Joseph Inokotong, Abuja
Car wash business in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, has assumed a new dimension. It has shifted from an elite business to an all comers’ affairs with the attendant price war.
However, Daily Sun’s investigations revealed that many who ventured into the business, did so as a last resort, having failed to secure jobs elsewhere. But once in the business, they do not look back because of its lucrative nature.
As a pointer to being a money-spinning business, car wash outlets are scattered along major roads in the city centre, spreading to the satellite towns. The downturn in the economy had driven some of the young men who hitherto would not have touched it with a long pole into the business of washing cars, and they seem to be making good money daily to survive.
Others are in the flourishing business because of its low start-off capital, as the operational equipment are affordable.
Often, those who charge the least and most common outlets are located along the roadside in the FCT and the owners are usually unemployed youths. Their major requirement for picking a location is availability of regular source of water. Due to lack of access to water from the government or boreholes, most of the operators have to rely solely on commercial water sellers, popularly called Mai Ruwa, for regular water supplies.
This category of operator charges as low as N200 to wash a car. However, the prices charged differ from one car wash centre to another, it also depends on the car owner’s bargaining power.
More so, the locations of the centres play an important role in determining the amounts that they charge. For example, the washing of a car’s exterior, goes for between N200 and N300 in centres like Wuse Zone 3, near the neighbourhood shopping centre. For this group, the number of cars washed in a day is of essence because it decides the take home pay for a particular day.
They are really “spoiling” business for the elite car wash entrepreneurs, who rent space in choice areas to run their enterprises. Many car owners who patronise the make-shift car washers do so under the guise of going out for lunch, as they park their cars for the boys to clean, while they rush out for a quick bite.
Some located inside gardens allow the car owners get busy gulping cold drinks and eating either pepper soup, Isi-ewu, nkwobi, peppered snail or peppered chicken, among other delicacies, while they are busy working on their cars.
At the conventional car wash centres, their services range from cleaning of the car’s interior and exterior to washing of their engines, depending on what the car owner wants. In most cases, some cleaners do remove car seats to enable them have enough space to clean the car floor thoroughly; all these, for a fee.
The prices charged differ from the makeshift car washers. It also varies from one car wash centre to another as the locations of the centres determine the amount car owners cough out. For instance, the washing of a car’s exterior here, goes for a minimum of N500 in any of the centres; while in some places a minimum N1,500 is paid for the washing of the exterior, interior and engine.
The bargaining power of the car owner does not come to play here since the prices are fixed.
An emerging trend that is fast catching up with the makeshift car washers and the conventional car wash centres is the “improvised cash wash service”, often rendered by gatemen and cleaners in public places, such as hotels, offices and hospitals.
There are risks associated with businesses, and in this case. Most of those who run the unconventional centres’ car wash business are at the mercy of the Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA). Its officials often raid and extort money from them.
An official of the FCDA, who spoke on condition of anonymity said the law stipulates that car wash business should be conducted within precincts of the petrol station or any space allocated for that purpose by the authority
Meanwhile, as the car wash price war rages, the business of washing cars for a living is flourishing in the FCT despite the associated risks, as many youths are taking to the business to eke out a living.