GoWash preparing to clean up when lockdown ends

GoWash payment app

The GoWash app allows drivers to book and pay for car washing through their phones - Credit: GoWash

The hand car-wash industry has been closed through all the national lockdowns, but it’s set to reopen on April 12, so Future 50 member GoWash is getting ready for action – with a major expansion of its offering set for May 1. 

GoWash is an innovative phone app that allows drivers to make contactless payments at any of the network of participating hand car-wash sites. “It’s an industry where cash is king and that is a difficult mindset to break down,” says founder Jonny Billing.  


The Future 50 programme is powered by the partner businesses - Credit: Archant

This is something he’s already overcome, working for SNAP – a company that successfully introduced cashless payments to the haulage industry, allowing lorry drivers to pay for parking and other services that had traditionally relied on well-thumbed tenners.  

With GoWash, he’s extending the same thinking to hand car washes. “It’s been easy to go round sites and say, ‘see these customers? Let me bring you more of those’. It’s completely free for them to join and we take just 5pc of any transaction paid for with the app,” Mr Billing explains.  

GoWash cashless payment app founder Jonny Billings

GoWash founder Jonny Billings aims to bring cashless payments to the hand car-wash market - Credit: GoWash

From starting the business in October 2019 to the go-live point in March 2020, he had 400-500 sites expressing an interest in joining the GoWash network... and then Covid struck, closing the industry overnight. “They couldn't see why they should join up when they were shut,” Mr Billing says.  

The network was still 150-strong when coronavirus restrictions eased in the summer... but then the lockdowns returned and car washes were forced to close again. “Without Covid, we would be in a very different position right now,” Mr Billing admits.  

In a strange way, though, Covid strengthens the case for the app. “At the moment, people don’t want to handle cash,” Mr Billing explains. “Plus the app gives customers confidence. They can find their local site, connect with its Facebook page, check the price, pay for their wash and know the price won’t change. If a car wash has some sort of profile, it makes it seem that much more legitimate.” 

As the government’s road map allows hand car-wash sites to reopen from April 12, the race is on to expand the network. “We think there are 10-20,000 hand car-washes in the UK, but nobody knows because they’re not regulated,” Mr Billing says. Most are reliable small businesses, he says, but there are others that can pop up one day and be gone the next day.  

GoWash app screen grab

The iPhone and Android app promises easy cashless payments at a network of hand car wash and valeting sites - Credit: GoWash

“We ask sites six compliance questions before we work with them... We’ve turned a few down that managed not to tick any of the boxes,” Mr Billing says. “We’re trying to help, to educate the operators and make customers feel safe. We want to become a body that stands for these hand car washes and lobbies the government for them, but also one that brings some order to the industry.” 

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The next stage of the GoWash evolution is the launch of a fleet service, planned to go live on May 1, once car washes are open again. “We’ve been approached by a national company that has 10,000 vehicles on its fleet and wants a way to control how they're washed,” Mr Billing reveals. “At the moment it doesn’t know when the vehicles are going to be washed or how frequently. It has no idea what the cost is – or if the person who’s supposed to be washing a vehicle actually goes and washes their wife’s car and claims for that instead.” 

The GoWash fleet solution will allow fleet managers to specify how often vehicles can be washed, where they’re washed, control the cost and even generates reports flagging up if certain cars or vans aren’t being cleaned when they should be... “If these are issues for a big fleet, that tells me they’re issues for every fleet,” Mr Billing says.  

The big difference for the car washes is that fleet customers will pay the same rates as private customers, not get a bulk discount. “They’re coming to us because it’s the system they need. It’s not about cost,” Mr Billing concludes.  

For more information, see www.gowash.co.uk or download the app from the App Store or Google Play.