How to Wash Cars For Money

The available ways to make a profit are limited only by your imagination but, sometimes, it’s easier to go old-school with something like washing cars. It’s a service every driver needs on occasion, and it doesn’t necessarily require a huge investment to get started. Washing cars for money is something virtually anyone can do because it does not involve complicated training or skills.

With a little space, a few materials, and a water supply, you can be on your way to making a little bit of extra cash. Whether you want to hold a one-time car wash for a fundraiser or start a bona fide car washing service, you can find success in this timeless pursuit.

Method 1 of 2: Setting up a one-time car washing station for a fundraiser or personal profit

Materials Needed

  • Buckets
  • Hose
  • Markers
  • Poster board
  • Soap
  • Sponges

Step 1: Pick a date and a place. Choosing a date for your car wash is the easy part while finding just the right location may take a bit more time.

  • Brainstorm local businesses along routes that get plenty of traffic, have extra room for washing cars that won’t interfere with parking.

  • Make sure the location you choose also has a water spigot outside (gas stations are a popular choice).

  • Call prospective business owners and ask permission to hold your car wash, and you will soon find a place for your car washing event.

Step 2: Advertise your car wash. Let people know about your car wash using free or low-cost methods.

  • Placing flyers in local businesses like the grocery store and spreading the details by word of mouth are effective means of promoting your event without cutting into your bottom line.

Step 3: Recruit help. While you could do a car wash all by yourself, it would be difficult to do everything on your own.

girls holding car wash sign

  • Ideally, you need people to hold signs and wave people down to stop and take advantage of your service along with several others to do the actual washing and rinsing.

  • Someone also needs to be in charge of collecting money. If the car wash is for a fundraising event for a group, then group members shouldn’t be hard to enlist. Otherwise, recruit friends and family members to help.

Step 4: Gather your supplies. Collect all your buckets, soap, sponges, and water hose. You may also want poster board and markers to make your signs.

Step 5: Get ready. Show up at the car wash location on time and assign roles to all the workers. You may even want to rotate jobs, so no one gets bored.

  • Take care of your customers one at a time, and count your earnings at the end of the day.

  • Be sure to clean up after yourselves and thank the location’s owner as well as your workers, so they may help out again if you choose to do another car wash in the future.

Method 2 of 2: Setting up a permanent car washing service

Materials Needed

  • Absorbent cloths
  • Buckets
  • Business cards
  • Car wax and applicator
  • Hose and nozzle
  • Premium sponges
  • Soap
  • Shop vac (if doing interiors)
  • Upholstery polish (if doing interiors)
DBA form
Image: Utah Department of Commerce

Step 1: File your business name. Choose a name for your business and file a DBA (Doing Business As) form with the county clerk. You may also wish to set up a separate bank account to keep your business and personal banking separate.

  • Choose a name that is different from your personal name, the names of your partners, or the registered name of your LLC or corporation.

  • You can file it by mailing it to your county clerk’s office or with your state government, or you can use online services like Legal Zoom to file it for you.

Step 2: Gather quality car washing materials. As with any service-related business, you are only as good as the tools you have on hand. So, invest in quality items to help you establish yourself as the best car washing service in town.

  • You will need at least one bucket, water hose and nozzle (for those customers who don’t have one on hand), soap, premium sponges, car wax and applicator, and large absorbent cloths for drying cars once you are done.

  • If you plan on detailing interiors as well, you will need additional materials like upholstery polish and a shop vac.

Step 3: Amass a client base. Car dealerships are a great place to contact because they always want their vehicles on the lot to look their best, but don’t hesitate to let individuals know about your services as well.

  • Have business cards made and place them on bulletin boards and give them to everyone you meet.

  • Follow up with previous clients to set up future appointments because cars don’t stay clean forever.

Step 4: Maintain your paperwork. Keep a record of all your expenses and income, including receipts where applicable. This will be helpful come tax time when you need to make a report of all the money you made washing cars.

No matter if you wash cars for a day as part of a fundraiser or if you want to start a more serious car washing business, be prepared to work hard and get dirty. Washing cars is a messy business so dress knowing you’re probably going to get a little wet. You’re sure to meet some great people and have a lot of fun along the way so keep a positive attitude and enjoy yourself!


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