How Much Does a Car Wash Cost?

Car wash personnel washing black car using high-powered jet hoseOne type of car maintenance that sometimes gets forgotten is a car wash. The rain definitely helps, but it won't get rid of the hard to remove dirt. A good car wash will keep your vehicle looking crisp and shiny.

Car washes generally don't cost much. They typically range from $5 to $20. That range can vary dramatically based on what type of wash you select. Getting the inside of your vehicle deep cleaned or having the tires shined can increase the overall cost. It can also vary on where you go to get a wash.

We've done the research and put together an in-depth guide on the cost of car washes. Continue reading to find out just how much a car wash might cost you.

What Does A Regular Car Wash Include?

A simple car wash will clean off dirt, salt, and debris from the surface of your car.

If you just want a quick drive-through car wash, check out some local gas stations. Some gas stations have an automatic car wash on site. First, you'll pay for the type of wash you want. How good of a cleansing you want will determine the cost, but it usually ranges from $5 to $10. Then, you'll slowly drive through it and let the brushes do the washing.

However, we highly recommend you don't use these kinds of car washes often. The brushes could be too firm or contain debris that could damage your car's exterior.

Self-serve car washes leave the work to you. Drivers pay for the type of cleaning they want at coin-operated machines. Then, they use a soapy brush and power washer to wash the vehicle's exterior. Every car wash of this sort varies in price.

Full-service car washes take longer than the others mentioned. Professionals clean the exterior of your car — and possibly vacuum the interior as well — and the process can take roughly 30 minutes.

How Much Does Hand Washing A Car Cost?

Another option to keep your car looking fresh is to wash it yourself. In the long run, this would be the cheaper route to take. With all the materials on hand, you'll get more of your money by washing it at home. You may want to expect an increase in your water bill, however.

Up-front, it can seem more expensive if you don't already have the materials. Typically you want to have the following:

To save the hassle of buying everything individually, you can invest in a kit. The set below by Meguiars comes with soap, wax, glass cleaner, scratch remover, interior cleaner, and shining foam.

Click here to see more on Amazon.

Car Wash Vs. Do-It-Yourself Wash: Which Is Better?

Typically, you should wash your car once per two weeks unless you live somewhere where it's easy for dirt or salt to get the vehicle's exterior particularly dirty.

For convenience, a car wash is the best option. They're cheap, and they're generally pretty quick.

But for long term savings, washing it yourself may be better. It may take much longer, but you don't have to burn the gas to drive to a car wash. Your washing materials also won't be a one-time use.

It all falls to personal preference; whether you want a quick process or beautify your car yourself.

When it comes to which is better for the environment, it's kind of a toss-up. At home, you're using up a lot of water. A car wash, on the other hand, uses up a lot of electricity.

How Much Does It Cost To Shampoo A Car?

When you're cleaning the interior yourself, you'll need some kind of foaming cleaning product and seat cleaner appropriate for the material of your seats. These can range from $10 to $25 individually, depending on the brand.

Click here to see more on Amazon.

For exterior washing, car wash shampoo costs can be a lot. Many car shampoos come by the gallon. Some come in a can, but it's better in the long run to purchase a gallon size.

Car Washing Vs. Car Detailing

Car washing and car detailing are two completely different procedures. In the end, your car will be looking nice and clean regardless. The difference lies in how it's cleaned.

With car washing, it's a somewhat quick procedure. You're just having the exterior cleaned and waxed, and the interior scrubbed and dried off. You definitely pay MUCH less going this route.

Detailing is meant to make your car look almost as good as it was in the showroom. The whole process costs much more time and money.

Unlike car washing which takes a few minutes to an hour, car detailing can take many hours, if not the whole day. That's because professionals inspect every detail of your car. They use high-tech cleaning equipment to refresh your car. The interior gets vacuumed very carefully and gets conditioned after. Towards the end of the whole process, your car gets polished: the inside, the outside, and even the tires.

Experts recommend that you detail your car roughly three times a year. Doing so expands the lifespan of your car and can help boost the resale value.

How Much Is A Full Detail On A Car?

The average cost of a basic car detailing service can go up to $150 depending on the size of your vehicle. Other services, like higher-quality cleaning or waxing product, will raise the price even more. The condition of your vehicle will also affect the overall price.

Smaller cars, like sedans, may cost from $50 to $120 for a basic package. Vans, pickup trucks, and SUVs have a starting price of around $75. Upgraded packages can add $50 to the original price. Be sure you ask about every single thing that's included to ensure you're getting your money's worth.

If you detail your vehicle a few times a year, as recommended, this will help keep the total cost from going up. The less you detail your car, the more thorough the detailing will be, which will end up costing you more.

What's Included In A Full Car Detail?

As we mentioned earlier, detailing can take hours because every aspect of the car usually gets cleaned. The high-tech cleaning equipment eliminates all kinds of dirt in and outside of your car.

All of the surfaces in the interior get cleaned. That includes the trunk and other cargo space. The carpet, seats, and mats will likely be cleaned with a steam cleaner. Leather will be conditioned, cleaned, and polished. All of the glass is cleaned with a glass cleaner that leaves a lasting sparkle. When everything is done, a deodorant is applied to leave the car smelling excellent.

Your exterior lights receive a polishing compound to remove any oxidation. It then gets a plastic sealing that helps to resist fading.

The outside of your wheels will, of course, get a good scrub. But the inside of the wheels/rims will be left shiny too. After being washed, a protectant is applied to help prevent rust or corrosion.

Some detailing facilities will even wash the engine. It receives a light spray of water, gets scrubbed using a degreaser, then rinsed fully clean.

Do You Tip Car Detailers?

Detailers spend hours cleaning every nook and cranny in your car, crouching, bending, and scrubbing along the way. They do price their services accordingly, however.

If you're in the United States, you should generally tip. It lets the workers know that you appreciate how good of a job they did. Assuming it was a job well done, at least 10% would be a good tip. Plus, they'll continue giving it their all when you come back for more work.


Getting your car cleaned, whether it be washing or detailing, is a key component in vehicle maintenance. Everyone likes to drive in a nice smelling, nicely polished car. If you love your car being shiny, check out our guide on how frequently you should get it waxed.

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