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Each quarter, International Carwash Association produces new primary research on the car wash industry and car wash consumers. To receive The Pulse Report™️, subscribe as an individual member for only $120 USD per year. 


Number of Car Wash Locations in the U.S.

The U.S. Census Bureau estimated in 2020 that there were 17,584 car washes with paid employees.

ICA commissioned a third-party research study in 2020 that estimated there to be approximately 17,500 conveyor car washes, 29,000 in-bay automatic (or roll-over) car washes and 16,250 self service car washes in the United States. (The latter two car wash types frequently do not have employees, or are classified as part of a gas station or convenience store.)

The full U.S. Census report can be found HERE.


Car Wash Locations in Europe and Australia

While there has not been a study done on the exact size of the global car wash industry, we have compiled estimations for the following markets:

Type of Location  Europe (EU) Australia 
 In-Bay Automatic / Roll-over  50,000  1,600
 Self-Service  11,000  300
 Conveyor  8,000  50
 Total  69,000  1,950


Consumer Trends

In the mature markets of North America and Europe, consumers are increasingly preferring to have their cars washed for them versus doing it themselves. In the United States, the percentage of drivers that report most frequently washing their vehicle at a professional car wash has increased from approximately 48% in 1994 to nearly 80% today.

Improvements in speed, convenience, quality and value has substantially increased demand for car washing. In recent years, the popularity of car wash subscriptions plans and strong operating margins has attracted substantial new investment, with new store construction estimated to be exceeding 500 units per year.

Ownership Profile

The majority of retail car wash locations in the United States are owned and operated by small to medium sized independent car wash companies, but consolidation began changing this structure in the mid 2010s.  Today, approximately 200 companies operate ten or more stores, totaling more than 6,000 locations. Approximately 3,000 companies operate one or two stores. (This speaks to the retail tunnel segment. Convenience and petroleum retailing organizations typically control larger car wash networks.)

In Europe, petroleum companies control the majority of the market in terms of locations, but the greatest growth is coming from independent conveyor car wash companies. The Australian market is closer in profile to North America, with the majority of sites owned by private entrepreneurs.


The professional car wash industry employs more than 220,000 full and part-time employees at retail stores and more than 15,000 in car wash equipment, chemical and service providing companies.

Retail Activity

Car wash retail sales have been estimated to be approximately $15B in North America, €5B in Europe and A$1.5B in Australia. The Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis tracks car wash industry revenue and expense, which can be found HERE.

Though substantial in the aggregate, not included in the above information are estimations for related activities. Vehicle washing also occurs at auto dealerships, as part of fleet management, at rental car facilities, in hand wash or detail shops, through mobile washing units and in specialized agricultural and mass transportation environments.