The age-old question when it comes to detailing – Is having your car detailed actually worth it? Before I go head over heels and say “YES! It really is!” I wanted to be realistic and give you a few good reasons why.
For starters, I will say that sometimes it doesn’t make economic sense (depending on the age of your vehicle), and what you use it for. Keeping a vehicle washed (whether it’s an automatic car wash) or by hand is the most important thing you can do for preventing major issues, but detailing does have it’s advantages over anything most people attempt in the driveway.
After thinking about this topic for a while, here are 5 of the most convincing reasons I came up with for having your car detailed periodically.
1. Higher resale value
If you’re looking to resell your vehicle at any point, one reason why it’s worth having your car detailed is that it can boost your resale value upwards of $2,000 for mid-range vehicles according to Lauren Fix, a spokeswoman for Car Care Council.
Some estimates suggest you may be able to receive 15 percent more than your vehicle’s average resale if you have your vehicle detailed on both the inside and outside prior to putting it up for sale.
Protecting your vehicle’s resale value over time
As long as there is not irreversible damage like huge rust spots on your body panels, a professional detailing job can remove imperfections like small scratches and some stains if you don’t normally detail your vehicle.
If you just bought a new car (on the other hand) having it detailed on a regular basis will simply make it easier to trade in or sell within the first 5 years of owning it.
Considering resale? Decide how much money is worth investing first
For luxury vehicles, it may even make sense to take your vehicle to a body shop or at least to a detailer that specializes in advanced detailing techniques like paint correction (i.e. swirl and scratch removal).
These services can quickly add up depending on what you’re having done, but removing basic scratches is a service that most of the time is less than $500.
Unless your vehicle’s value is less than around $10,000, simply having it detailed for $100-200 and making an extra $500-$600 is really a no-brainer.
However, going overboard on paintwork services, tinting, or anything else for a vehicle that doesn’t command a great amount of demand or market value to begin with probably won’t translate to more cash in your pocket.
The DIY option
If you feel like putting in the work on a Saturday to prep your vehicle for resale, you can perform basic polishing/waxing techniques yourself for a few bucks.
Below are a few resources that may help if you are considering detailing your vehicle yourself.
- eBook: 25 Essential Detailing Products for Beginners
- Blog: 17 Interior Detailing Tips the Pros Keep a Secret
- Blog: Compound vs Clay, Polish & Glaze – 7 Products to Understand
Washing your vehicle may help earn you a few extra dollars, but a good detailing job (inside and out) is usually where you will see the most benefit.
2. Washing and detailing helps protect your clear coat
At Carwash Country, I’m all about promoting the fun and excitement of detailing a vehicle, but detailing simply won’t fix everything.
More serious problems associated with neglecting a vehicle — like rusting, scratching, and pitting can largely be avoided by simply washing your car every few weeks. Even the best detailing jobs won’t eliminate rusted out floorboards, one of those things potential buyers or inspectors look for.
Your car’s clear coat is like your skin: you should protect it!
With detailing in general, the goal is to simply remove minor imperfections, and to help protect your finish from the elements. Think of the exterior of a vehicle is a lot like skin. If you never moisturize or wash your skin, eventually it will start to fade and crack which leads to other problems down the road (no pun intended).
The clear-coat on cars really is the same way. The best way to protect your clear coat and your paint job is simply to apply a wax or sealant either by yourself or by a professional detailer.
If a car is never washed, eventually dirt, salt, and everything else will begin eat away at a clear coat. Once the clear coat is weakened these contaminants will attack your paint layer, and eventually the sheet metal, which causes rusting.
This will eventually lead to rusting over time especially in ‘rust belt’ states in the U.S. or humid coastal areas.
The danger of dirt and contaminant buildup on your clear coat
Here are a few common substances that wax and sealants can help protect against:
- Dirt and tiny rock particles
- Acid rain
- Metallic particles
- Road salt
- Industrial fallout
Clear coats are incredibly hard and more resistant to many of these contaminants than they used to be, but if you’re looking to actually clean EVERYTHING from your clear coat..that requires claying.
Any good auto detailer will be able to offer this service, since claying is really the only way to really remove certain substances like metallic particles.
If you’re unfamiliar with claying vs waxing you can read more about it in this post.
3. Getting your car detailed is more convenient now than ever
Time is money. If you’re not really into washing or detailing your car (but still want the benefits of a car looking shiny and glossy inside and out) you’re only an app download away.
I’m a big fan of supporting local mobile auto detailers, but there are a few good mobile apps out there if you want more of a maintenance-style detail. A few of these include:
- MobileWash (actually a network of independent detailers)
- Washos (Los Angeles)
What to keep in mind with on-demand detailing
Claying or paint correction techniques should only be performed by a professional to avoid scratching, so just be careful that you read reviews and select a company that you feel comfortable washing and detailing your vehicle.
Many larger auto detailing company keep their calendars pretty full, and based on my experience don’t offer the same quality of service as smaller companies of 1-3 people.
4. A detailed car can uphold your brand
Like it or not, many professionals rely on a degree of personal appearance to win over new clients and keep existing ones. In addition, according to a Forbes survey, 95% of employers agree personal appearance or presentation is a determining factor when deciding if someone is a good fit for a job.
And while it may be a stretch to include having your car detailed In the category of personal appearance, it can help to uphold a brand (whether personal or otherwise). On the contrary, a filthy vehicle can help diminish a personal or company brand. Here are a couple of examples where detailing a work vehicle may make sense:
- Real Estate
- Ride Sharing
- Company fleets
- Limo services
- Auto detailers!
In the ride-sharing for example, not having your car detailed from time to time may not help you achieve higher ratings and tips, but leaving it filthy can hurt your rating or reputation.
Keeping clients and prospects comfortable
If you find yourself in a very competitive industry that relies on a lot of face to face interaction, having your vehicle detailed periodically either by yourself or a professional is probably the right thing to do.
The last thing you want is for a potential client to feel uncomfortable in a dirty car. It’s one of those small things that actually may have an impact on closing deals for sales professionals in professions where clients regulary see what you drive.
If your vehicle is essential to business, your employer may be able to compensate you for regular auto detailing services. It may also be deductible if you are self-employed depending on how you use the vehicle. Always be sure to consult with a licensed tax professional on these matters.
5. Detailing can eliminate foul odors and germs
When it comes to odor removal, the difference between a full interior detail vs. wiping the dashboard and spraying air freshener can be quite dramatic if you’re not used to having your car detailed.
Carpet shampooing and what’s called carpet extraction (where dirt is literally lifted out of the fibers using hot water and a vacuum) is absolutely necessary for eliminating some odors.
This is especially a good idea if you just bought a used vehicle, or just notice a general musty smell coming from your carpets or seats.
Keep in mind that for some services like carpet extraction, not all detailers are able to perform these types of services so it’s worth doing some research. On the other hand, it’s definitely worth it if you just have a smell that won’t go away.
A University of Nottingham study indicated over 51% of drivers drop food, allowing the potential for bacteria and viral cultures to emerge.
Does this mean that it’s necessarily a health hazard for most people? Probably not.
However, in warm, moist environments it can pose more of a problem when it comes to mold growth and attracting insects and bugs. At a minimum, cleaning out trash and throwing away empty bottles (which are a primary source of moisture and odor in cars) is simply good practice for avoiding these issues.
Removing trash and odor-causing substances is a service that’s well worth the investment if you don’t want to do it yourself. Since this type of detailing sometimes falls into the more ‘extreme’ category, you may have to pay a little extra depending on the severity.
All this being said, it’s a good idea to have your car detailed from time to time for cosmetic reasons, to protect the value of your investment, and for the health of yourself or anyone riding with you.
Giving your car the ‘detailed’ white-glove treatment at least a time or two per year at a minimum in my opinion is a great idea for most people. As corny as it sounds, detailers are like car doctors. They provide recommendations and are highly trained at treating common problems, but it’s up to you to choose what to do with the advice.
Have any other tips that come to mind? Let me know or leave a comment on my YouTube channel.