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What do car wash service companies charge?

sparkey

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So its time to make a life decision. I currently work full time as a controls engineer, and before that I worked over 25 years in industrial maintenance. Naturally I find car washes very easy to troubleshoot and repair. I have removed all the controls on 2 different automatic washes and wrote my own program with my custom processor because I didn't like the way the manufacturer did the program or was not willing to pay for their service. I have also done custom programming for other car washes. A car wash service tech has never worked on any of my equipment.

The company I work for as a full time job is in finical trouble due to all the covid stuff. The company I work for makes appliances and I am sure you would all recognize the name if I told you. I have been given the opportunity to take a buy out and receive a pretty good severance package or take a $15,000 yr cut in pay. I am thinking of taking the money and run. I have thought about starting my own car wash service company and was wanting to get some input. What do these companies normally charge to come to your wash and fix things? Do they charge drive time? Is this a business that has a demand? I know mac might be able to shed some light on this. I live in north central Ohio so I would service areas within lets say 50 miles or so.
 

MEP001

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I've been a service tech off and on for 16 years. Currently on, and charging $75/hour. That's on the low end in the area. There's also Ryder in San Antonio (At least $100/hour), W.E.T. in Austin (Last I checked was $99/hour service and travel) and a number of independent guys, no idea what they charge but I'm pretty sure it's more than $75/hour.

Demand is way down. The distributor I used to work for was really big in the late 90's and early 2000's and had 12 techs at its peak. I was the only person still working there besides the bookkeeper when it closed last June. Most of the service I used to do at customers' washes was general repairs that the owner had no idea how to handle. Now I mostly get called when someone can't figure out a problem themselves, and most of those washes I go to are run very poorly. Hardly anyone wants to run a first-class self serve anymore. Convincing them to do so would be in both your and their best interest. Seriously, I've wanted to go Gordon Ramsay on some of these operators.
 

sparkey

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I've been a service tech off and on for 16 years. Currently on, and charging $75/hour. That's on the low end in the area. There's also Ryder in San Antonio (At least $100/hour), W.E.T. in Austin (Last I checked was $99/hour service and travel) and a number of independent guys, no idea what they charge but I'm pretty sure it's more than $75/hour.

Demand is way down. The distributor I used to work for was really big in the late 90's and early 2000's and had 12 techs at its peak. I was the only person still working there besides the bookkeeper when it closed last June. Most of the service I used to do at customers' washes was general repairs that the owner had no idea how to handle. Now I mostly get called when someone can't figure out a problem themselves, and most of those washes I go to are run very poorly. Hardly anyone wants to run a first-class self serve anymore. Convincing them to do so would be in both your and their best interest. Seriously, I've wanted to go Gordon Ramsay on some of these operators.
Do you charge for drive time or when you arrive at the wash?
 

Greg Pack

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Talk to other owners in your area and see if there is a shortage of techs. There is a shortage in my area and I am basically on my own unless I'm willing to pay 100 miles+ of travel time. $75/ hour if a person knows what he is doing is reasonable, Drive time is often charged at a lower rate, or charged full rate one way only.

A good tech can make 50-75K a year working for someone else, over 100K if they are willing to travel and do installs.
 

GoBuckeyes

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I’m located in Ohio. When we need a tech it’s $125/hr. Travel time is billed at the same rate. Needless to say, we don’t need a tech very often.
 

celica

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As an operator and someone who used to do service work, I see that some operators who basically throw up their hands and stop caring. I can see why. If you stay too long, you will experience the worst that society has to offer. Vandalism, theft, the constant work of a 24/7 operation will take it's toll.
 

John J Spokas

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Hardly anyone wants to run a first-class self serve anymore.
If a SS owner isn't a very mechanically inclined person the SS almost always dies, at least in my area. There are a few successful SS in the NE Illinois area and they are owned by people that are very capable of doing at least 90% of repairs. Too many small things that need attention to afford 99 to 125 bucks an hour for service.
 

mac

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The grass always looks greener as they say. There will always be a big demand for good techs. How much of a demand varies. Fixing and modifying your own stuff is a lot different than having a service company. For instance you will need lots of parts and supplies, which means a nice reliable van. Don't be shy about your rates. I was near the upper end of the spectrum and offered the most professional service around. Besides the nuts and bolts, and plsc you should be fluent with water treatment and recovery, and especially the chemistry of cleaning. That last part will be hard because most soap salesmen don't know it.Know what you mean about the programs most manufacturers write. There are no real standards with this stuff. Reminds me of the old joke, what do engineers use for birth control? Their personalities.
 

Zal

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Sparkey. you need to use all your talents for the maximum returns. If you can engineer modern. readily available and off the shelf PLC's and controls for older washes then you can or should make megabucks by offering retrofit kits. I would love to have options and I would assume other owners would as well. Since I have seen your wash and what you have done it is truly amazing. You need to post some more info on your projects for others to see.
 

Roz

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So its time to make a life decision. I currently work full time as a controls engineer, and before that I worked over 25 years in industrial maintenance. Naturally I find car washes very easy to troubleshoot and repair. I have removed all the controls on 2 different automatic washes and wrote my own program with my custom processor because I didn't like the way the manufacturer did the program or was not willing to pay for their service. I have also done custom programming for other car washes. A car wash service tech has never worked on any of my equipment.

The company I work for as a full time job is in finical trouble due to all the covid stuff. The company I work for makes appliances and I am sure you would all recognize the name if I told you. I have been given the opportunity to take a buy out and receive a pretty good severance package or take a $15,000 yr cut in pay. I am thinking of taking the money and run. I have thought about starting my own car wash service company and was wanting to get some input. What do these companies normally charge to come to your wash and fix things? Do they charge drive time? Is this a business that has a demand? I know mac might be able to shed some light on this. I live in north central Ohio so I would service areas within lets say 50 miles or so.
I think most owners tend to find techs that know a brand or rep the brand they have installed (at least I do). A good tech that knows his stuff can charge $125/hr plus some travel time (usually going to the place between jobs). If serious the best approach might be to contact various equipment manufacturers and ask them to attend an owner's or rep's training session so you can become familiar with the various brands of equipment used as well as how to install and service them. You will then get on their service lists that manufacturers provide customers. Our initial experience with a tech group that was not associated with our brands (when we were new to the industry) was not good as the tech spent too much time learning our (name brand) system while they were charging us. We do the regular maintenance and basic level of service to the equipment and call a tech for a major issue that is uncommon so you want to know the equipment better than the owner does.

Alternative approach is to work for an industry service company and learn from them as part of a team. Slightly lower pay than being independent but this approach comes with a customer base. You will learn quickly and then can review your options. As you attend trade shows (assuming they come back in a year or two) you will meet people and make good contacts.

Good luck with the new venture!
 

sparkey

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Thanks for all the replies. I never realized there was such a market for service techs. I always assumed most people repaired their own stuff unless it was someone up there in age and physically not capable or someone who owns a wash but doesn't live in the area to make their own repairs.
 

MEP001

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Alternative approach is to work for an industry service company and learn from them as part of a team.
The major downside to doing this is that many of them require their techs to sign a no-compete clause. The distributor I went back to a few years ago normally had their employees sign one but never asked me to. Just as well, I would have refused.
 

John J Spokas

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I do not believe a non-compete is enforceable for an hourly wage earner. Maybe if engineering proprietary machinery-software-etc.
 

soonermajic

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In the DFW area you could possibly become a millionaire in 5 years! Nearly 5 mil people, & i only know of 2 General carwash service companies. There are a few Carwash Distributors that have techs (Twin, Big Man, Ryko) but can't think of any others (but I know there's a couple).
In Metroplex $100/hr + $1/mile is normal rates.
CarWashes are owned by the widest variety of people anywhere. Im a coach, & as most on here can attest, i didn't know jack$hit about washes, & still barely do cause Im too busy to learn... half the owners I know are like me.
 

Randy

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As an operator and someone who used to do service work, I see that some operators who basically throw up their hands and stop caring. I can see why. If you stay too long, you will experience the worst that society has to offer. Vandalism, theft, the constant work of a 24/7 operation will take it's toll.
Celica, I think you’ve hit the nail right on the head. I’ve seen so many operators over the years who have gotten burned out, turned into a hard person, hated the public, it basically changed their lives and not for the better. The daily drudgery of wiping the A$$ of society takes its toll after a number of years. The investors who have a crew to maintain, operate the car wash and do the daily chores don’t see or have much a clue as to what really goes on, the disrespect for your property, the garbage dumping, the vandalism, the theft. Since my clean-up guy quit at the beginning of the pandemic in March and going to the car wash every day I’m reminded at how much it really does suck. We are beginning to get burned out and cut corners so we can get out of the car wash as soon as we can.
Oh I almost forgot yes, we still do service work. My time starts when I leave and stops when I get back at $80 an hour. In shop work is $65 an hour.
 

Rfreeman

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I fixed my own stuff but I have a maintenance guy on the payroll that does it...here and there I step in to still show him how to do somethings and what I don't know I ask you guys!

I think owner's fall into either part time or full time owners I am the former. Full time guys prbly won't use a tech bc their around the wash so much they should learn most everything or the majority. Part time guys I could see needing someone bc their part time they have another day job. I know one tech here in DFW that is always about a week out booked he does travel through out the state bc I have called him and he is 4hrs away on a job site.
 

MEP001

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Have you ever gotten the line "We'll get to ya when we can!" I'm just waiting for that to be a common line from 911 dispatchers here in the near future.
I've heard from people who have gotten that. I'd certainly never say it to someone. I try to prioritize by importance. The last guy I worked for used to work HVAC, and told me "First call in is first call done." I often didn't do it that way because I felt the guy whose auto was down took priority over the one with a vac down.
 
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