How to Start a Coin-Operated Laundry

Startup Costs

You can expect to encounter a number of basic startup costs to get into the laundry business. Depending on whether you build a new laundry in a leased space or buy an existing one, your costs may include:

Market research (literature/subscriptions/association fees)
The cost of an existing laundry business

  • Construction or remodeling (if you are building a new laundromat)
  • Washer hook-up fees (sewer connection)
  • Licenses/permits
  • Equipment

Keep in mind that if you buy a laundry, you don't pay for licenses or sewer connection fees (unless you decide to have additional washers installed). But you will have to pay for renovation and any new equipment you decide to install if you want to update the laundry.

In addition to these basic startup costs, you may also have a number of ongoing expenses. These include:

  • Lease/rental costs
  • Utilities (gas, sewer, water and electric)
  • Insurance (fire, theft and liability)
  • Employee payroll/benefits
  • Miscellaneous supplies (cleaning supplies, soap, invoices for wash-and-fold, bathroom supplies, etc.)

Research and Development
Once you've completed your initial research on the laundry business, you will need to figure out how much it will cost to build your store-to remodel a space and fill it with laundry equipment-or to buy an existing laundry. Whether you decide to buy or build, you can expect to pay between $200,000 and $500,000 for an average-size laundromat (about 2,000 square feet).

If you're buying an existing laundry, figuring out your major startup costs is simple-just determine the value of the business. If you plan to renovate the existing store by painting the interior or putting in new flooring, be sure to add these costs to your startup expenses.

Figuring out your startup costs involves a little more work if you decide to build. Since you'll be leasing a space that was something other than a laundry in a previous life, the cost of the construction is going to depend on how much remodeling you have to do. If the space you've chosen was formerly a beauty salon, for example, you're going to have to add enough water, sewer and gas pipes for the conversion to a laundry. You'll also have to provide enough electrical outlets, possibly move a few walls, and completely redecorate before it will look like a laundromat. You should hire a contractor to help you do all this remodeling.

In general, you can expect to pay about $200,000 for the construction costs to remodel an average-size space (2,000 square feet). This includes the cost of installing your equipment and putting in folding tables and seating. The remainder of your major startup costs will be buying the equipment itself.

Licenses and Hidden Fees
The licenses and permits you will need depend entirely on your location. Check with your municipality regarding:

  • Business license
  • Health department license (if you are serving food)
  • Fire department permit
  • Air and water pollution control permit
  • Sign permit
  • Public improvement fees
  • Impact fees

You should also be aware of a few lesser-known fees that will affect you as a laundry owner. In many areas around the country, municipal water districts charge sewer connection fees. These can cost you anywhere from $200 to $8,000 per washer. If the fees are $8,000 per washer, the owner of a laundry with 30 washers must pay $240,000 in hook-up fees-almost what he'll pay for construction! Brian Wallace of the Coin Laundry Association tells us that high hook-up fees are one of the biggest problems facing the coin laundry industry today. "Before you get too far down the road, make sure you understand what if any impact fees, tap-on fees, wastewater fees-they call them lots of things-there are," says Wallace. These fees are a major challenge to laundry developers. And in areas where operators are forced to pay these fees, the price of laundromats has also risen dramatically. If the fees are high in your chosen area, you may need to reconsider your entire plan.

In addition to sewer connection fees, you may find that you have to pay sewer and waste water fees, too-check with the local municipality. Don't neglect to check on these charges when you're researching a laundry business. After all, you will be using these utilities heavily, so you'll want to know if the monthly charges will be manageable from the get-go.

The Goods
If you decide to buy a laundry, you will already have a full complement of equipment-unless you want to replace a few of the older machines or add a few more machines to meet customer demand. However, if you decide to build a laundry, buying equipment will eat up virtually all the rest of your startup costs. You can expect to pay between $150,000 and $300,000 to fill an average-size laundromat with washers and dryers.

Top-load washers cost between $500 and $700 each, and front-load washers cost between $3,500 and $20,000 each, depending on their size. One stacked dryer (which means two dryers arranged one on top of the other in a joined cabinet casing) costs between $5,000 and $6,000.

If you want to add a card system, it will cost you in the neighborhood of $40,000 to $80,000, including readers on the machines, a card dispenser and cards, and the software to compute equipment usage and let you change prices. It's pricey, but take heart: With a card system, you don't have to buy a change machine, which runs in the ballpark of $1,000 to $3,000.

A water heating system will run you between $15,000 and $40,000, and a soap vending machine will cost between $500 and $1,500. Those laundry carts that let customers transport their clothes from washer to dryer cost $50 to $75 each. Supplies such as soap, cleaning equipment, signs, clocks, and trash cans should run another $750 to $1,000.

How to Start a Coin-Operated Laundry

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