We have taken many questions having been in the vehicle wash business for the past 20 years. One of the most discussed topics has been the cost of different cleaning methods. Most customers are on the municipal water grid. Therefore, they are paying for water that is drinking quality water and using it to wash vehicles. A cubic meter of water = 265 US gallons
of water and a cubic foot = 7.5 US gallons. Municipalities have a fixed monthly charge and then a monthly usage fee based on consumption and of course sewage charges. Most sewer charges consist of consumption charges, with some actually adding an additional cost for sewer discharge.

So how do you figure your cost of water to wash? It depends on your method of washing. Hand Washing with a Pressure Washer uses 4-5 gallons of water per minute. If staff take 15 minutes to wash a vehicle, that is 60 – 75 gallons of water. Costs on average are $0.01 per gallon so it would be $0.60 – $0.75 to wash that vehicle. Hand washing with a Regular Hose uses 17 gallons of water per minute. A 15 minute wash works out to 255 gallons or $2.55 per wash.

Automatic Washes water use varies from as low as 5 gallons per minute to 300 gallons per minute. A 15 minute wash would cost $0.75 to $45 (although automatic washes do not take this long). This range depends on the equipment you are using and recycling systems available.

The best scenario is an automatic machine with brushes that use much less water (and chemicals) since the brushes do the cleaning. Depending on your machine, you can pay as low as $0.10 per wash.

The worst case scenario is an automatic wash that is touchless with no water recycling. A 300 gallon a minute machine that takes 5 minutes for the complete cycle (without chemical costs) will use 1,500 gallons of water, costing $15.00.
Take a scenario where 60 trucks are washed daily using an automatic wash. By reducing the time of washing to 2 minutes at $0.01/gallon, their cost of water to wash per day is $6.00.

Jack Jackson is the President of Awash Systems Corp that provides large vehicle washing systems. “We at Awash, believe we can help everyone in the industry understand the most efficient way to wash their vehicles”.

Compare that to using other devices: by hand with a pressure washer – $24.00 per day, by hand hose – $153.00 per day
and by automatic touchless machine – $900.00 per day. Where do you fit?

Water costs vary across North America due to the degree of municipal debt, not the degree of water consumption. Based
on the first ever water report by a city in North America, completed by circleofblue.org, the costs (for household use per
month) ranged from $0.01 per gallon to as high as $0.04 per gallon. Now multiply the dollar amount above by 4 and the
cost is very substantial.

Water consumption has continued to decrease across North America; however, it’s a catch 22 scenario. Less water use
means less revenue for the municipalities. The issue is replacement of aging infrastructures to ensure the capacity of water
can continue to be supplied, coupled with increasing costs of wages, chemicals and maintenance.

This is frustrating to most businesses as they continue to seek ways to reduce water usage, yet their monthly costs continue to increase. It is estimated by USA Today (Sep 27th, 2012 article “Rising Water Rates”) the cost of infrastructure debt has risen from $1,012 in 2006 to $1,611 per customer in 2011. The expectation is for increases in water charges from 5% to 15% every year ongoing across North America to service the expected $1 trillion dollars required to service the aging
infrastructure over the next 20 years.

With the cost of water continuing to increase it will become a big part of everyone’s business expenses. How do you
determine your costs and what are your best methods to wash?

Customer Comments:
Jack Williams
Chippewa Hills School
Remus, Michigan
Excellent way to wash
buses – very low
maintenance and easy to
use. Individuals washing
buses stay dry as