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ALPR for Car Wash

Car wash owners often operate on a subscription basis that can deliver consistent profits, but only if they can prevent misuse and provide excellent service.  Car wash ALPR makes it easy to do both.

For car washes, demand stays consistent year-round because drivers who like clean vehicles have to work constantly to keep them that way.  In winter, ice, snow and rain make mud and road debris cling to surfaces.  During summertime, family road trips and seaside vacations lead to dirty vehicles.  

Toward the end of 2019, Car Wash Magazine found 83% of American vehicle owners used a car wash at least once that year, the highest percentage it’s ever been.  This past year fewer drivers have been on the road, but demand is projected to skyrocket as people return to traveling and incomes increase. 

Car Wash Software ANPR

Summer or winter, cars need a good wash. Source: Unsplash.

People are busy, and they rarely have time to drag out the water hose, bucket, sponge, vacuum and other paraphernalia required to restore their car’s shine.  It’s much easier to stop by the car wash, and many will happily pay for the convenience.  

Subscription or membership models provide recurring revenue for car washes and make managing expenses easy for subscribers.  They also improve customer loyalty because people who might otherwise bounce around between competing locations or only wash their car infrequently instead become repeat visitors.  Unfortunately, though, they can also lead to customer misuse and lost revenue.

The same customers that don’t think anything of sharing their Netflix password with everyone they know don’t consider it theft to let other people use their car wash subscription.  Car wash Automatic License Plate Recognition, or ALPR keeps this from happening, plus allows you to offer stellar customer service at each car wash location.

Car Wash detailing anpr

Recurring revenue yields a profitable, happy Car Wash operator. Source: Pexels.

How Car Wash Memberships Work

Consumers prefer visiting a car wash over washing their vehicles at home.  Car wash firms are increasingly offering subscription or membership-based services for clients.  The customer pays a monthly fee for the ability to use the car wash a set number of times each month.  Often, there are pricing and service tiers with different add-ons available.  Some providers even allow unlimited car washes.

When people are honest, that model generates revenue for owners.  Most of the time, people use fewer than the maximum washes allowed.  

It sounds great to be able to wash your car every other day, but in reality, no one has that kind of time.  When people only use half the washes they’re paying for, car wash firms make money.  Plus, just having a successful membership program can make your car wash worth more if at some point you decide to sell. 

Sometimes when customers sign up, they receive a radio frequency identification or RFID tag to identify them as members and authorize their car wash use.  The tag might be on a sticker, card or hanger they can place on their rearview mirror.  When the customer is ready for a wash, they use their membership tag to activate the service.

Car wash owners can then market their location as being convenient and contact-free.  Drivers don’t need to carry cash since subscription models can be set up to deduct automatically from their accounts.  No person-to-person contact needs to take place. As industry leader Sonny’s Car Wash Factory points out, one of the best ways to make your car wash stand out from the competition is to make it easy to buy from you (and serve them.)

However, RFID tags cause a variety of problems, aren’t as easy to use as advertised and cost location owners money.  We’ll look at those problems in a minute and explain how car wash ALPR prevents them, but first, let’s talk about the different types of car washes that exist and how each creates challenges for owners.

Consumers can easily abuse car wash sites using RFID tags. Source: Pixabay.

Car Wash Types

There are a lot of different car wash designs, but basically, all of them fall into one of three categories.  Either you wash your car using their equipment, there’s an automated system that does the washing for you, or human attendants do the washing while you wait.  All of them can be offered on a car wash membership or car wash subscription basis. 

Self Wash

With this type of car wash, typically drivers pull into a bay and use pressurized water, soaps and an attached brush to clean their vehicle.  It’s usually the least expensive option for vehicle owners, but it requires their time and elbow grease.  Also, because most people aren’t car detailing pros, sometimes results are mixed. 

Car wash owners benefit from owning this type of facility because it doesn’t require an attendant and it can be open around the clock.  From the consumer’s point of view, this works great for people living in townhomes, apartments and condos where there’s no designated parking or dedicated driveway. And now even paying for car washes is more convenient.  Once upon a time users had to put coins in a slot to activate equipment, but now facilities can be set up to accept digital currency. 

If you own this type of car wash and sell washes on a subscription basis, there’s very little day-to-day interaction needed from you.  However, if you hand subscribers an RFID tag that activates their membership they might pass it around to friends and family members.  Because there’s no on-site presence, there’s an increased possibility of misuse and revenue loss

Hand car wash license plate

Self-wash sites give you the tools to do a good wash. Source: Unsplash.

Automated Car Wash

With automated car washes, vehicle owners typically stop at a kiosk and choose from a variety of wash-level options.  Then they drive onto a conveyer belt or into a tunnel. Some models use soft brushes to remove debris, others use high-pressure water and soap. 

Often, facility owners employ attendants to greet customers and hand wash hard-to-reach or heavily soiled areas.  Drivers get a thorough cleaning. 

With a membership or kiosk payment, the whole experience can be contact-free.  But again, there’s not much to keep subscribers from sharing their RFID tag, membership number or code with others, wasting resources and reducing profits

Hand Wash Detail

This is the most thorough and possibly most expensive car wash type.  Professionals wash and wax by hand, and may also offer interior detailing.  This full-service option takes longer and often requires customers to exit their cars, but people who prefer this type of wash consider the additional attention to detail worth it. 

Memberships are a popular option for this type of car wash as well because a subscription helps drivers manage vehicle care costs.  They get guaranteed, regular access to top-notch service and professional application of premium car care products.

Because labor and materials costs for this type of car wash are so high, it’s especially important owners be able to make sure they’re not providing services to people who piggyback on someone else’s membership.  Vehicle owners who pay top dollar also expect a different level of customer service.  RFID tags and customer codes are easy to pass around, and they don’t do much to help you provide an enhanced experience

Car wash number plate recognition

Hand wash detailing often includes exterior and interior wash. Source: Pixabay.

What Makes Car Wash ALPR Superior to RFID

Car wash subscriptions are meant to be associated with one vehicle.  Like we’ve mentioned, an RFID tag or sticker is easy to share with people who aren’t paying for that membership.  A husband might give it to his wife, and suddenly your location is providing services for two vehicles instead of one.  Friends share their membership with neighbors.  Unscrupulous employers can use one account for the entire fleet.

Plate Recognizer’s ALPR doesn’t operate through RFID tags, it uses IP cameras and computer software to read license plates.  When you set up a membership, simply add the new member’s plate to your system.  Because that specific vehicle is what authorizes the wash, there’s no way to cheat the system.

Some car wash businesses that use RFID tags place them on a sticker they instruct customers to place on a windshield.  Customers sometimes struggle to get tags placed correctly, so they don’t get picked up by the RFID reader.  Our ALPR doesn’t require the consumer to do anything beyond providing their license plate number

Car wash anpr

Smooth sailing for customers with ALPR for car wash. Source: Pixabay.

Why Plate Recognizer ALPR for Car Wash

Why choose Plate Recognizer’s software over LPR cameras or other related solutions? Our ALPR ensures your customers always have a positive experience.  While some ALPR solutions and LPR cameras can have a high number of misreads and errors, ours works even on dirty plates, in low light situations, at an angle and in other challenging situations. 

Misreads irritate customers and cost man-hours. Imagine the consequences if you regularly had a reader fail to process your paying customer’s plate.  Think of the cost of paying an employee to pull up that person’s account, confirm the plate does in fact belong to a member and activate their wash.  Dissatisfied members might use that time to leave negative reviews, complain to friends and family members, or call to cancel their subscriptions. 

Instead, Plate Recognizer gives you accurate reads and satisfied members day after day, year after year.  Here’s why our solution is an unbeatable value:

  • Our ALPR automates everything. There’s no need for customers to keep up with their RFID or remember a code. 
  • There’s no cheating. Customers cannot share their membership with a wife, neighbor, friend or anyone else.
  • ALPR increases efficiency. Customers don’t have to punch in payment information or swipe a tag. Lines move faster, wait times decrease, customer satisfaction goes up.
  • Use data to provide better experiences and increase revenue. Track loyal customers to offer them coupons, incentives and rewards. Prompt employees to use license plate data to greet subscribers by name.  Receive alerts when your most loyal customers arrive so you can go out and personally greet them.
  • See car make and model to learn more about the people who use your car wash and tailor what you offer to those groups.  Integrate vehicle make and model to calibrate your car wash in situations where sensors in your automated system might otherwise have misreads.

Clean as a whistle for car wash operators using ALPR. Source: Unsplash.

Simple, Accurate, Cost-Effective

Plate Recognizer is incredibly easy to deploy.  Integrate it with existing IP cameras on-site and be up and running within an hour. 

Our product Stream can run on the Jetson Nano or Windows/Linux machines already on site.  Send ALPR results from Stream to ParkPow and import your customer lists with ease.  Use your vehicle CRM to store and use customer information to build relationships.  Create brand advocates when you ask about their family members by name and remember their birthday. 

Use our clean, user-friendly ALPR Dashboard to see how many washes took place today, this week or this month.  Set up notifications to alert attendants when VIP customers arrive so they can offer a warm, personal greeting. Then watch your subscriber list and your income grow.

Try for Yourself

Test drive car wash ALPR software that works in all environments, optimized for your location. Click here to get started.

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About Plate Recognizer

Plate Recognizer provides accurate, fast, developer-friendly Automatic License Plate Recognition (ALPR) software that works in all environments, optimized for your location. Sign up for a Free Trial!

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