Ecopreneurial Opportunity: Green Car Washing Business


Know someone with an eco-entrepreneurial spirit?  As part of a series, Scott Cooney, author of Build a Green Small Business:  Profitable Ways to Become an Ecopreneur (McGraw-Hill), and Principal of, will present a new eco-entrepreneurial opportunity every Friday for Startup Friday on TriplePundit.

Does a sustainable car wash might seem like an oxymoron? It doesn’t have to be.  With a little bit of planning, this service can be incredibly efficient, providing an overall water and energy savings over people even washing their cars on their own property. And with no major chains dominating the market, there is plenty of room for small, independent car washes, and plenty of car owners who will appreciate the eco-friendly alternative.

1. What is a green car wash?

Sustainable car wash companies provide car cleaning services that minimize water/energy waste and that avoid using chemical soaps and detergents.

Using best practices of sustainability, green car wash companies can:

  • Recycle water used in washing
  • Use computer-controlled water management system to avoid water waste (eg, use 25-40 gallons of water per vehicle whereas traditional companies use far more)
  • Use water-soluble, bio-based, and biodegradable cleaning products
  • Use renewable energy sources to power up facilities

There is evidence that this industry is fairly low margin, with annual revenues per employee estimated at just $40,000. Thus, it is critical that the business be as efficient as possible in terms of its other major expenses, especially energy and water use. The primary offerings include exterior washing, waxing, coatings of undersides, and interior services like cleaning and vacuuming. The more intensive services, such as hand polishing, are premium services that, given volume of sales, can significantly contribute to the car wash’s bottom line.

The industry in the U.S. is not dominated by any major players, with the top chains deriving only about 15% of the total estimated $5 billion in annual sales by the industry. Thus, there are significant opportunities for independent car washes to compete in this space.


Canton Car Wash – Baltimore, MD

Big Green Car Wash Machine – Hurst, TX

Clean Green Mobile Car Wash – Oakland, CA

2. What required knowledge or skills are necessary?

There are no formal educational or training requirements for this job. However, you will have to get acquainted with water usage technologies and learn best practices in car washing. You will also have to learn how to make the experience truly high quality for your customers: This includes time to wash a car, services offered during car wash (e.g. coffee), and effectively marketing your sustainable services. Depending on which type of car wash company you choose to start (full wash, external wash, self-service wash), different skills will be required.

But don’t worry if you don’t yet have experience: According to an Auto Laundry survey, 37% of car wash operators have less than five years experience.

3. How much money is required to start?

$$ (on a scale of $ to $$$$$)

4. What is the income potential?

$$ (on a scale of $ to $$$$$)

5. What is the best location for a green car wash?

Urban locations with little car wash competition in proximity are ideal. Become a member of the International Car Wash Association (or other similar groups) to find locations without competition and to become part of the close-knit community of car washers.


About the author of this article: Scott Cooney is the author of Build a Green Small Business: Profitable Ways to Become an Ecopreneur (McGraw-Hill), and Principal of the online green business incubator

Twitter:  GreenBizOwner

Scott Cooney, Principal of and author of Build a Green Small Business: Profitable Ways to Become an Ecopreneur (McGraw-Hill, November 2008), is also a serial ecopreneur who has started and grown several green businesses and consulted several other green startups. He co-founded the ReDirect Guide, a green business directory, in Salt Lake City, UT. He greened his home in Salt Lake City, including xeriscaping, an organic orchard, extra natural fiber insulation, a 1.8kW solar PV array, on-demand hot water, energy star appliances, and natural paints. He is a vegetarian, an avid cyclist, ultimate frisbee player, and surfer, and currently lives in the sunny Mission district of San Francisco. Scott is working on his second book, a look at microeconomics in the green sector.In June 2010, Scott launched, a sustainability consulting firm dedicated to providing solutions to common business problems by leveraging the power of the triple bottom line. Focused exclusively on small business, GBO's mission is to facilitate the creation and success of small, green businesses.

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