What is the Difference Between Auto Detailing and Car Washing?

Car Wash

Chances are, you’ve had your car washed more than a few times—and, chances are, you’ve noticed call outs for auto detailing. So what’s the difference and when should you opt for one over the other?

At their core, car washing and auto detailing accomplish a similar end goal—both get your car looking clean and road-ready. But, beyond that, the process, pricing and results vary significantly. While a basic wash is meant to clean day-to-day dirt and debris from your vehicle, detailing goes several steps further, helping maintain the quality, finish and overall resale value of your car. Consider your immediate needs and see which is in-step…

Get a car wash when...your car needs a quick clean

It happens—you’re driving a lot and, suddenly, your car’s otherwise clean exterior starts looking drab and dirty. If the grime level is pretty standard—think dirt, salt and other common debris—then opt for a car wash. Depending on the option you choose, your car wash will include a full exterior cleaning, including the undercarriage. A protective sealant can be added for an additional charge.

Usually, a quick clean is the best way to get your car looking fresh and ready to go. One pro tip: to avoid water spotting, make sure they fully dry your car post-wash. Most drive-through car washes offer this standard but, if not, consider adding it on or bringing a chamois with you for a quick dry.

Get a car wash when...winter grime is building up

If you live in a colder region, snow and ice can wreak havoc on your car. Between the icy conditions and the sand, salt and mud that comes with, your day-to-day driving can leave your car looking a little beat up. But, if it’s only been a few days, a quick car wash will usually do the trick. Especially in the winter, be sure you’re getting car washes regularly—every two weeks or so, or as needed.

Get a car wash when...pollen is EVERYWHERE

Same goes for spring and early summer, when pollen starts circulating. Whether you have allergies or not, make sure you’re taking care of any build ups—if you park your car outside, it could be in a prime position to get a nice, yellow coating. Leave it on too long and it will be harder to remove.

Get car detailing when...you’re between seasons

Again, cars can take a beating in the winter. Once the weather starts to improve, many people opt to get their cars detailed versus just another wash. Why? Because car detailing is more of a deep clean, that involves full exterior detailing, including washing, waxing and options like headlight restoration, paint polishing and shampooing the interior.

Even if you’ve been diligent about bi-weekly car washes, detailing can help get all of the winter grime off—and out of—your car for good, helping your car look newer, longer. Also, ongoing detailing can help you dodge more significant long-term problems which cause permanent damage, resulting in costly repairs.

Get car detailing when...you’re planning to sell

Whether you’re trading your car in or selling privately, there’s nothing like a good detail to get it looking showroom-ready. Consider it an investment in your sale—done right, it will add to your car’s value, drastically improving your bottom line at trade in.