RFID & Car Washes: Types, Memberships, and How RFID Can Save Time and Money

RFID Car Wash Systems & Memberships

Although car washes look different today than the “ Automated Laundry” car wash that opened in Detroit in 1914, the concept and general purpose is still the same. Car washes either provide users with the tools to wash their own cars or provide some level of automated car wash services. In addition to washing, some facilities also offer more options like detailing and waxing that can be purchased separately or added on to a basic wash.

In most cities in America, you can expect to find at least one or two car wash facilities that offer a range of different services centered around the basic car wash.

Car Wash Facts

Here are some things that you might not know about car washes.

> There are roughly 62,000 Car Wash Locations in the United States

> Winter is the busiest car wash season

> Saturday is the busiest car wash day of the week

> An estimated 8 million cars are washed per day in car washes

> The average cost of a basic car wash is around $10

> The average cost of car detailing is $160

> Car Washes are categorized into 3 main categories – Rollovers, Conveyors/Tunnels, and Self-Service.

Car Wash Types

1. Rollovers - Make up Roughly 60% of all Car Washes

 Rollovers are compact machines that a vehicle drives into, and the vehicle is placed in park, while the machine ‘rolls over’ the car multiple times washing it. Rollover machines are essentially one machine that washes, shampoos, cleans, dries, waxes, and all other was features. While the machine is moving, the vehicle is placed in park, or turned completely off so that the machine can make multiple passes and effectively clean the vehicle.

2. Conveyors/Tunnels - Make up Roughly 20% of all Car Washes

Conveyors or tunnels are car washes made up of a variety of different machines stationed at different locations throughout an extended tunnel. While in neutral, each vehicle is placed on a conveyor which pushes the vehicle through the tunnel slowly while specific individual machines work on cleaning the car. Conveyors can have a wider variety of machines and options because individual machines can be purchased separately and provided as options to vehicle owners.

3. Self-Service - Make up Roughly 20% of all Car Washes

Self-service car washes are exactly how they sound, facilities with integrated car wash tools that allow vehicle owners to wash their own cars by hand. These facilities typically have a few different bays and provide additional items like soap and wax, for a small fee.

Car Wash Memberships

Car wash memberships are becoming increasingly popular at all three types of car wash facilities because they provide a mutually beneficial relationship between vehicle owners and car wash businesses. Car wash memberships provide vehicle owners with a cost saving plan for frequent washes while providing car wash businesses a way to bring in recurring income on a steady basis.

Memberships vary depending on the specific business, but generally include a specific number of washes per a specified time period. Below are some benefits that car wash memberships have for both consumers, and car wash owners.

Benefits to Consumers:

  • Provides an easy, hassle-free car wash experience.
  • Saves money per car wash, depending on the amount of times used.

Benefits to Car Wash Owners:

  • Allows for recurring, guaranteed income.
  • Allows more opportunities to upsell additional services.
  • If a customer has a membership with your wash, it keeps them from frequenting competitors.
  • Provides an opportunity to gain and keep loyal customers through interactions, discounts, incentives, and a great customer experience.

How Does RFID Technology Fit In?

In all three types of car wash facilities, a payment kiosk is often available for users to pre-pay for their service. Typically, these are drive-up kiosks, but in a small number of self-service car washes, the payment kiosk can be a walk-up system.

RFID technology is now integrated into car wash payment kiosks, also known as POS kiosks, in order to provide a simple and efficient way for car wash members to avoid single-use payments and excess time spent at kiosks. Instead of an all-in-one system, some companies provide an add-on external feature that can be purchased separately from the payment kiosk and added to the existing infrastructure. Membership plans and loyalty programs can be set up by providing  UHF RFID windshield tags to members for their vehicles that can be read when the vehicle pulls up to the automated kiosk. Once the vehicle’s RFID tag is read, the kiosk can display the vehicle’s information along with car wash preferences and/or new promotions.

An RFID-enabled payment kiosk system for loyalty programs and memberships benefits car wash users and owners alike. Car wash users like the ability to drive up to the kiosk and have their account identified quickly. This quick identification saves time and hassle of trying to type in manual data. Car wash owners benefit from RFID tags for identification because they provide a hassle-free customer experience, and the quick exchange keeps the line moving, which means more customers in less time.

What are the Alternatives to RFID Technology?

There are a few alternatives to creating a membership program at a car wash without using RFID technology, below are the other options:

  • Membership cards – While membership cards are small and compact, they are also easily lost and can be difficult to scan depending on the construction and printing of the card. If a self-service kiosk has a walk-up payment kiosk, membership cards, also called RFID loyalty cards, are typically preferred.
  • Manual account lookup – Manually entering in emails or phone numbers places the entire burden on the customer, and the time involved might not be worth it. In addition, it stops the line completely for several minutes or more, depending on accurate entry.
  • Barcode vehicle tags – Peel and stick barcode tags are better than a manual entry method, but because barcode readers have to line up almost exactly with the barcode tags, missed tag reads can occur often. This is especially prevalent when users apply the barcode at the wrong place on their vehicle, or when there are creases in the tag making it unreadable.

What are Some Examples of RFID-enabled Car Wash Kiosks Available for Purchase?

Click on the images for more information.

The WashCard WashPass Reader for CarWashes

FastPass RFID Solution (Xpress Pay Terminal Kiosk Premium Add-On)

eGenuity J-Series Pay Station

What are Some Real Life Examples of Car Wash RFID Tags?

Click on the images for more information.

3 Minute Express Car Wash – Arizona

Glow Express Car Wash – Edison, New Jersey

Silver Star Car Wash – Sioux City, Iowa


For more information on RFID-enabled kiosks for Car Wash Systems and what they provide, comment below or contact us!

To learn more about RFID-enabled kiosks, checkout these articles:

Do you own a Car Wash with an RFID loyalty program or are you part of any loyalty program or membership that uses RFID technology? How do you like the convenience of using RFID? Tell us about your experience with these types of applications in the comments below.