I started working at a real estate office at 17 years old. After a short stint in college, I dropped out and got my real estate license at 18.

While struggling to make ends meet, I read about the power of passive income. I wanted to invest in a business that basically runs itself. Then, like fate, an operational self-service car wash went up for sale in my Tennessee hometown.

Now, at 24, I earn an average of $5,450 a month in passive income off my car wash business, after $1,500 to $2,000 of monthly expenses. The best part is that I only work on it for 20 minutes a day.

Buying a car wash business with just $2,000 in the bank

When I purchased my business, I hardly had any credit history and only $2,000 in savings. But thanks to my real estate background, I knew I had a number of financing options at my disposal.

I decided to use the seller financing method. This is when, as part of the sale, the buyer agrees to pay the seller's monthly loan installments, rather than taking out their own loan from a bank.

I paid an attorney $400 to draw up a contract that said I would cover the monthly mortgage payments on the existing car wash loan, as well as the income taxes, property taxes and utility bills.

After making these monthly payments, I would keep all of the profits. If I failed to pay, the sellers would take the property back.

In May 2021, I closed on the car wash, but I didn't have to start paying bills until June. I acted as the real estate agent on the sale, so the sellers covered the sale costs (about $4,000) instead of paying me a commission. I started making money immediately with $0 down.

Earning passive income from a self-service car wash

I go before, after or during work to take the wash's trash out, fill the coin machines, and wash dirty car wash bays (the stalls where people wash their cars). I also do preventative maintenance, like oiling the machinery, once a month.

Owning my car wash has allowed me to build a stream of income on top of my 9-to-5 as a real estate agent. Last fall, I had enough money and credit to get a traditional bank loan and buy the wash from the sellers.

Thousands of people have used my free trainings to learn more about investing in a car wash. Here's my best advice:

1. Find your location.

Search engines like LoopNet or Crexi allow you to search for commercial real estate for sale. This is how I found my location.

If you're driving around an area you would be willing to commute to and see any run down or even abandoned car washes, you can use a search engine like BatchLeads to find the phone number associated with the car wash, call up the owner, and see if they're interested in discussing a sale.

No matter what method you use to find an interested seller, only gauge their interest on the phone. Save all other questions for an in-person tour.

2. Tour of the property.

During the process, keep these questions in mind:

  • Is it a good location? Is it near heavily trafficked roads? Is it convenient for customers to get in and out?
  • How does the equipment look? Ask the owner how old the equipment is, and how often they service it. If the water pumps are over 10 years old and aren't oiled at least monthly, for example, it may be a bad investment.
  • Are there easy improvements that could earn you more money? Don't be afraid of buying a run-down carwash if it has good bones. I was able to double what my car wash was making when I first bought it by buying all new hoses, brush heads, vacuum hoses and attachments, as well as all new logos and signage. I invested in this equipment slowly over my first year in business, and it only cost me a few thousand dollars.

3. Ask to review the finances.

When I bought my car wash, it was already profitable. I would personally never buy a car wash that is losing money.

Make sure the wash's revenue is covering all of its expenses, like water, electricity, property taxes and the mortgage.

4. Focus on keeping loyal customers.

If the business you buy is in the green, your top priority when you close should be retaining its loyal customers. I clean my car wash and make sure everything works well every day so customers keep coming back.

To grow my clientele, I also added my business to Google Maps and paid about $150 to place targeted ads on Facebook.

The downside to owning the car wash is the cleaning involved, but I don't mind getting my hands dirty in exchange a few thousands dollars a month.

Hannah Ingram is a real estate agent, investor and mentor who coaches people on how to buy car washes and laundromats. She bought her first car wash business at 22 years old. Follow her on TikTok, Instagram and YouTube.

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2023-05-01T14:32:40Z dg43tfdfdgfd