What Is the Difference Between a Car Wash and Auto Detailing?
The difference is more than cost. During a typical car wash:
- Your car is run through a machine and washed with brushes. Then air driers remove most of the water. Generally, the drying is finished by hand. Car wash costs range from $10 to $40, depending upon where you live. Prices tend to be lower in the eastern U.S. and higher for an SUV or minivan.
- Car detailing goes beyond a car wash to include hand washing of the entire vehicle, waxing, tire cleaning, interior polish, and even small dent removal. They also can take between four and six hours.
A Breakdown of Detailing Services and Costs
Car detailing can include a range of services from basic hand wash and wax to full interior and exterior police. See the table below for details about what is included and prices.
Detailed to the Max!
One reviewer stated that he had his Dodge Viper detailed. It took 45 hours and all imperfections were removed. The cost of his auto detailing was $2,700.00! For obvious reasons, I did not include this review in the average cost calculation.
There are different levels of auto detail services.
- Generally a basic detailing package includes a hand wash, wax, tire cleaning, interior vacuuming, and wipe-down or polish of all interior surfaces, including the dashboard, windows, mirrors, and trim. Special chemicals are used to clean your car, preparing it for what is called the rejuvenation process, which includes using air compressors, compounds, and detailing clay. Detailing clay removes contamination from the paint that is not removed during normal washing. The result of the clay process prepares the car for buffing or polishing. Depending on the particular needs of your car, the auto detailer may then use wax, paint sealant, dressings, leather conditioners, or water protector for cloth fabric.
- A fuller service detailing includes superior wax, interior detailing with steam or hot water extraction, leather upholstery cleaning, dent removal, white wall tire cleaning, an underbody wash, ozonation (odor removal), and engine cleaning.