How Much Does It Cost to Build a Car Wash Bay?

Vehicle Washdown – Why It’s Important And Who Needs To Do It?

🗝 Key points: Wash bays are essential for keeping vehicles clean, efficient and compliant with industrial, environmental, and aesthetic standards. Car wash bays can be a part of a business, used to clean the company’s machinery, but can also be profitable stand-alone businesses. At this point, many will ask, “How much does it cost to build a car wash in Australia? Does it pay off?” Read on to find out.

If you’d like to have a real quick answer to the total cost of building a car wash, we would have to use words instead of numbers.

The shortest answer is: it depends.

It may sound like a joke, but it’s not. The cost of setting up a car wash business, with a car wash bay as its centrepiece, can be so variable that it is very unhelpful to try to get an average number or cost. The final pricing will depend on your needs and ambitions and considerations such as how big is the wash bay, how many intended vehicles each day/week for washing, how much water will you use, how heavy is the application, how many washdowns take place at the one time is it a multi bay, are all questions that need to be factored when initial concept design and planning takes place.

How Much To Set Up A Commercial Car Wash Business In Australia?

Car wash setup cost for a commercial car wash is quite pricey and lengthy process, lasting about 12 months. Building a car wash business from scratch – the so-called greenfield investment – on a typical site in the style of Automatic In-Bay Car Wash with 3 Self-Serve Bays will cost around $700,000 to build, plus about $400,000-450,000 worth of equipment; the total cost of building a car wash can add up to $1.2m for application such as this.

It is important to note that these numbers include building the car wash from the ground up – building and construction (with design, planning, and permits included), plumbing, wiring, installation, and at the end, car wash chemicals such as soaps, softeners and others.

Also, this exact setup is considered because self-service car wash equipment and principle is the most popular option out there for high end commercial applications. But not everyone is looking for a multi bay commercial business. Some applications are smaller niche detailers, or onsite washing for plant equipment for existing business to manage their fleets and Trade Enviro have a range of options to suit from as little as $2,300 up.

Pro tip 1: When looking to save some money, never cut the expenses related to design and planning and talk to those with experience (although it may be tempting to get going on the smallest budget you can find it often becomes problematic down the line if you cut corners

Finding a professional and experienced consultant specialised in the car wash applications will save you a lot of potential trouble and hassle down the road. Quality planning and smooth execution guarantee you save money and time from errors. We call it trouble free conditions and it starts with truly understanding each and every application.

Pro tip 2: Don’t leave it too late. Give your self enough time to enquire, discuss, plan and set up. All too often we have people needing to create a solution immediately. a local council inspector may have made a visit confirming that how you’re washing down now isn’t satisfactory and you need a wash bay to continue washing. Or simply put, the wash bay application was placed on the shelf too long and when time comes to needing one you’re still at the planning or enquiring stage.

Small-Scale Car Wash Bay Pricing

If you are looking for a small-scale car wash bay – e.g., to simply equip your business with wash bays to maintain vehicles and meet regulations, that can be way more affordable. Simple portable wash bays cost less than $2000.00; however, the price of a high-end, heavy-duty wash bay with an entire treatment system can really range from $20,000 –  $90,000.00 and more depending again on each and every application.

The price of vehicle wash bays is so variable because wash bays are custom designed and ever-changing to suit different customer needs and applications.

Portable Wash Bay Vs. Permanent Wash Bay

The first thing you need to consider when building a car wash bay is if you want to go for a portable or mobile wash bay or a permanent wash bay. This choice depends on the type of operation or business you are running, and there are many variables to consider. Some include:

  • Available space
  • Type of operation
  • The primary purpose of operation
  • The environment (indoor or outdoor)
  • The water sources
  • Water treatment and recycle systems
  • Aesthetics of wash bay
  • Number of washdowns per day
  • Contaminate loading

Some of these factors are not negotiable – the available space is usually limited. In other cases, you will have more decision freedom, but that doesn’t make a decision necessarily easier or less important.

For example, when it comes to the wash bay visual impression, you may disregard it if you need a car wash bay for internal company use and save some money that way. However, if you are planning a commercial business, investing in aesthetical enhancements of your car wash operation may increase the initial costs but will likely pay off in the long run.

Mobile Wash Bays

Mobile washbays are usually a more affordable option. Their performance doesn’t lag behind the permanent wash bays – although they may lack special custom features that can be built into the permanent variants.

A start-up wash bay system doesn’t require a council permit if you’re not discharging trade wastes to the sewer, but we encourage you to investigate that locally with your local regulator yourself. It allows you to have a designated place for vehicle wash down and to hold all the wastewater for a licensed liquid waste remover to handle the processing of trade wastes. That is the most affordable solution, with prices starting at $1890 but on going pump out fees will then apply. These systems are ideal for temporary and low use applications

The drawback of such a basic system is that it doesn’t come with a solution to handle or process wastewater. If your local regulations ask to hold, treat, or recycle the wastewater instead – which is highly likely – you still need to upgrade the basic mobile wash bay to comply with the regulation and avoid polluting the environment fully. In most cases a standard wash bay treatment system consists of an oil and water separator, pump and controller.

A more advanced version is our pre-approved Trade Waste Treatment Systems, available from around $12000 including the wash bay and council approvals in some cases (conditions apply to approval submissions). It requires council permits prior to installation and is fully equipped with wash bay, pump, trade waste treatment (oil and water separator), making it compliant with the legislation. The system also has its heavy-duty version for larger industrial vehicles and plant equipment and we can easily scale up or down based on application

Pro tipPortable wash bays can be made permanent, and they can also have treatment systems installed for full water processing prior to discharge. Although not always as practical as a concrete slab with drainage systems, they are a fraction of the cost and present a user friendly experience by way of time frames to install and or construct, on site management, and use, for example our portable solution can be a retro fit that don’t require concrete cutting and major civil works.

Permanent Wash Bay.

Another option that increases the budget but delivers a more robust and long-term system is a concrete slab wash bay. A concrete slab wash bay can add up compared to a portable solution due to civil ground works, plumbing and drainage and installation of treatment. On top of supply costs for such equipment. Many factors come into consideration with concrete slab wash bays. For example, roofed or open-air wash bays require different drainage solutions.

We have stormwater diversions systems for unroofed open air wash bays and we have screened wash bay drainage pits for roofed wash bays. Reason being one will have stormwater hit the slab while the other won’t, so one system needs to know how to deal with the difference between wash water and stormwater (link to diversion systems here) where as a roofed wash bay will only deal with washdown water. Cost factors again include civil works, treatment steps, size of slab and application usage. So again the cost will depend.

A small treatment system can cost $6000, to step up to a recycling system anywhere from 25K onwards. The larger investment gets you most of your water back, the smaller investment means you use more water on site and this is where planning with experienced suppliers is KEY to understanding all your options and reflected costs associated to each option.

How Profitable Is The Car Wash Business?

By this point, you may be wondering about the car wash business profit margin in Australia. The industry research by IBISWorld reports that the car wash industry in Australia is worth about $585 million, seeing 2.5% growth between 2010-2015. The market is expanding and growing in popularity due to convenience, higher density living, environmental concerns, and water conservation awareness.

According to US research and the US Census Bureau data, American citizens spend an estimated $5.8 billion annually in the car wash industry. In general, about 20,000 cars per year are washed in an average car wash operation, and there are predictions that conveyor car washes are about to see an average gross revenue of $9.56 per car.

Small-scale, self-service car washes bring their owner a bit over $40,000 annual profit; however, larger, luxury car washes’ profit can reach $500,000 per year, Multi bays and large scale facilities again upwards of that but it’s not up to us to tell how much a car wash business makes and use our information as a guide only – if you’re here reading this you probably already have an idea.

The factors that affect the profit margin are upfront and ongoing costs against turnover so again speak to a pro, don’t spend more than you need but also don’t spend less- ultimately that will cost more long term. Keep your management, servicing and house keeping in good order and maintain the equipment your investing in.


Car wash bays are an essential part of any business that relies on vehicles and working machines, as proper washdowns are one of the pillars of vehicle maintenance and environmental protection. Also, building a car wash can be a profitable business, even when the initial investment is significant. The price of setting up a car wash operation can vary greatly and depends on the level of investment and the type of equipment and water treatment units.

A reliable operation requires reliable contractors. At Trade Enviro, we offer top quality yet affordable solutions , professional expertise and customer support throughout the entire process. We offer council submissions and approval in some cases along with a range of product supplies, water treatment including full reuse systems and more.

Contact us to get started on developing your car wash today.