Car washes flourishing in West Valley CityFeb 23, 2022 08:06PM ● By Darrell Kirby
Quick Quack Car Wash has 160 locations across the West, including this one which opened in January in West Valley City. (Darrell Kirby/City Journals)
By Darrell Kirby | [email protected]
Take a look around the neighborhood on a Saturday afternoon.
Chances are slim that you will see someone in the driveway washing the car.
Like so many other tasks these days, people are willing to pay for the ease and time-saving convenience of having someone or something do it for them.
More car washes, especially full-service express ones, are popping up in West Valley City lately, reflecting the growth of the industry in general.
For example, Quick Quack Car Wash opened in January at Parkway Boulevard and 5600 West. Shiny Shell Car Wash at 3500 South and 5600 West is due to open in a matter of weeks. Further east on 3500 South, early construction is underway at a Mister Car Wash location where Kowloon Cafe served Chinese cuisine for decades before closing in 2019.
It was three years ago that Charlie’s Car Wash started the recent trend of full-service express car washes in West Valley City when it began washing vehicles at 2400 South and 5600 West.
While Charlie’s has the one location, the other brands are expanding their footprint across America.
Mister Car Wash has 300 locations across 21 states, including what will be 19 in Utah when West Valley City opens.
Travis Kimball started Quick Quack Car Wash with four other BYU graduates in Utah County in 2004. Today, it is the fourth-largest car wash chain in America with 160 locations in Utah, Arizona, California, Colorado and Texas, with more on the way in the Beehive State and elsewhere.
Shiny Shell is one of several car wash brands operated by Salt Lake City-based Coldwater Car Wash Group. Its first Utah location is in Murray. West Valley City is nearing completion and others are being built in Utah County and Pennsylvania.
“What you’re seeing (locally) is consistent across the U.S., as car wash construction is currently at a historic pace,” Eric Wulf, CEO of the International Carwash Association, said by email. “We estimate there to be approximately 600 new stores being built annually, and the Salt Lake City market has certainly seen its share of growth.”
“What used to be a mom-and-pop industry of single location and generational owners has become more sophisticated,” Kimball added. Financing from private equity firms and capital markets is helping fuel the growth.
The car wash and detailing industry has estimated annual revenues of $14 billion in the U.S., which accounts for about 43% of the global market. In 1994, 48% of drivers were taking their vehicles to car washes. That rose to 77% in 2019. Market research and consulting company Grandview Research says busy schedules and lack of time have more people using car washes instead of a bucket and sponge in the driveway.
Wulf points to monthly memberships as one of the factors driving the expansion of the business. That’s where customers pay a monthly rate, generally starting at $19.99 at many places, for unlimited washes for a single vehicle. Kimball agreed that has lathered up car wash traffic. “In the past, studies showed that people washed their cars once or twice a year” at a car wash before subscriptions became popular. “Now we’re seeing people wash their cars on a weekly basis.”
Car washes are also becoming more environmentally friendly. A spokesman with a western U.S. car wash industry association who didn’t want to be quoted directly said that auto washes are reducing the amount of water used and soaps, cleaning agents, dirt, salt, and other grime going into gutters and storm drains. A growing number of establishments[LL1] treat and recycle the water they use and run it through again.
Quick Quack’s Kimball said his company has implemented systems and technologies that cut water use to as little as 15 to 20 gallons for a basic wash. Much of that water is cleaned up and reused. Washing a car in the driveway with a garden hose has the potential to use more water. He also cited the aforementioned soaps and other dirty residues that make their way into the gutter and stormwater system[LL2] .
Don’t expect the growth of the car wash business to dry up any time soon. Kimball said the old standard had been to put car washes no closer than five miles from each other. “Now that’s shrunk to two miles, one mile, sometimes across the street from each other.”
West Valley City is a shining example of that.