oil change is now starting to pick up thanks to things like brand awareness and our highly visible location, which is just off Main Street." He reports that space is a challenge at the current site, so they are a bit hamstrung in terms of adding new services. However, they are considering upping the ante at the wash by adding music to a package that already uses coloured foams and lava as well as the PDQ LaserWash 360’s lighting array.

As Jolly Thind of Popular Car Wash says, “The more services you can offer a customer, the more you increase the level of convenience. Greater convenience creates loyalty and gives you an edge in the market.”

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