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Need a car wash? There's an app for that




Caesar Garcia, of Mobile Wash, foam sprays KPCC reporter Sue Carpenter's car as part of its on-demand car wash service.
Caesar Garcia, of Mobile Wash, foam sprays KPCC reporter Sue Carpenter's car as part of its on-demand car wash service.
Sue Carpenter/ KPCC

It's difficult to drive even a few blocks without seeing a car wash here in Los Angeles. But a couple new apps are flipping the business model, bringing the service to you instead.

Think of it like Uber ... for washing your car.

It's only natural that in Los Angeles -- land of sun, surf and 6.5 million vehicles -- that such services would exist. 

Mobile Wash is one of them. Using an app, car owners can get a wash delivered to their doorstep in minutes or schedule one up to 48 hours in advance. The detailer brings all of the tricks of the trade along -- a high-powered vacuum, a huge tank of water and, of course, cleaning supplies.

"There was such a big need for people having a car wash at their convenience, I just felt like there was nothing that can guarantee you a good guy coming to your door," said Alfred Davtyan.

Mobile car wash services bring the water and cleaning supplies with them.
Mobile car wash services bring the water and cleaning supplies with them.
Sue Carpenter

He's CEO of Mobile Wash, which has been serving LA, OC, Riverside and Ventura Counties for two and a half years. It does about 250 car washes each day and has about 50,000 customers, paying anywhere from $20 to $80 per wash, depending on the vehicle's make, model and location.

"You don't want to give your car to your neighbor's kid," Davtyan said. "You want to make sure it's a professional washing it, because cars are like people's babies."
 
The car wash and detailing industry is an $11 billion business, according to the research firm IBIS World. And nowhere is that business more visible than here in California, which has about 4,500 stationary car washes statewide, not including on-demand washes.That's about a third of all retail car washes in the country.

KPCC reporter Sue Carpenter's filthy car parked next to the Mobile Wash van that will clean it.
KPCC reporter Sue Carpenter's filthy car parked next to the Mobile Wash van that will clean it.
Sue Carpenter

"At the end of the day whether you visit a car wash retail facility off the street or have a mobile car wash, the basic proposition is the same: providing a clean car in a way that's convenient," said Eric Wulf, a spokesman for the International Car Wash Assn. in Chicago.

"The mobile model -- the use of online ordering and reservation making, etc. -- will be a model adopted by both sides whether traditional retail or mobile."

Jeremy Collins is general manager for another on-demand mobile car washing company -- Washos -- which has done more than 52,000 mobile car washes in LA and Orange Counties since opening three years ago.

"I know it's easy to go down to your local car wash, but the benefit of Washos is we know people are busy every day," Collins said. "So you could be at your office, you could be working from home, you get caught up in your everyday life, so why not have a service where you can just click a button and have somebody to your location in 90 minutes?"

Based in L.A., Washos charges $33 for a regular wash and up to $159 for an ultimate detail job. Washos will soon expand its operation to San Diego and Las Vegas.

Mobile Wash and Washos are two L.A. companies that offer on-demand car wash services available through an app.
Mobile Wash and Washos are two L.A. companies that offer on-demand car wash services available through an app.
Sue Carpenter

And it will also be part of a pilot program with Hyundai Motor Company. 

Much like the partnership Amazon announced last week with General Motors to deliver packages directly to people's cars, Under the Hyundai program, Washos can access the drivers' vehicles so they can be cleaned without the car washer ever needing to meet the car owner.

It's all arranged through the vehicle itself.

"On-demand car washing is one of many types of services that are possible with a connected car," said Cason Grover, a vehicle technology planning manager at Hyundai Motor America in the Fountain Valley.

The Korean auto maker will operate its first remote-access, on-demand car-washing pilot in Los Angeles later this year.

"Everybody needs a car wash basically and this takes a trip out of it, so car washing comes to you instead of you going there."