Number of Car Wash Locations in the U.S.
The U.S. Census Bureau estimated in 2019 that there were 16,976 car washes with paid employees, an increase of nearly 7% from their previous count in 2015.
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|
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 more than 77% in 2019.
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 some estimates as high as 100 new stores being added in the U.S. each month.
The majority of car wash locations in the United States are owned and operated by small to medium sized independent car wash companies. The market is fragmented in the conveyor segment, with companies of 4 or fewer more locations representing ~70% of total conveyor locations, and the largest company owning ~2% of conveyor locations. Fragmentation is even more significant in the self-service segment, while convenience and petroleum retailing organizations typically control larger networks of in-bay automatic locations.
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.
Car wash retail sales are approximately $15B in North America, €5B in Europe and A$1.5B in Australia.
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.