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As a car owner, nothing feels better than driving a freshly detailed vehicle. It’s the sparkle from the rims, the luster on the paint, the tidiness inside, and the clean, crisp smell inside. Whether you do it yourself or have a pro take care of it, detailing a car takes hours of your time. But how much does detailing a car cost professionally, and what’s the difference if you do it yourself? 

Let’s explore the average cost of a professional detailing job vs the cost of doing it on your own the same way that the pros do it. 

What’s considered a car detailing?

For a basis to work from, let’s establish what auto detailing we’re talking about. For our purposes, it’s the process of keeping or restoring your vehicle to its best cosmetic condition from start to finish. Car detailing includes:  

  • Washing and drying the exterior 
  • Cleaning the wheels and tires 
  • Waxing or polishing the paint 
  • De-cluttering and vacuuming the interior 
  • Cleaning the interior vinyl and plastic trim 
  • Shampooing the seats and carpets 

For some detailing shops, the process also includes scratch removal but that’s not always included. 

The Average Cost of Going to a Car Detailing Shop 

Where you live determines how much you’ll have to pay for a professional detailing job, just like the same mechanical repair can cost different amounts in different states. For example, the average car detailing in the US is approximately $160. But what does it cost to detail a car in Hawaii? It could range from under $100 to $270 or more. The same job in Oregon could run between $186 and $296. 

The price also varies depending on the type of vehicle you drive. A compact car has less area to clean, so it stands to reason it costs the lower end of the scale. Large SUVs and trucks, especially very dirty ones, could be more expensive than the high end of the price range since it takes more time to clean them.  

The Pros of a Professional Detailing 

Why choose to go to a professional to detail your car? Honestly, the biggest reason is the convenience of not doing it yourself. It can take a pro between three and eight hours to detail one vehicle from start to finish, and specialty vehicles or extra-large models could be even longer. If you don’t have much free time in your schedule, it makes sense to hand the job off to a pro. Other reasons to get professional detailing include:  

  • You don’t need to invest in detailing equipment. 
  • They have higher-grade equipment than you do at home. 
  • You don’t need to have a place to clean your car. 
  • The weather outside doesn’t matter. 
  • They often do a better job, plain and simple. 

The Cons of a Professional Detailing 

Like anything, bringing your car to a detailing shop doesn’t always work out the way you hoped. There can be downsides to professional detailing such as:  

  • It obviously costs quite a lot. 
  • The job might not be done to your higher standard. 
  • There may be additional costs if you need a very dirty vehicle cleaned. 

The Pros of DIY Car Detailing

If you take pride in being a capable DIYer or you just can’t justify the cost for professional vehicle cleaning, then you can tackle the job yourself. There are perks to detailing your own vehicle such as:  

  • You can do it whenever you want without making an appointment. 
  • You don’t need to find alternate transportation while it’s at the shop.  
  • Feel free to clean it to your own standard—no more, no less. 
  • You aren’t paying for someone else’s labor or materials. 
  • If it doesn’t turn out perfectly, you can redo it with no additional costs or complaints to the manager. 
  • You can reuse your detailing supplies time and time again. 

And when you finish, the sense of a job well done is elating. 

What You Will Need With DIY Car Detailing

You’ll need to purchase car wash soap, a wash mitt and brush, tire cleaner, tire shine, a professional-grade vacuum cleaner, a power polisher with compounds, a chamois or microfiber cloths, and interior detailing sprays. If you want to shampoo your upholstery, you’ll also need to buy an extractor. Initial costs might seem pricy, but the trade-off is you’ll have the supplies to detail vehicles for a while. 

How much does a car detail cost if you do it yourself? Long-term, the price is probably about $30 to $50 per detailing, assuming you take care of your equipment. 

The Cons of DIY Car Detailing 

And once you have all the supplies, consider the time it takes to do the job. A professional will most likely be able to complete the job much quicker than if you handled it yourself. You will want to dedicate a good amount of your day to be able to fully detail your car inside and out. 

What’s more, car detailing is almost an art form. It takes try after try to do a good job, so there could be many instances where you aren’t exactly thrilled with how it turns out. 

Know What is Right for You 

How much does a car detailing cost when you do it yourself versus a professional? it’s likely around one-third of the price to do it on your own. If you’re not sure that detailing is a process you enjoy or have time to stick with, maybe it’s best to choose the services of a professional a few times a year. In the long run, DIY detailing can save you boatloads of money, but you have to be committed to it.  

Get all you need to detail your car with AutoZone. From power equipment to polish or vacuum to microfiber cloths and car wash soaps, you’ll find it all in one place. 

Car Detailing Frequently Asked Questions

Is it cheaper to detail your own car?

On average, it is less expensive to detail your own vehicle. However, the initial investment in detailing equipment is quite a bit more than getting a professional detail.

Why you should detail your own car?

Aside from cost, the most prevalent reason for DIY detailing is the ability to clean your vehicle your way.

Is it worth having your car detailed?

Detailing is more than about a clean car. It also removes contaminants that can degrade your vehicle’s operation and appearance over time. It’s well worth it.

How often should I detail car?

Normal car washes should be performed one to four times per month, but a complete detail is less often. Once or twice per year is often sufficient.

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