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Car Wash Craze sweeps the Borderland and helps boost El Paso economy, experts say

EL PASO, Texas (KVIA) -- A car wash boom is sweeping the country, and there is no exception in El Paso. In recent years, dozens of car washes have been popping up across the region. You'll find one on nearly every street, corner and part of town. These businesses offer drivers a quick, easy and high-tech way to get their vehicles clean.

Taylor Bencomo is the site leader at Tommy's Express Car Wash. She said the first Tommy's Express Car Wash opened in El Paso in June of 2021. Now they are preparing to open their fourth location.

Bencomo told ABC-7 that this recent rise in car washes is happening all over the United States. She explained El Paso was largely underserved in this area for many years, leading to this sudden boom.

"I think it's just because there was very few car washes a few years ago. So a lot of people saw the opportunity for that and that's why a lot of them started popping up."

Bencomo said El Paso is currently in the shake-out phase of the business cycle, which means revenues are soaring and may soon begin to slow down as more competitors enter the market. Despite this, she doesn't expect this trend to die anytime soon.

According to Bloomberg, there are currently over 60,000 car wash locations across the county, and that number could double by 2030.

Tom Fullerton, professor of economics at UTEP, explained the various reasons for this recent rise. He said our everyday habits have drastically changed, directly impacting how we complete small tasks like cleaning our vehicles.

"The way that people are making all that money is that they are working a lot of hours and they just don't have time to um, let’s see, to wash their cars by hand. And so the demand for car wash services keeps increasing," Fullerton said.

The UTEP professor also said there are more cars on the roadways.

"You've got a combination of more cars, people with more money, and less time. And so a portion of that money is going towards the convenience of saving time by going through an automated car wash."

Bencomo said another factor that has contributed to this success is the weather.

El Paso is known for its notorious springtime weather that brings blowing dust and sand, blanketing every inch of town. On most days in March, car washes across El Paso are booming with business as drivers are on the hunt to get their vehicles looking spotless.

"So a few weeks ago, we had that huge windstorm that had like just a little bit of rain, and everyone's cars got filthy. We were lined up to the streets, just driving by. It was, you know, it was hard—probably a little hard to get in, but we try to keep things moving as quickly as possible. We are designed for efficiency. We're designed for high volume, so we can quickly and smoothly process vehicles," she said.

Bencomo said many customers invest in a monthly membership to be able to wash their cars consistently.

Jeneka Gimenez, the assistant manager at Mister Car Wash on Mesa, told ABC-7 they also typically see a large increase in customers on days after a big dust storm.

"More than a 1,000, probably 1,200. It's been down Mesa St. for about three hours now." She explained they see three to four times more customers these days than their daily average.

The manager at the Fast Trak Express Car Wash on Zaragoza, Javier Navarro, provided similar insight. He said they serve anywhere between 300 to 400 people on a normal day at just one location. He has personally seen significant growth.

"We've gotten a lot of customers now that the weather is crazier," Navarro said.

Bencomo and Fullerton both explained this recent boom is leading to the creation of jobs and investment opportunities.

"It's been an interesting thing, phenomenon to watch here in this region because it's had some unexpected offshoots and unexpected benefits," Fullerton said.

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Rosemary Montañez

ABC-7 reporter and weekend anchor


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