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Answered: How Dealerships Wash and Keep Their Cars Clean

Have you ever wondered how car dealerships keep their cars looking so clean? I too have wondered this for some time, and figured it was about time to get to the bottom of it.

After doing my research, I found that there are a couple of different methods used.

If you’re a mobile detailer considering dealership work (or just someone curious), today I wanted to outline exactly how this is done.

Contractors are typically hired to wash cars at large dealerships

Often times car dealerships will contract mobile detailers to regularly wash their fleet of new or used vehicles. With this agreement in place, dealerships are able to keep their vehicles from getting too dirty, turning away potential buyers.

On the other hand, some larger dealerships may choose to hire their own in-house detailers or install automatic wash bays on-site.

For small car dealerships, oftentimes smaller 1-2 person crews that service retail clients (and not fleets) will have an agreement in place with the owner to routinely remove substances like:

  • Pollen
  • Light dirt and debris
  • Snow or ice

Most of the time this entire process is done with a power washer and basic foam sprayers, where the actual vehicle isn’t touched.

Detailing companies also recondition cars dealerships purchase

reconditioning car

When it comes to paint correction, scratch removal, and other imperfections, usually a small detailing company will perform ‘recon’ services on either a one-off or recurring basis depending on the budget of the dealership.

While keeping dirt off is a priority, most used car dealers pay for reconditioning services after purchasing cars at auction or receiving trade-ins.

This usually consists of:

  • Interior reconditioning (leather cleaning, carpet extraction, vacuuming, etc.)
  • Exterior washing
  • Waxing and applying a tire dressing
  • Applying glaze for added shine before photography

This reconditioning process is required before cars are photographed and put up on a dealer’s website (for example). It obviously depends on the budget of the dealership as to what types of services are performed.

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Some dealerships use automatic washes, others wash by hand

car wash tunnel

One recent trend highlighted in Automotive News is the emergence of tunnel washes at larger dealerships.

Dealers are offering more services than ever, including oil changes (and as of late) detailing services to clients. This has lead to many dealerships purchasing automatic car wash bays and opening up detailing centers that are capable of washing hundreds of cars each day.

Quick tip: Purchasing a car from a dealer? Ask about detailing services.

If you are considering purchasing a vehicle from a dealership, you may want to negotiate a complimentary detail with each oil change.

Many dealerships are fighting for recurring revenue now more than ever, which means extra services like auto detailing and oil changes are being offered to customers to create more of an all-in-one car car experience.

While having these automatic car wash bays and detailing centers on-site for customers is a great service, they can also be utilized to keep existing fleets of vehicles clean without contractors.

Do dealerships wash their vehicles after it rains?

For the most part, most car dealers don’t wash their fleet of cars after it rains, unless dirt or debris is left behind.

Unless rain is mixed with pollen or acid rain leaves water spots, typically they go unwashed after rainstorms since waxes and sealants are able to repel most of the water.

Snow, on the other hand, is a bit different.

How dealers clear snow off of cars

snow removal car dealership

To clear snow off of their vehicles, usually the contractor will start with brushes to push the snow off. In addition, most dealers will hire contractors to plow sections of the car lot while simultaneously getting their vehicles clean.

A few tricks I’ve heard about are turning on the defrosters in each car to accelerate melting.


Now you know how dealerships do it! Keep in mind many used car dealers will use a product called a glaze, which basically makes the car look really slick and shiny, only until it washes off.

If you are a mobile detailer considering stepping up to washing fleets (like dealerships), check out my post 8 Tips for Starting a Fleet Washing Business. Keep in mind that dealership washing requires large water tanks and the ability to wash 80-100 vehicles at the time (or more).

Simply put, keeping vehicles clean at a dealership is not always an easy tasks, especially in areas that experience a lot of snow. For this reason, many larger dealerships are opting to build indoor showrooms to protect their fleet of vehicles.

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