Research by Jannah Nager

 Wesley Chapel, New Tampa and the surrounding areas are — fortunately or unfortunately — known for being overrun by regional and national chain restaurants, nail salons, multi-story self-storage facilities and, of course, huge car wash buildings. 

And, while some of these car wash facilities are locally owned and/or regional chains. the trend in this industry is in the growth of large conglomerates offering you the opportunity to have your car washed by giant machines in just a few minutes while you stay seated in your vehicle with the gear shift in “Neutral” and the windows closed. Most of these car wash facilities offer recurring monthly memberships that the companies are hoping you’ll use like many people do gym memberships — meaning they hope you use them as little as possible or not at all as you continue to pay each month for the equivalent price of two or three jacked-up individual washes. 

While they are obviously profitable, why do we already have — and seem to need — so many of them? 

Pretty much anytime I’m on Facebook, I see someone in one of the many Wesley Chapel Facebook groups making a snide comment about how many car washes we have in and around our area. 

Woodie’s Wash Shack, which opened on S.R. 54 in Feb. 2022, west of the Tampa Premium Outlets, plans to open a Wesley Chapel location on Oakley Blvd. near The Grove. (

So, why are there so many dang car washes? While some online critics believe they’re all money laundering (no pun intended) fronts, the fact is that they are hugely profitable, especially when they’re owned by a large national or regional company. 

One industry official, who asked to not be identified for this story, says it’s because, “just as McDonald’s isn’t really in the hamburger business, but in the real estate business (at least according to the 2016 movie “The Founder,” starring Michael Keaton as McDonald’s founder Ray Kroc), these big car wash conglomerates are buying up valuable land, putting a car wash on them and, many times, selling the land at a huge profit a few years later.” 

However, Glen Stygar, a partner in Woodie’s Wash Shack, which has 16 Florida locations, including one that opened in Feb. 2022 on S.R. 54 in Lutz (less than a mile west of the Tampa Premium Outlets), says there are more reasons why car washes keep popping up in affluent areas across the country. 

“For one thing,” Stygar says, “people in today’s fast-paced world no longer want to have to wash their cars themselves or pay someone a lot of money and spend many hours detailing their vehicles, and they don’t have to as much anymore because they can get a membership at a local car wash and have their car washed as many times a month or a week as they want, for one low price.” 

He adds that memberships are the biggest reason places like Woodie’s and big chains like Mister Car Wash (with more than 400 locations nationwide, including several in our area) and Tidal Wave Auto Spa (with nearly 200, including one between Zaxby’s and Aldi near Costco) continue to proliferate everywhere. 

In fact, Woodie’s has another location planned (but not yet under construction) on Oakley Blvd. in Wesley Chapel, which will one day be a neighbor to the new Super Target store in The Grove. 

Mister Car Wash has 400+ U.S locations, including this one in New Tampa and three more in & near Wesley Chapel. 

As I mentioned on page 1 of this issue, it is very much like the fitness facility model that has worked for decades. Many people who buy a membership at an initially very low price (that goes up after a 1-3-month trial period) rarely or even never use that membership, but continue to pay month after month until they finally either cancel or begin using it enough to get their money’s worth. Stygar wouldn’t say that Woodie’s hopes you’ll never use your membership — and he did say that the company’s policy is to never give you a hard time to cancel — but as someone who paid for a membership for three months and only used it twice in that time, I certainly can understand how this can be a profitable business model. 

Car washes also aren’t as labor-intensive as they once were — fewer people insist that someone dry their cars after they come out of the machine (and most offer you free cloths to dry your car yourself) — and while the vacuums also are free when you get your car washed, they no longer have people vacuuming your vehicle for you. 

Mister Car Wash is the current local market leader, having taken over two local Clean Machine locations on BBD in New Tampa, and with two local locations on S.R. 54 (one in Wesley Chapel and one in Lutz), but there are currently ten drive-through membership-based car wash places in and around Wesley Chapel — and more are on the way. 

Tidal Wave Auto Spa has 194 U.S. locations, including this one next to Costco and 12 total in Florida, with five more coming soon. 

And of course, the list in the next column doesn’t include the wash-it-yourself car washes, hand auto detailing places or drive-through car washes at local gas stations. 

As for pricing, the cheapest prices we found among the membership car washes were at The Palms Car Wash on Post Oak Blvd., where a single “Express” wash costs just $5 and an Express membership is just $14.95 a month. The most expensive prices we found were at Tidal Wave, with the cheapest single wash being $12 and the most expensive being the Graph-X4 wash for $30. Monthly memberships at Tidal Wave range from $23.97 to $49.97 per month. 

We’ll look into another local favorite — self-storage places — in a future issue. 

Local Drive-Through Car Washes 
Mister 29891 SR 54, WC 
Mister 24124 SR 54, Lutz 
Mister(Clean Machine) 20306 Trout Creek Dr, NT 
Mister(Clean Machine) 17501 N Palms Village Dr, NT 
Top Edge 28221 SR 54, WC 
Top Edge (coming) 27186 SR 56, WC 
Woodie’s 24749 SR 54, Lutz 
Woodie’s (coming) Oakley Blvd, WC 
Tidal Wave 2209 Sun Vista Dr, Lutz 
The Palms 5550 Post Oak Blvd, WC 
Jammin (coming) BBD Blvd., WC 

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