How Much Should You Tip A Car Wash?

Neglecting the exterior of your car can lose you a lot of money when you come to resell the car.

If you care about your car, car washes should be a regular part of your cars maintenance regime.

Using poor wash techniques can actually damage your vehicle. This is why it’s important to find a good roadside car wash or detailer that you can trust and build a relationship.

When paying for the service, leaving a reasonable tip will encourage them to remember you. But how much should you tip?

I get all my maintenance washes done at the same local car wash. I know that they’re safe & reliable so I can enjoy the benefits of regular car washes without having to do it myself.

Here’s a list of benefits that you get when regularly washing your car:

  • Your car will always look its best
  • Helps to maintain the value of a car
  • Removes damaging road salts and minerals
  • Prevents Vehicle Damage (Scratches & Rust)

Despite all the benefits that come from washing and detailing a car, people still treat it as if it’s a low-value service. This is probably because they can do it themselves, even though they never do.

There’s no doubt washing and detailing a car yourself will save you a lot of money in the long run. It’s also one of those things that you’ll get round to doing, but never actually do.

Even if you’re eager, it’s a big commitment to learn the in’s and out’s of detailing. Most people don’t want to spend 30 minutes washing the paintwork, nevermind paint correction, and polishing.

Owning a car wash or detailing business can be a frustrating experience. People will never value your time and services as much as they should because “they can do it themselves”.

Should You Tip A Car Wash Or Detailing Service?

A tip is a sum of money given as a reward for a service. Tipping is a very controversial subject, and can even be frowned upon in some countries.

It’s important to remember that a tip is completely optional and you shouldn’t feel pressured into tipping. A well-run business will make enough money to flourish without you tipping them, though the staff will appreciate it.

Having grown up in the UK where tipping is fairly rare, I may seem a little tight-fisted.
I will only tip when I feel as though the service is worth more, or if it’s clear that somebody is making that extra bit of effort.

If I frequent a business and they’re providing a good consistent service, I’ll tip them every so often. But if I receive an average or worse service, I’m not going to tip, regardless.

You may have different morals but I believe that you should only tip if it doesn’t set you back financially.

How Much Should You Tip A Car Wash?

Another big debate around tipping is how much you should tip. That’s exactly why you’re here.

Just like the act of tipping, in some countries, there is an expectation of how little or how much you should tip. I don’t agree with tipping based on percentages, it’s much better to look at the situation and leave a tip you’re comfortable with.

Roadside car washes often ask for a flat rate for washing your car no matter the size. Providing they use all the correct techniques and the car is cleaned to satisfaction with no scratches, I’d tip them a good amount.

For Example, The business has just cleaned my Hummer H2 for the same price as a small hatchback and done a good job.

While the main tip would be to tell them to change their pricing structure, I’d also leave them a $3-5 tip as well.

Below is a list of scenarios & tips that may suit each scenario:

$1-3 Tip

Sometimes I have a very heavily polluted car that I cannot fathom washing.

This car has been neglected for many thousands of winter miles and I know for a fact, that it’s going to be a major hassle to wash properly.

I’m talking a good 30 minutes to an hour extra to wash due to the level of pollution.

I’ll just hop in the car, drive it up to my local roadside hand car wash. I’ll pay them the $5-10 flat rate that they ask and play on my phone while the car is washed.

Because I’ve been in that situation and know the effort that it takes to clean said vehicle, I don’t mind tipping them a little bit extra. Normally in the $1-3 range.

This type of scenario is exactly why detailers will wait to see the vehicle before giving you an estimate for the job.

$3-5 Tip

Similar to what I explained earlier when taking a big vehicle to a place that charges a flat rate for washing a car, I’m going to tip a little bit of money to make it fairer.

Depending on the size of the vehicle and the quality of service I get, this will range anywhere between $3-5. If I get poor service, I may even tip less than 3 dollars.

$5+ Tip

Tips of $5 or more are reserved for more expensive services. There’s nothing a roadside car wash can do that will justify this size of tip.

I don’t ever pay to get my car detailed because I do it myself. Just bear with me for this example.

If I hire a detailer to clean a very heavily soiled interior and they manage to beat my expectations by a lot, I would tip them $5.

If I hire a detailer to perform a full paint correction and polish on heavily marred paint and they manage to meet my expectations and more, I’ll give them a $5-10 tip.

Again, detailers will ask for an estimate that represents the task at hand. They don’t expect tips, but if you’re surprised by their work and are feeling generous, leave them a tip.

Final Thoughts

At the end of the day, you will have your own thoughts on tipping.

I don’t feel pressured by societal norms or people that are hinting at receiving a tip. As a result, you will probably find my thinking a little harsh.

People should be rewarded for providing a service that beats your expectations. Even if it’s just a little tip.

If it’s a place that you visit regularly, tipping them may result in a friendlier or better service. Providing you tip often, it may start to become an expectation.

If you are not satisfied with the service you’ve received, don’t feel pressured to leave a tip. In fact, I challenge you to tell them that you’re not happy with the services they have provided.

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