The Carwash market in the United States is rapidly changing indeed. Currently the most common type of carwash are those at service stations where you get a wash ticket and drive your car through and make sure all the windows are rolled up as a mini-windstorm like Hurricane Rita cleans all the dirt off. Depending on market, it is safe to say one in four or one in five gasoline stations in the larger 280 DMAs have such carwashes. In Rural states the average appears to be about one in seven.
Most of the carwash companies besides the oil companies are sole proprietors with one to five carwashes. For large consolidation companies or the emergence of a national brand it is truly wide open, as there are only a couple of regional players on the fixed site full service side of the industry. Of the top Carwash subscription consolidators currently there is no market leader although some regional dominance. Even so, there are less than 200 units between the top five players. Not even a drop in the bucket.
One is about to be flooded out with their biggest grouping in Houston from the Hurricane Rita, although afterwards could be a complete windfall in profits, as there was after Tropical Storm Allison. Some industrial capitalist, corporation or entrepreneur needs to organize, adapt and conquer this market; unfortunately no one really gets it. There are a few smart players, but they seem to have isolated themselves and do not understand all the different regional markets, which are very unique. The US is very diverse, what will do well in Georgia or Alabama, would not even fly in Denver CO and forget Southern Cal, one of the best and hottest carwash markets with opposite seasonality components due to weather. Here are some universal thoughts to US carwash markets, which seem to remain very similar regardless of region.