- Offer onsite amenities that provide comfort and convenience to attract new customers and encourage repeat business
- Improve your online presence so it’s easy for people to find your car wash, including harnessing the power of social media
- Try traditional advertising techniques such as direct mail, community sponsorships, and referral programs
The car wash industry is competitive, with well over 56,000 car wash and auto detailing businesses in the U.S. in 2023. As such, it’s essential for car wash owners to find ways to stand out from competing car wash services.
There are more ways to do that than you might think, and many of them are inexpensive and easy to implement. To inspire your creativity, here are 50 car wash marketing ideas, broken down into categories, including onsite amenities, digital marketing, traditional advertising, and more.
Offer onsite amenities
Adding onsite amenities to your car wash can make your location a more appealing place to stop and attract new customers with a novel or time-saving experience.
1. Install a vending machine
Vending machines can attract customers to your car wash because they give drivers an additional reason to stop—to pick up a snack or a drink—while also providing your car wash business with an additional income stream.
2. Offer free coffee and tea
Many car dealerships and repair shops offer free coffee and tea in the lobby or waiting area—why not do the same with your car wash? It’s a low-cost way to add value for customers while making their pit stop a more comfortable experience.
3. Provide games for kids
Going to a tunnel car wash can be fun, but if you run a self-serve car wash, offer a few toys or games in your waiting area so the kids can be entertained while their parents wash their cars.
4. Sell ice
Attract drivers who are on their way to a party or family get-together by installing ice machines onsite. Instead of having to stop at a gas station or convenience store, customers can buy ice and get their car cleaned at the same place.
5. Put TVs in the lobby
Give customers something pleasant to do while they wait for a car wash or detailing services. Not only does it give them a chance to watch the local news or latest sports event, but it also boosts the chances of additional sales if you have a vending machine or snacks for sale.
6. Offer free Wi-Fi
Customers can watch shows, work, or play games on their mobile device without maxing out their data plan. It’s just another way to make your place appealing and show you care about your clients.
7. Install EV chargers
As electric cars gain in popularity, charging locations are in demand. Offer customers a pay-per-minute charging station—or even 30 minutes of free charging—to give them one more reason to stop by your car wash on their way to work or on a road trip.
8. Provide clean restrooms
Compete with other local businesses by offering free restrooms. Even if drivers don’t use the restroom every time they have their car washed, they’ll be more likely to think of your business the next time they need a car wash.
9. Offer bike pumps or repair tools
Bike commuters may not be your target audience, but many bicyclists are car owners too. Setting up a bike pump or repair station is one way to find a community need and create a solution that generates foot traffic and goodwill for your business.
Master online marketing
Many car wash operators focus their marketing efforts entirely on onsite amenities, but a successful marketing campaign also requires building your online reputation.
10. Maintain a website
If you aren’t selling anything online, your website doesn’t need to be elaborate. Still, it should provide your address, contact information, hours of operation, and a description of your services. Follow these three steps to build a free website for a small business.
11. Improve your local SEO
Search engine optimization helps you show up higher in online search results and rank ahead of other similar businesses. Use relevant keywords to point search engines toward your website, and highlight your geographic location to improve your local SEO.
12. Start a blog
Maintaining a blog keeps your website fresh—and recent content shows up higher in search results. Use your blog as a form of content marketing, and write articles about car care tips or how your car wash service is different from other local businesses.
13. Launch an email campaign
Email marketing helps you maintain relationships with customers, even when they aren’t currently in need of your services. Collect email addresses from new or loyal customers, and send them useful tips or special offers to keep them coming back.
14. Claim your Yelp Business Page
When you claim or add your Yelp Business Page, it shows customers that your business is genuine and makes it easier for them to find you online. Businesses with a photo, website, phone number, and business hours listed on their Yelp Business Page averaged 7.6x more page views per month than businesses without that content.
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15. Create a special customer experience to inspire online reviews
Many customers look up businesses online before visiting them to see what others have said about their experiences. When you deliver great customer service, your patrons are more likely to feel inspired to leave an authentic review—giving others insight into what they can expect. You can also request a “Find Us on Yelp” sticker to show visiting customers that you’re on Yelp.
16. Respond to customer reviews
Reading and responding to reviews helps you understand how customers feel about your business and shows that you care about what they think. Follow these tips for responding to reviews—both positive and critical—to make a good first impression.
17. Gather customer testimonials
Testimonials are collections of satisfied customer feedback that help you show potential clients what past customers think of your work. Ask loyal customers if they’d be willing to write a testimonial that you can post with their name to your website or on your social media platforms.
18. Try cost-per-click advertising
Sometimes free car wash marketing strategies aren’t enough to get the customer boost you need. With cost-per-click advertising you can reach more potential customers who are looking for car wash services. For example, Yelp Ads puts your business in a number of key places on the site and app, including above search results and on competitors’ Yelp pages.
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19. Create a lead magnet
A lead magnet is an incentive—like a free video or ebook—that users can access when they provide their email address or other contact information. Use lead magnets to encourage more customers to subscribe to your email list.
20. Host a social media giveaway
A social media giveaway can be an effective customer engagement marketing strategy to build brand awareness about your business. Ask customers to tag their friends and offer prizes that are valuable to your target market, such as a free wash, free detailing upgrade, or gift card. Be sure to follow local guidelines and policies for giveaways.
21. Run an influencer campaign
Influencer marketing can be one of the best ways to advertise your small business and appeal to younger demographics you may not be able to reach easily through traditional advertising. You don’t have to spend a lot of money either. Instead of trying to partner with a celebrity or social media star with tens of thousands of followers, find a local or niche influencer who can introduce your brand to their followers.
22. Use hashtags
If you don’t have the marketing budget for an influencer campaign, use hashtags to get attention on social media platforms. Either create a new hashtag that’s unique to your business, or tag your posts with a relevant hashtag that’s already trending.
23. Start a car wash challenge on TikTok
If you’re trying to reach younger users, TikTok is the place to be. It wouldn’t be the first car wash challenge on the social media app, but you can come up with a new spin to make it your own and create more brand awareness for your business.
Don’t forget traditional advertising
It’s important to stay on top of digital marketing, but time-tested traditional advertising has its place too. Consider these ideas as part of your car wash marketing plan.
24. Use direct mail
Direct mail is an outbound lead generation strategy that involves sending advertising material directly to people’s homes. If you’re a new car wash in the area, direct mail can be a cost-effective way to let people know you’re around.
25. Start a loyalty program
Running a loyalty program is an effective method for building loyal customers because it gives them an incentive to make repeat visits. For a car wash, it could be as simple as a punch card that gives customers a free wash after every 10 visits.
26. Establish brand partnerships
Team up with an established company or local business owner to cross-promote each other’s services. Maybe a major automotive brand will let you splash their logo across the side of your business or endorse you as an affiliated partner. Or perhaps you can partner with a local coffee shop, bakery, pet shop, or other business that offers your customers a discount with proof of purchase and vice versa.
27. Sponsor community clubs or sports teams
Getting your business name onto sports jerseys or signage can help build brand awareness. By sponsoring a sports team, car club, drama group, or other community events, you’ll get your name out there and show support for your local community.
28. Offer coupons
Coupons are a tried-and-true way to drive traffic to your business. You can use printed coupons or coupon codes that customers can redeem for a discount. Whether it’s 10% off or a free wash for new customers, coupons are an appealing incentive.
29. Use discount sites
Discount sites like Groupon and LivingSocial offer deals on car washes, oil changes, car detailing, and more. From package deals to time-sensitive offers, bargain sites expose your brand to new customers and can increase conversions.
30. Start a referral program
A referral program offers discounts or other incentives to customers who recommend your business to someone else. Give customers an extra reason to tell their friends about you, and soon word will get out that you’re the best car wash around.
31. Hand out branded swag
Giving out free stickers, magnets, and other swag gets your name onto refrigerators, backpacks, and other places where people are likely to see it. Even better, get your branded items included in a swag bag at a local festival or conference.
32. Advertise on a vehicle
If your business owns a car, it’s a no-brainer to promote your car wash with a large decal or wraparound ad. If you don’t, you can still get your logo onto local vehicles with bumper stickers or by paying for a vehicle advertising service.
33. Buy radio or podcast ads
Radio is a great place to advertise a car wash since many listeners will be in their vehicles when your ad comes on the air. But local radio stations aren’t as popular as they once were, so consider podcasts to reach a wider demographic.
34. Publish a calendar
Give out free calendars for the upcoming year with seasonal discounts built-in. Stick with a race car or classic car theme that customers will want to hang on their wall.
Creative car wash marketing ideas
If you’ve already tried digital and traditional advertising, it could be time to think outside the box. Here are some unique car wash marketing ideas to consider.
35. Get creative with signage
Need to compete with other car wash businesses in your area? Try using bright colors, flashy lights, digital displays, and unconventional retail signage to attract customers.
36. Play unique music
Instead of going with the same old playlists as everyone else, choose a distinct genre, like rock or reggae, to play in your tunnel or in-bay car wash.
37. Get a mascot
Come up with a fun mascot to be the face of your brand. A cute animal mascot outside your shop is sure to attract more attention (and eventually more customers).
38. Invest in a high-tech tunnel
Sometimes, driving through the car tunnel is an attraction in itself. Install LED lights or other fun displays inside the tunnel to keep customers and their kids entertained.
39. Host a concert
Invite a local band to perform outside of your car wash to attract customers. This is an especially good idea for a grand opening party if you’re a new business.
40. Hold a special event
Celebrate Valentine’s Day, the 4th of July, and other holidays with an outdoor BBQ or holiday celebration with free food and drink from other local businesses.
41. Commission a mural or street art
Hire a local street artist to paint the outside of your building with an eye-catching mural or other memorable street art.
Bonus car wash marketing ideas
Try these bonus car wash marketing ideas for even more ways to attract new customers.
42. Stay open 24/7
Make a name for yourself as the only 24/7 car wash in town. Even if you can’t staff the business around the clock, you can leave some self-service bays open.
43. Add a pet wash
Do you have room to install a self-service dog wash? That way, drivers can stop by to wash their car and the family pet at the same time.
44. Invite a food truck
If you have unused space in your parking lot, invite a food truck to set up shop. You can rotate between food trucks or make one a permanent installation.
45. Refresh your menu
Sometimes, refreshing your list of services with new prices and descriptions can attract customers who may have driven right past before.
46. Cater to trucks or RVs
Many trucks and large vehicles can’t fit into the tunnel or bays at a typical car wash. By making your business accessible to trucks, you can cater to more customers.
47. Host a workshop or tutorial
Host a DIY workshop where customers can learn how to change a tire or pick the right cleaning products to take care of their car.
48. Join HARO (Help a Reporter Out)
Help a Reporter Out (HARO) is a free website that connects reporters with local industry experts. Sign up as a source and you could be contacted the next time a reporter needs to talk to a professional car wash owner.
49. Join the chamber of commerce
The local chamber of commerce is an organization that helps business owners network and share ideas and resources. By signing up, you can get your car wash listed in their membership directory.
50. Attend conferences and trade shows
Attending industry conferences is another way to get your name out there. Although you won’t be interacting with customers directly, you can network with other entrepreneurs and business owners and grow your reputation as a professional car wash owner.
Creating your own car wash marketing plan
Depending on your marketing budget, you’ll likely pick just a few of these 50 car wash marketing ideas to focus on at a time.
Start by adding inexpensive onsite amenities and mastering online marketing. Then consider traditional methods like direct mail and cost-per-click advertising to reach more people in your target audience fast.
Trying other creative, often inexpensive marketing techniques can also help take your car wash business to the next level. Don’t be afraid to experiment and branch out.
How do you promote a car wash?
There are many ways to promote a car wash, ranging from paying for advertising to generating free publicity through word-of-mouth or social media accounts. The 50 car wash marketing ideas here are just some of the ways to promote a car wash business.
How do I stand out in a car wash business?
You can use a combination of car wash marketing strategies to stand out in the industry. First, focus on improving your brand awareness and online presence. Then, attract potential customers with effective marketing campaigns like a giveaway on social media or engaging emails and blog posts. Finally, refine your business model and encourage repeat customers by offering quality car wash services and a pleasant, convenient experience.
Where is the best location for a car wash business?
Ideally, your car wash business should be on a busy street or intersection where drivers can easily access your entrance. If your car wash is located off of the main road or in a less busy area, consider other ideas on this list to advertise your car wash services.
What type of car wash is most profitable?
According to FinImpact, a self-service car wash can generate $40,000 to $100,000 in revenue per year, while an in-bay automatic car wash can bring in $75,000 to $150,000. Full-service and tunnel car washes are more profitable, with $200,000 to $400,000 in revenue, but they have higher upfront costs and operating expenses.
The information above is provided for educational and informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice and may not be suitable for your circumstances. Unless stated otherwise, references to third-party links, services, or products do not constitute endorsement by Yelp.