Are car wash tokens universal?

By Product Expert | Posted in FAQs, Tips and Tricks on Friday, October 11th, 2019 at 6:13 pm
A car smushes through a car wash as a yellow bar sprays down on top of it.

Token Cross Acceptance: Where it works and where it doesn’t

Many car washes these days take tokens instead of actual quarters. While these little trinkets can be kind of fun to have, sometimes you end up with extras for a car wash that you’re not going to be returning to. At times like these, you might be wondering if you can use those same tokens elsewhere. Are car wash tokens universal?


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No, car wash tokens are not universal, but some can be used at places beyond where they were originally purchased. This is called “cross acceptance.” Whether or not a token works elsewhere depends on the type of token that the car wash implemented for use at their place of business.

Tokens, whether you get them at an arcade, batting cage, or car wash, all have to be originally purchased by the business from a token distributor. Tokens come in different combinations of size and material type. Most coin equipment handles a specific size range and can to some extent detect the type of material placed inside (so that it can at least filter out quarters). Whether or not you can use one businesses token elsewhere depends on how similar the size and material is, along with the sophistication of their token equipment.

Read More: What is the water pressure at a car wash?

A traditional brass pot is filled with a multitude of golden coins, or perhaps tokens.What do standard tokens look like?

Standard tokens are generally merely brass or copper plated zinc. These are typically valued at 25 cents. Places that use standard tokens are the most likely to be usable interchangeably. More expensive tokens include Standard Red brass tokens, controlled value tokens, TimeSaver tokens, and controlled distribution tokens.

Where do businesses get tokens?

Tokens come from a token vendor. One vendor, TokensDirect, sells sixty different combinations of size and metal.

When buying tokens, businesses can choose to buy standard tokens, or go for more expensive variations with names like “controlled value” or “controlled distribution.” As you may have guessed, the standard tokens are often usable at other places that also have standard tokens, while more expensive types of token are more elaborately customized and thus harder to use elsewhere (and the businesses that use them won’t accept your standard tokens from other places).

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