With all the excitement around The Car Wash Show™ 2019, we decided to do a bit of research around the current state of the conveyor wash market.
We looked at state-by-state statistics and the big boys who's corporate HQ are within their borders. While some states make the list based on climate and populace alone, we've outlined precisely which brands are owning that market.
According to the International Carwash Association, there are over 2 Billion cars washed every year in North America, putting retail sales at approximately $15B annually.
Here are the states where franchisees, owners, and operators can make the most of that opportunity.
To absolutely nobody's surprise, the Arizona Desert calls for a lot of car washing. That's why the state has essentially led the way for tunnels, mostly thanks to Mister. It's by far the largest system of tunnel washes in the industry, set to break more than 300 locations this year. True Blue and Raceway Express are also serious players based out of The Grand Canyon State, and with more partnerships happening among manufacturers, distributors, and big brands, Arizona is unlikely to be usurped anytime soon.
With the Ozarks to the north and the Mississippi River running the full length of its eastern border, Arkansas has plenty of need for mud-busting conveyor washes. The rapidly expanding Zips started there in 2004, who could easily be the largest conveyor car wash brand in America next year. With a solid presence along the South's interstate system, and reaching markets as far west as Utah, Zips is now spreading their Arkie hospitality to a nationwide customer base. It seems Arkansas soil makes for solid roots.
It's easy to imagine Hollywood stars in shiny cars, but California's large land mass includes the Mojave, the Sierra Nevadas, and the Sacramento Valley all. That's a lot of biodiversity for one state. Combine those needs with a population of 40 million people, and there's bound to be a need for the convenience of tunnel washes. The main hometown player in California is Quick Quack, who completely owns the Sacramento market, has a serious presence in SoCal, and appears to be targeting high value markets like the Utah Valley. BlueWave Express is another player from the Sunshine State you're likely to see expanding rapidly. California's native ingenuity and resources certainly gives them a leg up when it comes to scaling—fast.
There's a running joke in Colorado that you can summon the rain by washing your car, but that doesn't stop drivers from sliding down the conveyor every weekend. Home to the International Car Wash Group (ICWG), Colorado has a plenty tunnels for desalting Denverites and sprucing up rides in the Springs. The high elevations throughout the Rockies means perpetually-salted roads. If there's such a thing as guaranteed market for conveyor washes, Colorado is as good as it gets.
Home to some of the world's best universities, a booming tech scene, and topography that includes both the Atlantic Coast and Appalachian Mountains, North Carolina is one of the ripest markets in America for tunnel car washes. If you live in the Carolinas, you've certainly heard of their leading chain, Autobell Car Wash. Headquartered in Charlotte, the privately held company now operates across several states, and is the default for many drivers from Salem to Raleigh. Sam's Xpress also has a solid presence in the state.
There are roughly 11 million cars registered in the state of Ohio, making it the fourth largest wash market by state—completely unadjusted for size. That's why brands like Mike's and Express Wash (who owns Flying Ace, Moo Moo, and CLEAN Express) were able to expand last year. With Columbus, Cincinnati, and Cleveland spread across the state, and the interstate system connecting other major metropolitan areas, Ohio pulls both locals and travelers through its conveyor washes. Those following the industry should keep an eye on Time to Shine in nearby Lexington, who's likely to encroach into Ohio territory soon.
While many Bostonians will insist ScrubaDub is the local name, there are really two big boys in the Massachusetts conveyor game. Springfield-based Golden Nozzle has the most visible presence in Mass and its neighboring states, but Wash Depot Holdings (just outside Medford) has nearly fifty strategically-placed locations across the country. Assuming they unify all locations under a single brand name and make some investments for digitized operations, Wash Depot could be the next nationwide cinderella story, a la Zips.
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