How Much To Tip For a Car Wash: What's The Average Tip For a Car Detailer?

              What's The Average Tip For a Car Detailer?
As a car owner, you understand the value of that deep shine as the sun glimmers off your freshly cleaned paint. While some consumers are happy with a standard mechanical way, many of us take great pride in our vehicles and want to give them the top of the line treatment, a professional hand wash. Read on to learn more in this article of shine armor blog!

Why Pay For a Hand Wash? 

To completely wash your vehicle, it’s important to soak, soap, scrub, rinse, and dry every every inch in order to remove all the dirt and contamination, and dry off all the water to avoid water spots. 

Unfortunately, the fast pace and focus on not overusing products means the automated car washes just aren’t doing the trick. 

Another major factor is the manner in which the automated car washes clean your vehicle; they use sensors to get the general width and length of your vehicle to get the brushes and get close, but not touching. This means they are less likely to wash concave sections of body panels, or seams along panel and door edges. You should be using a medium pressure while scrubbing the grime off your vehicle, which is something a spinning bristle arm or swinging wet matts are unable to monitor or adjust. 

When washing a car by hand, you are able to attack the different contaminants directly, such as dirt or tree sap. This means you start with a quality automotive soap, and only if you absolutely need to increase the strength of cleaners would you have to. 

This idea is ultimately transferred to each aspect of the vehicle, from the paint, to the glass, including the wheels and tires, and sometimes even including the engine bay.

How Much Should You Tip Then? 

Like many services, when a job is completed that really meets or exceeds our expectations, we are willing to spend a bit more. The idea is that these tips will show the hard workers how impressed we were with the quality of work, that they will then be more encouraged to give exceptional service again.

Tips within a service industry like this one are often variable on the task being performed. The idea is that if a worker washed your car, they should not receive the same pay as someone that washes your car, vacuums your carpet, and cleans up that old spill in the cupholder. 

Like many tipping scenarios, there is a generalized expectation, but ultimately you must feel you have value for the service. It’s been found that overcharging for less than sufficient quality has unfortunately resulted in a decrease on the end of tipping, even if the waiter or service employee may have no control over the cost. 

On average, consumers have been known for tipping $2.00 to $3.00 for an exterior wash only on a small to light car. When we talk about exterior car washes, we are often only referring to the washing and drying of the car. 

Once you get a larger car washed, consumers will often leave $4.00 since the vehicle takes more time and effort. No matter the size of the car, having your vehicle vacuumed often leads to increasing the tip by $1.00. 

Once you begin to look at extended services, tips transfer from a simple dollar amount and begin to focus on a percentage of overall sale. This is due to the vast difference in potential products, work, and outcomes. 

Generally speaking, this tip is usually between 10% and 15%. These services could include anything from surface scratch corrections, wax and polish, ceramic coatings, carpet shampoo, trim polishing, and more. 

It’s not completely abnormal that a company may not accept tips. Don’t feel offended if an employee says that he unfortunately can not accept, as this rule is much higher than the individual employee.  

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Who Should You Tip?

When you’re getting your car washed by hand, it often becomes a bit confusing. 

One or two employees may have washed your car, and then your car had been passed on to two other employees that had wiped everything dry with microfiber towels and inspected your car. 


Shine Armor concentrated car soap.


At that point the car was passed once more to a team of three workers with two cleaning your interior and the third focusing on bringing that shine back to your paint with a wax or ceramic coating

So who do we tip?

In many cases, a tip box will be present at the exit of the car wash, which will be distributed evenly to the workers at the end of the day. This helps all workers that have had a hand in the cleaning of your vehicle, even if you hadn’t seen them yourself. Of course, if an individual has truly impressed you, you should take the time to address them directly and thank them for their work, either with a tip or even just a few words of gratitude. 

Tip Yourself 

As the owner of a car, truck, boat, or motorcycle, you should set yourself up for success by understanding the cleaning and maintenance which could be availale from home. 

With companies now focused on providing professional-grade automotive detailing kits for at-home use, you now have the resources to create a finish that meets your satisfaction from the comfort of your own driveway. 

First, make sure you have a source of water and electricity. Water is the key component in washing your vehicle, as it’s used to pre-rinse everything, it's added to the soap, it's used when scrubbing the contaminants off your vehicle, and it's used to rinse your vehicle one you are done. 

You want to always use an automotive-specific soap, as these soaps are designed to lift the dirt while avoiding deep etching into the wax or painted surfaces. Automotive soaps also leave a thin residue of paint and UV protectants, increasing the longevity of your vehicle. 

First, you will rinse the vehicle with clean water. This will pull any loose contaminants such as dirt or grime off the vehicle. At this point you will need to cover the vehicle in soap. We encourage you to get a hose or power washer soap gun or soap cannon connection which allows you to spray soap. Once the vehicle is covered, allow it to soak for three to five minutes to begin lifting stuck on grime. 

At this point, choose a panel to begin washing, this could be somewhere like the driver’s door or the roof, anywhere you will remember. Using the soap gun, spray the panel you are about to work on so its once again very wet, and using a soap mitt, glove, or sponge begin scrubbing the area in circular motions. Be sure to overlap your circles and take your time, if you miss any section it will show in the end. 

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  1. Interior car detailing
  2. Exterior car detailing

You will now want to use your water source to rinse the vehicle from top to bottom, removing all the scrubbed off dirt. Avoid spraying the water straight onto the surface, since there are pieces of dirt and sand sitting on top, you want to allow them to flow down the vehicle. Once a large majority of the soap and grime has run off, you may now start from the top once more and focus on an in depth rinse of the vehicle. 

Now that your vehicle is clean, give it a few minutes to allow a majority of the water to run off onto the ground. With most of the water off the vehicle, use a high quality microfiber towel to wipe the remaining water. Microfiber towels are soft and extremely absorbent to pull the water away from the surface and allow a spot free finish.

Once the vehicle is dry, you should now add a protective coating onto your paint, such as a wax or a ceramic spray. These coatings work by filling the microscopic roughness on the material surface to create a mirror image. These coatings then harden to promote a long lasting protection. 

Once you have sealed the paint, you should consider a similar process on the windows using a hydrophobic formula design to reduce water buildup. This will encourage the water droplets to ball up and simply slide off your window. 

Next you should use a shop vacuum to clean out your seats and your carpet of any debris. Shop vacs have many attachments to assist with this job, from carpet brushes to small pinpoint brushes designed for tight spaces. 

Next you should choose a cleaner specific for your interior’s material, such as a vinyl cleaner if you have vinyl seats, door cards, or dash, or a leather cleaner if your vehicle uses real leather.

While taking your vehicle to a shop sounds like the easiest approach to a clean car, many of us enjoy taking our time on the weekend wiping away the dirt, and high quality detailing products make it easy for us to do so. 


At the end of the service, you should tip the employees what you feel is fair to the value of the work. If an employee really goes out of his way to scrub and scrub a section of carpet where you spilled coffee earlier that day, he’s not being paid extra for doing that. He’s doing that because he genuinely cares about you as a customer, and you should take the opportunity to show gratitude for that kind of work ethic, which feels pretty rare nowadays!


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