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Car detailing is a professional service that goes beyond a basic wash, wax, and polish. A full detail cleans a vehicle both inside and out, including beneath the seats, wheel wells, and other areas that often get overlooked. It can also remove scratches, stains, and odors as well as protect the car from future wear and tear.
A car that looks its best will be more attractive to a dealer than a dirty one. If your car is covered in filth, has stained seats, or smells bad on the inside, consider getting it detailed before you trade it in. Your detailed car will make a good first impression, which can raise the chances of getting a better trade offer.
While many people think an occasional car wash is all they need, that's actually not the case. Detailing not only makes your vehicle look beautiful, but it also protects its paint and other surfaces from scratches and stains. This damage can reduce the life of your car and add up to costly repairs.
This depends on several factors, including how often you drive the vehicle, road conditions, and the climate in which it's driven. A detail will last much longer for cars parked inside a garage instead of on the street where it's exposed to the elements. Generally, you should expect a detail to last for at least a few months.
Car detailing is typically done by a specialty shop, which can be independently run or part of a larger business. Car detail shops are not the same as car washes, which often use a mechanical washing process that cleans the outside of the vehicle only. Detailers use professional products and equipment, and all of their work is done by hand.
Many dealerships have a detailing department, but automotive experts generally don't recommend using their services. Dealerships tend to charge more for detailing than an independent shop. They can also have dirty or outdated equipment that may do your car more harm than good.
Almost anyone can detail their own car with the right equipment, and many people think of it as a challenging, but rewarding, experience. You'll need a variety of cloths, sponges, and brushes as well as several types of cleaners for the car's interior and exterior. Other necessities include a vacuum cleaner, compressed air, wax, and UV protectant spray.
A full car detail cleans and restores the appearance of your entire vehicle. It includes:
A professional detailing shop can usually detail a car in three to five hours. The actual time it takes depends on your vehicle's size and how dirty it is. If you're detailing a car yourself, it can take a few days to do a full detail. A partial detail can be completed in about an hour or two.
Depending on the size of your car, its condition, and the detailing package you choose, expect to pay anywhere from $50 to $300. For large vehicles, detailing may cost $150 and up. Exterior-only detail packages are cheaper than those that include interior detailing. Some services, such as upholstery repair and dent removal, may cost extra.
Tipping car detailers is not required, but it's customary to tip them as appreciation for a job well done. Consider tipping at a minimum of 10% to15%, or up to 20% for difficult jobs or a detailer who went above and beyond. However, some people choose not to tip independent detailers who are in business for themselves.
Detailers can remove most smoke odors by deep cleaning the car's interior. This involves thorough vacuuming, wiping all surfaces, and brushing and shampooing carpets. Professional detailers also use powerful products designed to absorb and eliminate the smell of smoke.
Detailing is a reliable way to get rid of mold in a car. To do this, detailers will wash all of the car's surfaces and dry them thoroughly. Because mold needs moisture to survive, drying the car's seats, mats, carpets, and other surfaces is essential to remove it. Once the mold has dried, it can easily be scraped off.
Most small scratches can be fixed by car detailers. Some detailers use a wet sanding technique to smooth out the area around the scratch, although this removes the car's UV-protective coating, so it's not the most ideal method. Detailers prefer to use small amounts of touch-up paint to cover tiny scratches. Large scratches and deep gouges usually require a body shop to remove.
Whether a detailing includes shampooing seats depends on the company and detailing package you choose. Some include shampooing as part of a basic package, but many companies will charge extra. If shampooing doesn't come with your chosen package, it can cost an additional $50 or more.
Parking your car in a garage or under a carport is the best way to keep it clean after a detail. Even if you can't do this, regular cleaning and maintenance goes a long way. Keep the car free of debris, either by hand washing or taking it through an automatic car wash. Seats and carpets can be kept clean with a brush or vacuum. Use a quality wax or polish to lock in the paint's shine.
If you can keep the car maintained and it doesn't get dirty often, detailing it once or twice per year is usually enough. Many car enthusiasts get a detail done every four to six months, so their vehicle can look new all year long.
There's no degree required to get a job detailing cars, but ideally, you should have a high school diploma and some basic experience with automotive maintenance. Taking auto shop classes, either in high school or at the community college level, may also help you land a job. Starting your own car detailing business is more complex. You'll need to buy your own equipment, have liability insurance, and pay for tool maintenance, among other expenses.
On average, car detailers make about $14 per hour or $29,400 per year. This figure can be higher or lower for detailers who work for themselves. Earnings vary by company, location, and employee experience. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the top-paying states for this profession are the District of Columbia, North Dakota, and New York.