Why should you consider a laundromat franchise? It’s a steady volume business that’s future-proof and recession-proof. In fact, more consumers use laundromats in today’s more mobile lifestyle, where owning a washer/dryer unit is cumbersome for travelers and people who would rather rent or AirBnB than settle down to an owned home.

On top of that, a laundromat has an amazingly low margin. Since it’s all coin-op machines, it can run on a very small staff. There’s little in the way of building code specs compared to other franchise models, so you can cram units into any old building. You don’t even have much of a marketing budget, as long as you make sure to have street exposure. Laundromats are also flexible. You can tack on a dry-cleaning service or a snack bar on the side. You can even provide free WiFi and set up a little lounge, making it a fun place.

Even though it’s an overlooked market, laundromat franchises in the US pull in collected revenue of $11 billion annually, from about 33K locations. The laundromat industry is sometimes described as an “absentee business,” the next best thing to passive income.

Here are a few of the major laundromat franchises:

WaveMAX

Franchise fee: $49K

Starting investment: $600K

WaveMAX combines self-service laundry and drop-off cleaning services for maximum customer convenience. They supply units with the latest high-tech smart sensors, ensuring efficient operation. They have phenomenal support for franchise units, assisting with everything from location to maintenance.

The Eco Laundry Company

Franchise fee: $30K

Starting investment: $300K

self-service laundry

The Eco Laundry Company, as its name suggests, uses sustainable and environmentally friendly technology in its stores. This is sure to be a hit with a younger, more environmentally-conscious crowd, such as that found in a college neighborhood. They provide both coin-op laundry and dry-cleaning services.

Maytag Commercial Laundry

Franchise fee: $0!

Required starting capital: $75K

If you want a laundry business with major brand recognition, this is the franchise for you. Actually this is not quite a typical franchise license, as much as an instant start-up business where Maytag will sell you equipment and help with store set-up and service, even throwing in some signage and marketing materials. Their washer units also boast WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity for easy monitoring by mobile phone. Maytag does this because even without the franchise fee, they still sell units and get further brand exposure.

Many more laundry equipment retailers offer similar package deals as Maytag does. Laundromats, in general, tend to be treated more as independent start-up opportunities rather than franchises proper, unless they also attach dry cleaning or other services to their branding.

The upside of all this is that a laundromat location offers much more flexibility than the typical franchise. Since it’s your business, you get to call the shots and deploy whatever creative enhancements you see fit to pull in repeat business. It’s a fun business for the independent maverick who wants a business on the side, and the return on investment runs about 20% to 35%.