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Why Is Car Detailing So Expensive?

Updated: Apr 22


 


One of the biggest obstacles that holds people back from getting a full car detail is the price, and not understanding just what they’re paying for with the full car detailing cost.


Recently, we had a client who booked an appointment with us and was amazed at the end result we were able to produce on his new vehicle.


He told us after the car detailing service, “You know, I was initially pretty skeptical of your pricing when I booked you guys, but after seeing everything that went into it and the results, I totally get it now.”


This is a common reaction we get from people, and it’s in large part to people not understanding the amount of materials and work required to complete a high level car detail, and just how much better a full car detail is than the car wash.


In this article, we’re going to talk through:


How Much Does a Full Car Detail Cost?


An interior and exterior car detail (or a full auto detail) typically costs anywhere from $300 to $1,000 depending on the detailing package.


What Does an Interior Car Detail Cost?


At Fort Worth Auto Detail, our interior car detailing package starts at $199. This interior auto detail package covers a number of things:

  • Interior of car vacuumed

  • Steam clean all interior surfaces

  • Shampoo all upholstery

  • Extract all upholstery (if necessary)

  • Clean and condition all leather surfaces (if applicable)

  • Interior trim protected

  • All windows cleaned

We then have additional services you can add on like Leather Coating for leather seats and Fabric Coating for fabric seats and surfaces.



What Does an Exterior Car Detail Cost?


At Fort Worth Auto Detail, our exterior car detailing package starts at $199. Our exterior auto detailing includes:

  • Tires and rims cleaned

  • Vehicle treated with foam wash

  • Hand wash

  • Paint and rims chemically decontaminated

  • Hand and air dried

  • Paint mechanically decontaminated

  • IPA mix applied to paint

  • 1 coat of ceramic spray wax applied to paint, windows, and rims providing 6 to 12 months of protection

  • Tires and trim dressed

We then have some additional exterior detailing services that can be added to your plan, like a 3-5 Year Ceramic Coating or a 5-7 Year Graphene Coating.


Why Is a Full Car Detail Better Than a Car Wash?

car wash

In short, a full car detail is better than a car wash because of the actual value it adds to your vehicle. While car washes can cause damage to your vehicle; car details add value.


But we understand you want more info than that. One of the most common questions we get asked when people see the average car detailing prices in Texas is, "Can’t I just get the same thing at a car wash?"


This is a big obstacle for people. When someone hears the word, “car detail,” their assumption is, “Oh, a car wash.” Then, when they find out the price of a full car detail is 10x higher than going through the car wash, they’re very confused. They don’t understand why they should pay 10x more for something they can get somewhere else for way less.


And that’s an absolutely fair thing to think! You should not pay 10x more for the exact same thing you could get cheaper. However, the problem here is that you aren’t comparing apples to apples. A car wash and a full car detail are very different things and they produce very different results.


Here is an offering from a local car wash:

car wash

Now let's compare this to our lowest exterior package - what used to be our bronze package.


detailing service package

As you can see, the price difference comes out to $182. The question becomes: “Is our bronze car detailing delivering $182 more value than a car wash?” Of course, we’re biased when we say that we obviously think so, so let’s look at this a little more closely.


Arguments aside on whether or not you should be taking your car to the car wash - you can learn more about our thoughts on that here - let’s break down what you are actually getting at a car wash vs. what you get with a full car detail.


Everything comes out to spray on, rinse off, process. Everything that the car wash is offering can be encapsulated in our foam wash step of our full auto detail.


Why don’t we just offer a $17 foam wash? Because it’s not beneficial for the customer or us. A foam wash on its own will not yield a clean car.


As you can see from our bronze auto detailing package, we do a lot of work on your vehicle. It includes a lot of steps. However, it is the minimum amount of work that we believe a vehicle needs to bring it up to an acceptable professional standard.

car detailing chemicals

We have no interest in offering a service where your vehicle doesn’t end up looking as great as it should.


The other line item to point out when comparing both services is the different kinds of wax that the car wash is putting on your vehicle. A triple conditioning wax, as well as something called a hot lava wax.


We have done a lot of research about this industry - we work in it every day - and we have no idea what either of those mean.


At Fort Worth Auto Detail, we only use the best car detailing products. And we are happy to educate any of our customers about those products so they know what’s going onto their vehicle and can use them on their own at home if they want to.



How Often Should You Get Your Car Detailed or Cleaned?


At the car wash, they’ll tell you they offer a 72-hour clean car promise. We aren’t really sure what they mean by this though. You can take a car that has been run through a car wash and go straight into a mud pit and it will not be clean anymore. You just can’t guarantee that.


If we had to give them the benefit of the doubt, they could be referring to the wax that they put on your vehicle. Here, again, note the difference between a car detail and a car wash.


Our bronze auto detailing package protection will last anywhere from 6 to 12 months depending on how you maintain your vehicle.


Let’s do some math then.


Say you want protection on your vehicle so every few days you return to the car wash since the wax only lasts a few days. To make it simple, let’s say you go every week, once a week.


So, 52 weeks in a year x $17 a car wash equals $884.


At that point, you are about $100 away from our diamond package (LINK) that is going to get a minimum of 5 years of protection.


And speaking of length of time, note the time difference in length of service. The car wash says it takes 3 minutes to complete. Our bronze detailing package, on average, takes anywhere from 4 to 5 hours.


So, 60 minutes in an hour/3 minutes of service at $17 a service equals an effective hourly rate of $340.



We do not wish to demean this particular type of car wash, or any car wash for that matter, but we want to help our customers and those researching car details to understand that price can be misleading and understand that cheap work is not necessarily good, and good work is not cheap. The extra steps add to the cost of a car detail, but they’re well worth the investment.




What Is Included in a Full Car Detail?


pressure washing white vehicle

There is a lot that goes into car detailing costs. It often includes:

We'll try to unpack this some more, starting with the auto detailing products.



Car Detailing Products


The auto detailing world is filled with car products to choose from. Take detailing.com for example - a website that sells auto detailing supplies. They have over 24 categories alone in chemicals, each with over 100 choices to choose from.


Why so many? Your car, more than likely and depending on the make and model, has many different surfaces. Each of these surfaces may require a different chemical in order to clean it and protect it properly.


You have:

  • Tires

  • Rims

  • Plastic Trim

  • Glass

  • Clearcoat

  • Leather

  • Carpet

  • Upholstery

  • And more


Some products can be used on a variety of surfaces, but the point is that it takes specialized products to clean and protect all of these surfaces properly without causing damage. The highly specialized chemicals add to the cost of a car detail.


Car Detailing Equipment


It is not only products that produce an excellent finish on a vehicle, but the tools necessary to clean the car. You need a pressure washer, a steam cleaner, a wet/dry vacuum, a dual-action polisher (perhaps more than one for hard to reach places), an extractor, an ozone machine, an air blower (a small one for inside the vehicle and a leaf blower for exterior use), and more. All of these tools add to the cost of a car detail.


One tool in particular that we want to touch on is the microfiber towel.

Microfiber Towels for Car Detailing


microfiber towel

Many of you may be familiar with microfiber towels as general all-purpose towels around the house. Microfiber towels are rated by GSM, which stands for grams per square meter. The higher the GSM, the more a microfiber towel will weigh, and the thicker and plusher it will be.


Most microfiber towels will fall in a range of 200 to 500 GSM. Why does this matter? Because a low GSM microfiber has the potential to scratch your vehicle’s paint.


At Fort Worth Auto Detail, we will not use anything lower than a 350 GSM on a vehicle’s paint. Most of the towels we use will be 500 GSM.


As you probably guessed, the higher GSM-count microfiber towels are much more expensive. However, to get that end result, they are certainly worth it.


It is just another expense that most people do not see that goes into making your vehicle look perfect with a full or exterior auto detail. Higher GSM microfiber towels add to the cost of the car detail.



Auto Detailers Insurance, Marketing & Tax Expenses


luxury sports car in garage

These are expenses for all businesses, so we won’t dwell on this point for long, but something to note is that not only do you want your auto detailer to carry a general liability insurance, which we at Fort Worth Auto Detail do carry, you also want to make sure they have something called Garage Keepers Insurance.


Garage Keepers Insurance is going to cover if there is ever an accident when the detailer is driving the vehicle. Perhaps it started raining and the auto detailer needed to pull the vehicle into the garage and an accident occurred. That particular incident is going to be covered not under general liability but rather their garage keeper’s policy. This, too, adds to the cost of the detail.


Hard Manual Labor


construction

When I was sixteen, I worked for my uncle’s construction company. It taught me I definitely did not want to do that for a living. Why? It was back-breaking work. Was it particularly complicated? No, my job was not, but it was incredibly strenuous. Car detailing is very similar. It is not particularly complicated. We can teach you all you need to know in a matter of a few weeks and you could do an auto detail on your own. However, it can be very hard on your body. That is why you typically do not see many older detailers. They typically transition to the management side of the business because their body just cannot hold up polishing a car for hours on end, day after day.


It is not uncommon for us to finish a vehicle and have accumulated 5 miles of walking, simply from going around the vehicle. The amount of hard manual labor adds to the cost of the detail, as well as the quality of our results.



Customer Convenience

laying on the couch

One of the great perks for our customers at Fort Worth Auto Detail is we operate as a mobile car detailing unit, which means we come to you to do the work.


In today’s modern society, we are becoming more accustomed to goods and services being delivered directly to us rather than us, the consumer, having to go to the business. You have Netflix and on-demand movies for entertainment, Uber Eats and Doordash for food delivery, auto dealers such as CarMax and Vroom (which now offer vehicle delivery), and on and on the list goes.


At Fort Worth Auto Detail, we come to you on your schedule. Our clients never even have to leave their couch. Our service agreement and payment can all be taken care of online. Like anything else extra convenient, it adds to the cost of the car detail.



Skill-Based Industry Not Commodity-Based


polishing a vehicle

The last factor we will talk about is that car detailing is a skill-based industry. It is not a product. Say you want the latest iPhone. Well, you find the model you want and then try and find the lowest price. Because it is all the same product across multiple vendors, it makes sense to take the lowest price. However, the same cannot be said across skill-based industries such as car detailing.


We mentioned earlier that we could teach anyone to detail their car, and that is true, but say you have two car detailers performing the exact same task with the same products and tools and yet they produce two different results. How is this possible? It is possible because there is an element of skill involved that only comes from experience and research.


This experience costs money.



Where Should You Get Your Car Detailed in Fort Worth?


There are lots of car detailers to choose from across the United States, and even in Dallas-Fort Worth.


And we’ll be completely honest with you, at Fort Worth Auto Detail, we are not the lowest price in the industry. That title can only belong to one company and more than likely will constantly change.


So if you are shopping on price alone, we are probably not the service for you. On the other hand, we are far from the most expensive auto detailer in the Fort Worth area and we pour ourselves into our customer’s vehicles to make them the very best we can.


If you are shopping on the basis of value - how much bang do you get for your buck - then we believe Fort Worth Auto Detail is the place for you, and we look forward to building a lasting business relationship with you. So stay on your couch and go ahead and book today!



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