Starting a Car Wash Business in Kenya

starting a carwash business in kenya

Thinking of starting out a car wash business in Kenya? Well this post is for you. Just as promised, I will be doing specific posts about the various business opportunities in Kenya. As a reminder, I have sampled most of the views here from people and entrepreneurs who love and have businesses in the auto industries.

 A report by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) indicates that majority of Kenyans who bought cars in January and February 2018 opted for station wagons.

The report outlined that Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) had registered 8,385 new station wagons in the two months.

Some of the most popular station wagons in the country include; Toyota Fielder, WishSienta, Nissan’s Wingroad, Subaru Impreza, Honda Fit, and other models.

Vans and pick-ups were second in the rank with 1,741 vehicles registered in the two months.

Motorcycles recorded the highest number of transport means Kenyans registered in the two months at 32,418.

Trends in the Car Wash Business in Kenya

Automated Car Washing

Don’t I just love technology!

Since early 2011 there has been a slow but steady growth in automatic car wash services. The major advantage of the automatic car wash is speed. Within 15 minutes or so the body of the car is washed and clean. The services have not yet gained mass traction yet, though they are gradually becoming popular.

From the point of the entrepreneur automated car washes systems are capital intensive spanning millions of shillings (though cheaper models are increasingly available). There are fears of losses in case of breakdown if spare parts and support skills are not easily available. Some entrepreneurs are also skeptical whether motorists would convert from the traditional car-washing habits to the instant automated car wash. Others cite the lack of many ideal spaces in terms of location and rent to set up such car washes as the reason they are hesitant to invest in the business.

On the other hand consumers reluctant to use automated car washes have talked of ‘awkward’ locations of the automated car washes. Some quote unsubstantiated information they have heard that automatic car washes scratch the cars, damage the paint and can dent the bodies of weaker cars because of high water pressure and faulty dirty brushes. They also don’t wash interiors.


Car Washing as a Social Event

Nowadays there are car washes that try to differentiate in the market by making car wash moments social outings. Unlike the traditional setting where say a bar is set up and a car wash included as an extra, in this case the car wash starts as the core business, and then extras such as bar are added. There are also family friendly settings which have a hotel, bouncing castles and other children entertainment facilities. Some charge for the extras like bouncing castles, while others offer them as a complimentary service to customers.

Car Salons

There is an emergence of premium car wash services which brand themselves not as mere car washes but as car salons or car spas. The difference is in the quality of service where much more attention to detail is given to the whole cleaning process. In car salons cars are groomed rather than just washed.   Carzspa along Ngong Road says of itself:

Contrary to perception Carzspa is not a car wash company. Carzspa is a professional car detailing center dedicated to automobile beautification and preservation.

Of course there are normal car washes which use the words ‘Car Salon’ as a way of branding without using any superior car cleaning equipment or procedures. Specialized shampoos and equipment are used in Car Salons; there are services like odor removal, specialized rim and wheel cleaning, perfuming and such. Car salons are growing. To the entrepreneurs running Car Salons this is a way to gain a footing and leadership in the competitive car wash market. This is by targeting a section of motorists who are more passionate about their car and ready to spend. The way to convert a standard normal car wash to a real car salon is by having premium services and specialized equipment.

You also need to train the staff on professional car washing services.

Car Park Washing

This involves washing the car while at the car park either at home or work. The selling point is that this is supposed to save the motorist time he or she uses to drive to a car wash. And also make car wash fit in his schedule. Although the number of cleaners doing mobile car washes is increasing the kind of service is yet to catch up in a big way. In office blocks there is the issue of access. In public spaces there are the county authorities to think of. How to move with water and equipment, how to deal with water overflow could also be a challenge.

To solve the latter problem there are now water-less car washing materials in the market. Although they are increasingly being used it’s not in a very disruptive manner. A relatively successful version of this is a mobile business specializing in cleaning car interiors only which is picking comparatively well compared to other mobile services. The mobile services are not a threat to the standard car washes.

Motorcycle Cleaners

In some small town centers there are a number of ‘car’ washes specializing in motorcycles. Bodaboda riders are quite price sensitive, and so many have been cleaning their own machines. But with the attraction of specialized machine wash they are moving to car washes.

Steps for Setting Up Car Wash Business in Kenya

STEP 1: Identifying location

The choice of location can either break or make a car wash business in Kenya and beyond. When starting out, consider in terms of convenience to customers, competition, source of water, electricity and most importantly SECURITY.

STEP 2: Renovate and purchase of equipment

A Car Wash Machine is one of the primary equipment to budget for. Others are: Vacuum Cleaners, Tanks, Washing towels, buckets, brushes, squeezers, Ramps, Shade for cars, Shade for customers and do not forget Detergents,

STEP 3: Apply for licenses

Well as a taxpayer, I know that licenses are a means of raising money for the Government to provide essential goods and services for its citizens. Starting a car wash business in Kenya will require at least these licenses for the start. County license (Single user business permit) – This is the standard and most basic license. The cost will depend on county & location within county. At least budget Kshs. 15,000 for this license.

Other Regulatory Bodies
National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA) – You don’t necessarily require a license from NEMA but once in a while officials might pop in to confirm your usage of water, drainage and so forth. This is more so if you are operating from a road reserve or near a water body such as a river. More often than not a kickback will solve any issues.

Water Resources Authority – Not very common but if you are using water directly from a
river they might visit you and genuinely or otherwise harass you about drainage and wastage.
Have ready answers and talk of concepts like recycling and fair use.

STEP 4: Hire staff

Be ahead of the game by hiring competent and passionate individuals for various job roles in the business. Establish a strong brand name by being the employer everyone wants to work for.  Do all the amazing things to get the best candidates. check on their backgrounds and previous work ethics and set them up for work. Here is a SquareUp on how to hire the best employees and some of the checklist items.

STEP 5: Advertise and start operations

Getting the word out is an important step in setting up a car wash business in Kenya. Print out some fliers or show yourself on billboards. Better yet, leverage the power of technology with social media traffic to showcase your newly established business.

Services at Car Wash Business in Kenya

Diversification is the process of offering a wide array of goods and services. Modern day car washing businesses have included a whole bunch of services in order to increase profit margins achieve optimal productivity. The following services can be offered at any given Car Wash Business in Kenya.

  • Body – The only service present in all car wash businesses. The rest are extras or may not be present.
  • Interior
  • Upholstery
  • Under wash
  • Engine wash
  • Buffing
  • Waxing
  • Household Items – Carpets

In a nutshell, starting a car wash business in Kenya is relatively easy. As a business entity, the customer is always King! In order to survive competitively, an entrepreneur must strive to  win customers by not just insisting on speed but also superior quality of their service and making the car wash experience more of a hip social event. In addition to the body wash which takes about 15 minutes and also provide other auxiliary services such as upholstery, buffing and even such cosmetic car services as perfuming.

If speed is combined with unique quality service then an automated car business will attract customers who are willing to pay a premium. There is market and potential for automated car wash systems in an area with big enough numbers of the right kind of customers to sustain the business. The right kind is not just about income or the cars they drive but a more open mind to embrace such disruptions.



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