2016 TOPS in the Industry

March 1, 2016
The fast oil change and service industry is comprised of a diverse group of automotive professionals and businesses working everyday to meet the needs of consumers and their cars. It is a progressive and quickly evolving industry. In order to make sure we’re keeping abreast of the current pulse of the industry, every year, we take the time to extensively research, identify and rank the top auto service chains in the nation — and internationally.

The fast oil change and service industry is comprised of a diverse group of automotive professionals and businesses working everyday to meet the needs of consumers and their cars. It is a progressive and quickly evolving industry. In order to make sure we’re keeping abreast of the current pulse of the industry, every year, we take the time to extensively research, identify and rank the top auto service chains in the nation — and internationally.

However, before we examine the rankings it is important to first define the terms we use in this report. To begin, let’s discuss what we classify as a “fast lube” facility. We classify a fast lube as any business that derives the majority of its sales from quick, convenient oil changes and other automotive preventive maintenance services that can be done in less than 30 minutes. Businesses that only offer oil changes as an additional service (i.e. a tune-up shop, mass merchant retailer, tire store, etc.) fall into a different category.

We do not require a fast lube to be a drive-thru, multi-bay shop complete with a pit/basement system. A converted muffler shop with eight bays and nothing but lifts still qualifies as a fast lube in our book as long as the primary focus of the business is providing customers with quick oil changes and other quick maintenance services.

Now that we’ve defined what we classify as a fast lube, what about facilities that have dual profit centers, like a carwash/fast lube, co-branded facilities or tire stores that also have a lube bay or two? We’ve categorized these facilities as “oil change-plus” shops, and it also encompasses muffler shops, auto repair shops, mass merchant retailers, etc. These places will change oil, but it’s not their primary profit center and can likely take more than 30 minutes.

We realize this definition of what some would consider a fast lube is getting broader everyday. That’s why we’ve maintained if a majority of a facility’s income is derived from quick oil changes and other maintenance work, that facility should be included in the family of quick lubes. However, due to this increasing grey area and 30-minute benchmark, you’ll notice this year we’ve also chosen to represent the entire TOPS survey as one all-encompassing list.

Next, let’s define the term “chain.” For the purposes of this study, a fast lube chain is any six or more fast lube facilities owned by the same company/individual/business entity and/or operated under the same or similar signage. For example, a brand like Havoline xpress lube, which is actually comprised of individual owner/operators who have entered into an agreement with Havoline to use xpress lube signage, is grouped together as a chain.

Quite often, we run into independent lube operations that might own six or more of these branded shops. To avoid counting those facilities twice, we group them into a separate listing we call “Associated Lube Chains.”

Of course, we can’t review the 2016 Tops in the Industry data without thanking Valvoline for sponsoring the survey this year. Without their support we are limited to what information we can publish in the magazine, reserving information about oil change-plus companies, industry sales, overall store population, etc. for a report available for sale or free to paid subscribers. However, thanks to Valvoline’s sponsorship, we are able to bring the full study to our readers.

One last thing before we examine the data: The information we publish was reported to us directly from the companies we contacted or from independent sources we deem reliable. It is believed to be accurate and current as of February 29, 2016.

Fast Lubes 2016

The 52 operating fast lube chains represented on the list this year operate a total of 6,789 facilities, which is an increase of 43 facilities from last year’s total.

Sliding into position No. 1 yet again is Jiffy Lube, which operates 1,928 shops and stayed steady in population year over year. Valvoline Instant Oil Change remained the runner up spot in position No. 2 and saw a growth of 31 stores. It currently operates 960 locations and recently acquired Oil Can Henry’s 89 stores in February 2016. Pennzoil 10-Minute Oil Change hung onto No. 3 and operates 700 stores. The top 10 chains remained the same in 2016, and all chains remained in the same numerical positions as last year.

While the top 10 stayed the same, there were some major players on the list this year who didn’t stop short of growth in 2015. The second chain with the most growth in the industry was Take 5 Oil Change, which grew by 25 stores. The Louisiana-based chain currently has 65 facilities and is expected to open an additional 17 in 2016. Behind Take 5 in growth, but still nothing to scoff at, was Lube Stop. Lube Stop purchased Illinois-based The Grease Stop and added 13 stores for a total of 50 locations. The Ohio-based chain plans on opening 19 more stores before the end of 2016.

Other chains that grew over the past year were: Duke of Oil, Terrible Herbst, Express Lube, Victory Lane Quick Oil Change, Valvoline Express Care, Grease Monkey, Super-Lube, Time-It Lube, Prompto 10-Minute Oil Change, Express Oil Change & Tire Engineers, Snappy Lube and American LubeFast.

A few chains saw a slight decrease in store count in 2015. These companies include: Mobil 1 Lube Express, Castrol Premium Lube Express, CITGO Fast Lube, Mystik Service Center, FASLube Oil Change Center, National Lube Express, Speedy Lube/Zap Lube, Toot n’ Totum Car Care and Mr. Good Lube 10 Minute Oil Change.

Of the top 52 operating chains, 15 of them showed growth over the last year, while nine of them showed a decrease in population.

There were no new stores on the fast lube chains list this year. Twenty eight chains achieved a consistent store count.

The top eight associated chains remain the same as last year, but there was a newcomer to the list. Mobil 1 Lube Detroit, which operates Mobil 1 Lube Express and Valvoline Express Care shops, joined the ranks to share position No. 7 with Sayle Oil Co., who operates eight Shell Rapid Lubes, four Dipstix and one Tire and Service Center. Mobil 1 Lube Detroit, Lighthouse Lube and Sayle Oil Co. reported a total of 13 facilities — an increase of one store for Sayle Oil Co. from last year.

Only one chain saw a decrease in population, but their place in the rankings remained the same. Fast Change Lube & Oil currently operates 20 Pennzoil 10-Minute Oil Changes — a decrease of one store.

Five associated chains saw growth in 2015. They include: No. 1 North Florida Lubes, which currently operates 66 Havoline xpress lubes; No. 2 Pioneer Quick Lube, which currently operates 25 Pennzoil 10-Minute Oil Changes; No. 5 Express Automotive Group, which currently operates a combination of 18 Havoline xpress lubes, Texas Oil Express and Kwik Kar facilities; No. 6 Speed Lube 10-Minute Oil Change, which currently operates 16 Pennzoil 10-Minute Oil Change facilities; and the aforementioned Sayle Oil Co.

Two chains saw no change in store population. They include: No. 4 Automasters of Asheboro, which operates 19 Valvoline Express Care stores, and No. 7 Lighthouse Lube, which operates 13 Mobil 1 Lube Express locations.

There were 11 U.S.-based lube chains and 6,367 facilities — a 378 store increase in  population — operating in foreign countries on the list in 2015. While none of the positions changed, Mobil 1 Centers continued to grow and added an impressive 400 foreign locations in 2015, bringing its total to 3,200 facilities. Havoline xpress lubes stayed steady again in 2015 and didn’t gain or lose any of its 1,432 stores. TBC Corp., who operates Speedee Oil Change and Tune Up, Big O Tires and Midas Auto Service Experts, rounded out the top three chains with 1,020 stores. Three more companies saw growth in the foreign sector: Jiffy Lube, Grease Monkey and Precision Tune Auto Care. Three companies saw a decrease in population: Meineke Car Care Centers, Pennzoil 10-Minute Oil Change and Aamco Transmissions. Two companies stayed steady: Wal-Mart Auto Care Centers and Valvoline Express Care.

Oil Change-Plus 2016

The 61 operating oil change-plus chains represented on the list this year operate a total of 17,468 facilities, which is an increase of 34 facilities from last year’s total.

Goodyear Tire & Service Network Outlets held onto their No. 1 spot on the Oil Change-Plus list, holding off Wal-Mart Auto Care Centers, despite an estimated decrease of 15 stores in 2015. Goodyear is currently operating an estimated 2,594 facilities.

The top 10 oil change-plus chains of 2015 are also the top 10 oil change-plus chains of 2016, but no surprise, they’re in a different order as chains jockeyed for new positions.

Monro Muffler Brake and Service and Meineke Car Care Centers swapped places. Monro Muffler Brake & Service, who added 112 stores in 2015, took No. 5 away from Meineke Car Care Center who fell to No. 6 but remained steady in their store population.

Sears Auto Centers and Aamco Transmissions & Total Car Care also traded places. Sears Auto Centers saw a growth of 34 stores in 2015 and moved up one place to No. 9, knocking Aamco Transmissions & Total Car Care, who saw a decrease of 16 stores in 2015, to the No. 10 spot.

Four top 10 chains saw growth during 2015: No. 2 Wal-Mart Auto Care Centers (14 stores), the aforementioned No. 5 Monro Muffler Brake & Service, No. 8 Quick Lane Tire & Auto Center (111 stores) and the aforementioned No. 9 Sears Auto Centers.

Four of the top 10 chains reported a decrease in store numbers from 2015 to 2016: The previously mentioned No. 1 Goodyear Tire & Service Network, No. 3 TBC Corp. (70 stores), No. 4 Firestone Complete Auto Care (17 stores) and Aamco Transmissions & Total Car Care mentioned above.

Almost a third of the oil change-plus shops on the list saw growth over the last year, with aforementioned Monro Muffler Brake & Service in the lead. All Tune & Lube saw a notable jump of 38 stores and moved from No. 19 to No. 17. Other chains who grew include: Christian Brothers Automotive (17 stores), CarMax (11 stores), Honest-1 Auto Care (10 stores), Milex Complete Auto Care (7 stores), Mister Car Wash & Lube Center (5 stores), Brakes Plus Complete Auto Service (4 stores), Kauffman Tire (3 stores), Tire-Rama (1 store), Commercial Tire (1 store), Conrad’s Tire Express & Total Car Care (1 store), Sun Devil Auto (1 store), Mr. Clean Car Wash (1 store) and Woodie’s Auto Service (1 store).

Tuffy Associates Corp. saw a large decline from 2015, decreasing 152 stores and taking them from No. 11 to No. 14., probably due to separating from Car X, which is why Car X is new on the list. No. 19 Brake Masters dropped 16 stores and one place on the list. Other chains with a decrease in facilities include: Merlin 200,000 Mile Shops (8 stores), Tunex Complete Car Care (4 stores), Precision Tune Auto Care (3 stores), Quality Tune-Up Shops (3 stores), Jackson’s (formerly Danny’s Family Car Wash) (3 stores), Royal Tire (1 store), Wash Depot/Simoniz Car Wash (1 store) and LMC Carwash & Lube (1 store).

The most exciting news is there are seven new chains on the list: Tires Plus, Mavis, the previously mentioned Car X, Wheel Works, Jensen Tire & Auto, Northwest Tire and Theisen’s Tire & Service Center.

Estimating Sales

This year, we decided to look at the auto maintenance industry as a whole by combining the fast lube and oil change-plus lists in order to better depict the industry’s size, and in turn, sales. You’ll notice we’ve included a combined rank and an individual rank for each store listed. We included this to provide you with the most accurate picture of not only the fast oil change and service industry as a whole but each chain that makes up the industry. Because of space, we couldn’t list all 113 stores. The top 25 stores on the combined list are listed here, but to view the list in its entirety check it out on the Industry Studies page (requires premium subscription).

Using the average car count, ticket average and days open per year figures from our 2015 Fast Lube Operator Survey and the store populations as reported on the 2016 Tops in the Industry survey, we estimate industry sales for the largest chains will be approximately $16.2 billion this year.

Other pertinent figures that help define the auto service industry include:

• The average fast lube customer changes his or her motor oil every 4,858 miles. (Source: NOLN Fast Lube Operators Survey)

• The average age of the U.S. passenger vehicle population stays steady at 11.4 years. (Source: IHS Automotive)

• The total vehicles in operation in 2015 was about 257 million, mainly due to an increase in used and new vehicle sales. (Source: Experian Automotive)

The auto service industry has continued to grow in recent years and doesn’t look like it’s going to be slowing down anytime soon. It’s producing moderately stable population numbers and with the average age of vehicles only getting older and requiring maintenance and an increased number of vehicles on road, the industry’s future is looking stable despite the added complexities now and in the future.

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