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10 Tips about starting a mobile car wash business in Kenya

A woman in a yellow T-shirt is cleaning a car with a pink microfiber towel working as a mobile car washer in Kenya
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With cars and vehicles being such expensive commodities, anything that can help the individual to save time. While simultaneously looking after one of their most treasured assets has the makings of prime money-making opportunity. This is why owning a mobile car wash business in Kenya has become increasingly popular over recent years. It is certainly an extremely lucrative market opportunity if the entrepreneur gets it right from the start. It can be an incredibly lucrative startup, but when trying to figure out how to open a car wash business. You realize that it tends to require more startup capital and permits.

Despite that, if you come up with a good mobile car wash station business plan and properly put together your cost of starting.

And you’ll also realize it’s very easy to start and can become profitable quickly.

However, getting started can be daunting, which is why we’re going to give a few tips to help you get started on your mobile car wash business journey in Kenya.

1. Pick out the perfect location

A new mobile car wash business in Kenya can be one of the best investments you can make, and depending on the type you build.

A mobile car wash can offer a steady stream of cash flow and relatively little hands-on management.

However, the cost of starting any type of car wash in Kenya requires a significant up-front investment.

And picking out the right place to set up is crucial in establishing a profitable business.

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Demographics primarily determines this as it involves researching your potential customer base to find your ideal customers.

Moreover, you must keep in mind that most people in Kenya will not drive far to find a car wash.

Most of your market will come from the population that lives within a few kilometers of your location.

Keep in mind that a good site will have the following characteristics:

  • Ease of access – Make it easy for customers to find the entrance to your mobile car wash business in Kenya. Even if your car wash is near a busy highway, it won’t help if potential customers can’t easily figure out how to get to it.
  • High traffic – Find a location on a highly traveled street or road; this way, you benefit from a lot of exposure for your business.
  • Adequate Space – The location should be large enough for vehicles of all sizes to move around.

To make the best decision, you will need to know what kinds of dwellings are in that radius.

And are they mostly single-family homes like in areas such as Runda, Karen, or Muthaiga?

Or, instead, are there lots of apartments in the mix?

This includes areas in Kenya like Kilimani, Kileleshwa, Parklands, etc.

Setting up a location near apartments are highly profitable because they indicate a dense population that often doesn’t have much space at home to wash a car properly.

Average household income is another key factor.

Households with higher incomes like in areas such as Runda, Muthaiga & Karen will likely have more disposable cash to spend on services like a mobile car wash.

They will be more likely to select high-end services like fully automated washes, etc.

Whichever type of Kenyan demographic you decide to go for, don’t skip the research process.

You need to know who you are trying to sell to before you invest in a new area in Kenya.

Also, you’ll want to select a location in Kenya that has strong growth potential.

For instance, if you were to set up your business next to a bar and grill or retail area.

That would also be a prime source of significant profit for the owner.

And while a location in a high-traffic part of town could seem attractive perhaps something about the area will change in the near future.

And leading to lower traffic levels later on, and likely impact your business negatively.

Conversely, another area or part of town that doesn’t have high traffic may be on its way to development.

Which will eventually boost traffic levels.

You may also be able to get in at a lower price if you invest in the property early enough.

Which in turn reduces your cost of starting in Kenya significantly.

2. Fundamentally assess the site’s infrastructure

On average, a car wash loses about 48,000 gallons of water per year.

So you will need to make sure your site is within easy access to local services.

In some towns in Kenya, such as Nairobi’s capital city, water usage is strictly limited due to severe water shortages.

And leaves water supply routes being tightly allocated.

It’s important to check with the area’s water department to determine whether such limitations might end up limiting the size of your operation in Kenya.

Moreover, once you’ve picked out a car wash location in Kenya, it is critical to get all the necessary local business permits, zoning variances, environmental.

And in addition, the safety inspections if needed, licenses, and liability insurance.

For example, you might have uncovered the perfect corner lot to accommodate your operation.

Only to find that the local county office prohibits it for whatever reason.

3. Do not compromise on security

The security of your car wash business premises is of utmost importance.

A car wash set on a side road may be cheaper but can ultimately expose you to unsavory elements.

And if you do not have excellent security systems, it can make you a prime target for vandalism or robbery.

Any Kenyan client will expect you to not only do a good job of washing their car but will also need to feel confident their property is in very safe hands.

If necessary, you most likely will need to consider hiring a security guard to your cost of starting.

It will help to keep the place secure and leave customers feeling that their cars are in good hands.

4. Decide on the right type of car wash business

When selecting the type of area you want to set up your car wash business.

You will also want to figure out the type of car wash business you want to build.

So whether it’s an automatic car wash business in Kenya or run manually by employees.

As, in terms of cost of starting, this makes a difference in the space you need, the type of equipment, the chemicals to buy, the type of marketing you will need, and much more.

It’s important to remember that some car wash types are more profitable than others, while others may require less maintenance and staff.

Balancing the cost of starting and requirements for each type of car wash business will allow you to choose one that fits your business budget.

5. Pick out the right equipment

It was commonplace for everyone to wash their cars in their home backyards, but as time went on, it transitioned into hand-wash car washes.

Nowadays, getting the right equipment is essential, leaving you to consider other things: microfiber towels, pressure washers, vapor steamer, paint correction, buffers, polishers, chemical storage, etc.

Moreover, when choosing equipment, consider dependability, warranty, output capabilities, cleaning power, and durability.

Also, other things to consider in terms of the cost of starting might be a portable generator and a large storage water tank.

You will also need detergents, brushes, towels, squeezers, and buckets.

To get the best deals on these items, it is best to purchase them from manufacturers or wholesale traders in Kenya.

6. See what the competition is up to

Beyond just evaluating the cost of starting, analyzing the competition plays an important role in your marketing plans when operating a self-service car wash business.

Evaluate other car wash businesses.

What is it that they are doing, that’s attracting people to them?

What do you think may turn away customers?

Most importantly, what can you do to make your car wash business better?

Appearance is important.

You may have the best equipment, but if you keep a dirty place and muddy floors, it’s unlike that customers will be inclined to return.

Good service, a well-maintained site, and quality equipment will keep customers coming to your car wash rather than the competitors.

Your car wash pricing should also ideally reflect the demographics of the area you are targeting and the prices of your competitors.

Obviously, as in every business, higher-priced services require more professionalism and higher quality.

If you’re going to price yourself above the market, consider why someone wants to pay more for your service than your competitor.

What do you offer that is unique?

Can the people in the area afford the prices you want to charge?

Most of the time, you may want to begin with lower prices and steadily increase as you gain more customers.

7. Create a marketing plan to help promote your business

Advertising is an essential part of your car wash business’s success as it’s what distinguishes you from the next car wash business.

If you do end up investing in advertising, you will need to assess what in what format it is, that you want to advertise your business in.

Consider what the best way is to reach your proposed demographic.

You should consider every vehicle on the road as a potential car wash customer.

A car wash needs a good website, social media presence, radio spots, billboards, or print ads in a local newspaper, which helps bring in new prospects.

You’ll also need to invest in good signage.

8. Return on Investment

To lay the proper foundation for a profitable car wash business, it’s important to understand the full cost of starting that is needed for your site, and it’s development.

This means putting together a solid business plan.

This is necessary while starting a new venture because it guides and keeps you in check.

Given the heavy up-front development costs involved in building and equipping a car wash business.

This is the principal consideration in producing a profitable return on your investment, or ROI.

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To generate a profit, you will need to consider your land, development, and construction costs accordingly.

Along with labor and maintenance costs, once your car wash business is up and running, your land and development costs are likely to account for your ongoing expenditures.

On average, here’s a basic breakdown of what to expect roughly.

  • Yard rent: Ksh15,000
  • Rehabilitation: Ksh10,000
  • Licenses: Ksh20,000
  • Equipment: Ksh50,000
  • Marketing: Ksh5,000

Total: Ksh100,000

A car wash business plan will also be valuable when determining future growth so that this exercise will pay off in the long run.

9. Hire the right people & train them well, if necessary

Before you start a mobile car wash business in Kenya, it is important to learn and teach your employees the basics of good car detailing and washing.

Firstly, it will prevent you from paying for damages you may cause and secondly it will also help you educate your clients.

Secondly, when you educate your clients on the importance of regular washes or certain products, it increases the likelihood of getting more business.

Lastly, it gives you credibility as an expert in your field, which is always positive.

In this respect, you will want to look for someone who will be running the car wash business if it’s a side hustle.

Make sure to consider employees who know how to detail cars and have an experience beyond just washing them.

The mobile car wash business in Kenya isn’t an industry that requires employees to have a four-year degree or any specific certification to get started.

But they should know or at least be taught all of the proper methods to make the business successful.

Moreover, you should keep in mind that new methods will also come up that might require you to re-train them from time to time so that you can add new services to your menu.

You should also pick out people who are good and friendly with customers.

Your business must offer them a seamless customer experience that will bring them back time and again and prompt them to recommend your services to others.

10. Exceed customers expectations and stay in touch

Knowing how to sell more to your clientele is one of the most important aspects of running any car wash business in Kenya and is a crucial skill for any entrepreneur.

This is because once you’ve serviced a potential customer, you may be able to convince them into buying into even more alternative options.

For example, many mobile car wash businesses combine exterior and interior cleaning.

This can end up increasing your profit margins even more.

However, once you obtain those customers, your marketing work is far from over.

It’s crucial also to keep up customers and prospects afterward.

You can create an email list, for example, to help in this regard.

How much profit can I expect to make?

On average, based on other success stories of car wash business in Kenya, a small car wash business that has just started can handle 15 cars per day (weekends are peak days).

The average price to wash a car in most service centers in Kenya is Ksh400.

But it varies from place to place, with some being even cheaper.

On top of that, you can also offer services like carpet cleaning, night parking, and more to further your margins.

Overall, a good car wash business in Kenya can net profits of almost Ksh130,000 per month on average.

Conclusion

While these tips are vital to your car wash business’s success, they are only the tip of the iceberg.

And while these suggestions are all important.

They are all not mandatory to ensure a successful car wash business in Kenya.

You must remember that your car wash business model depends on your services and equipment, competition, location, and community.

You will need to put together all the relevant data from the site assessment to the required amount of investment.

This means including a specific business plan from start to finish to get the service up and running as well as long term business goals to make it successful.

Building a car wash business in Kenya, blind without a business plan, can cause major problems down the road and inhibit success.

That’s why it’s also important to connect with and learn from the locally established operators in Kenya.

You’ll find that most of them will be happy to share their knowledge.

Once you have put all this together and are armed with all the relevant information necessary.

So you are ready to get started on the road to owning a successful car wash business in Kenya.