What is the Difference Between Car Detailing and Car Washing

What is the Difference Between Car Detailing and Car Washing

What is car detailing? Is there a difference between car washing and car detailing? Most people often use the two terms interchangeably. Unknown to them is that there are glaring differences between the two.

Over the years, the demand for professional car detailing services has been increasing thanks to the high number of car owners in the country. Let’s dive in and examine the main differences between car detailing and washing.

Which Activities are Involved in Car Washing?

Car washing refers to the fundamental process of washing the car to eliminate grime that accumulates on the exterior surface and interior spaces of the vehicle. Expect to pay between $10 and $25 for one automatic car wash service. Addon services such as undercarriage washing and application of spray wax cost $1-$2.

Car washing involves many activities, but the main ones are;

  • Washing the exterior surfaces by spraying soapy water using a high-powered equipment
  • Washing of wheels and tires
  • Fixing foggy headlights
  • Vacuuming of leather seats
  • Vacuuming car carpets

Which Activities are Involved in Car Detailing?

Car detailing is more thorough than car washing. Its main goal is to get rid of debris from the car’s exterior and interior and make the parts look brand new. This service is known to increase a car’s average resale value by 10 -20%.

Below is an overview of what you can expect from the selected car detailer.

  • Exterior paint care and polishing
  • Exterior accents cleaning and polishing
  • Detailing of the wheels and tires
  • Cleaning and sealing of interior surfaces
  • Cleaning and restoration of leather seats and upholstery
  • Deep carpet cleaning through vacuuming and steam cleaning
  • Glass polishing

The average cost of an essential car detailing service ranges from $150 to $200 per car. A comprehensive car detail service can cost up to $600 or more, depending on the car’s condition and location.

Pros Of Car Washing

Car washing is a handy car maintenance procedure that will enhance its appearance and increase the longevity of the parts. Experts recommend getting the car washed once per week, but there is no harm in washing it more often. 

Here is an overview of the main pros of professional car washing.

  • Protect the paint: Accumulating dirt and other debris on the car exterior ruins the paint. Regular cleaning eliminates such deposits and protects the paint from wear and fading.
  • Enhance resale value: If you intend to sell your car, regularly washing it will enhance its appearance and increase or maintain its resale value. It’s an inexpensive way of ensuring the vehicle fetches the highest price possible when it’s listed for sale.
  • Improve fuel efficiency: It sounds weird, but it’s true. How does regular car washing improve fuel economy? Deposits of dirt and other forms of debris create a drag that causes the car to combust fuel inefficiently. Washing and cleaning enhance airflow to the engine thus improving the car’s overall fuel consumption.
  • Improve air quality: Driving a spotless car gives one a sense of pride. In addition, removing dirt from the interior spaces improves air quality, hence cushioning you and the pets from allergic reactions.

Cons of Car Washing

  1. Leaves waters spots on the surface after air drying
  2. Automatic car wash doesn’t get rid of debris that accumulates in confined spaces
  3. The cleaning reagents pollute underground and surface water sources

Pros of Car Detailing

Car detailing is more effective in restoring the appearance and functionality of the different car parts than car washing. Here is an overview of the pros of car detailing.

  • Increase the resale value: A quality car detail will increase your car’s resale value by up to 20%.
  • Enhances health: Over time, bugs, bacteria, viruses, and allergens hide and thrive in confined and hard-to-reach spaces such as under the carpet, in the air vents, and filters. Steam cleaning helps eliminate these disease-causing organisms, thus safeguarding your health. It also makes the car friendly to pets.
  • Safety: Foggy headlights increase the risk of an accident, especially at night or during harsh weather conditions due to reduced visibility. Detailing enhances safety by cleaning the headlights, ensuring that the wipers are functioning optimally and the windshield is clean.
  • Improve engine performance: Thorough removal of dirt around the engine and air filters significantly improves engine performance and fuel efficiency.
  • Peace of mind: Detailing your car twice or thrice per year will ensure all mechanical parts are in good condition. Thus, the service reduces the chances of the vehicle developing unexpected mechanical issues and stalling.

Cons of Car Detailing

  • Utilizes lots of chemical products which are not 100% eco-friendly
  • The results of a full-on car detail service are not long-lasting
  • Not a recommended long-term maintenance procedure.
  • It’s expensive and time-consuming.


Knowing the difference between car detailing and car washing will help you decide which kind of service to seek. Ensure that you consider not only the pros but also the cons to avoid challenges later. Discuss your concerns with the car detailer or car washer beforehand to decide whether it’s worth spending money on either of the services.