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Consumer Trends Influencing the Industry

Consumer Trends Influencing the Industry

December 13, 2023

3 minute Read

By Bob Klein, ICA Research Director

Using data from International Carwash Association surveys as recent as August 2023 and as far back as 1996, we explored 13 consumer trends that are influencing the future of the car wash industry — in some cases because they are changing and others because they remain consistent.

1. Speed and efficiency are major players in the decision-making. 
• 59% increase in agreement that washing at a car wash — instead of home washing – saves time. (2014 vs. 2022)
• 67% wish they knew the estimated wait time at their favorite car wash. (May 2023)

2. More locations, please. 
• 73% wish their favorite car wash had more locations. (May 2023)

3. Convenience is important. 
• 68% wish there were more car washes conveniently located near them.
• 83% agree that car washes should be as easy to find and conveniently located as places like McDonald’s, Starbucks, Taco Bell and Subway. (May 2023)

4. New vehicle owners wash more often. 
• New car owners (1 year old or less) are 90% more likely to wash 4+ times per month. (August 2023)

5. Newer vehicle owners are more likely to purchase memberships.
• New car owners (1 year old or less) are 64% more likely to be subscription members.
• Newer car owners (3 years old or less) are 41% more likely to be subscription members. (August 2023)

6. Sustainability practices are noticed. 
• 53% are interested in a car wash that recycles its water, reducing the amount of fresh water needed and the amount of waste being released into the environment.
• 49% are interested in a car wash that uses only environmentally friendly cleaning products. (February 2023)

7. Home washing is declining.
• Today, 79% wash their vehicle at a car wash most often – as opposed to home washing –versus 47% in 1996. (1996 vs. 2023)

8. Emotions influence wash choices.
• 28% increase in agreement that washing at a car wash makes them feel good.
• 30% increase in agreement that washing at a car wash makes them feel proud. 
• 33% increase in agreement that washing at a car wash makes them feel better about themselves. (2014 vs. 2022)

9. Vehicle value, maintenance increasingly impacting car wash decision.
• 31% increase in agreement that washing at a car wash helps protect the value of their vehicle. 
• 43% increase in agreement that washing at a car wash is part of routine vehicle maintenance. (2014 vs. 2022)

10. The fun factor? Skyrocketing.
• 61% increase in agreement that washing at a car wash is fun. 
• 166% increase in agreement that washing at a car wash is a fun family activity. (2014 vs. 2022)

11. Car wash apps are fast becoming a priority. 
• 83% agree that every car wash should have a smartphone app to do things like make payment easier, find special offers, track rewards points and advise customers of wait times. (May 2023)

12. Pricing, perceived value means a lot. 
• Price is the second most important factor when choosing a car wash; the first is cleanliness. (2022)

13. Brand does matter.
• The right car wash brand name makes consumers 42% more likely to agree that it is worth paying more for.
• The right brand makes consumers 24% more likely to agree that it is better than their current car wash. (February 2023)

ICA’s Pulse Research 
The scope and frequency of ICA’s Pulse™ research increased in 2023 to better help your car wash business stay competitive and to provide insight for future planning. 4 Cover 2023 Q3 ThePulseReport copy

• The Pulse Report is released quarterly and is free for members. It includes highlights from consumer and industry research with analyses of economic influences and indicators that may impact the car wash industry.

• The Consumer Pulse comes out twice a year and is available for purchase at a reduced rate for members. It summarizes and analyzes quantitative studies we conduct four times each year related to consumer behavior.

• Our consumer and industry sentiment surveys field every 90 days. Results are distributed to members in CAR WASH Magazine articles and integrated into The Pulse Report.

For details, visit www.carwash.org/pulse.

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