Everyone thinks a Truck washing business is super cheap and easy to start and be successful.
That’s what you’ve heard?
Well, if so, perhaps you should keep reading.
Why? Because there’s more to it than just buying the best truck washer and cleaning all your neighbours’ trucks for $50 bucks each.
- Have you ever washed a Truck before… What happens if you end up hating truck cleaning?
- Can a Truck washing business make you profit… Shouldn’t you know before starting to spend money on equipment?
- What happens if you’re Truck washing and the water jet causes a rock to jump up and break a car window… Is there some sort of insurance needed?
- What minimum equipment is required to get started and in business?
- How do you get customers to start?
All these questions have been thoroughly researched and the answers put together in this guide for you. Hopefully it helps you decide if you want to start a Truck washing business and gives you the first steps how-to.
1. First, You Should Learn How Wash A Truck Like a Pro
There’s 2 reasons to learn how to Truck wash like a pro before starting a truck washing business:
- To get experience so you not only clean your customers surfaces well but don’t damage the surrounding area (high Truck water and flowers/plants don’t like each other, flying debris etc.)
- Do you enjoy doing the work? If you absolutely hate power cleaning why would you start a business doing it?
How To Be A LAZRTEK
There’s courses and guides on youtube.com that you can watch and learn from all day but the best way to learn is to practice.
Borrow a friends or rent a truck washer from Home Depot for a week and use it everyday to clean: your driveway, fence, house siding, car, boat, lawn mower, garbage bin, grill, patio furniture, back deck and tile patio.
Doing this won’t make you an expert but it will give you a foundation to build on. Mistakes that you make you won’t make again and you can go to youtube at this point to learn how to properly clean the more difficult surfaces like a driveway and wood deck. You’ll also know at this stage if you hate doing the work.
Another option is to call up a Truck washing company in a neighbourhood a few miles away (not direct competition) and offer to work for them for free every Saturday for a month. Ask questions and learn.
2. Can The Truck Washing Business Make Profit? Here’s How To Know
“Profit for a company is like oxygen for a person. If you don’t have enough of it, you’re out of the game. But if you think your life is about breathing, you’re really missing something.” -Peter Drucker, Author of The Bestseller The Effective Executive
Making a lot of money is great but if your money out is more than your money in the company still loses money. You need to figure out if your power washer business can make profit and how quickly. Here’s how to figure that out.
Money Out (Expenditures)
There’s a reason so many startup businesses are software/digital companies – they have minimal upfront cash requirement. Services based businesses like power cleaning require more capital to start.
The 4 main upfront expenditure categories are:
- Truck washing equipment including Truck washer, surface cleaner, nozzles, chemicals and trailer or equivalent.
- Insurance costs, business permits and contractor license costs.
- Cost to acquire your first few customers (Ads, pamphlets, flyers etc.)
- Cost of your transportation to get to customers’ business premises (truck, van etc.)
Of course there’s also ongoing maintenance, fuel and marketing costs.
Money In (Revenues)
You make money by Truck cleaning for customers. What price you charge for your services should be high enough to earn your business a profit and low enough to be competitive with other service providers.
Putting It All Together – The Business Plan
Your business plan should be for you and no one else. It is so that you understand how the business will make money. It’s an expanded version of this equation:
(Money In) – (Money Out) = (Profit)
Do some research for truck washer gear prices, transportation cost that you want to use (truck or van?), insurance and permit costs etc and expect to be getting your first customers by hustling door-to-door style.
As a guide you can use these very minimum starting prices:
- Truck washing gear to get started: $1,500
- Transport costs like a used van or truck: $5,000
- Insurance, permits and licenses etc: $500 upfront and $60 per month (both vary depending on your state)
- Getting first 50 paying customers: $250 for tons of flyers and printing
- Approximate total upfront cost: $71,750.00
3. Keep it Legal. The Ins and Outs of Truck Washing Business Permits, Licenses and Insurance
To stay out of jail and avoid going bankrupt if you damage property or injure someone on the job be sure to get the proper licenses, permits and insurance. Here’s what you need to know.
The gist is this: Go to Google.com and enter “[your town]+Truck washing business license and insurance”
Disclaimer: This is just a rough guide you should consult a business lawyer and do your own due-diligence to ensure you have your affairs in order to starting a Truck washing business.
Contact your city licensing office or county clerk’s office to find out the requirements of your area because it varies widely state-by-state.
- Business License – You’ll need to register your business with the state
- Bond – You may need to pay a bond before you can get a license to operate a Truck washing business in your area.
- Sales Tax Registration – You’ll need to register your business for tax purposes with the IRS.
- Contractor Permit – You may need a specific permit for Truck washing in the area you Truck wash so be sure to contact the local licensing office for details. Just Google: “[your town]+Truck washing contractor license”
- Environmental Permit – Some states require an enviro permit because you are discharging water to a storm drain in many instances.
Your Truck washing business will probably need 3 different types of insurance. Be sure to visit many insurance agents to get quotes and advice.
- Liability insurance to cover damage you may create while Truck cleaning.
- Workers compensation to cover for injuries to you or others while on the job.
- Equipment insurance to cover damage or if they are stolen.
Check out our Definitive Guide to Truck Washing Insurance to learn more.
Should You Join the Voluntary Truck Washing Associations?
Yes, because it’s always good to be surrounded by a network. There’s 3 prominent ones and you should visit each site to choose which to join (if not all?). They all have conferences yearly to network and many more events around the U.S.
USTWA – United States Truck Wash Association
ATWassoc.– American Truck Wash Assoc.
PWNA – Power Washers of North America
Read our full report on the Top 3 Truck Washing Associations and Organizations.
4. Why You Should Invest in Your Truck Washing Equipment Instead of Going Cheap
Yes, the best gear is the most expensive but it also acts to show you are serious about Truck washing. The customer instantly trusts you more and feels more inclined to recommend you to friends.
Who would you trust and recommend out of these two? Let’s just assume both do a decent job.
The one that rolls up to your customer’s business with a clean Ford F150 or Chevy Work Truck brand stickers prominent) pulling a nice looking trailer with the company name and phone number on the side with attached powerful looking Truck cleaning equipment, hose reel and water tank.
The one that rolls up to your house to do power washer work in an old dirty van with 2 hubcaps missing, black smoke coming out the exhaust and a tiny little plastic electric Truck washer (not that they’re bad they have their uses) that they grab out the sliding door to do the work you’re paying $150 for.
It Gets the Job Done Right, Fast
Another advantage of good equipment is it’s easier to do any work requested of you. From removing paint and dirt to fleet washing. You just can’t do that work with a non commercial grade machine.
It’s Free Business Marketing
Business is as much about perception as it is about quality. You can offer a great service but if it seems like you don’t you won’t succeed. First impressions just matter. A LOT.
If you’re driving around in tough looking truck with your Truck washing equipment firmly attached to your truck bed and you have a phone number and what your service is on the side you will get calls. You won’t get calls driving around in your Honda Civic with the same sign. It’s human psychology – we can’t help it.
It Gives You Trust and Authority
Like I mentioned above when you invest money in your business it shows you care. It also sets you apart from the 14-year old down the street offering the same service with his parents handheld Truck cleaner – not that there is anything wrong with doing that. The guy that owns a fleet of delivery trucks is going to hire you not the kid. You have made yourself a trustworthy authority by getting good gear and first class equipmnent.
You Save Money Long-term
“I am not rich enough to buy cheap things.”
I couldn’t find where that quote comes from but it rings true. Long term cheap things end up costing more due to maintenance and replacement costs. This is yet another reason to buy good Truck washer equipment upfront if you’re serious about starting a Truck washing business.
5. The Secret to Getting Customers For Your Truck Washing Business
The secret to getting new customers is getting their attention then giving them interest and desire to pay for your service. Let’s say you’re sending out flyers door-to-door, this is what you should write:
- Headline With Your Offer: Free Truck Cleaning with a Trailer wash.
- Get Their Interest With a Fact: Did you know your Truck’s perceived value can increase by $10,000 by having a clean Truck & Trailer?
- Create Desire By Making Them Feel Left Out: 13 of your trucking colleagues in the last 30 days have chosen to increase their Truck’s curb appeal and resale value. What are YOU waiting for?
- Get Action By Giving a Timeframe On Your Offer: This deal expires in 5 days so please call or text us @ LazrTek.com or email at specialoffer/LazrTek.com to book your service immediately.
That’s it. You’ll obviously need to experiment with different offers and flyer content but that’s the gist. Give the customer a reason to call and book your service immediately. Your service framed as an expiring deal usually works well.
Washing Trucks & Tractor-Trailers
Washing large fleets separates efficient operations from small time operations. Generally speaking, the large fleet owner wants the whole fleet washed on time and inexpensively. When washing a lot of trucks you usually don’t spend time detailing.
Everyone should experience washing one truck for an owner operator. Restoring aluminum tanks, brushing stacks, degreasing the rails, etc, etc., but don’t approach a large fleet using the same techniques! For one, they won’t pay for that level of service, and two; you probably don’t have the time to provide that level of service anyway.
The point is usually to make the trucks shine so that the company president can look out the window at his fleet on Monday morning and have the sun reflect off the truck into his eyes, at which point he says ”man, those trucks are clean!” The problem with most Truck Washers is they utilize pressure washers and operators can’t find the correct level of clean.
Either they do such a lousy job, that even the boss from the window can see that the trucks look bad, or they hand scrub every inch of every truck and can’t make a living. There is a middle ground that must be found to succeed. The middle ground is usually found by either working with the proper pressure, temperature, and chemical, or by throwing manpower (brushers) at the fleet.
The most successful are the companies that work smart, not hard. Working smart on a large fleet that is washed on a schedule can be very profitable. Many laugh at the low prices that are charged to wash large fleets, and of course there has to be a bottom line limit to pricing.
But consider washing tractors all day at $50.00 each. Wash four per hour and you’re starving. Wash ten per hour, per person, and now you’re making a living and putting money in the bank. Working smart should allow you to do this.
LazrTek has several chemical products to use in truck washing. There are differences between them that will make some more suitable for you than others. These differences should be examined in the catalog. Some are targeted on certain vehicle types, some work better when washing with cold water, etc. Prodigy, our ‘first-born’ is our ZP-1 SuperFlo Polymer Base. It combines excellent cleaning, rinsing, and gloss enhancement and has been our industry’s #1 selling truck wash for over 20 years. Bond Breaker includes an electromagnetic release additive that result in a ‘film-free’ touch free wash. Mr. Muscle provides an additional amount of ZP-1 base
and solvents for degreasing. It also contains quick rinse additives and ‘gloss enhancers.’ All the above chemical products are phosphate free. They should all be tried and you should establish which product is best for you, the fleets you wash, the conditions you are washing in, and your washing style.
Next you move into the phosphate family of detergents. These include Pro Blend, Nitro, Release & Viper. This group of detergents has a slightly lower Ph level. This can sometimes be beneficial in the heat of summer on dark trucks. Each product is formulated to work best in certain conditions on certain vehicle types. Some products overlap and they should be tried to determine which is best for your individual needs. Again, as with the other chemicals, refer to the catalog for the most specific information on each product. Any of these truck wash chemicals can also be used in a ‘two step’ cleaning process or on their own.
Many companies practice this method of washing. They use minimal chemical and brush about everything every time. Anyone that has spent a day brushing trucks knows that this isn’t something that you want to do all the time. It is physically exhausting and slow. So to accomplish this – companies bring in a lot of people.
While no method is wrong, I have to question how well these companies do. The bright side is that they are providing employment for so many people. But when two people can wash that same fleet in less time than the six people, and without brushing anything, it doesn’t seem fair. Paying people will always be more expensive than using LazrTek chemicals.
Don’t scrimp on equipment. While PSI is important, flow is even more so. It is generally agreed that fleet washing is best performed within a pressure range of 1800 to 2200 PSI. But you have to have the flow to back that pressure up. Work with a minimum of 5.5 GPM. More is much better, but the limiting factor is water supply. If you use more water than you can pick up you lose any gains while you sit waiting for the water supply to catch up. Water flow puts the punch in the pressure as well as providing rapid rinsing ability. For scheduled fleet washing the ability to rinse the chemical off the vehicles is what makes you fast or slow. Don’t scrimp on chemical. Even if you blow through a 55 gallon drum of detergent in one day, you would be looking at a profit ratio of at least ten times your chemical cost. This is the worst possible scenario. You won’t use that much chemical. The SuperFlo Polymer chemical you use will provide that ‘shine’ you want the customer to see, without the brushing that eventually will wear you out.
Don’t scrimp on heat, but use it smart. The weather determines the proper water temperature to use when washing. Chemical works best when it’s warm. On a hot day, the vehicle surface is hot enough and you should run cold. Below sixty degrees start using heat. Between forty and sixty degrees, use a water temperature between 110 and 130 degrees. Below forty degrees increase the water temperature up to 150 degrees. Never go over 150 degrees unless your forced to by extremely cold temperatures. In other words, if the chemical has frozen hard to the surface, turn the heat up to melt it off. With that one exception, keep in mind that 150 degrees should be the top end for the water temperature. Higher temperatures begin to deteriorate any detergent’s performance.
Apply chemical through a downstream injector onto the surface. Never apply beyond the amount of surface that can be washed and rinsed prior to chemical drying. Wash the chemical from the surface. Watch to see how close you need the nozzle to be to the surface. On dirtier trucks, wash fairly close in and pattern clean so you don’t miss any of the surfaces. On cleaner vehicles, work farther away from the surface. Work from the top to bottom and for quickest rinsing add 1-gallon of our Speed-X-777 to your 55 gallon drum of detergent and cut your rinse time by up to 70%.
- The typical liability insurance costs for a cleaning company were found out at this estimate from Insureon.com.
- Entrepreneur.com’s article on business licenses and permits gave a brief summary of the requirements.
- The official U.S. Small Business Association website is a great starting point for finding out detailed information on starting your Truck washing business.