Anyone who would spend several hundreds of thousands of dollars on any investment, let alone a car wash business and not protect it with a very good quality car wash security system is asking for trouble. Why some car wash operators still do not have them is insane with how inexpensive systems are anymore. The reality is that you cannot afford to be without a security system looking over your investment 24/7. A system will typically pay for itself in less than a year from catching people damaging equipment, break-ins, fraud, etc. Stopping false damage claims is a huge benefit as many claims are quickly eliminated by using the video to show the customer screwed up. In fact one had the license plate number of the customer that drove into the wall. A quick call to a lawyer to pursue that customer with proof on a DVD showing a couple of camera angles will do the trick.
On a personal security note, cameras can be used to look around the lot before exiting with any cash.
It is even more beneficial when you have multiple locations as you can look in on what is happening any time of day. You can make better use of time with multiple locations by seeing which wash needs cleaning or maintenance without having to drive to each one. Over the years people have been caught stealing from soda machines change machines. The beauty of these systems is you can simply call the police department and catch the crooks in the act.
If cash is really that tight, black & white security cameras off ebay and a cheap DVR are a reasonable option which can be replaced later on. Then purchase housings and lenses which you could use when you upgrade to color.
You’ll find out eventually that such a cheap DVR can’t record the detail needed to recognize faces or read license plates.
Another affordable option (but one that takes a little computer aptitude) would be to build a PC-based DVR. You want to be able to monitor the system remotely and have it “alarm” if it detects motion in areas you determine. You can get capture cards for a PC pretty cheap, just make sure it can record at least 640 x 480. If you go this route spend a little more on a quality PC card and a great number plate camera. The rest can be cheap and easily replaced later. Its also a good idea to have a local company to buy install the number plate camera from and make them promise to get 98% of all number plates day and night before you pay them. Otherwise it could be a bit tricky and it could cost you more or you don’t get all number plates. In some areas, police response is slower than is acceptable but for $25 you get a year of look-ups (up to 250) from PublicData.com – they’ve had detailed listings of most numbers, but it’s limited to about a dozen states.