Contributor: Transactional Attorney
I'll let the coin laundry experts speak to whether 4-5x multiples are the norm today and whether you can get a good business in that industry for less, but at the end of the day, "fair" is a subjective term. If a business provides the return you are looking for, the location and lifestyle you want, has good growth prospects (or is rock solid stable), and no other businesses in your area offer those same benefits the price may be "fair" even if the multiple is higher than it is for other industries.
The valuation of businesses in a given market or industry tends to fluctuate over time based on a variety of factors. When it's easier to borrow, there's less inventory on the market, the prospects for the industry look bright, and there are more buyers than sellers, multiples tend to go up.
While multiples are good to use a rule of thumb, to determine whether a multiple range is "fair" for an industry overall requires you to make a personal analysis as to the value to you of being in a specific industry, the availability of other options--either in that industry or in others, the growth prospects for the industry, and any other intangibles that are important to you.
I experienced this personally on the seller side a number of years ago when my partners and I received an offer on a business we had started and grown. The offer was "fair" by the standards of average market multiples for businesses in our general industry, but we saw something that the multiples didn't take into account. Our business was poised to ride a very significant market trend in our niche that had just recently started to build. The multiple we were being offered did not take into account that there was tremendous growth potential and that we were poised perfectly to capture that growth.
The potential buyer walked away frustrated that they'd made a "fair" offer and been rejected. Several years later we ended up selling the business for six times that "fair" offer. The buyer could have paid double what they offered and still had a home run a few years later, but they were locked into a very limited view of what was "fair".
Additionally, valuations depend on the position and needs of the buyer. For example, a buyer with 10 existing coin laundries in the surrounding area and a foundation of systems and management in place to run and market those may be willing (and able) to pay significantly more than a buyer purchasing what will be a single location.
The real question is whether you could invest the same amount of time and money into another business or industry and end up with a total result that is more beneficial to you. If you can't, then the price may be "fair" even if the multiple is higher than the average for other small businesses.