What Does “Detailing A Car” Mean?

What Does "Detailing A Car" Mean?, Car detailing - Hands with orbital polisher in auto repair shop. Selective focus. "Detailing a car" is a common term known in the automotive world. Most of the time, a car is detailed when you purchase the vehicle. It is also something people do periodically to keep their car clean and in good condition. But what does it mean exactly to detail a car? We've done the research and found out how car companies, dealerships, and regular people define it and compiled the information in this article.

The definition of "detailing a car" is to clean, polish, and finish the interior and exterior of a car so it is spotless and ready to be shown off. Typically, this is a paid service done by professionals at either a private detailing business or a car dealership.

Keep reading below to learn more about detailing a car, see our answers to some common questions, and provide information to show you where the best places are to get your car detailed.

What Is Included In A Car Detail?

Car details are done by professionals who own all types of tools and equipment. The goal is to clean every inch of the vehicle's visible areas so that it is completely clean and appealing to the eye. While some services offer different detailing packages, we'll be going over a standard package provided when you buy a car from a dealership or take it to a detailing business and buy a standard plan.


Have you ever opened your hood after washing your car only to realize how dirty it is underneath? Most of the time we don't think to clean under the hood, but opening the hood to a clean engine makes you feel like you're driving a brand new car. It's a good feeling when you know the parts that make your car move are shiny and clean.

When your car is being detailed, professionals will open up the hood and make sure everything underneath is free of dust, dirt, or anything else accumulated from normal wear and tear.


The wheels are typically shined and cleaned in a detail. They don't just wipe off the wheels, they detail the chassis and everything around it to make sure that every part of it is clean and shiny.

Trim And Lights

All of the headlights, tail lights, brake lights and trim around the car is meticulously shined and cleaned. If the headlights are foggy, higher-priced packages may include using special cleaning solutions to help defog your lights as well.

Body Cleaning

As you would expect, your vehicle is given a car wash from top to bottom to ensure the whole exterior looks great. Detailing services will pay attention to your paint job and do all they can to extend to the longevity of your paint and any other coats that are on the vehicle.

Interior Detailing

Caucasian Men Cleaning Car Interior. Professional Detailed Vehicle Maintenance.

For most people, this is where the big difference is noticed in the before and after pictures. The interior detailing involves vacuuming and deep cleaning all of the carpets and fabric in the car, wiping down the hard surfaces, cleaning the cup holders, steering wheel, gauge cluster, etc.

Every surface in the car is wiped down and shined. This reiterates the point of a detailing which is to make the owner feel like they are sitting in a brand new car.

The same goes for any trunk space in a vehicle. It is vacuumed and clean as part of the interior. If a car has leather seats, the leather is conditioned as well as cleaned so its life is prolonged.

How Much Does It Cost To Get A Car Detailed?

A man cleaning the car rear seat using vacuum

Getting a vehicle detailed can range from $50 to $200 or more depending on the size of your car and how dirty it is. Here are some of the top car detailing services along with their packages and prices.

Toyota Dealerships And Other Dealers

With locations all across the country, dealerships offer a superb detailing service thanks to their typically large size and access to professional cleaning supplies and equipment. They offer a multitude of packages. The cheapest package at Toyota is a "value package" which covers a wash and dry of the exterior, full interior vacuum, window cleaning, and tire shine. The price for this starts between $50-$60 depending on the size of the vehicle.

The prices and packages go up from there, offering more services such as wax, dash wiping, polishing, shampooing seats and carpets, and more. The most expensive package they offer is $260 and it covers everything you can imagine including a hand washing, buffing the exterior, conditioning leather seats, etc.


Spiffy is a mobile car detailing service. This means they will come to wherever you are and detail your car in your driveway. No need to go anywhere. They off high-quality work and always hand-wash cars. They have locations in several cities so be sure to verify that they have a location near you.

They offer the same level of detail as dealerships do, with similar pricing. Their lowest package comes in at $50-$60 and their highest package is $250-$300. This is a fantastic deal since they come to your house at no extra charge.

Spiffy also washes your car on a large mat so your property is not disturbed in any way. This way they are able to clean your car and keep your lawn and driveway clean as well.

Local Detailing Services

Caucasian Professional Worker Cleaning Modern Car Interior. Vehicle Detailing.

At the end of the day, name-brand car detailing services usually cost more because of their customer satisfaction and trustworthiness. They are a safe and reliable option. But this isn't to say local services are not. In fact, many local detailing businesses are a great option because small businesses tend to give a level of attention to detail that others do not.

Red Carpet is an example of a business that offers top-quality service for an affordable price. Their lowest level detailing costs a little more than the bigger brands, starting at $89.99. However, they shine when it comes to their highest package. Their all-inclusive package starts at $149.99 which is one of the best deals available.

No matter where you are located, there is a local detail service near you. Do your research and check Yelp reviews to make sure the small business in your area is trusted and reliable. If so, chances are you can find a great deal going with a local business.

How To Detail A Car At Home

What Does "Detailing A Car" Mean?, Car detailing - Hands with orbital polisher in auto repair shop. Selective focus.

Detailing a car at home is another option if you are looking to save money or if you just enjoy doing the work yourself; after all, nobody can clean your car like you can. Detailing car at home just involves having the right equipment and cleaning supplies.

Supplies needed:

  • Cleaning mitts
  • Car wash soap
  • Glass cleaner spray
  • Polish
  • Bucket
  • Drying towels
  • Disinfectant/cleaning wipes
  • Water hose and hookup
  • Vacuum with hose and attachments

These are the basics needed to detail a car. However, you can be as thorough as you like. More items not mentioned in the list would be wax, leather conditioner, and wheel shining spray. You can add more or less supplies based on how much money you are willing to spend and how big of a job you want to take on.

The process of detailing your car is up to you. Starting with the interior is common since you may be getting fingerprints or setting things on the outside of the car during the cleaning. Washing the exterior last would result in a spotless finish for the car as a whole.

Also, remember to work from top to bottom. You don't want to vacuum the carpets only to get them dirty with falling dust during the cleaning of the dash and other parts of the car. The same goes for the outside of the vehicle. As a last step, be sure to dry off the outside and then go back one more time to the interior and vacuum out the floors in case you tracked anything in from your shoes or from sitting in the car.

Read more: How To Clean Your Car's Dashboard In 5 Easy Steps 

How Often Should You Detail Your Car?

While this is entirely up to you, on average people should do an extensive detail of their car at least once a year. A simpler detail may only involve washing the outside and cleaning the inside of your car, which is good to do every few weeks or once a month depending on how clean you like your vehicle.

The main point to get across here is that there is no wrong answer granted you are keeping your vehicle disinfected. If you love cleaning your car every week, that is fantastic. If you prefer to let everything build up and do a deeper clean once or twice a year, that works too.

Read more: How Often Should You Wash Your Car?

In Closing

Rear-side view of a luxury car on sunset after car detailing

Detailing your car is an important part of vehicle ownership. Making sure you keep your interior clean and sanitary is also very important. Whether you're paying someone to detail your car or doing it yourself, the important part is that a clean vehicle improves your quality of life. It's amazing what getting into a clean vehicle can do.

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