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I want to buy an Express Tunnel

Dayead

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Good day all, and happy 4th of July!

I’m considering selling my profitable and paid off self serve/in bay automatic to “trade up” to an express tunnel wash. I plan to buy existing, as I view that that as safer than attempting to build one.

My question is has anyone else done something like this? Are there any pitfalls I should be looking for (besides the obvious due diligence requirements - verify income, expenses, etc.)? I realize a tunnel is a very different business model, but believe it it the natural next step.

If anyone can help me out with any advice I’d greayly appreciate it.

Thank you!
 

Vacuumprospector

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Hello,

Not quite the answer to your question, but this is my experience with 2 separate builds.

3 years ago we took our car wash with 1 touchless In Bay Automatic and 4 self wash bays, and remodeled. We kept the in bay automatic and the 2 self serve bays closest to the mechanics room and replaced the #3 and #4 self serve bays with a mechanics room and express tunnel. We went from washing about 18k cars a year on the in bay to now washing 15k a year with the in bay, and about 45k with the express tunnel. Obviously income has gone way up, but so has expenses and the usual head aches that come with more customers/employees (labor, water, electric, repairs, supposed vehicle damage claims, etc.) We went from having a part time attendant that cleaned out bays to 5 full time employees at this site to deal with. It was good doing a remodel because we still had income coming in from the in bay and the 2 self serve bays and vacuums during the build. Also, the car wash was already established and had a great following and reputation, so when we opened we didn't have to inform customers, because they had been watching and waiting to use the new tunnel for 4 months during the build. The build also went very quick because we were able to use the existing oil water separators and drains from the self wash bays. I'd definitely do a remodel/addition again.

On the other hand:

6 months ago we built another express tunnel with 2 self serve bays, except this time from the ground up. The build took double the time our remodel took all while we were making zero dollars while it was being built (unlike the remodel). It's no fun dealing with the city on a ground up build either. We used the same builder as the previous remodel so they had experience with car washes, however it's a different animal from the ground up. Also, we are having to advertise that we are open and change people's washing habits to come to the new location, unlike the remodel where we already had a good customer base established.

We haven't ever bought an existing tunnel, but as long as you can verify the income and expenses you should be OK. Just be ready to deal with the employee managing, and the maintenance that comes with more vehicle through put.
 

Dayead

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Thank you very much for the reply. I have a similar IBA and 4 self serve bays so a remodel does sound attractive. Might be better to stick with what I know works. Can I ask how much converting the two bays to an express tunnel cost roughly?

Also, taking extra labor, maintenance and utility costs into account, did you see your profit increase substantially? Can you give a before and after profit change?

Last point: maybe a good idea would be to search out existing successful IBA self serve washes to buy with an eye on conversion either immediately after purchase or within a designated time period as a business model. How does that sound to you?

What area are you located in? I’m based in Houston and have a presence in South Florida as well.
 

Dayead

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One last question I forgot to ask! Thank you again for the input, very helpful.

What is your surrounding area demographics 1,3,5 mile population, average income, and car counts on the road you’re on?

I’d be interested in doing something similar but I need to make sure I have the volume to be able to do it. 18k cars to 60k is quite an increase!
 

Vacuumprospector

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Like I said the income went up considerably. We were grossing about $280k at the site before. Myself and my business partner ran everything and had a guy clean out our bays for free tokens so the overhead was extremely low (60k a year low with maintenance/soap/electrical,etc.) We have an extremely good location across the street from Walmart and Mcdonald's so I knew it could handle a tunnel with 20k plus traffic count. The addition of the express tunnel cost us roughly $700k. Last year we grossed over $700k with an overhead of about $300k (which includes a payment now for the remodel). Location, location, location is key. To have a solid destination like Walmart or Mcdonalds has been the reason that we could increase our numbers so much. Also, there was only 1 other tunnel in town (Now 3 total with our new tunnel) to compete with. Hope that helps
 

scrubs3

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I looked at doing something similar to vacuum prospector, add an express wash to my 4/2 SS wash. Due to some redevelopment, my property is now a corner lot and across from a Super Walmart with a Sam's as my backdoor neighbor. So from demographics, it would be a nice fit.

Had everything planned out, but changed my mind due to cost of converting the auto bay (over $500,000) and more so, having to add employees. That ended up being the biggest deal breaker, going from just the owners running the SS wash to having employees we needed to rely on. Opted to add a new friction auto and a gently used touchless instead to replace 2-15 year old touch free machines and have been happy with my decision. Fresh machines and increased my wash packages prices as well. Stuck with what I know best.
 

Vacuumprospector

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Scrubs3, definitely the biggest pitfall of the tunnel is dealing with employees. Hiring/firing/sick/excuse days/creating schedules and making sure they are representing your business to your customers in a positive way is challenging. I don't have a manager, so It feels like it's gone from a self serve and in bay automatic be your own boss type feel, to now with the tunnel being an employee manager at a job. More money, more problems :). Overall I'm glad I did it, because if I didn't someone else would have.
 

Dayead

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In everyone's opinion, would it be better to have another good self serve with automatic? OR, one successful tunnel. I just feel like the threat of a tunnel outweighs the added management requirements of running one. It seems to me like the in bay automatic/self serve model still works in the right location, but is potentially an endangered species and I don't want to be the last of the Mohegans just because I don't like dealing with a few employees.
 
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