The Price Of Car Detailing

When buying a new car you think about the running costs, the price of services and mechanical repairs.

I guarantee that you never buy a car and think about the price of car detailing, even though you should.

Car detailing is a key part of maintaining your vehicle. It will protect your car from weather damage, rust and keep it looking factory new.

Wash, Valet or Detail?

There are a number of terms or names that get thrown about when talking about car washing or maintenance. If you aren’t familiar already, here’s a quick comparison between car washing, valeting and detailing.

Car Washing (Clean) – Whether you’re performing a wash yourself or are paying a roadside car wash to do it for you, this is a very basic procedure.

A car wash will snow foam your car, rinse it, shampoo it and then rinse it again.
Roadside car washes offer simple upsells such as a wheel wash and tend to focus on quantity over quality.

As a result, many roadside car washes use poor washing techniques that lead to scratches and swirls.

Washing the car is the first step in any exterior car care plan. A car wash, Valet and Detailer will all provide a different level of care while doing a simple car wash.

Whatever you do, DO NOT USE MECHANICAL DRIVE THROUGH CAR WASHES. They’re guaranteed to scratch your vehicle and I’ve seen some very extreme cases.

Valeting (Clean/Protect) – Car Valeting is a step up from roadside car washing. Many roadside car washes actually offer valeting but it’s not the bulk of their business.

Valeting is a middle ground between car washing and detailing. Professional valeting services will offer jobs that can be completed in a day. They focus on making your car look cleaner while adding extra protection.

Car dealerships choose to valet their cars because it will make the car look 80% perfect in a short period of time. If they chose to get the car to 100% with detailing, it could take 3 more days, it’s not good value.

Car valets are great because they are often good value for money and allow you to drive away the same day.

Detailing (Clean/Protect/Correct) – For a lot of people, detailing is all about going over and above. It’s the most attention your car will ever receive.

Detailing is all about restoring your car back to a factory finish and a lot of the time, making it look even better.

Professional detailers look to clean, protect and correct the interior and paintwork of the vehicle. Doing this takes many hours of hard labor but it’s worth it to see your vehicle look brand new again.

If you want to know the complete ins and outs of car detailing, you can read our article “What Is Car Detailing?” for a more in-depth explanation.

Beginner Detailing Setup Cost

Car Wash

The cheapest way to detail your car is to do it yourself. It takes a lot of research and practice but after many hours you will have learned a valuable skill and if you want, a potential new career path.

Anyone that’s looking to get into detailing will have to invest a considerable amount of money into equipment and products.

Once you’ve bought the equipment the cost of detailing becomes a lot cheaper. Instead of spending money on getting your car detailed you should set aside a weekend every month or so to care for your car.

As a beginner, It’s easy to get carried away and end up with a lot of equipment and products that you don’t need.

I’ve compiled a list of what you’ll need to get started and a general idea of how much it will cost you.

Detailing Tools:

  • Water Hose: $10 – $40
  • Pressure Washer: $80 – $160
  • Foam Cannon: $30 – $60
  • Wet & Dry Vacuum: $80 – $120
  • Dual Action Polisher: $100 – $250
  • Socket Set: $20 – $60

Detailing Products:

Detailing Chemicals:

  • Snow Foam: $30 – $50
  • Shampoo: $15 – $30
  • All-Purpose Cleaner: $10 – $30
  • Wax or Sealants: $10 – $50

Admittedly, you can narrow this list down even further to get started. You can make a car look good using just a pressure washer, vacuum, shampoo, and some microfibre towels. Don’t let a lack of equipment stop you from starting.

You can always build a collection of tools and equipment over time. Though If you want to start a detailing business, you’ll need a lot more than the tools I’ve listed above.

Remember that detailing is a results-based business. If you have all the best tools but can’t make a car look good, what’s the point?

Where to buy car detailing supplies

When I’m buying detailing products I’ll always buy from the place that offers the best price. This means shopping around looking at Amazon, & other leading auto stores.

Don’t invest too heavily in the beginning, detailing and car care is a surprising amount of effort.

Many people jump in headfirst and lose a lot of money trying to resell the equipment. As a result, buying second hand is always an option if you’re on a budget.

Though you do need to consider the risks as you could buy a faulty piece of equipment. Having to buy twice will set you back a lot more money in the long run.

What to do before getting your car detailed by a professional

Car Wax Buffing

When getting work done on your vehicle there are certain steps that you should take before handing your car over. Following these steps make you look good and could potentially save your ass too.

Clean your car – Even though you’re paying someone to clean your car, there’s no reason why you can’t at least take out the trash.

Take a trash bag to your car and pick up all the loose trash.

Doing this takes no time and it makes you look like less of a slob. It will also make the job a little easier on the detailer that’s about to clean the rest of your mess.

Remove any personal belongings – This is very important because it protects yourself and the person working on your car.

Removing all of your personal belongings from the car before handing it over to the shop will prevent theft and/or damage.

There’s nothing worse than having to work around someones belonging when detailing. Taking the belongings out of the vehicle could lead to damage, It’s also easy to forget about them or misplace them leading to serious allegations being made.

Take photos of the vehicle – This one protects you from anything that happens to the car while it’s getting detailed.

Whether you’re the customer or the one doing the detailing you should always do a walk-around of the vehicle beforehand to record the quality of the car.

If you’re a detailer you should do this as you accept the car and when you give it back. It will protect you against any potential false claims.

If you’re the customer in this scenario you should do it just before you hand over the vehicle. This will give you solid evidence of any damage done to the vehicle while in the detailers’ possession.

I personally like to make a video. I’ll state the date, which company is doing work on the vehicle and show every panel clearly as I walk around the car.

It’s 2020, everyone has a phone with a camera, this could save you a lot of stress and money and it’s very simple to do.

What does car detailing include & prices

car covered in snow foam

The price of professional detailing services will vary a lot. You will be shocked by some of the prices people are asking for their services.

Pricing is mostly judged based on where you live, the size of your car, how dirty it is and the services you require.

Some places won’t give you any indication of the price until they’ve looked at your vehicle.
That being said, It’s always best to talk to whoever is working on your car to determine a rough figure beforehand.

Like any other purchase, shop around until you find someone that will produce the results you want at a fair price and stick with them.

Below is a general idea of what you can expect to pay for specific detailing services:

[table id=CarDetail /]

As you can see, the price bands are fairly wide. The best thing that you can do is contact all the detailing businesses in your area to see what services they offer and their pricing.

If you’re buying or selling detailing services, make sure that the expectations of both parties are clear before the work begins. This will avoid any disappointment and potential arguments over the completed work.

Why is car detailing so expensive?

Detailing is a very labor-intensive job, it takes up a lot of time and requires a lot of effort. It’s also a semi-skilled trade, yes any random can learn it, but it takes a lot to achieve the results that a professional detailer can.

Detailing is a very labor-intensive job, it takes up a lot of time and requires a lot of effort. It’s also a semi-skilled trade, yes any random can learn it, but it takes a lot to achieve the results that a professional detailer can.

Paying for a complete detail may seem expensive but it offers incredible results. Proper paint correction can provide respray like results for a fraction of the price.

Is Car Detailing Worth It?

Only you can justify whether the price of car detailing is worth it or not. It will differ based on your life circumstances, the value of your car and so on.

In my situation, running a high-mileage car worth <$5K I cannot justify spending any money on it besides mechanical repairs.

Despite that, I still detail it myself because I enjoy it. I like to take pride in my vehicle and have already learned the skills required.

If I spend the weekend detailing my car I will have to pay material costs and I’ll lose out on any other potential earnings I could have made at work.

Treat it like any other big purchase. You should get some quotes, think the decision through, list the pros and cons and then make a decision.

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