Detailing vs Car Wash

Published by Jeff Torres

Published on

Detailing-vs-Car Wash

Detailing vs Car Wash

Many believe that car detailing is just a fancy new name for a car wash. But that’s not true at all. We will prove that with our comprehensive detailing vs car wash comparison.

Let us introduce you to the two different processes so you can find out which one you need more. Buckle up as we explore the nuances, techniques, and results of detailing and car wash.

Car Wash Basics

A car wash is the process of cleaning the exterior of your vehicle. Some packages include minimal cleaning of the car’s interior, which typically incorporate basic vacuuming and dust wiping.

The car wash services can be generally divided into two types – manual and automated. The two categories further have different subcategories. The manual car washes include hand wash and self service. On the other hand, there are many different techniques for automatic car washes, such as in-bay and tunnel. They can be touchless or friction and include IBA touchless, IBA friction, express, flex, and full automatic car wash.

The car wash is typically done with a pressure washer, soap, and brushes. It intends to clean the exterior of your car from dirt, grime, road salt, and other particles that might damage the paint.

Car Wash Basics

Detailing Defined

Unlike the traditional car wash, the car detailing process involves much more than basic dirt and dust cleaning. 

Car detailing is a comprehensive cleaning of both the car’s exterior and interior. We treat hard stains and clean every inch of your car, even the places you didn’t know they existed.

In addition to the in-depth cleaning that will give it a like-new look, we also address the paint of your car. Instead of only focusing on cleaning it, we do our best to recondition, restore, and protect your car.

Car detailing is a more customized service because it focuses on the needs of the car. Generally, what you can expect us to do is:

  • Eliminate the dust, dirt and debris from your entire interior
  • Do some clay bar detailing to get rid of the residual particles
  • Polishing and clean coating the paint
  • Applying sealant for water and sun protection
  • Thoroughly cleaning the windows, door hinges, mirrors, wheels, tires, rims, and every other car part
  • Deodorizing
  • Cleaning stains
  • Applying solutions for fabric protection
  • Removing airborne germs
  • Steam cleaning
  • Engine bay cleaning

Detailing vs Car Wash – Side-By-Side Comparison

Car washCar detailing
Interior cleaningOnly basic cleaning (not always included)Thorough cleaning
Exterior cleaningOnly basic dirt and debris removalDetailed cleaning
Carpet and seat shampooingNoYes
Other fabric refreshmentsNoYes
Removing hard stains and odorsNoYes
Buffing and polishing dash surfacesNoYes
RestorationNot includedIncluded
Treatment of nooks and channelsVacuumingVacuuming, cleaning, and polishing
CustomizationLittle to noneEntirely customizable process
Paint correctionsNoYes
Increases longevity and quality of the vehicleMinimally Maximally
Eliminates germs and bacteriaNoYes
FrequencyEvery week or every other weekOne or twice a year

How to choose between the two?

As we explained, our work as car detailers differs from the service you will get at your regular car wash. But even if you know the differences between the two, it might be hard to figure out which cleaning procedure to choose.

When you are having doubts about whether to do a car wash or car detailing, you should keep the following factors in mind.

Desired outcome

First and foremost, you must ask yourself what your cleaning goal is. Do you want your car to be cleaned, restored, and with added protection? If yes, then the car detailing is the perfect choice.

On the other hand, if your vehicle doesn’t have any imperfections on its interior and exterior, such as stains and scratches, a car wash might be the service you are looking for. When you go to pick up your car, it will be free of the day-to-day dirt, dust, and debris, nothing more.


Generally, getting your car detailed will cost you more money than getting a basic car wash. So, if you are on a tight budget and don’t want to prioritize the condition and appearance of your vehicle, you should go with a car wash.

But, if you want to take a step in maintaining your vehicle value and fix all the imperfections while also getting a car wash, the obvious choice should be car detailing. While it costs more, it is definitely worth every penny if you choose dedicated car detailers like us.

Available time

Another thing you should consider is your time and flexibility to be without your vehicle. While a basic manual car wash can be done in 15 to 45 minutes, automatic car washes are shorter and might last up to five minutes.

But if you can leave your car to us for a longer period so we can make it squeaky clean and give it a fresh new look, you should definitely choose car detailing. Depending on the condition of your vehicle, car detailing can take from a few hours up to a few days.

When Should You Choose Car Detailing Over a Basic Wash?

If you still can’t decide whether you should go with a car wash or detailing, you might change your mind by looking at some case scenarios when you should do it. You should choose car detailing over a basic car wash when you:

  • Want to improve the overall condition of your car
  • Need more extensive cleaning because you smoke, drive with your kids or pets, eat and drink often while driving
  • Have a special event coming up
  • Want to increase the resale value of your car
  • Want to clean your car but at the same time fix all its imperfections, such as paint damage, peeling, cracking, etc
  • Aim to protect your car from salt and road grime in pre and post-winter season
  • Want to clean it after a certain mileage driven to get rid of the environmental contaminants
  • Have neglected your vehicle for a long time
When Should You Choose Car Detailing Over a Basic Wash


Understanding the detailing vs car wash differences will make your choice easier. At the end of the day, you should make your decision according to your budget and how well you have taken care of your vehicle so far. If you decide to go with car detailing, you can visit one of our locations, and our expert team will go above and beyond to deep clean, restore, and protect your car.

Table of Contents