It was the decline of full-service gas stations back in the 1970s that gave rise to the fast-lube industry so customers could get the oil for their vehicles changed quickly. Quick-lube chains have done quite well for themselves ever since, and the oil change market in the U.S. is now worth $6 billion. Entrepreneurs who want to buy into a proven concept in this industry have a solid set of options to examine in this list of the top four automotive oil change franchises.
Perhaps the biggest challenge the industry faces right now is finding, training, and retaining sufficient personnel. After all, most young people don’t have much interest in cars these days, and certainly don’t wake up in the morning hoping to get a job at a quick-lube shop.
Another challenge is that cars keep getting better and better, which often means a lengthening of the time interval between oil changes. This in turn means fewer visits to the local quick-lube shop.
To make up for fewer cars, chains have added various services to increase the revenue from each visit, such as flushes, wiper blades, tail lights, turn signals, even tire rotations, brakes, and differentials. So far, these additional services have done the trick, keeping the industry alive and thriving.
Here are our picks for the four best automotive oil change franchises of 2018:
1. Jiffy Lube International
Jiffy Lube International started out back in 1979 as an association of seven different fast-lube centers brought under the same banner by Jim Hindman. The chain was acquired by Pennzoil-Quaker State in the 1990s and again by Shell Oil Company in 2002.
In addition to its signature service oil change, Jiffy Lube offers a wide range of additional automotive services, including air conditioning (evacuation and recharge), engine air filter replacement, passenger cabin air filter replacement, wheel alignment, battery maintenance and replacement, brake inspections and brake pad replacements, cooling system services (radiator flush, antifreeze/coolant top-off), drivetrain services (front/rear differential fluids, transfer case fluids, transmission fluids), engine services (check engine light diagnostics, serpentine belt service/replacement, vehicle lights inspection/replacement), fuel system cleaning and fuel injection cleaning, state inspections and emissions testing, suspension services (shocks and struts replacement), tires (replacement, rotation, flat repair), transmission services (fluids for automatics and lubricants for manuals), and windshield services (wiper blades, windshield repairs, windshield treatment to reduce fogging and shed rain/snow/sleet/mist).
This company currently ranks #181 on Entrepreneur magazine’s Franchise 500 list. Founded in 1979 and franchising since that same year, the number of locations has held steady during the past 10 years and currently stands at 2,078, none of which are company-owned and 163 of which are located outside the U.S.
2. Valvoline Instant Oil Change
Valvoline Instant Oil Change was born in 1986 when The Valvoline Company started buying up quick-lube shops in New York, Minneapolis, and Michigan, building on the more than 150 years of Valvoline’s history since it was founded in 1866.
Now based in Lexington, Kentucky, the chain offers a wide range of services beyond oil changes, including air filter replacement, battery services, fuel system cleaning, differential services, light bulb services, radiator service, serpentine belt replacement, tire rotation, air conditioning, transmission service, and wiper blade replacement.
Valvoline boasts that for most of its services, customers don’t even have to leave the comfort of their vehicle, and also that its additional services typically cost as much as 20-50% less than what one would pay at the dealership. The company also notes on the home page of its website that the cost for accidents resulting from unperformed vehicle maintenance tops $2 billion a year.
This company currently ranks #34 on Entrepreneur magazine’s Franchise 500 list. Founded in 1986 and franchising since 1988, the number of locations has continued to expand in recent years from 868 in 2012 to the current total of 1,154, of which 451 are company-owned and all of which are located in the U.S.
3. Express Oil Change & Tire Engineers
Express Oil Change & Tire Engineers got its start in Alabama when former gas station manager Jim Lunceford heard about the whole quick-lube concept that was developing around the nation. Franchisees Joe Watson and Ricky Brooks bought the company from him in 1996 and started expanding into Florida, Mississippi, Tennessee, Georgia, and the Carolinas. Then in 1998, they bought a 28-store chain of Tune-Up Clinics in and around Atlanta and converted 25 of those into the Express brand.
While most quick-lube shops will say they can get a basic oil change service done in less than 30 minutes, Express Oil Change claims a 10-minute service, which is pretty impressive.
Like most quick-lube chains, Express offers a range of additional services, including air conditioning, alignment, belts and hoses, brakes, cabin air filter, car diagnostics, coolant flush, engine repair, fleet services (for companies with fleets of vehicles), fuel system cleaning, tire information, tire nitrofill (using nitrogen instead of air reduces moisture inside the tire), tire repair, tire rotation and balancing, TPMS diagnostics (tire pressure monitor system), tune up, transmission and wiper blades.
This company currently ranks #120 on Entrepreneur magazine’s Franchise 500 list. Founded in 1979 and franchising since 1983, the number of locations has climbed slowly but steadily over the past 10 years from 164 in 2008 to the current total of 233, of which 118 are company-owned and all of which are located in the U.S.
4. Grease Monkey
Grease Monkey is a small chain of shops that perform quick lube and other automotive maintenance services, and typically also have a Monkey Shine car wash next to each location. Oddly enough, the company’s rather rudimentary website does not list what other services are offered, although its coupon page does at least make mention of brakes, tune-ups, suspension and light engine work. It also offers a fleet service for companies with multiple vehicles.
With its motto of Less Hassle, More Hustle, the company’s customer service approach is designed to help customers make educated, informed decisions about maintaining their vehicles in a comfortable, no-pressure setting.
This company currently ranks #278 on Entrepreneur magazine’s Franchise 500 list. Founded in 1978 and franchising since 1979, the number of locations has risen modestly over the past 10 years from 240 in 2008 to the current total of 320, 90 of which are company-owned and 64 of which are located outside the U.S.
An Important Note About Our Methodology
The franchises on this list were ranked according to the number of units in the franchise system. If you are a prospective franchisee searching for franchise opportunities that meet or exceed certain performance benchmarks for sales, profits, and return on investment, please check out this list of America’s Most Lucrative Franchises.