Facts & Figures

Facts & Figures

The Car Wash Industry

There are currently 31.6 million passenger cars in the UK requiring washing with total car washing in the UK for all types of washes generating well in excess of £1.0 billion turnovers for the industry.  

 
Unmanned Automatic In-Bay Car Washes:
  • Location: Fixed location in dedicated open-ended bays on petrol filling stations, garden centres, sheds, supermarket car parks and occasionally on dedicated multi-bay centres. Also sometimes found on franchised car dealer sites, motor auctions, second-hand car sales, car rental firms and haulage/distribution companies
  • Wash Service: External only 
  • Staff: Unmanned
  • Equipment: External-only offer consists of various hot and cold wash, rinse and wax and drying programmes using multiple rotating brush arrangement mounted on moving gantry with the car remaining stationary. Many sites offer a d-i-y vacuuming facility. Occasional water recycling
  • Cost: Most operate on up to 6 programme choices generally priced from £3.99 to £12.99. Most exterior-only programmes take about 4 minutes with cars washed singly with a capacity of up to 9 cars per hour
  • Payment method: Until recently mostly coin/token/passcode operated but remote cash-free payment facilities now increasingly available via a phone app for buying programmes online
  • Numbers: Up to 2500 machines UK-wide on PFS with more at other locations.
Tunnel/Conveyor Washes:
  • Location: Fixed location in purpose-built 20m+ long wash halls on stand-alone dedicated premises, supermarket car parks, some (space allowing) petrol filling stations, garden centres, sheds
  • Wash Service: External only 
  • Staff: Usually manned by single operative doing fast pre-wash of awkward places for machine to reach such as recessed number plates, hardened brake dust deposits on wheels, under windscreen wipers
  • Equipment: External only offer consists of various wash, rinse, wax and drying programmes using multiple rotating contour-following brush arrangements mounted in fixed bases with car moving through them on a conveyor chain. Many sites offer a d-i-y vacuuming facility. Most have water recycling
  • Cost: Most operate on up to 6 programmes choices generally priced from £3.99 to £12.99. Most exterior-only programmes take about 3 minutes but with up to 4 cars washed simultaneously with a capacity of up to 90 cars per hour
  • Payment method: Until recently mostly cash or pre-paid voucher/membership but cashless and remote payment facilities now widely available also via an online or phone app for buying programmes
  • Numbers: Approximately 280 - 300 UK-wide
Self-Serve Jet Washes:
  • Location: Mostly in fixed location open-ended bays on petrol filling stations, garden centres, sheds, supermarket car parks and occasionally on dedicated multi-bay centres. 
  • Wash Service: External only 
  • Staff: unmanned
  • Equipment: External only - consisting of various hot and cold wash, rinse and wax options using high-pressure lance and brush attachment but with no drying facility other than spot-free rinse wax at extra cost. Many sites offer a d-i-y vacuuming facility. Occasional water recycling
  • Cost: Most operate on a ‘buy time’ basis generally priced at about £1.00 per minute. With a little practice, most cars can be washed in 4 - 5 minutes
  • Payment method: Until recently mostly coin/token operated but remote payment facilities now increasingly available via a phone app for buying tokens online
  • Numbers: Up to 7000 bays concentrated in smaller number of locations UK-wide
Franchised/Network Hand Washes: 
  • Location: Mostly in leading supermarket car parks
  • Staff: Various external wash and optional interior valeting offers. Usually manned by 2-5 (more at peak times e.g. Saturday mornings) 
  • Equipment: High-pressure lance pre-wash followed by manual sponge washing, manual spray application of a waxing agent and manual spray application of wheel cleaner; chamois leather drying followed by optional interior valeting
  • Cost: Most operate pricing system according to car size and whether interior clean/valeting option selected. Ranging from £9.00 - £15.00 for basic exterior only wash
  • Payment method: Multiple franchised hand car washes operated by Waves, Car Park Valeting etc operate in compliance with fiscal, employment, environmental and H&S regulations with remote and non-cash payment options
  • Numbers: Approximately 400 UK-wide
Local Hand Washes:
  • Location: Mostly out in the open on porous tarmac or broken unmade surfaces with unsuitable or non-existent drainage in garden centres, sheds, pub car parks, disused automated roll-over wash bays in petrol filling stations and supermarket car parks. Also sometimes found on franchised car dealer sites, motor auctions, second-hand car sales, car rental firms and haulage/distribution companies. Often also presented as roving trolley washes on supermarket car parks in particular
  • Staff: Various external wash and interior valeting offers. Usually manned by 2 - 5 (more at peak times e.g. Saturday mornings) operatives with supervisor/gangmaster standing in the background who takes payment. Females often do the valeting
  • Equipment: High-pressure lance pre-wash followed by manual sponge washing, manual spray application of a waxing agent and manual spray application of hydrochloric acid to wheels with chamois leather drying followed by optional interior valeting. No water recycling.
  • Cost: Most operate the pricing system according to car size and whether interior clean/valeting option selected. Ranging from £9.00 - £15.00 for basic exterior only wash. Trolley washes referred to above known to charge as a little as £5.00 - £6.00
  • Payment method: Amongst non-compliant rogue HCWs almost uniformly cash with no receipt. In contrast to the above, multiple HCWs such as Waves, Car Park Valeting operate in compliance with fiscal, employment, environmental and H&S regulations with remote non-cash payment options
  • Numbers: Estimated at up to 20,000 UK-wide

About Car Wash Association

The Car Wash Association was originally established in 2007 by wash operators and industry suppliers and is now officially incorporated as part of the Retail Motor Industry Federation (RMI).