The Contractor's #1 Source for Commercial Pressure Washers, Pressure Washer Supplies & Training!

Vehicle Washing at Dealerships

Pressure Washing Cars on Dealers Lots

SUMMARY: Automobile dealers, like any other retail enterprise, need a clean product to facilitate sales. Outsourcing to a mobile pressure washing contractor is an economical option for many of these dealers, and a field that has huge profit potential for the contractor.

Identifying the market
Delivering a spot-free vehicle
Using De-Ionized Water Units with a Power Wash System
Related Articles

Identifying the market
Because every dealer of new or used automobiles needs a clean product to show to their potential buyers, a large market exists for mobile power wash contractors. Tapping into this market involves contacting an automobile dealer, describing the services you provide and how they meet the dealer’s needs, and negotiating a fair price.

Dealers know that clean automobiles are easier to sell and bring higher prices because of their eye appeal. However, in-house maintenance costs can be prohibitive when labor and supplies are taken into account (in-house maintenance averages about $6.00 per vehicle). A mobile contractor is an attractive alternative because of the speed and quality of the work they provide. With contractor costs running from .75 to $2.00 per vehicle, and averaging $1.00 to $1.25 per vehicle, substantial savings can be realized by dealers if they out-source the work. The terms you negotiate will depend on the number of cars on the lot, and how you want to bid for the job.

For the most part, the vehicles need cleaning about every ten days, and they should already be clean except for dust or water spots. Your job will be to keep them looking good by washing off the dust and atmospheric contamination that accumulates every day. In most cases, you will never use soap or hot water in performing lot maintenance. Because you are not using hot water or detergents, you should be able to discharge your wash water to the storm sewer because the runoff is similar to a rain event. However, check with your local municipality to verify that this procedure is allowed in your area.

Delivering a spot-free vehicle
The most difficult part of the job is delivering a spot free rinse, and there are essentially three ways to accomplish this.

  • Hand drying – This is the oldest and most labor-intensive method, and entails hand drying the surface of each vehicle using a chamois or soft cotton towel. While it is effective, it requires more time and causes profits to decrease.
  • Reverse Osmosis (R.O.) – This method involves purifying water at your shop, and transporting it to each job. It is expensive, labor intensive, and highly impractical.
  • De-Ionizer (DI) Units – This is the most common, and least expensive method. De-Ionizers deliver water in its purest form. By rinsing the vehicle with DI water, after using a mop dipped in water to wipe off the hood, deck, and top of the car, you will produce a spot free product.

Using De-Ionized Water Units with a Power Wash System

The average cost for using DI water is about five cents per vehicle, which can be easily rolled into your bid.  Depending on the number of cars, and the quality of the water treated, DI tanks will be effective for about a month before they need regenerating. To maximize the charge on the DI tanks, never run hot water through them.

DI tanks house anion and cation resins, which remove the positive and negative ions from water, leaving it free of spot causing components. When their de-ionizing abilities are depleted, the company that rented them to you regenerates them, using acid and caustic soda. Simply exchange depleted units for freshly charged ones.  Find DI water suppliers under "Water Filtration & Purification Equipment" in the Yellow Pages.

DI systems are used in conjunction with cold water mobile pressure washers, since heating contaminates de-ionized water as it passes through the heater coils. (Heating temperatures above 100⁰F are too hot) Transfer DI water to the pressure washer through PVC pipe or a plastic or rubber hose. The discharge from the pump should pass directly to the pressure hose, and have no, or minimal, contact with metal components. Incorporating a carbon filter into your water line prior to the DI tanks will also extend the life of the charge.

For more information about deionization, go to "Fundamentals of Deionization by Ion Exchange"

Breaking into this market requires some footwork and initiative. On the days you have designated for sales and marketing, approach the lot managers about contracting for their wash work. A good time to go is after bad weather, a dust storm, or right before holidays when sales promotions are likely. If you have recommendations or photos from previous work, bring them with you. As one final note, if you have the equipment for flatwork, windows, buildings, or awnings, you may be able to negotiate a contract for each of these services as well. For further assistance, please feel to contact at 1-800-433-2113.

Larry Hinckley
Senior Technical Advisor

Related Articles
Add Pressure Washing to Power Profitability
How to Choose Pressure Washing Equipment
Starting a Pressure Washing Business
Mobile Power Pressure Washing: Tips, Techniques, and Chemical Usage Guide

4 thoughts on “Vehicle Washing at Dealerships”

  • nathan meadows

    How did you arrive at the $6.00/car for in-house maintenance to wash them? I have a large lot that I'm trying to get right now and they are only willing to take on my servie if I can show them on paper that outsourcing will be cheaper than using their bays. I have done a ton of research but have not been able to pin point a cost for them to do it themselves. Any assistance would be greatly appreciated.

  • Michael Hinderliter

    The two largest expenses are the overhead (Cost of the property as in the wash bay area, electricity, water, etc) and the cost of inhouse labor. Every situation will be different so if you can make up something like a spread sheet to plug in numbers like all the cost to clean a car it will help.

  • Rick Nies

    Hey. I have a growing business where we hand dry each dealership car. This is labor intensive and its hard to find/keep workers. I am really looking into getting DI water system. I was excited to find your link about the fundamentals about DI however, it does work! Please do you have another resource I could look into? I would love more info about this! Thanks! Great site very informative!

  • Clyde Hemminger

    The page is pretty out of date, but the link is Thanks for letting us know it was dead.