ICA Consumer Study 2022

international car wash association consumer study 2022

The results of the International Carwash Association (ICA) Consumer Study 2022 gives car wash operators an insight into consumer attitudes and trends likely to affect the Australian market in the future.

Every three years, the International Carwash Association (ICA) undertakes a national survey of U.S. car owners to gain an insight into their vehicle washing habits.  Since its inception in 1996, the ICA Consumer Study has given the industry an insight into consumer attitudes and behaviours.

Typically, the Australian car wash industry follows similar trends to those in the U.S. and European markets and the ICA Study provides us with valuable data that shouldn’t be ignored.

Broadly, the study is organised into four main areas.

  1. Incidence
    How has DIY car washing (wash at home) changed versus attending a professional wash facility?
  2. Value
    What do consumers most value in car wash services?
  3. Barriers
    What would make consumers attend a car wash facility more frequently?
  4. Differentiation
    What factors influence consumer preference from one wash facility over another?

ICA Research Director, Bob Klein, was interviewed on the Association’s podcast recently and unveiled the survey results.

The dramatic shift toward professional car wash facilities.

One of the most encouraging indicators over the past 25+ years is the shift in the number of people opting for professional car wash facilities versus washing their car at home.

In 1996, the study showed that the majority of car owners were washing their car at home (52%) versus using a professional facility (48%). Over the years this has shifted dramatically with the 2022 survey indicated that professional car washing is now at an all-time high with 78% of people using car wash facilities and only 22% washing their car at home.

The use of professional car wash facilities is predicted to continue rising as consumers opt for convenience in all aspects of their lives – including car washing.

In the interview, Mr Klein contributed this to older generations having “grown into a world of convenience” while young people have “grown up in a world of convenience”.  It’s predicted the shift toward convenience will only continue to rise. Why would it not?

In 2022, consumers not only expect convenience but the gratitude of quick results.

Car wash facilities deliver this in spades with easy payment options (Tap and Go) and, importantly, fast wash times that deliver spectacular results.

Taking advantage of a changing world.

In the podcast, Mr Klein continued to discuss how car wash operators should be taking advantage of this changing environment where convenience is a consumer expectation.

One recommendation was to offer membership and subscription programs.

While the study highlighted that customers were more satisfied with “the quality of wash” and, more generally, “the wash experience”, they were less satisfied with value for money.  This is where subscription and membership programs can help.

Memberships and subscription programs are a standard in our lives – think gym memberships, streaming service subscriptions, etc.  With respect to a car wash business, membership programs can be a one way of offering better value for money by rewarding their loyalty with discounts and special offers.

For car wash operators, membership programs bring cash flow advantages and upfront profitability.

It’s a win-win for everyone!

Encouraging customer loyalty.

The podcast also discussed the importance of customer loyalty and what car wash operators can do to ensure customers keep returning to their facility. These included:

  • Ensuring the facility is clean;
  • Upgrading old equipment;
  • Offering a range of equipment (touchless, automatic, self serve, etc);
  • Customer convenience – everything they need in one place (for example, vacuums, dog washes, etc);
  • Speed and convenience (easy payment options); and
  • Great customer service.

And finally, Mr Klein concluded the interview with a criticism of the industry stating that, in the U.S.,  car wash operators were not utilising the benefits of digital communication to interact with their customers.  The study showed that less than 20% of car wash customers remembered receiving communication from a car wash facility.

Mr Klein stated there was no reason why car wash operators were not taking advantage of digital communication such as SMS, email and social media to communicate with existing and potential customers. Here is the Australian car wash market, unfortunately, we tend to agree.

If you have any questions about the content of the ICA Consumer Study 2022 or would like to discuss the trends occurring here in the Australian market, don’t hesitate to contact our friendly team anytime. We’re here to help.

You can listen to the podcast here – https://www.carwash.org/car-wash-magazine/podcast/episode/episode-223-ica-consumer-study-insights

Get in Touch

Questions about the International Car Wash Association study? Contact our friendly team.