Revised and updated November 16, 2019.
Fixing and maintaining cars has gotten more complicated over the years as vehicles have become increasingly high-tech. And yet many of the basics still remain the same, which is why entrepreneurs who want the benefits of a proven business model will want to take a closer look at these top 10 auto repair and maintenance franchises of 2020. After all, just the franchised auto services segment of the industry is worth more than $8 billion.
After the decline of full-service gas stations, chains started popping up to meet the consumer demand for automotive maintenance and repairs. Many focused on one service in particular, such as oil changes, brake jobs, alignments, tune-ups, mufflers, tires, and so on. Over the past few decades, most of these specialty chains have expanded the range of repairs and services they will handle beyond their original niche.
With a record high of more than 281 million cars on the road in the US today, there is no shortage of demand for all kinds of services related to keeping vehicles in good working order. The average age of cars on the road is also increasing above 12 years, which is another factor driving this market.
Here are the 10 best auto repair and maintenance franchises of 2020:
1. Midas International
Midas International started out specializing in mufflers and exhaust systems in the 1950s, added shock absorbers in the 1960s, and brake services in the 1970s. In the 1990s, it expanded further into total car care (including tires) for both individual consumers as well as corporate customers and total fleet management services (including a web-based app). The company is always running a wide variety of promotions, coupons, and rebate offers that keep customers coming back for more. It also offers a credit card program.
Midas was named the top automotive repair brand in the America’s Best Customer Service 2019 report assembled by Newsweek after surveying more than 20,000 consumers.
Midas was purchased by TBC Corporation in 2012. Founded by Nate Sherman in Macon, Georgia in 1954 and franchising since 1956, the number of locations has declined in recent years from 2,351 in 2010 to the current total of 2,011 (a decline of 9 from the previous year’s total of 2,020), none of which are company-owned and 1,025 of which are located outside the US.
2. Meineke Car Care Centers
Meineke Car Care Centers got started with exhaust services in the early 1970s, and in 2003 expanded into a full range of auto maintenance and repair services. Parent company Driven Brands owns a variety of auto-related companies, including Maaco (collision and paint repairs), CARSTAR (direct repair program and collision work), Econo Lube N’ Tune & Brakes, 1-800-Radiator & A/C, and Take 5 (oil changes). Similar to Midas, Meineke offers a credit card program as well as fleet management services for corporate customers.
In the Newsweek study of America’s Best Customer Service 2019, Midas may have won for “best automotive repair brand,” but Meineke won for “best automotive repair chain.”
Founded by Sam Meineke in Houston, Texas in 1972 and franchising since that same year, the number of locations has declined in recent years from 980 in 2014 to the current total of 810 (a decline of 70 units from the previous year’s total of 880), only one of which is company-owned and 37 of which are located outside the US.
3. CARSTAR Franchise Systems
CARSTAR Franchise Systems is a chain of independently-owned collision repair facilities offering auto body repair, paintless dent repair, storm damage repair (including hail damage), and 24/7 accident assistance. Like Midas and Meineke, the company offers both a credit card program and fleet management services.
CARSTAR gets a lot of its business from strong partnerships it has developed with insurance companies for its DRP – direct repair program. The company focuses on franchisee training on how to meet the repair standards required by insurance companies. The company offers a national warranty that stays with the owner no matter where they’re at in the US as well as a service guarantee.
Founded in 1989 and franchising since that same year, the number of locations has climbed in recent years from 377 in 2010 to the current total of 677 (an increase of 73 units from the previous year’s total of 604), only two of which are company-owned and 311 of which are located outside the US.
4. AAMCO Transmissions and Total Care
AAMCO Transmissions and Total Care has a similar mix of services as the other companies on this list, including a full range of auto repair and maintenance services, a credit card program, and fleet management services for corporate and government clients. Rather than offering a blanket warranty covering all its work, AAMCO has nine different warranties of varying lengths depending on the services the customer needed.
The company name is an acronym standing for the founder, Anthony A. Martino Company, which guaranteed great placement in the Yellow Pages phone book listings in the auto repair category. The company started out specializing in transmission work, but has since grown its services menu to include all kinds of auto repair and maintenance.
Founded by Anthony A. Martino in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1957 and franchising since 1963, the number of locations has been steadily declining in recent years from 868 in 2009 to the current total of 611, of which 13 are company-owned and six are located outside the US.
5. Precision Tune Auto Care
Precision Tune Auto Care, as the name implies, started out specializing in providing tune-up services but has since expanded into the usual full array of auto maintenance and repair services as the other companies on this list. It also offers its own credit card program and fleet management services for corporate clients and government agencies.
The company’s work was guaranteed by a 12-month/12,000-mile national warranty, which was expanded into a 24/24 national warranty in 2011, but the company website currently only mentions the 12/12 warranty. There are specific location websites that do still mention a 24/24 warranty.
Precision Tune was purchased by Icahn Automotive in 2017, a company that also owns Pep Boys (aftermarket retail and service) and Auto Plus (aftermarket parts distributor). Founded by Bill Childs in Beaumont, Texas in 1975 and franchising since 1978, the number of locations had been in decline but now totals 326, which is an increase of 10 from the previous year’s total of 316, of which 53 are company-owned and 70 are located outside the US.
6. Christian Brothers Automotive
Christian Brothers Automotive is a faith-based chain of automotive repair shops that explicitly incorporates Christian values to shape its business practices. The shops work on all makes and models of vehicles, and back up their work with a 24/24 national warranty (24 months/24,000 miles) good at any of the company’s locations.
It is also known for putting a great deal of care and attention into the customer experience, including clean, spacious waiting rooms, complimentary beverages, free WiFi, complimentary shuttle service, and above all being treated with courtesy and respect.
Founded by Mark Carr in Mission Bend, Texas in 1986 and franchising since 1996, the number of locations has been on a steady upward trajectory over the past 10 years from 53 in 2008 to the current total of 204 (an increase of 18 units from the previous year’s total of 186), only one of which is company-owned and all of which are located in the US.
7. Tuffy Tire and Auto Service
Tuffy Tire and Auto Service began by first specializing in mufflers, but has expanded from there to become a full-service shop that also works on brakes, shocks, struts, springs, alignment, front-end, oil change, tires, air conditioning, batteries, starting and charging, flush and fill, and CV joints.
Customers are automatically eligible for a free full year of ToYourRESCUE roadside assistance (lockouts, flat tires, jump-starts, towing, and more), and the company guarantees its work with a 12/12 national warranty on parts and labor. Customers also receive a complimentary courtesy inspection to make sure tires, brakes, fluids, exhaust system, battery, belts, and more are in good working order. Like the other companies on this list, there is a credit card program as well as fleet management services for corporate customers.
Founded by Charles Amy in Detroit, Michigan in 1970 and franchising since 1971, the number of locations has declined in recent years to the current total of 171 (a decline of four units from the previous year’s total of 175), of which 20 are company-owned and all are located in the US.
8. Milex Complete Auto Care/Mr. Transmission
Milex Complete Auto Care/Mr. Transmission are two of the companies that fall within the Moran Family of Brands, a company that also franchises AltaMere Automotive Outfitters, Multistate Transmission, Dr. Nick’s Transmissions, and SmartView Window Solutions (window film options for home and office). Franchisees may select a standalone MilexComplete shop, a standalone Mr. Transmission shop, or a co-branded Milex Complete/Mr. Transmission combination shop.
The company offers a full range of auto repair and maintenance services, seven different warranties depending on what type of work was done, and fleet management services. Unlike most of the other companies on this list, it does not appear to have a credit card service for financing.
Founded in 1956 and franchising since 1976, the number of locations declined over several years from 118 in 2009 to 87 in 2018, but increased by three units for a current total of 90, one of which is company-owned and one of which is located outside the US.
9. Honest-1 Auto Care
Honest-1 Auto Care has three distinguishing characteristics that set it apart from all the other companies on this list. Firstly, it is the only one founded since the start of the new Millennium. Secondly, it’s the only one that emphasizes the different ways it is an eco-friendly car care company. Its Honest-1 Auto Care ESA (Environmentally Sustainable Actions) Program focuses on pollution prevention, recycling, resource conservation, and promoting eco-friendly auto care services. Thirdly, its national warranty is good for 36 months or 36,000 miles.
Customers enjoy clean, comfortable, appealing waiting areas suitable for women and families with leather couches, large-screen TVs, workstations, and free WiFi, secured children’s play area, upscale bathroom décor, and complimentary beverages.
Founded in Scottsdale, Arizona in 2003 and franchising since that same year, the number of locations has grown steadily in recent years from 17 in 2008 to the current total of 73, two of which are company-owned and all of which are located in the US.
10. Merlin 200,000 Mile Shops
Merlin 200,000 Mile Shops has a name that gives away its mission – to help car owners get more than 200k miles out of their vehicles. So many people still think anything over 100k is amazing, but cars these days are built way better than that. In other words, Merlin wants people to know and act as if they can and should get to the 200,000 odometer milestone.
The company offers a full range of auto repair and maintenance services, including oil changes, brake service, fluid exchanges, tire replacement, mufflers and exhaust, shocks/struts/springs, and 18 more common services. Its warranty on most repairs is a 24/24 arrangement, but it does offer a 200,000-mile warranty on mufflers, brake pads, and brake shoes, as well as certain brands of tires. It also offers a credit card program, but does not appear to have fleet management services.
Founded in 1975 and franchising since then, the number of locations has declined in recent years from 58 in 2010 to the current total of 30, one of which is company-owned and all of which are located in the US.
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.