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How Much To Detail A Car: And How To Do It Perfectly

by Jordan Harris

As gearheads, we all want our vehicles to grab the attention of others. One of the best methods of making your car eye-catching to others is by detailing it. But, how much to detail a car? There are several factors that affect this cost, and after finishing this article, you’ll know all about them.

Other than keeping the vehicle in pristine condition, detailing has some other benefits as well. However, the cost of detailing will vary depending on the type of service you are looking for. You can get your vehicle detailed at a professional detailing shop, or if you are handy enough, you can even detail it yourself.

No matter how you choose to do it, good detailing will certainly be beneficial to your vehicle. In this article, we’ll tell you all about car detailing, including the cost. We know you are curious, so we won’t keep you waiting any longer.

Car Detailing Services

When talking about how much to detail a car, the first thing we should take a look at are the different types of car detailing services out there. The main types of car detailing services are,

  • Hand Washing
  • Interior Cleaning
  • Exterior Polishing
  • Shampooing The Carpets
  • Waxing The Exterior
  • Scratch Removal
  • Cleaning The Undercarriage

Now we’ll take a look at each of these services. This will give you a clear idea of what they offer, and the costs associated with them.

How Much To Detail A Car #1 – Hand Washing

Hand washing is all that you need if all you are looking for is a basic wipe-down of the exterior. Depending on the vehicle size and the condition, hand washing will cost anywhere between $10 to $50.

At a hand washing service, they will vacuum the vehicle’s carpets, wash the exterior and clean the vehicle’s wheels and tires. Not only that, they will remove dust caught in the cracks with an air compressor. Finally, they will dry the vehicle before finishing their work.

How Much To Detail A Car #2 – Interior Cleaning

For around $40 – $60, you clean and condition the cloth or leather interior of your vehicle. This is a great way to give a fresh new look to the interior of your vehicle. Typically, we recommend getting the interior cleaned every 3 – 6 months.

Having dirt and debris on cloth seats can cause them to wear out over time. In the same way, leather seats can dry out, which causes cracks to form on them. Cleaning and conditioning the seats is the best way to avoid these issues.

How Much To Detail A Car #3 – Exterior Polishing

Not only the interior, but the exterior of the vehicle deserves some love as well. This includes the different lights around the vehicle too. In fact, cleaning the headlights and taillights is especially important, as unclear lights pose a safety hazard.

how much to detail a car

However, as the housings of the lights are made using polycarbonate plastic, special products are needed to clean them. Exterior body trim panels made from materials like chrome also need different cleaning products to make them shine. Typically, you will have to spend around $60 – $70 to polish your vehicle’s exterior.

How Much To Detail A Car #4 – Shampooing Carpets

Shampooing the carpets of your vehicle has a number of benefits, like preventing mold formation, stopping putrid smells, giving them a fresh appearance, and increasing the resale value. Most car detailing services charge around $40 to shampoo all the carpets. They will even shampoo the rear cargo area for about $5 more.

Additionally, you can vacuum and hand-wash the carpets before you shampoo them for even better results.

How Much To Detail A Car #5 – Waxing The Exterior

Waxing the exterior surfaces of your car is one of the best and most effective ways of preserving its resale value. For no more than $100, you can apply a coat of wax over the paint layer. In return, this will prevent the paint from fading and protect it from the harmful UV rays of the sun.

Not only that, but wax also acts as a layer of protection from light scratches and dents that may form over time. It can even prevent the paint discoloration that is caused by bird droppings. Keep in mind that the size of the vehicle as well as the type of wax can have an effect on the cost.

How Much To Detail A Car #6 – Scratch Removal

If there is a dent on your vehicle but you don’t want to pay for a paint job, paintless dent repair is just what you need (or if you’re willing to learn how to pull a dent out of a car). In fact, PDR is the fastest and one of the cheapest ways of repairing car dents.

However, if the paint has creased or the paint is cracked, then it is sad news for you. Paintless dent repair won’t work in these types of situations.

On the other hand, minor scratches can be easily removed using scratch removal products designed specifically for the task. You can even perform scratch removal in the comfort of your home.

Depending on the type of damage and the products used, scratch and dent removal costs anywhere between $80 – $150. Although this may seem a bit expensive, the joy of having a vehicle with a perfect exterior will surpass that emotion.

How Much To Detail A Car #7 – Cleaning The Undercarriage

The undercarriage, engine bay, wheel wells, and chassis are areas that are often neglected when cleaning a vehicle. But, although they are out of sight, they also require cleaning. Debris can get stuck in these parts, and if they aren’t cleaned properly, can cause long-term damage.

For a price of around $50, the undercarriage can be sprayed down and cleaned. This will prevent rust formation, extending the vehicle’s life span in the process.

On the other hand, the engine bay should be steam cleaned for maximum results. The cost of this ranges from $35 – $145.

After steam cleaning, a degreaser should also be applied. Then, plastic, rubber, and silicone components inside the engine bay should be sprayed with a conditioner to prevent cracks from forming.

Although some of these car detailing services are a bit expensive, carrying out these activities will give your vehicle a new lease on life. In the same way, a good detailing job significantly increases the resale value of any vehicle as well.

Car Interior Detailing

People spend a good chunk of their lifetime sitting in their vehicle interiors. So, detailing the passenger compartment should be at the top of any vehicle owner’s propriety list. Detailing the vehicle interior is a process that takes some time, but the results are sure to be worth it. There are several steps involved, including,

  • Gathering Debris
  • Removing The Carpets
  • Cleaning Interior Components
  • Wiping Down The Seats
  • Vacuuming
  • Tackling The Smells

1. Gathering Debris

The interior is often the messiest part of a vehicle. If you look carefully, you’ll surely see all sorts of trash and debris strewn about the interior. Be sure to check all nooks and crannies of the interior where junk can gather up.

Check and gather the trash off of the cup holders, door pockets, and floorboards. Remember to properly dispose of this trash. If you have child passengers, make sure to remove the child seats and check the previously mentioned areas for toys.

2. Removing The Carpets

Floor mats are another component of an interior that gets dirty pretty often. That is why it is important to remove them when detailing the interior. We recommend giving the carpets a vacuum before moving to other parts of the interior.

However, keep in mind that cleaning methods vary depending on the material the mats are made of. Carpeted mats should be cleaned using an upholstery cleaner. On the other hand, vinyl, silicone, and rubber mats should first be hosed down to wash away any soil accumulated on them.

Then, clean the mats using a solution of warm water and dishwashing liquid. Give the mats a good scrub for some extra cleaning. Finally, rinse and leave the mats to air dry before placing them back inside the interior.

3. Cleaning Interior Components

Next, move on to detailing the remaining interior components like the center console, interior windows, dashboard, steering wheel, and door panels.

Cleaning Interior Components #1 – Center Console

The center console of a car includes different parts like the gear stick, handbrake, and cup holders. Out of them, the cup holders are the ones that get the dirtiest. Most modern cars come with removable cup holders, which makes the cleaning process a bit easier.

If you own a car with this feature, take the cup holders out and soak them in a solution of dishwashing liquid and warm water. Then, scrub the cup holders with a sponge before wiping them down. Finally, rinse them with some fresh water and let them dry.

After cleaning the cup holders, you can move on to the gear stick and other buttons on the center console. Use a slightly dampened microfiber cloth for this job. Additionally, an old toothbrush or a cotton swab can be used to clean the tighter corners of the center console.

Cleaning Interior Components #2 – Interior Windows

Before starting work on the windows, lower them slightly to make cleaning easier. Start off at the top of the window, and make your way down. On a separate note, make sure to use an ammonia-free window cleaner for the cleaning process. We say this because ammonia can damage the plastic components of the interior.

Use a spray bottle to spray the cleaning solution onto the window surfaces before wiping them down. On the other hand, you can make your own cleaning solution at home. All you have to do is mix some dish soap (for more context, check out our guide on can I use dish soap to wash my car) and water in a 1:1 composition. This homemade cleaning solution is great for cleaning all types of marks, including fingerprints, dust, and dirt.

Cleaning Interior Components #3 – Dashboard

Thanks to its large surface area, the dashboard is a safe haven for dust and grime. A duster is the best tool to use in this situation. If there are any hard-to-reach crevices, you might need the help of some cotton swabs.

After you have finished cleaning the dust, a dampened microfiber cloth can be used to remove any fingerprints or grime from the dashboard. There are even some wipes specially designed for this exact purpose.

Cleaning Interior Components #4 – Steering Wheel

steering wheel

The steering wheel is a prime spot for germs and bacteria to build up. Cleaning the steering wheel with a disinfecting wipe and buff drying it with a microfiber cloth is the best way to get rid of these harmful organisms.

Cleaning Interior Components #5 – Door Panels

The door panels of most cars are made using either carpet, leather, or vinyl. A damp microfiber cloth is all you need to give them a thorough clean. However, don’t forget to keep the doors open while you are cleaning them. This way, the dirt from the door panels won’t fall onto the carpets as you wipe them down.

4. Wiping Down The Seats

The best way to detail car seats and understand how to clean the car seats differ depending on the material they are upholstered in.

Wiping Down The Seats #1 – Leather Seats

If you own a car with leather seats, the first thing you should do when detailing them is removing the dust built up on the stitching with the use of a vacuum crevice tool. Then, wipe the seats with an automotive leather cleaner. The cleaner will give the leather a brighter look, and increase its lifespan as well. Finally, use a leather conditioner to restore the material to its former glory.

Wiping Down The Seats #2 – Cloth Seats

When compared to leather seats, cloth seats go through more wear and tear. On top of that, they get dirty relatively easily as well. So, it takes a bit of work to clean cloth seats properly. Start off by vacuuming the seats to get rid of the dust and other debris.

Removing stains off of cloth seats can be particularly challenging. A paste made of bleach and water is great for removing dye-based stains.


You should apply this paste to the stained area and leave it for at least an hour. Then, remove the residue using a vacuum.

Use an upholstery cleaner to remove lighter stains. After cleaning, let the area air dry. If possible, open the vehicle’s door and place a standing fan pointed at the damp area. This will dry the seats even quicker.

5. Vacuuming

When it comes to car detailing, a vacuum cleaner is one of the best tools you can use (which is also handy if you’re trying to figure out how to remove dog hair from car). Use one of these machines to suck out dirt and debris from the vents and crevices around your vehicle’s interior. After you are done vacuuming the passenger compartment, move over to the trunk as well. Vacuum the trunk carpet thoroughly, as this is an area where junk easily accumulates.

6. Tackling The Smells

No one wants to own a car with a smelly interior. There are several methods you can try to get rid of putrid smells. The first one is sprinkling baking soda over the carpet and seats, leaving it there overnight, and vacuuming it out in the morning.

On the other hand, placing a container with active charcoal under the seats is another great way to get rid of smelly odors. Baking soda can be used in place of active charcoal too. However, if the interior is lined with very tough odors, you might want to use a commercial-grade product that is specially designed to remove smells.

Vehicle Detailing & Cleaning

Cleaning and detailing the exterior of a car is just as important as taking care of the interior. To properly detail the exterior, you need the help of some supplies like a bucket, car soap, some microfiber cloths, a hose, and some wheel polish.

As a start, wash the car with clean water. After the car is wet, you can use a sponge to apply the soap mixture to the exterior. Then, wash it off thoroughly and dry the vehicle using some microfiber towels.

After washing and drying the vehicle, use a clay bar (with the right techniques in how to clay bar a car) to remove dirt and grime that has escaped the body wash. Clay bars are made of a resin mixture that does a great job of removing contaminants from the paint. In the same way, applying a trim detailer restores the exterior components like the window trim and front grill back to their former glory.

Once you are done with all of that, you can move on to waxing the exterior. Apply the wax to one body panel at a time for maximum effect and efficiency. Waxing is one of the best ways of restoring the paint, and it also makes the vehicle shine like it just rolled off the dealership. At the same time, don’t forget to give a polish to the exterior lights.

The final areas that deserve attention when detailing a car are the wheels and tires. Clean the wheels using a dedicated cleaner, and wipe them off with a rag. Then apply wheel polish onto the wheels to make them look brand new. You can also apply tire shine to the sidewalls of the tires to finish the detailing.

Detailing A Car

Detailing a car brings a whole host of perks with it. Some of the most significant ones include making the paint appear brand new, making the interior smell better, improving the resale value, improving efficiency, and increasing vehicle safety.

How often your car needs detailing depends on how you use it. Generally, it is recommended to get a car detailed once every 4 – 6 months, accounting for about 2-3 detailings per year. But, if you frequently drive your vehicle over rough terrain or in adverse weather conditions, it will need to be detailed more often.

As car detailing is a multi-stepped process, it takes a while to do it correctly. On top of that, the condition of the vehicle also plays a part in determining the time taken for a detailing job. A car that requires a lot of work would usually take around 5 to 8 hours to restore back to a good condition.

The condition of the vehicle also plays a role in determining how much to detail a car. If you take your vehicle to a professional detailing shop, the final cost can range anywhere between $60 to $450.


If you want your vehicle to look its best and preserve its resale value, detailing it is one of the best courses of action you can take. Car detailing can be done either at home or at a professional detailing shop.

how much to detail a car

The answer to the question “How much to detail a car” ultimately comes down to the condition of the vehicle. A car that has been neglected and battered by the elements will cost a lot more than one that has seen some TLC. If your car has never been detailed, we strongly suggest giving it a try. It will surely make a world of difference in your car’s appearance.

FAQs On How Much To Detail A Car

How To Detail A Car

You can take your car to a professional detailing shop to get it detailed. On the other hand, you can also detail a vehicle in the comfort of your home. All you need are some basic tools and a few hours of your day.

How Much Is A Car Wash

The price of a car wash depends on the type of service you get. A basic automatic car wash usually costs about $10 – $25. However, a car wash that includes waxing the car and vacuuming the interior is much more expensive.

How To Buff A Car

Buffing a car removes a thin layer of paint and is a great way of removing minor scratches and imperfections. The easiest way to buff a car is by using an automatic orbital buffer.

How Much Does Car Detailing Cost

Car detailing cost varies depending on a number of factors. These include the condition of the vehicle, location as well as the quality of the products being used. Usually, the cost of professional car detailing ranges between $60 – $450.

What Is Car Detailing

Car detailing is the process of removing imperfections from a car and restoring it back to perfect condition. It is done on both the interior and exterior of the vehicle. There are many benefits of car detailing, including improving the appearance and the resale value.

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