Best Car Wash Vacuums for Your Needs

Understand all of the options you have when you’re picking car wash vacuums for your business. The appropriate size, type, and power of your vacuums will depend on how many customers use your car wash and your business strategy. Also, consider the location, size, and layout of your property when buying vacuums. Read some of our tips below to make sure you end up with the perfect car wash vacuum system for your needs!

Car Wash Vacuums: Central Location System vs. Multiple Single Units

Single Unit Style

single ivs vacuum

Single unit vacuum sets employ an arrangement of autonomously running individual vacuums with each on their own island or pedestal post (sometimes pairs or small groups). These vacuums operate using one to four small motors (typically 1.6 horsepower per motor) to provide suction to one or two hoses.

Having a set of single vacuums is a more versatile choice, with various options to serve any level of car wash from low to high volume.


  • Even if a vacuum is down, there are still others that customers can use.
  • Lower energy consumption
  • Each vacuum can be strategically placed in a specific preferred spot on your property.


  • More units to clean, maintain, and service (more bags, filters, and spare parts needed)
  • Less visual appeal than a centralized vacuum system
  • Noisier than a central vacuum system

Central Vacuum Style

central vacuum station

Central vacuum systems stem multiple hoses from one large centralized producer and collector location. All user stations are located in the same general area (often with designated parking spots and under a roof or awning). These types of vacuums run on one powerful motor (typically 15 horsepower to 25 horsepower depending on how many user stations) that uses three-phase electrical power. Since central vacuum motors run constantly during operating hours, they use more electricity than a collection of single unit vacuums that run only when in use.


  • Only one area to clean, service, and maintain
  • Attractive, modern look
  • Speeds up usage at high volume car washes
  • Reduced noise


  • Higher energy consumption
  • If the motor is down, the entire system is inactive
  • More difficult to fit within the layout of your property
  • Usually more expensive than single units

These are best suited for larger properties that have high customer volume that justify keeping the central unit running continuously. While we’re on the topic of customer volume…

Don’t Underestimate Your Needs, Don’t Pay More for Unnecessarily Large, Powerful Vacuums

truck at at car wash vacuum island

It’s important to be realistic about your car wash volume and physical space. Every business is different and can have a successful vacuum arrangement if the right choices are made. As discussed, single unit vacuums generally come with 1,2,3, or 4 motors. As a basic rule, the more customer volume and space you have, the more power you’ll need in your vacuums. By the same token, the size of your central vacuum motor will also depend on those variables.

Survey Your Market

Among other details you may think of regarding customer volume, ask yourself these questions:

  • Is your car wash located near a highly populated large city, or is it in a low population small town?
  • Is your car wash in a business section or a residential area?
  • How much will you be able to afford when it comes to advertising your vacuums?
  • How many car dealerships, auto auctions, or garages are located near your car wash?

Plan Your Set-Up Before Buying Vacuums

Think about these points regarding property size and layout:

  • Can you accommodate larger sized units, or will your vacuum areas become too cramped for convenient use? If you do space them out, will it cause awkward traffic patterns in your lot?
  • Does it make sense to have a dual hose unit? Can multiple cars even fit in the vacuuming area at the same time?
  • You will also want to consider the climate of the area where your car wash is located. A dry region with mild temperatures might produce less mud and grime than a region with frequent inclement weather. More tough filth means more abuse to your vacuum motors and more power needed.

Vacuum Price and Marketing Strategy: Pay-For-Use or Complimentary Service?

red cartoon man with question mark on face

One of the earliest decisions to make before making a major vacuum purchase is: free or pay? Obviously, requiring customers to pay brings in immediate revenue tied directly to vacuum use. Your vacuums will never be using power or taking abuse without money being gathered. For many car wash owners, this is a more comfortable business model.

Offering free vacuuming can result in excellent indirect profits. Anything free attracts more people, and having a busy lot attracts attention and draws in more paying customers. Customers also perceive more value when they get a free service, so they are more likely to choose your car wash over a business with pay vacuums.

The Best Car Wash Vacuums are Waiting for You at Kleen-Rite!

Hopefully these tips leave you comfortable enough to select the best vacuums for your car wash. You can also consult Kleen-Rite experts at a trade show or call Kleen-Rite customer service (1-800-233-3873) if you still need some help. At the very least, this information should give you some basic car wash vacuum knowledge to get the buying process started. Before you know it, you’ll be admiring your vacuum setup and counting up the profits!

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