For many of us, our cars are the most valuable things in our lives, aside from our kids (and even then… nah, just joking!) So it’s no surprise that we want them to get fully cleaned and detailed from time to time.
The only trouble is that detailing can be expensive. There’s a reason why we don’t get our car detailed every week, and it’s because of cost. But if you’re new to car ownership or are wondering about whether it’s worthwhile to detail your car yourself, you might wonder how much it costs to detail a car either way.
Let’s answer both questions. We’ll break down the average price for a car detail from a professional service and what it would cost you to do so if you bought all the required cleaning products right now.
Prices for Detailing Services
The prices for detailing your car will vary dramatically from place to place. But it still helps to break down the average costs for different detailing services so you aren’t caught off guard. Let’s add up all of these prices, then compare the cost for what you would pay if you decided to detail your vehicle yourself.
A full wash at a detailing service will include a scrubbing down of your exterior, blowing out the cracks or crevices of your car with a compressed air machine, vacuuming, dusting, and drying. This also includes a basic cleaning of your interior (distinct from the drying process as described above). Expect to pay around $30 on average for this at minimum. This makes sense considering it's about the price for a regular carwash.
If you want a detailing service to deep clean your carpets and mats, including shampooing and the vacuuming to get rid of ground-in dirt and pet hair. This runs around $55 on average for larger vehicles or $45 for smaller vehicles. We'll go with $45 for our estimate.
Fully cleaned your upholstery fabric will cost another $45-$50 depending on the amount of fabric that needs scrubbing. We’ll say $45 for our estimate.
On the other hand, maybe your car has leather seats and interior sections. If you want full leather detailing, which includes deep cleaning and conditioning, you’ll pay around $55 on average. We’ll say $50, assuming a smaller car (like with the rest of our estimate).
Vinyl detailing is similar to upholstery detailing. Expect to pay between $45 and $50 for a full, deep clean.
A detailing service should offer to fully clean and detail your trunk or cargo areas. This includes vacuuming and shampooing. They charge an extra fee for this, which is usually around $12 or so.
If you want to ensure that your car looks excellent for the long-term and is protected from further dirt or grease, you’ll want at least a wax coat or ceramic coat. Most services will also offer to polish your vehicle beforehand so give it a nice, glossy shine.
The overall price is dependent on the product used, and ceramic coating is usually a little costlier. Expect to pay between $50 and $95. We’ll average that out to $70 for fairness.
If you want to get any small door dings or small dents, you’ll need to pay extra. This can run you easily over $100, and even up to $150 depending on how many dents you want to be removed. We'll say $120 for an average.
The undercarriage and chassis need to be cleaned and detailed as well. You won't be able to do this yourself unless you have heavy machinery in your garage, so it's one of the rare areas where a full detailing service might offer something you can't do yourself.
Expect to pay around $50 or so for a full cleaning of this area.
Headlights and Taillights Detailing
The headlights and taillights also need to be cleaned. Some places latter polishing compound for added value. Expect to pay around $65 for this on average.
The trim is a separate charge (are you seeing a theme, here? They really do charge an arm and a leg!). You’ll probably pay around $10 for this.
Engine Bay Cleaning
Don’t forget the engine bay! This is important to clean since it can impact how easy it is to find issues with your engine during a maintenance checkup. This can cost anywhere from $30-$150. We’ll average it out to $75.
Remember, It All Depends
Again, all of these prices are dependent on a service’s pricing policies, what kinds of products they use, and how large your car is. Still, these are good estimates, at least for general ranges. Here’s the estimated total, assuming leather seats:
Can that be right? After all, don’t most people only pay between $150 and $200 for a full car detailing? This is true, but most people don’t get all of the extra cleaning described above. Most folks go for a basic detailing, so they pay a bit less.
Still, it’s crazy to think that, to get everything in your car detailed, you’d pay over $500 on average.
Cost of Detailing Yourself
All of this information is moot if you can’t decide whether it’s cheaper to detail your car yourself or take it into a shop. So let’s break down what we’d use, for instance, if we wanted to detail our own cars without taking them into a full-service.
- Our Microfiber Towels cost $17.95, and you get a 10 pack. That’s plenty for a full detailing job.
- We also include Shine Armor Fortify Quick Coat. This takes care of our exterior washing and ceramic coating needs in the same product. This costs only $19.95.
- Next comes our Pristine Tire Shine Gel, which runs $16.95. This is super cheap and will really let you make sure your wheels shine and glimmer.
- Shine Armor’s Leather Cleaner and Conditioner is perfect if you want to clean and condition your leather seats. It runs $22.95.
- Presuming you want to clean the rest of your interior, like your vinyl consoles, you’ll also need Shine Armor Interior Cleaner. This costs $19.95.
- Then there’s Revive Scratch Repair for minor dents and scratches on your car’s exterior. It runs for $18.95.
- Lastly, you can optionally use Shine Armor Spray Wax Quick Coat instead of the Fortify if you’d rather have a regular wax job instead of ceramic coating. It also costs $17.95.
We have other excellent, detail-level products available as well. But this is a good start. Add it all up and you get…
$116.70! You could save two bucks and just use the Wax Spray instead, but either way – this is a huge difference compared to what you would expect to pay for a normal detailing service at a regular shop.
As you can see, it’s absolutely more affordable you to detail your car yourself than it is to take it into even the most budget-friendly car detailing service.
Ultimately, it’s clear that it costs a lot less to detail your car fully yourself, especially when you consider all the extra fees you have to pay a service if you want the complete job. You can save a huge bundle by doing it yourself, and by choosing great car cleaning and maintenance products from Shine Armor.
We noticed this ourselves, which is why we spent so much time coming up with top-tier car cleaning products for folks on a budget. Whatever you choose, we’re just glad you’re taking care of your car the way it deserves. Good luck!