Close this search box.

Log in

Top Stories

If the private-equity companies and investors played their cards right, there should be cleaner cars driving around Lee County soon. New car washes are under construction in just about every corridor of the county.  

A ModWash Express Car Wash is in the works for State Road 82 and Forum Boulevard. Meanwhile, Colonial Express Car Wash broke ground near where Colonial and Lee boulevards intersect. And Luv-A-Wash is taking shape off Daniels Parkway near Six Mile Cypress Parkway on what used to be a gas station.  

That’s just a sampling of at least a dozen car washes currently under construction.  

“It’s nuts, to tell you the truth,” said Jay Montpetit, who in mid-December sold his five Downtowner Car Wash locations in Cape Coral to Mister Car Wash for $23.5 million. “There will be some fallout. But it’s also like a gold rush. It’s just the craziest thing I’ve ever seen. There’s only so many people washing their car. Something’s got to give.”  

Cape Coral has a little more than 200,000 residents, and pretty soon, it could have 13 car washes.   

“Besides the five I sold, there’s at least six more coming to Cape Coral,” Montpetit said. “Maybe more. That’s maybe 16,000 in population for every car wash that’s there. You tally it all up.”  

Will so many car washes in one area work?  

“It’s an impossible question to answer,” Montpetit said. “It depends on how you run your operation—courtesy-wise, cost, expense and control-wise. And are there competitors down the street?”  

The car wash craze might be slowing down soon, perhaps as soon as this next wave of them get completed, said Gary Tasman, CEO of Cushman & Wakefield of Southwest Florida.  

“I think what’s going to happen is, in the car wash industry, the technology has allowed for a new level of efficiency and market adaptation,” Tasman said. “You can run a car wash with fewer employees. At almost all of these new car washes, the customer is vacuuming themselves instead of having someone else doing it. This has created a margin where there’s more money to be made.  

“You’re seeing them pop up. Prices will go up and then go down. They’re introducing the car wash club concept. It’s all-you-can-eat car washes. You can use that thing every day.  

“I think we’re probably getting close [to a slowdown on new car washes], because you’re seeing the saturation happen between what’s under contract and what’s been built.”  

A new car wash is usually about 5,000 square feet and costs between $5 million and $6 million to build, Montpetit said. He sold his because at age 62, he wanted to slow down his work life.  

Many of the newer car wash companies are owned by private equity companies. That means customer service could possibly decline, Montpetit said. But the quality of the machinery and the technology keeps improving, he said.  

“The one that exists is going to lose some of his customers,” Montpetit said, because of the new ones. “They just are. The sad part of it, is you lose some of the personal touch. When you had a problem with our car wash, you’d get ahold of me. Or you’d get ahold of my son. Now, you have to get ahold of someone in Alabama or somewhere else.  

Now they’re not all private equity, but a lot of them are.”  

The mom-and-pop car washes keep disappearing, Montpetit said.  

“Another thing that’s important is if I’m going to spend $5 [million] or $6 million of my own money, it’s a personal stake for me,” he said. “The technology? It’s night and day from when I started. It’s come a long, long ways. Which is another reason why it’s flourishing.  

“It will get to the tipping point where there are too many built. When is that? I don’t know. It could be next week. It could be next year. Here’s what I would tell you: There’s a lot of car washes being built and dollar stores and self-storage. Why are there so many? Because they are so successful. But there’s a saturation point, right?” 

Copyright 2024 Gulfshore Life Media, LLC All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without prior written consent.

Don't Miss

Please enable JavaScript in your browser to complete this form.

Please note that article corrections should be submitted for grammar or syntax issues.

If you have other concerns about the content of this article, please submit a news tip.