What Is the Average Cost To Detail a Car?


Car detailing is extensive and gives a thorough cleaning of your car, and it gets into all the nooks and crannies. With such a deep cleaning, there are costs associated with the service. But what is the average cost of this service?

The average cost to detail a car ranges from $50 to $300, which varies by the vehicle’s size, so you can expect to pay more for SUVs, trucks, and vans. Detailers will also charge more the dirtier the vehicle is. 

This article will explain everything you need to know about car detailing, including pricing, what to expect, and the benefits of car detailing. This article will also touch on the role that car washing plays, so let’s get started.

What to Expect With Car Detailing Services?

Car detailing is an extensive and deep cleaning of your vehicle, which restores the appearance of your vehicle, extending the life of your vehicle’s interior. The exterior of your car will gleam afterward. 

The cost to detail a car may be pricey, but every part of your vehicle will be cleaned well. It returns your car to its original appearance and gets rid of unwanted odors, stains, and marks. 

So, what is the cost for the owner? The absolute low end for the cost of detailing a car is around $50. For an average-sized car, such as a sedan, a more realistic price point is $100-$125. Larger vehicles, like vans, trucks, and SUVs, typically start at $150-$175. 

Let’s take a closer look at these services.

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Exterior Detailing Services

Exterior detailing includes everything from the tires to the underbody to the windows. It’s meant to remove all the salt and dirt that sticks to your vehicle from everyday driving. 

Here’s a quick rundown of the services:

  • Washing
  • Drying
  • Clay bar treatment
  • Polishing
  • Sealing
  • Tire cleaning
  • Cleaning chrome and plastic trim
  • Waxing

Interior Detailing Services

Just like the exterior, the interior of your vehicle needs a lot of attention. After all, there’s a lot that your car’s interior takes, including eating while driving, getting in after being out in the mud and snow, and normal body sweat.

Here’s a quick rundown of what the interior of your car receives from a detailing service:

  • Brushing and steam cleaning carpets and mats
  • Glass Cleaning
  • Vacuuming
  • Garbage removal 
  • Cleaning under and between seats 
  • Stain removal
  • Odor removal 

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Leather Care

If your vehicle has leather seats, these will be cleaned, conditioned, and scrubbed with cleaners that are leather safe. Many car detailers also apply products to prevent the leather from cracking in the sun or from normal sweat or other moisture that may form in your car.

Additional Services

Some detailers offer additional services that can be added a la carte. These services are above and beyond standard car detailing. 

The services offered will vary by location but can include some of the following:

  • Paint correction
  • Ceramic coating
  • Paint protection film

The Rise of Mobile Car Detailing

Car detailing is an extensive and time-consuming process. From start to finish, the cleaning takes over an hour, sometimes three hours or longer. However, larger vehicles typically take longer to detail. 

Many people do not want the inconvenience of being without their vehicle for an extended period of time. Instead of bringing your vehicle to the detailing shop, detailers have decided to bring the detailing shop to your vehicle. 

Mobile detailers have equipped a van or other large vehicles with portable equipment to detail your vehicle. Rest assured that this should not prevent you from receiving a quality detail of your vehicle.

Because the professionals come to you, albeit your home or your office parking lot, you may be expected to pay extra for the premium service. Some professional detailers will also charge you for the drive to and from their detailing shop. 

Overall, mobile car detailing gives your vehicle a professional thorough cleaning inside and out without any inconvenience to you. 

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How To Detail Your Own Car?

Technically, you can detail your own car. However, it is extremely important that you properly do so, because if it is not done properly, you could damage your vehicle. It is a time-consuming task, but with the right information, car detailing can be done at home. 

There are a few basic rules to get you off to a good start:

  • Prepare all the products and equipment before you begin. 
  • Only microfiber should be used, as other fabrics could scratch the paint. 
  • Use pH-balanced car shampoo.
  • Avoid cleaning in direct sunlight. The exterior of the vehicle should be cool to the touch. 
  • Clean from top to bottom, working your way down.

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How Often Should You Detail Your Car?

You should detail your car every six months, according to the auto experts. Most owners get their car detailed once a year on average. In either scenario, it is a good idea to get your car detailed before selling, as it helps with the resale value.

Car Washing vs. Car Detailing

There is one primary difference between car washing and car detailing, and that is the depth of cleaning. A car wash is a surface clean, but a car detail, on the other hand, is a thorough cleaning. 

Some go so far as to consider it a maintenance service. 

Instead of thinking in terms of a car wash versus car detailing, consider that the two are complementary routine care for your vehicle. While car detailing is done once or twice per year, car washing is done much more often. 

Both car washing and car detailing helps to keep your vehicle in optimal condition. 

Car Washing

A car wash is meant to safely clean away dirt, salt, tar, or any other debris that your vehicle picks up, and takes about 10 to 15 minutes on average. Your vehicle should be washed every couple of weeks as this prevents damage to the paint. 

But, car washing cannot clean and appropriately remove all debris and contaminants from your vehicle. Car washes, even if routine, do not get into all the cracks, crevices, and contours whereas car detailing does. 

Not all car washes are the same. If allowed in your area, you can simply wash your car in the driveway of your own home. 

Beyond that, there are three types of car washes:

  • Hose wash: A self-service hose system allows people to clean their vehicles, which are typically in an open garage-like corral. 
  • Machine wash: Automated car washes that quickly and gently clean your vehicle, which may leave your car with water spots. 
  • Professional hand wash: Of the three, the professional hand wash is the most detailed and most expensive car wash option. The pricing usually ranges between $20 and $30. 

Professional hand washing should not be confused with washing your own vehicle at home. Washing your vehicle at home can be cost-effective, but you can easily damage the paint without the proper products and techniques. 

Benefits of Car Detailing

Car detailing is for more than aesthetic purposes and is beneficial to the vehicle and the owner. You can extend the life of your vehicle with proper care, including car detailing. Many vehicle owners understand the importance of regular oil changes but do not consider the substantial benefits of car detailing. 

Below are some benefits of car detailing:

  • Preserves the paint job: Car detailing can correct minor issues and protects the paint from the elements. 
  • Protects the upholstery: The detailer uses the correct cleaning product for your interior fabric. 
  • Enhances the engine performance: Detailing goes under the hood as well. Dust and dirt removal around the engine allows the vehicle to run smoother.
  • Improves interior air quality: Dust collects and settles in your vehicle over time. Your vehicle’s heating and air conditioning have to work harder to circulate the air. 
  • Upholds the resale value: Auto detailing enhances the overall appearance of the vehicle. Your car will look its best, which then impacts the resale value. 

There is one benefit that just may extend beyond the ones listed above. Car detailing restores your vehicle and impacts how you feel about your vehicle, and having pride in your vehicle is the ultimate benefit of car detailing.

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The cost of detailing a car varies greatly. One of the most significant factors is the type of vehicle you have, as larger vehicles like pickup trucks, vans, and SUVS will cost more. There are usually add-on services available that will drive the cost of the car detail higher.

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