Grime fighters: New car washes are bubbling up all over metro area

New car washes are bubbling up all over metro Omaha. Nineteen new stand-alone car washes have opened in Omaha since 2016 — eight of those in 2022 — and that’s not counting the ones opening in the suburbs. Even more are on the way, too. The car wash trend has been raging nationally — there’s even a Florida YouTuber whose reviews of new car washes have hooked 15,200 subscribers. Here in Nebraska, a number of factors are apparently fueling the trend, among them the speed and convenience of the new washes, a membership-pay model and weather patterns that are a car owner’s nightmare and a car wash owner’s dream. Doublebreak

“It’s the secret sauce,” said Jeremy Eickman, co-owner of the Tommy’s Express Car Wash that opened last fall at 84th Street and Highway 370 in Papillion. “What’s so great about it is we’ll have 12 degrees and snow one day, and three days later it will be 50 degrees and melting,” he said. From a car wash perspective, he said, that makes for one really slow day and then an extremely busy week as car and truck owners rush in to get rid of the road salt and grime. And in the summer, what brings in customers?

Bugs. In the last few years, new stand-alone car washes have also gone up or been approved in surrounding communities of Council Bluffs, Bellevue, Papillion and Gretna. An industry expert said this week that membership pricing is among the reasons for the popularity. “Probably the number one thing that changed the car wash business is memberships,” said Jeff Pavone, a founding partner of Amplify Car Wash Advisors, a mergers-and-acquisitions firm that provides guidance and advocacy for car wash owners.

Pavone said his firm handled $2 billion in car wash transactions last year. Over the last decade, he said, the industry has moved away from the full-service car washes — where you hand your keys to someone and wait as employees clean your car — to express car washes that offer convenience as well as monthly memberships. People pay about $30 a month, stay in their car, drive through a membership lane to get their car washed, and they can return unlimited times, he said.

With memberships, he said, the car wash owner has a recurring-revenue model. “If he gets four or five thousand members at a location, whether it rains, snows, drizzles in between, he’s got sort of this cash flow coming in,” Pavone said. “So it’s proved to be a really good business today.”

Nationwide, he said, the industry is building about 800 new “tunnels” a year. Tunnel washes are the typical kind you see, where people drive their cars into one end of the tunnel and a conveyor grabs the car and moves it through the wash. There’s about 11,000 express car washes around the country today, he said. “I will tell you that over the next decade you will probably see it go to 20,000,” Pavone said.

The business has gone from mom-and-pop operations to bigger players involved with multiple car washes, partly because of the cost to open one, which runs in the millions of dollars, he said. “It’s definitely a different type of investor getting into this space,” he said. It’s not just the big cities seeing new car washes, he said.

“Today, you’ll see some of these smaller towns, they’re going to plop in a car wash now. Why? Because even for that small community now, if you make it convenient, you’ll find that people will get their car washed every week,” he said. “And when you’ve got memberships like this, it doesn’t take much to make this a good business.” Mason Duffy, who lives in Papillion, visited Tommy’s recently to remove the accumulated winter muck from his vehicle.

The car wash is on the way home from work, and he wanted to get the salt off from the latest snowstorm. After a storm, he waits till the weather outlook is favorable — with no snow in the forecast for a couple of weeks — before heading for the car wash. Read Article

Jet Brite Car Wash

With decades of hands-on experience as operators, when it came time to sell our car wash business who we sold to was important to Sam and me. Chris [Jenks] and the team at Amplify listened to us throughout the entire process. They found the right buyer in ZIPS who would be a good steward of the brand and helped find the best path forward for us where we can continue pursuing our passion for manufacturing high-quality car wash equipment.  

Jet Brite Car Wash  
Dave Delesandro  | Founder

Quick N’ Clean

My relationship with Commercial Plus over the past 20 years has been a very professional and trustworthy relationship. The feel of trust is very important in this business, and Jeff Pavone and his staff have exhibited a level of trust that makes me continue to feel that they have my best interest front of mind. I deal with many brokers across the nation, and my best experiences and results have been achieved with Commercial Plus representation.

Quick N’ Clean
Richard Karle | Owner

Zips

It’s been a great experience working with Amplify Car Wash Advisors to bring these sites into the ZIPS portfolio. We look forward to serving Dallas area customers with an enhanced car wash experience unique to ZIPS, with the added benefit of our extensive network of stores. This year we have continued our aggressive growth track with the goal to truly shine in our efforts to be the best express car wash provider in the industry and it’s acquisitions like this that help us reach our goals.

Zips
Gene Dinkens | CEO

ModWash

It was truly a pleasure to work with the Amplify team on our most recent acquisition of three additional operating locations in our home state of Tennessee. Their team provided great support and ensured a timely and seamless closing process, and we are excited for the additional growth opportunities this relationship will produce in our near future. We know this is the first of many transactions we will successfully complete with the Amplify team as we grow from our current operating store count of 23 to well over 200 locations across 14 states in the next two years.

ModWash
Brian Thornton | COO

Busy Bee Car Wash

For years I’ve talked to a lot of brokers with the same goal; sell your car wash chain as quickly as possible. But I chose to work with Amplify because they were interested and invested in the emotional side of selling my business and truly value long-term relationships. They weren’t forcing me to take a deal just to take a deal. They listened to my concerns and goals then educated me on all my options. And that’s how I decided on the right partner for my chain specifically. I went to bed at night after I signed the papers knowing I got the best deal possible versus just having any deal put in front of me that is only about money.

Busy Bee Car Wash
Jim Mulholland | Owner

Q Car Wash

We really appreciate Jeff and his entire team at Amplify. Their expertise and deep industry knowledge helped us navigate our options and best showcase our strengths to maximize our value. Caliber is a good fit for Q Car Wash as they look to expand in North Texas.

Q Car Wash
Viran Nana | COO

Cobblestone Auto Spa

I have known both Jeff and Bill for over thirty years combined, and respect them both as experts in our professional car washing industry. Their unique and individual strengths bring very strong talent and advice to operators, sellers, and buyers with sharp knowledge, client’s best interest in mind, and an actual personal touch. They hold the expertise and performance track record to hold a very high level of respect within this rapidly-changing car wash industry.

Cobblestone Auto Spa
Tuck Bettin | CEO

Oasis Car Wash

Turning over a business you started from one shovel of dirt 25 years ago and grew to several locations is a difficult and even uncomfortable process. So, when it came time for Larry and me to sell, we chose Amplify Car Wash Advisors to guide us through the process because of their strong reputation and thought leadership in the industry. Their team was professional and did a great job walking us through each step.

Oasis Car Wash
Dallas Hawkins | Partner

Busy Bee Car Wash

Selling our business after 52 years is big deal and certainly not a decision I took lightly, turning over our family legacy was an emotional process and I appreciated that the team at Amplify respected that. They helped me understand my options and found the best deal for me.

Busy Bee Car Wash
Jim Mulholland | Owner

Ducky’s Express

I have been a multi-site developer and operator in the car wash industry for over 30 years. Four years ago, a partner’s health concern forced me to sell a portion of my portfolio, and during that process, I was introduced to Jeff Pavone of Commercial Plus. I was immediately impressed with Jeff’s knowledge of my industry and his volume of successful deal closings. In a very short period of time, Jeff found the right buyer at a very fair price, and the transaction closed shortly thereafter. I was looking for a team with honesty, integrity, and a proven track record of success, and I found all of that in Jeff.

Ducky’s Express
Richard Miller

Trademark Car Wash

These are some of the most exciting times for car wash owners. As we grew 350% in revenue in just one year, we recognized the time to partner up with a top-tier team that has mastered growth in retail and specifically the automotive industry. Amplify Car Wash Advisors had helped us acquire, raise capital, and was the perfect partner to help us reach this next chapter of the Trademark story.

Trademark Car Wash
Andrew Goldberger