Hand wash car detailing near me

The Difference Between Auto Detailing and Car Washing

If you’re someone who truly values your vehicle, you probably already know how important it is to keep it clean. More than just improving or restoring the aesthetics, proper cleaning of the vehicle will protect its performance, too.

But when it comes time to clean your vehicle, you have two main options. There’s car washing, either by hand or in a drive-through, and then there’s custom auto detailing. You might be wondering whether the extra investment to pay for auto detailing over car washing is worth it. Here are some of the differences between them to help you decide.

Car Wash Basics

Assuming you’d take your vehicle to an automatic car wash for cleaning, the process is very simple. You drive up, the vehicle goes pulled along a track through the wash stations, and it comes out the other side with less dirt and grime.

At home, you just complete the same basic process but with a hose, a sponge, and some soap. Either way, a car wash gets the job of cleaning the exterior of your vehicle done.

Auto Detailing Basics

Auto detailing involves washing but also waxing, vacuuming, shampooing, polishing, and general deep cleaning. The detailing procedure covers both the interior and exterior of the vehicle and the goal is to make your vehicle look brand new.


Though both washing and detailing accomplish the same general goal of cleaning the vehicle, their exact purposes aren’t the same. Car washing is meant to simply remove dirt, salt, tar, and other debris from the exterior of the vehicle.

Auto detailing has multiple purposes. It can make the vehicle look newer and last longer by eliminating problems that could cost lasting damage. Detailing is also useful before selling a vehicle since it will make it more attractive to potential buyers. You can consider it an investment in the sale since you’re likely to make your money back and then some.


Going through an automatic car wash is quick enough that you probably have time to do it on your way to work. The average time it takes to complete the automatic wash cycle is between 10 and 20 minutes. If you’re looking for pure speed, an automatic car wash is the way to go.

Hand washing your vehicle will probably take at least an hour up to two or three hours, depending on the size of the vehicle and how fast your pace is.

Auto detailing takes the longest of these three options, ranging from several hours to a whole day.


As previously mentioned, a car wash is not all that thorough. It generally only covers the exterior of the vehicle and is not tailored to the needs of your specific vehicle. Another concern when going through an automatic car wash is that the process may leave scratches or swirls in the vehicle’s paint. The last thing you need is to damage the paint on your vehicle when you’re just trying to clean it.

Auto detailing, on the other hand, is the most intricate, thorough cleaning and restoration of your vehicle. If done correctly, auto detailing should leave every crevice of your vehicle completely spotless. There will be no dirt, dust, or debris visible anywhere on the interior or exterior of the vehicle. Part of the reason that auto detailing is so much more thorough than automatic washing is that detailing is generally done by hand. That means the detailers can adapt to your vehicle and give it individualized treatment. The goal is quality, not efficiency.


Unsurprisingly, it’s more expensive to have your vehicle detailed compared to simply going to the local automatic car wash.

Car washes at home have a negligible cost and even automatic car washes charge low fees generally between $20 and $60 for basic service. What you’re paying for when you go to an auto detailing professional, is the expertise and time of the detailers. You’ll notice the difference when they’re done and many vehicle owners decide it’s a difference worth paying extra for.

Turn to the Professionals

Now that you know the difference between auto detailing and simple car washing, you may be ready to hire a professional for detailing services. Well, you’re in luck. Steve’s Detailing provides one of the best vehicle detailing experiences in the area. Whether you bring in your everyday vehicle or your treasured hobby or luxury vehicles, we will treat it with the utmost expert care. Come in today to see what a difference Steve’s detailing can make.