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Should I Let The Dealership Detail or Wash My Car?


To start things off brief and frank, the answer is NO.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, here are some reasons as to why you should either tackle this yourself, or hire a professional detailer to take care of the maintenance for you (see: How to Choose a Professional Detailer ).

The first reason is cost.  Dealerships often charge a lot more to do a “detail” on a car than most reputable professional detailers would charge for the same service–simply because they can get away with it. Many aren’t aware of the exact type of service they are getting.  I have personally see a dealership charge $500 for a wash, glaze, wax and interior vacuum. On the other end of the spectrum is the “free” wash the dealer offers…those are even worse!

The next reason is damage.  I worked as a dealership porter for about 4 months while I was in high school.  The buckets we would use were full of mud in the bottom, only rinsed once a month, and had enough dirt accumulation to make the water mostly brown, all of the time.  Now, your miles may vary, but it is safe to say that most, if not all dealerships do not know how to wash a car properly.  With the 2×4 bucket method ( The Grit Guard 2×4 Wash method ) you are safely keeping the contaminants at the bottom of the buckets, and away from the paint…something dealerships do not do.  So with all the dirt and mud, and rocks (yes, ROCKS) at the bottom of the buckets, you can only imagine the kind of damage brought on by dragging the dirt across the paint such as severe swirling and scratching.

Finally, lets touch on cost a little bit more.  There are two basic ways to get around going to a dealership for a car wash (or just as worse, those “Hand wash” centers on the corner of the streets where 5 people tackle one car).  As I had outlined in the beginning, you could either do it yourself, or hire a professional, reputable detailer to take care of the maintenance for you.  There are several options offered for tackling the car yourself offered by Detailed Image.  I’m personally partial to their Advanced Washing and Drying Kit as it’s under $100, and gives you the most options for a safe easy wash. Not only does this kit last you more than one time, as opposed to having a dealership do it, but it allows you to gain the satisfaction of doing it yourself, within a reasonable budget.

The other option is having a professional, reputable detailer do the maintenance and any other detailing related work for you.  The pros to this option is you don’t have to buy any products yourself, or store them.  You don’t need any knowledge of how to care for a car, and you let them do it at your convenience, and in your garage (in some cases).  This will cost more in the long run than doing the job yourself, but will pay dividends to the life, and look of the paint for many years to come.

Thanks for reading, and I encourage you to express any comments or concerns about where to take your car for safe and effective maintenance details.  Please submit your reply in the comment box below.

9 comments on Should I Let The Dealership Detail or Wash My Car?

  1. Mo says:

    I couldnt agree more! I actually have my account at the dealer noted so they do not wash my car and everytime I go in for a service, I still make sure I tell the rep. And as much as i would love to let the kids on the corner wash my car, there is no chance I would do it. I can only imagine the amount of swirls my car will have when they are done after the improper wash/dry process.

  2. Joe says:

    I couldn’t agree more with Mo above! My SA at the dealer knows not to wash my cars, but I always politely (that’s key) remind her and also leave a polite note in the car for the Techs incase the note in their system is overlooked.

  3. Greg Nichols Greg Nichols says:

    I totally agree! I have spoken with shops that I don’t want the “free” wash. THAT IS NOT ENOUGH you need to paste a huge note inside the car. If they wash it after that I have my clients bill them for the corrective work. Without a note posted in the car, your claim will not hold up legally. I have made 8.5×11 laminated notes I put in there cars when I’m not doing a full correction, they love them and use them.


  4. Though tempting, I’d also suggest that people avoid the “bikini/fund raising” car washes too! 😉

  5. Marc Harris & Jacob Bunyan Marc Harris says:

    Very true as well Chad!!

    Great article Aaron and that reminds me – I want to have laminated signs that say “Do Not Wash” in 3 or 4 languages 🙂

  6. Chris says:

    I would definetely say “No” if you care about your car. I also detailed for a new car dealer for 6 months…I had no clue what I was doing and it was just a part time job while I was still in high school. I was reasonably careful, but look back and shake my head in disgust at the foolish things I did to get the job done.

  7. Eric Schuster Eric says:

    I have a detail at a dealership up in LA because the owner is taking delivery of a brand new car. I cant wait to see the look on the faces of the detail guys over there when I roll up to detail the car instead of them!

  8. pa350z says:

    Agree on all points. Concerning Bikini car washes, unfortunately, had to run one of those type of fundraisers for my daughters High School Age volleyball team. Made lots of money!! However, what I did was attempt to minimize the scratching. Actually bought upper end sponges, used decent OTC car wash (Megiuars I believe), bought a bunch of absorbers for drying and kept a hawk eye on the water condition, throwing away of the sponges if they feel to the ground and same with the absorbers. While doing this, I taught a bunch of teenagers the do’s and don’ts about washing cars properly (albeit the best we could in this setting).

    Would I have had my cars washed at this fundraiser? Absolutely not. But… others are willing and we did the best we could with the resources and time available to minimize the scratching vehicles.

  9. I never realized that this could be such a big issue. Until recently I didn’t even know that detailing a car was a thing. I guess it can be really important though. I never thought that it would legitimately be a bad idea to get it done at a dealership. I guess it does make sense to try to find better deals though. I hope I can balance that with also finding good service.

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