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Making Your Franchise Dream Reality -- On the Cheap

From cruising to carpet cleaning, you'll find plenty of opportunities on our list of the Top 100 Low-Cost Franchises.

This story appears in the November 2010 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Everyone's looking for a bargain these days--including would-be franchisees. If you're among those who want to dream big without spending big, never fear. There are plenty of businesses that can be started for less than $50,000, and this is just the place to begin your search: Entrepreneur's list of the Top 100 Low-Cost Franchises for 2010.

The ranking includes many of the usual low-cost suspects: Tax services, including the No. 1 on our list, H & R Block. Commercial , which dominates the list with 14 companies. And real estate companies that keep costs low by allowing existing real estate businesses to convert to their brand.

But there's plenty of variety as well--everything from dance fitness classes (Jazzercise, No. 6) to youth sports leagues (I9 Sports, No. 44) to outdoor advertising (Billboard Connection, No. 58).

As varied as they are, one thing that many of these companies have in common is that franchisees take their products and services directly to customers--thus saving money on office or space. Take Stretch-N-Grow, for instance. Despite being in a competitive industry, the children's fitness company leaped to its highest Franchise 500® ranking ever, No. 162. Its franchisees save money--and maintain a steady customer base--by bringing fitness classes to schools, day-care facilities and rec centers rather than renting or buying retail space and waiting for kids to come to them.

The companies here are listed in the order that they ranked in our 2010 Franchise 500®, a ranking based on objective, quantifiable measures of franchise success such as system size, growth and financial strength and stability. But don't let a ranking--or a low price-tag--be your only guide in buying a franchise. Before investing in any , do your homework to find out if it's right for you. That includes reviewing legal documents, consulting with accountants and attorneys and talking to current and former franchisees.

Top 10 Low-Cost Franchise Rankings
RankFranchiseStartup Costs
1H & R Block
Tax preparation & electronic filing
$34,438 - $110,033
Commercial cleaning
$13,150 - $93,150
3Jan-Pro Franchising Int'l. Inc.
Commercial cleaning
$3,145 - $50,405
4Kumon Math & Reading Centers
Supplemental education
$36,538 - $145,250
5Stratus Building Solutions
Commercial cleaning
$3,450 - $57,750
6Jazzercise Inc.
Dance fitness classes
$2,980 - $75,500
7Instant Tax Service
Retail tax preparation & electronic filing
$39,000 - $89,000
8Vanguard Cleaning Systems
Commercial cleaning
$8,200 - $38,100
9ServiceMaster Clean
Comm'l./residential cleaning & disaster restoration
$47,072 - $141,303
10Bonus Building Care
Commercial cleaning
$9,020 - $41,919

Check out the rest of our top 100 franchises.

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