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Posted on: April 12th, 2013

We Are All Getting Older and Damage Comes Easier!

Time marches on…nothing could be truer.  Despite all the breakthroughs in medical technology and age defying creams, we all get older.  That goes for the cars we drive also.  Cars today look better, have more features, get better gas mileage and, overall, are built better. That means they are on the road longer and are subject to road conditions and more washes.

In 1995 the average age of a vehicle on the road was eight years; in 2012 the average age was eleven years.   What does this mean? The average age of the vehicle you are washing is older and, in turn, subject to more potential damage.  Recently, we did a high level view of reported damage claims at Kwik Car Wash.  This was not a scientific study, however, we did separate the claims by year of vehicle and who was responsible.  We had four categories for responsible party: Employee, Equipment, Unknown or Customer.

Under the Equipment category, we included items like mirrors, rear wipers, windshield wipers and antennas.  The Unknown category was mostly scratches or dents that were reported to have happened in the wash but the cause of damage was not determined.  The Customer category included leaving the car in drive or not following attendant directions.   Employee related damage would consist of misguiding cars onto the conveyor or, for this store, not retracting equipment on certain vehicles.

Some interesting information came from looking at these car wash reports.  First, car washes do not damage many newer vehicles.  In 2012, there were 80 reported damage claims with all the known information (year, vehicle make and damage). Of the Equipment related damages, only 9 percent occurred in vehicles five years or newer, while 33 percent occurred in vehicles six years or older.  When looking at the first quarter of 2013, 18 percent of equipment related damages occurred in newer vehicles, while 38 percent were in older vehicles.  When looking at a side mirror on a six-year-old vehicle, industry average would say that vehicle has been washed 72 other times, not to mention vibration and other weather related damages before it came to you.  There is no doubt that mirror was not as solid as it was the day it rolled off the assembly line.

What does this mean for you as an operator?  Some operators do have disclaimer signs for vehicles over a certain age or mileage.  Industry averages range from 0.5%-1% of revenue for damage claims. If you are below this, you may be denying more claims than you should and spreading bad word of mouth about your wash.  On the other hand, if you are above this percentage, you may be too liberal with your claims policy and need to take a look at how old the vehicles are and if you are really causing this damage.

Damage claims are hard; I believe most customers are sincere when they report possible damage.  They did not see the damage the last time they washed yet now it is there, so you had to do it.  How you approach such situations is very important but remember, we are not in the business to damage cars and, by and large, we do not.  This may be the one time the customer is not always right.