Car being cleaned at a licensed California car wash.

How to get a California Car Wash License

This California car wash license guide is for informational purposes only. does not regulate or manage licensing for car washes in California. Contact the California Department of Industrial Relations for the state's latest official car wash license requirements.

If you own or operate a car wash and polish business in California, you must register it with the Department of Industrial Relations Labor Commissioner's Office. California Law Labor Code defines car washing and polishing as "washing, cleaning, drying, polishing, detailing, servicing, or otherwise providing cosmetic care to vehicles. Car washing and polishing does not include motor vehicle repair, as defined in Section 9880.1 of the Business and Professions Code."

Charitable, youth, service, veteran, or sport groups, clubs, and associations that provide car wash or polish services intermittently for charitable, educational, or religious purposes are excluded from California car wash business licensing requirements.

Complete the following steps to apply for your California car wash license.

How to get a California Car Wash License

How do I get a car wash license in California?

Step 1: Gather all required California car wash license documents.

You must provide the following required car wash registration documents with your California car wash license application.

  • Fictitious business name statements
  • State Employer Identification Number (or application for it)
  • Federal Employer Identification Number (or application for it)
  • Endorsed Articles of Incorporation, if corporation
  • Endorsed Articles of Organization, if limited liability company
  • Certificate of limited partnership, if limited partnership
  • Secretary of State Statement of Information, if corporation or limited liability company
  • Sample contract form and 24-hour cancellation notice, if employee-leasing company
  • Proof of workers' compensation coverage
  • Tax Information Authorization (Form 8821)

Step 2: Purchase your California car wash surety bond.

California Law Labor Code Section 2055(b) requires you to file a $150,000 California car wash bond with your state license application. By filing this bond you agree to pay your employees their earned wages, interest on wages, and fringe benefits when due according to law.

You can apply for your California car wash bond online 24/7 with annual premiums starting at $1,500. Once your order has been processed, your official surety bond will be shipped to your preferred mailing address. After signing your bond, you'll file it in your California car wash license application packet with the rest of your required documentation.

Note: If you're a car wash employer with a valid collective bargaining agreement, you do not have to purchase and file a surety bond to get or maintain your California car wash license.

Step 3: Pay the $300 annual registration fee for each car wash branch location.

Your $300 registration and assessment fee per location is due along with your application submission and must be paid annually to renew your license. If you plan to mail your California car wash license application, you must include a cashier's check or money order payable to DLSE.

Step 4: Submit your California car wash license application packet.

You can submit your completed California car wash license application online or by mail. If you submit your application online, your required documents must be saved as PDFs.

If applying by mail, be sure you include the following documents in your package.

To submit your California car wash license application by mail, ship your package to the following address.

Division of Labor Standards Enforcement
Licensing and Registration Unit
1515 Clay Street
Suite 1902
Oakland, CA 94612

You must also mail a copy of your completed application and tax authorization (Form 8821) to the IRS at the following address.

Internal Revenue Service
1973 Rulon White Blvd.
MS 6737
Ogden, UT 84201

NOTE: The state can take up to 45 days to process your California car wash license application.

Last Updated: March 7, 2024

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