A laundromat is a prime example of a semi-active business model that can establish an ongoing revenue stream with minimal operational maintenance. It’s a popular business type for many entrepreneurs. However, knowing the initial costs to start a laundromat, including equipment, is a crucial factor in your potential success.
The cost of equipment required to start a laundromat varies from around $20K to as much as $500K or more. Initial startup costs can be quite significant for a seemingly ‘set-and-forget’ kind of operation. However, the lack of required labor once a startup is complete can outweigh the cost of starting a laundromat.
Laundromats are a great business because they don’t typically require much staff. When you eliminate staff, you eliminate a considerable expense in labor — but not having on-site staff means there can be security risks.
Due to a lack of staff on-site, you should spend the extra money to ensure that a sound security system is in place. Think of the security system as your digital employee who keeps an eye on things. Many laundromat owners choose to self-manage their security or pay a security company for a monitoring service.
Depending on the hours of the establishment, you may have a desire for extended security options. It may also be the case in neighborhoods with higher levels of criminal activity.
Due to the nature of laundromats, the best locations are often in neighborhoods with an abundance of rental units and lower-income housing. Unfortunately, with lower income often comes an escalation of criminal activity. It’s essential to ensure the safety of your clientele as well as your business and its property.
A typical security system with multiple cameras and sensors will cost between $2,500 and $7,500, depending on its complexity. Monitored systems usually cost between $30 and $200 per month, depending on the level of monitoring required.
Extra security is also essential due to the equipment requirements. Most laundromats have an ATM and coin machine on site. These should always have additional protection as they are automatic targets for criminals.
Don’t let all of this security talk frighten you. But it’s a smart business practice to prepare for the worst and hope for the best in this area.
What would a laundromat be without clothes washers? These machines will need to be commercial grade due to the extensive use you’re hoping they’ll take, day in and day out.
Commercial washers in laundromats are usually of two sizes — regular and large load sizes. In a typical scenario, the conventional machines outnumber the large load washers roughly 10:1.
Some types of commercial washers have integrated payment solutions. New commercial appliances can even allow for debit and credit transactions right on the machine itself to avoid the use of coins. However, these high-tech washers come at a hefty price tag compared to the more abundant coin-operated models.
Used coin-operated machines will cost anywhere from $1,500 to $6,000, depending on the age, make, and model of the washer. A new budget front-load washer can run anywhere from $2,200 to $6,500 for a new appliance, including installation and warranty.
Coin-operated industrial dryers are the most abundant option. Prices for used dryers range from $600 to $5,000 for a double upright high-end unit. New commercial coin-operated dryers can be purchased for as little as $1,000 and up to $5,000 or more, depending on the capabilities.
Like with washers, your costs will increase if you opt for a dryer that takes credit and debit cards. For most dryers for a new establishment, budgeting $2,500 per machine would be an average estimate for new equipment, including installation.
If you’re doing the math, then you know that if you had 15 of each washer and dryer, now you’re looking at quite an initial startup cost for equipment. There are many companies that offer a solution: leasing or renting the equipment.
Some companies offer rental and profit-sharing agreements. Not all will do this for laundromats; often, these are offered exclusively to rental property companies and condominium communities. However, there are companies out there that offer this sort of rental service for laundromats as well.
A lease-to-buy model is a viable option if you want to own the units eventually or trade them for upgraded models. Leasing works well if you can bring enough business to offset the cost and ensure a return on your investment.
Leasing might be your only option if you have only a minimal deposit available for equipment. It can sometimes allow you to get better quality equipment than you otherwise would’ve been able to purchase outright.
When starting a business as a laundromat owner, it’s preferential to allow your customers to pay for services quickly. However, if you want to save money by utilizing coin-operated equipment, you’ll need a convenient way for customers to pay for your washers and dryers.
Having an ATM on-site is the solution to this issue. An ATM will allow your clientele to use their bank or credit cards to withdraw money, which they can then convert to coins using your bill and coin changer.
Many ATM providers offer included services and provide the machines on a rental basis. It’s often the preferred method, as it transfers a multitude of liabilities to the company providing the service. When it comes to holding large amounts of money and doing transactions, why not let an ATM company handle it while you take a cut for having their machine on your premises? It’s an easy way for you to earn a few cents off each transaction.
ATMs cost between $2,000 and $7,000 if you want to buy one and own it outright. It is a great way to rack up extra income because each transaction makes you a few dollars, and you only need to refill the machine with cash when it gets low. Although you’ll need a few thousand dollars to get things started, you’ll soon see the transactions rolling in, earning you money and also providing a valuable service for your clients.
To change the bills your clients just got from your bank machine, you’ll need a bill changer. These units don’t make you money as the ATM does, but your clients will need to convert those bills into coins to operate coin-operated washers and dryers.
Newer technology and payment solutions for washers and dryers are now available to bypass the need for an ATM and change machine. However, then the business owner loses the income of the ATM. Also, as we discussed earlier, washers and dryers that take cards are typically far more expensive than their coin-op counterparts.
On the other hand, an entirely ‘plastic’ payment solution does negate many theft concerns. Having a laundromat unattended with an ATM and coin machine may be more attractive for criminals. It’s a subjective debate every laundromat owner will need to make. Coin changers range in price from $500 for a used machine to $3,000 for a new device.
A soap vending machine is another way to add an additional trickle of income to the business. The device itself costs between $300 for a used machine and $3,000 for a new soap vending machine.
Keeping the machine stocked and presentable will keep clients doing the easy thing and buying your soap when they need to do laundry. That’ll be convenient for them and a moneymaker for you.
When you have a laundromat, clients need a space to fold their freshly dried laundry. Most laundromats offer several tables where clients can fold their clothes. Sometimes they are in the form of counters, but it’s most common to see tables.
The standard for these tables is a non-expensive, simple design, yet sturdy enough to handle heavy loads of laundry piled on top. Each table will run between $150 and $500.
Not that you want to encourage patrons to spend their time hanging out at the laundromat, but you should supply a few chairs for your clientele. Some people prefer to stay with their laundry rather than risk a stranger being able to take it, a common occurrence in many unattended laundromats.
Chairs don’t need to be extravagant but should reflect the professionalism of your decor. Typical ‘public use’ commercial-grade chairs will cost between $60 and $300 each.
Every laundromat needs a sign as one of its primary methods of marketing. People who pass by the area will see the sign and know where your business is located. The sign should indicate the business type and any branding or added advertising you deem necessary.
The sign could cost as little as $500 and as much as $20,000 or more. The location, type, and size of the sign all play into the cost, making it highly variable in nature.
A few more pieces of permanent equipment are necessary for a successful laundromat: an electrical feed and panel that can handle a load of all the machines running at once and a water heater that can produce the amount of hot water required at any given time.
The water heater should be strong enough to handle the load of all washers running simultaneously. However, the more appliances a laundromat has, the less likely they’ll all be in use at the same time.
The other consideration here is the different types of water heaters. Some models are tankless, while others require a large holding tank. Space and building specifications may limit your choices, and you may need to discuss building modifications with the landlord if you don’t own the building. And in some situations, significant renovations might be required if multiple tanks are needed.
The last consideration for the water heater is the method of heating: gas or electric. The more extensive and more sophisticated the system, the more expensive. Thus, it’s advantageous to find a location with an existing water heater system that can handle the load.
One of the worst things for a new laundromat owner to overlook is the electrical draw that all the machines have when running at once. This sort of electrical draw can cause breakers to ‘pop’ and even cause electrical fires if the wiring is inadequate. It’s ideal to consider appliance requirements before moving machines into the facility to allow for renovations as required and install appropriate electrical capacity for the equipment.
The cost to upgrade a panel can vary considerably, depending on the specifics of your building. Pricing for electrical panel upgrades could be minimal at about $2,000. However, it’s not uncommon to hear about commercial updates in the tens of thousands of dollars.
Depending on the building situation, if you’re leasing, you might be able to work out a deal to have the landlord upgrade the electrical system for the business as a condition of accepting the lease. If you own the building, you can do whatever you want within the law — just keep in mind that the costs could be significant.
Let’s assume a modest operation — a laundromat with 10 washers and 10 dryers and minimal startup costs. You could spend as little as $20K to set up the equipment for this business.
Now, if we were to assume a lavish and large establishment for a busy metropolitan clientele, let’s assume 30 washers and 30 dryers, all state-of-the-art. If we crunch some numbers on the higher end of things, this sort of upscale establishment might cost in the neighborhood of $500K or more. Again, this is just for the equipment discussed here.
Need more information about figuring out your potential business expenses? Our helpful resources will walk you through startup cost calculation and more. We can even help you come up with the perfect name for your laundry business. Plus, at ZenBusiness, we can start your new LLC for free (+ state fee) and offer a suite of resources, helping keep your startup costs much lower.
Disclaimer: The content on this page is for information purposes only and does not constitute legal, tax, or accounting advice. If you have specific questions about any of these topics, seek the counsel of a licensed professional.
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