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Why is There Such a Difference in Detailing Service Pricing?


Atlanta car detailing Detailed Designs Auto Spa

If you have the time and desire to get a real grasp on this topic, perform the following experiment. If not, I am sure you can still easily follow along.

Start by doing a Google search for car detailing and call the top five shops/businesses that show for the search results and just ask for the price of a ‘full detail’. Do not offer a description of what you exactly want.

Note two different things as you perform this experiment. The first being what the price is. The second, see if they ask you what you specifically want out of your full detail.

The results will vary from company to company. But what you will most likely universally find is that everyone’s full detail is different in some way from the other companies. For the shops that don’t ask you to describe what you want out of your detail, ask them what their full detail consist of.

Why do the results you get matter? The results will show you the tip of the iceberg as to why there is such a great divide in service pricing from detail companies. Part of the reason is due to a difference in what is being advertised or offered for a given name like ‘full detail’. For if each one of those services are different why would it be a surprise that there is a different cost? Despite that, some car owners are very quick to scoff at a price given or think a price is too good to be passed up before having an understanding of what is being done in detail.

Who, when asked, would pass judgement on the price someone paid for a car without knowing the make, model, mileage and condition? Maybe all of those are spot on for the price but the color is just plain ugly and there is no demand for it? These are normal thoughts we have when considering large purchases. We want to have a full grasp of what exactly the money is being put towards. This should be the same attitude we see in regards to detailing services and their cost.

Maybe this doesn’t completely apply to the individuals who are reading this now. But then again, maybe it won’t hurt for you to think more critically about the approach your personal detailing business takes or for you to think more critically about where your dollars are being spent? Join me as we get one insider’s look at the detailing service cost disparity.

Where’s the Beef?

atlanta auto detailer detaileddesignsautospa.com

30 years ago Dave Thomas, the founder of Wendy’s, had a commercial aired with the catch phrase “where’s the beef?”. It was centered around 3 older ladies getting their hands on a hamburger that was 90% bun and 10% beef. Before opening the burger up, they had been commenting on how wonderful the bun looked. When they looked inside to see where the substance they paid for was, one angrily asked “where’s the beef?” There was no substance and they were aggravated they paid for essentially nothing but a bun.

So many people are left asking where the beef is, so to speak, when spending money on detailing services. They feel as though the substance just isn’t there. Why is this?

Detail shops know that ‘full detail’ means many different things to different people. But taking the time to describe a service may mean they lose the job due to having a higher price than a different shop even though the service is more extensive. I can say that I have personally had countless experiences where someone called without first viewing our website and requested a price for a “full detail”. Because my shop is quality and end-result driven, we are not cheap. I’ll ask that they describe exactly what they are looking for in their full detail and what is not unusual is someone just reiterating that they want a full detail…”ya know, like inside and outside fully detailed.” At that point, it is more often than not that I write them off as I know from that one line that they are looking for something other than what we offer. Regardless of that, I give them their price so they can end the conversation and I won’t have to be a bad guy and tell them no and every single time it works. They exclaim how ridiculously expensive we are even though they have no idea what we do.

For many people, they are hunting for a shop to tell them what they want to hear (we can do everything you want and make it perfect for chump change -good luck) instead of what they need to hear (time is money and doing things the right way that gets the best results is more expensive). In other words, their first thought is on a price and not the result they desire. THAT is what drives most shops to be price-focused and not results driven. From that, you have shops that will claim they have the cheapest or “best” prices in town. Call my shop, Detailed Designs Auto Spa, after speaking with one of those shops and you may think we are insane with our pricing. Why the extreme difference in cost?

Sometimes it’s a matter of one company providing a more thorough service that will use more man-hours to complete. Quality being equal, if one full detail is a car wash and wax at one shop and the other shop’s full detail is a wash, wax, interior vacuum, leather cleaning, dusting and dash wipe and shampoo, shop number two will probably be more expensive. Before you pass judgement on a detail cost, educate yourself as to what is involved in the service. You may find that what you though was overpriced is really a far better value than the cheaper priced service.

Let’s say you have pinned down two different shops that are saying they are doing the same thing and yet the prices are substantially different. What’s going on here?

Detailing is not a commodity. It is not a make and model of a new car that all dealerships can attain and potentially sell for the same price. It is a skill-based art and science. No two shops have the same ability and produce the exact same end result. There are detailers that are really bad, detailers that are amazing and then there are guys that float between the two extremes. “Cheap isn’t good and good isn’t cheap” … at least that is how I was raised. Typically, price will dictate quality.

Paint correction has gained a lot of traction over the last 4 years or so. It seems like everyone offers multiple levels of correction to their clients. There is a huge difference in the level of attention, time invested, skill or experience, protective measures taken, products used, results available and cost from company to company. On our paint correction projects, we can spend hours taping off sensitive surfaces, removing the tape and cleaning up the tape edge build up once the corrective steps are complete. Trying different corrective polishes, compounds, pads and machines to find the right combination can take a few hours. Slowing down to use a 4″ pad on a rotary to hit tight areas eats up hours during a correction project. Correcting the edges of panels as much as the middle of the panels is incredibly time consuming. On that note, I once heard a detailer say that “no one” gives the lower portions the time that the upper portions get … I disagree but you get the idea. I could go on and on about how doing a thorough job and not just a decent one, can double, triple or more the amount of money and time invested into a correction job.

Sometimes it’s a matter of the shops having different budgets for products and chemicals. When shopping for our cleaning or conditioning products, price is not a factor. We are hunting for the best products and solutions, period. How does that translate to cost? If you’re reading this now, you understand that there are cheaper products to be had at Walmart. But you’re not at Walmart right now buying wheel cleaner. You’re shopping for Sonax or p21s wheel cleaners or something else that is, no doubt, more expensive. You understand that a higher quality carries a higher price. It is the same way for a company. The increase in the back end cost drives up the front end cost for a client. The trade off? Better products that give better results, safer.

Different detailing companies may sometimes offer services that are simply not available anywhere else locally. At Detailed Designs Auto Spa, we recently incorporated a no cost, hands on maintenance clinic for each of our paint restoration and coating application clients. Now, when a client has a restoration completed or new coating applied they will have the hands on experience to build on when they begin down the path of proper car care at their own home. This no cost 3-4 hour class adds long term value that someone will carry with them for the rest of their life. Before incorporating this service, we had technical how-to’s for clients to reference (which will still be available). Just as before, we are still willing to build online shopping carts with the products they want but don’t have time to research and hunt down. Many skilled high-line detailers are willing to provide ongoing support for their clients. It’s important to learn what level of support your detailer will provide when considering the value being provided.

Insurance and shop overhead are real costs for professionals who take their craft seriously. Insurance is a no brainer. The better the coverage, the more expensive the premiums, which drive up front end cost to a client. No one likes to think about a freak accident happening and causing a complete write off of a $300,000 car. But it could happen. That’s why we and other high-line shops spend more money for higher coverage. A shop with minimal coverage probably isn’t the best choice to take your luxury or exotic car to be worked on.

Nice shop facilities are not cheap. Sure, the rough part of town is a lot cheaper to lease a shop at … but is that where you want your car?

The Finer Things in Life

Come your anniversary, are you taking your wife to Long John Silvers for dinner or are you hunting down the location that will provide you with wonderful service, excellent food and an amazingly memorable experience? My wife knows she only gets the best and I enjoy spending the coin needed on that event.

For some of us, we have those same feelings for our automobiles. We want the best experience we can afford. Maybe it’s that there’s a bond with another car guy that is a car detailer and that’s who you want taking care of your pride and joy? You know that he will take care of it as if it were his car and that’s enough for you.

Here’s the bottom line ladies and gentlemen. There is not just one reason some shops are more or less expensive than others. If you educate yourself as to what different detailing companies are offering from the ground up, you will be better suited to find the best solution for your needs. It’s not enough to just ask for a price anymore. There are too many options and variables that can drive a price up or down and it’s up to you to find out what you’re buying into.

Jean-Claude Corcoran
Jean-Claude Corcoran
Detailed Designs Auto Spa
Atlanta, GA

28 comments on Why is There Such a Difference in Detailing Service Pricing?

  1. Jim Fornadel says:

    Excellent article, and spot on gospel truth. You get what you pay for. I fancy myself a good detailer, but as a I struggled to establish I offered the groupon, living social ect half off deals. Quality suffered from the massive sales and I took a beat online and deserved every bit of it. I wasn’t proud of what went out. I still offer those but very basic service and explain, bronze package for a reason. I’ve raised prices this last year probably 4 times, because the time it takes to do a job is money. I also used to be of the thought on a full detail it should be perfect for price x. Well again not all cars are taken care of the same, so now I charge for paint correction that I used to do for free as part of the detail. But our business is quality driven and I’ve been able to weather the damage my cheap service and rushed work did to my business reputation and happy to say recent reviews in the past yr or so have show that improvement and commitment to quality. I now try and educate customers that some damage won’t come out without paint correction and give them pricing for it. Some pay it some don’t and that’s fine for their budget but I make an effort to be same page going in so they are happy with what I’ve done and I’m not bitter or losing money on the job.

    Very true about location, it just boils down to the same, quality cost money., and people with the cars and in the condition you want won’t go to a bad area. I’ve actually turned 3 cars away this past year due to their condition and say I’m sorry but I just can’t do this job for a price that will work for you. Usually 15 yr old cars that have rust on them and very oxidized. Why after you took care of a car like that would you want it detailed?

    Thanks again for the insight and remind us to be quality driven at all times.

    • Jean-Claude says:

      Thanks for the feedback Jim.

      I regularly get calls from those same discount websites and they don’t understand why they don’t work for my company. All they see is the potential for more customers. They ignore the corner cutting that is inevitable. Just do a search on what type of impact a company running a Groupon deal has on the employees and the business to learn more.

  2. Brock R says:

    This has been very educational for me! I work as a detailer at a dealership and can assure those quality detailers that the exterior work is where there is no attention paid and even our $200 detail should involve more extensive work than what is done. Just recently I’ve had 3 people inquire about buffing car to swirl free finish (only 1 committed so far and was extremely happy) and have a hard time pricing them out. The guy that committed has Audi A7, brand new 2014 and charged $250 just for the exterior work and wheels cleaned but realized when a guy with a Porsche inquired about the same I should be telling these people to stop by the dealership so I can see what I’m working with due to every car having a different paint system and possibly deeper defects, just stinks that when I price out these details I have to consider the crazy overhead being the dealership is undergoing another $500,000+ renovation in past 2 years I’ve been working there.

  3. Joey Barbour says:

    I can’t tell you how much help these articles are to my business.


  4. Jim says:

    Thank you for all the continuing education and product demonstrations. Although, it appears, the above comments are from detailers, this one is from your potential customer. I’m probably not your “regular” customer if in fact that person exists. I have been a car guy for the last 50 years. In the mid 60’s speed mattered more than shine. I had a new Corvette but couldn’t afford a auto car wash. Instead we used the quarter washes or Mom’s pail and dish detergent. Waxing consisted of something easy to apply like a Turtle wax. “Detailing” meant a car wash and interior vacuum and a Turtle wax.

    As my time moved on, my interest in cars continued but my salary now allowed auto car washes. It was only then that I started noticing things such as swirls. Still, for consumers, the available products and education was lacking and “Turtle” wax stilled ruled the day. I remember getting “acid rain” effect on a brand new Raven Black, 1986 TBird Turbo Couple. My neighbor, the dealer, said the shop would fix it. The next day it came back and boy did it look good. A couple days later after I washed it, it suddenly looked like crap just full of swirls from where it had been aggressively buffed and then had a wax or glaze applied that left after the first wash. Still the consumer availability of DIY products didn’t exist.

    Fast forward and I now had the money, time and drive to start looking at better car care on my own. My wife bought me my first Griots polisher and products. Griots was a wealth of information and application information that didn’t exist before. Good for my car and good for his business. As I used his products, I then began looking at trying other products and some experimentation. I think Griot has probably done more to create consumer interest in their cars’ appearance than any one in history. While he has done well in his business, I think all detailers and many of the products producers owe him a lot from almost creating their market and audience. Please don’t cut this because I name a “competitor” as that is not the point here.

    While I now do a pretty good job of basic cleaning work on my cars, I am still looking for a pro to do a possible paint correction one of my cars which is a “show worthy” modern car. I found this site a couple years ago and use it for helping me pick the right products to use and how to apply them. This site is the perfect example for the “advanced” or next stage of “Griots” level users.

    As a consumer, the hardest part is FINDING a good pro detailer. Anyone can buy an ad, advertise online, Craigslist, etc. For a consumer, my biggest fear is having my car screwed up. Cheap doesn’t always mean a poor job; as “cheap” is relevant. Also most people don’t know what they should pay or what they should be getting or need and that’s why you receive some of those phone calls that you seem to be critical of. Consumers need to be educated and, as a business, you need to do that and not be critical of what you see as a silly question. Sell yourself if you want my business.

    When you post about a job you have done put the cost in and the number of hours you worked. You shouldn’t be afraid of what you charged and no one is going to complain that you posted the cost. Heck, if you came to my house and did an $800 major detail on my car, I’d be bragging about how good the car looked and not embarrassed at what I paid. That could/would be a selling going if I was going to sell the car. THAT’S the type of information consumers need to know about what a job entails and what they are paying for. You are selling your skill and labor and what is secret about pricing that? If you want educated consumers calling you, you need to start helping educate them. If you want me to understand what an $800 detail job is, show me one (like on this site) and tell me that job was $800. Don’t break that news to me on the phone or when I drive an hour to get to your shop when I can’t afford an $800 job. That’s how you get idiots complaining about the cost of a job they never had done and drive them to either a sub standard job or doing nothing. Looking at the online examples, if I call you I can give you a pretty good idea of what my car may need so why not tell me what it will likely cost for that job? You may loose business because of the cost (you really don’t loose it if they couldn’t/wouldn’t pay that much anyway) but more likely will gain customers because they will have a pretty good idea of the cost, what they get for their money and that you know what you are doing and the final experience will be better for both of you. Don’t make me play a guessing game like above or our call will be very short and also our last.

    One of you business’ websites does a pretty good job explaining each service and what it entails and costs. What it lacks is some detail. Like, if this job costs $400, don’t be afraid to say that it takes 4 hours and you think I will be offended by the simple math. Educate the buyer that you will probably be using $50 worth of chemical during that 4 hours plus the 2 hours of dry time.

    As a consumer and your prospective customer, my concerns are few. What do I get, how much does it cost and examples of your work. Your job is to do everything you can to convince me you are the one to do it because you will likely only get one chance to sell me. My decision is if I can or want to spend the money for what you will do. No consumer wants to think they have been “bait and switched” around on the work or price and customers that can’t afford YOUR work at YOUR price would never have been a customer anyway. As a consumer, that’s what I think when I look at your product or any other. The better you are at showing me what I want to know, the better chance you will have in getting my business.

    • Jean-Claude says:

      Jim, thanks for taking the time to express your view. It’s nice to hear from someone who has been around the detailing world for so long and I certainly respect your years of efforts in looking for excellence in detailing.

      I would like to respond to a few of the points you made. Not so much to disagree with you, but to clarify.

      After years in business, I’ve identified two major problems my industry faces. One being a lack of interest of detailing companies to explain clearly what they offer to clients for the price point they meet and the second is a lack of detailing client’s interest in educating themselves as to what they are buying. In my opinion, these issues just feed each other.

      In regards to my company. We advertise strictly online. Because of that, we have invested countless hours in providing extensive information on the services we offer and how it differs from what many shops do via our website. If someone is calling us, they either got the number from a friend who would clue them into their experience, or they would get it online -where pricing, service options, articles, photographs and documentation as well as a whole slew of related material is located. The concern I voiced: “For many people, they are hunting for a shop to tell them what they want to hear (we can do everything you want and make it perfect for chump change -good luck) instead of what they need to hear (time is money and doing things the right way that gets the best results is more expensive). In other words, their first thought is on a price and not the result they desire. ” When someone calls and their only concern is the price, they are not our customer. We recognize who our clients are. They are quality-driven people. They are not after a catch-all price to “detail the whole thing” as that statement simply can not be known over a phone call. The shame is that just because we are focusing on what the client wants(I have ask them multiple times for exactly what they want and they continue to press for a price and not a conversation about the desired results), it doesn’t mean they will pay more. We have a lot of experiences of driving clients to lower priced services because it better met their needs. The price-focused customer puts the money first and the results down the line.

      A desire to learn what they’re buying means they ask questions and/or dig for information themselves. Our website provides pricing. That lack of desire can be quickly expressed by a car owner when they retrieve a phone number online but then refuses to read any readily available information that can answer most questions. That in of itself tells us that the caller is not really our client type(with a few exceptions). It may be difficult to read that we would so quickly not be interested in taking someone’s money. But after years of business, we’ve learned that we can not make those types of clients happy. For our successes are dictated by the results and not having the cheapest price in town.

      These types of people do not care to be educated and their opinion, in most cases, will not be changed about a service being “too expensive”. Again, their focus is price. With a finite amount of time in a day, we can not spend an inordinate amount of time with callers who appear to want something we don’t offer. We get calls throughout the day and you can tell very quickly who is serious about their car looking amazing and being well protected. You can also tell who is price-shopping for the cheapest price with the most promises attached. Again, this may be disturbing to hear but most small businesses face the exact same scenario. They may or may not admit that though. This approach makes us sustainable and gives our clients more of the quality time that they deserve from us.

      We are very proud of our prices as well as our services. Our reputation speaks for itself. I agree that everyone should be proud of what they offer.

      I must admit, I do disagree with one point though. Maybe it’s the same thing, just a different view on it? You mention that it is my job to convince you that we are the company to do it for you. Maybe you meant that literally, or maybe you meant tacitly by presenting quality services and communication? We do not make it a goal to convince clients to use us. Our first and primary goal when speaking with a new client is to educate them. If they are not interested in learning anything, we move on. But for those clients that have expressed a real desire to learn, we trust their judgement that they will find the company that will satisfy their needs. We feel that we do a fine job presenting quality options for their longterm car care needs and if they would like for us to take care of it, we are very happy to. I’ve spent hundreds(maybe a thousand or more??) of hours speaking with people who ended up not using our services. We also help other small detailing start ups across the USA with mentoring(I have my own mentor that is located a few thousand miles away from me). We provide ongoing support to the public via phone conversations on how to handle issues so that clients do not have to come in and spend money. We really do try to help the public as well as help our industry get the best image possible.

      Jim, I think we are coming from the same spot. As many nuances as there are on this subject, the best I can do is touch on the major bullet points from a detailer and business owner’s stand point. I would enjoy speaking with you over a phone call so you could get a sense of what we do, in realtime. You’re probably not located near us and that’s ok. This wouldn’t be with attaining your business in mind. After speaking with me I am sure you won’t feel as though we brush folks off, but rather, the effort we put into trying to really help people. I am sure I could gain something from listening to your experiences as well! Feel free to call me 678-859-1795

  5. Richard says:

    Very good comments and perspectives.

    I own a couple of companies. One is a Web Development house. We face similar (near exact) issues; and get the same types of calls. Percentage-wise, at least 80% of the calls and referrals we get fall into the category of the ‘uninformed’, who make far too many assumptions before calling. Our ‘uninformed’ criteria sounds to be the same as what is faced in the high-end portion of the auto detailing profession.

    It all boils down to first educating them; and the vast majority of callers do not have the desire, want or ambition to become educated. We pass on them. Early on, when we were first scrambling as a newly formed business, we believed we needed to compete for every project; only to find out that those ‘uninformed’ clients who wouldn’t be educated, turned out to be the absolute worst. They ate up time, didn’t actually know what they wanted (and if they did, it wasn’t a solution that would get them to their wanted goals), wouldn’t meet deadlines for inputs, and paid late, VERY LATE. We no longer take them on.

    Instead, we follow the same framework I learned from turning around businesses in an earlier career: We QUALIFIED them. It’s a simple process, 90% ears, 10% mouth, and all questions. We NEVER offer a price, in person, on our website(s), or in our other marketing. The only way we will work, is to meet with a potential client first, and spend at least two different sessions with them, introducing ourselves, learning what they think they want, what they know about marketing, what they’ve done before, what’s worked and what hasn’t, what specific goals they want to accomplish from our work, and why they came to us. After the first meeting, we send them back to their offices with questions we need answered. A week later, we meet again. Based on their input, and whether we believe we can provide them with what they seek (and sometimes we cannot — we know we cannot do EVERYTHING for EVERY potential client), we will draft a contract and offer it to them on the third meeting, NOT A PRICE. It will have all the conditions, expectations, schedules, and requirements, time rates, and what is included and what is not and may be subject to change orders. If we have a “meeting of the minds”, as the attorneys call it, the project will move forward. Otherwise, we thank them for their time and consideration.

    Bottom line: We don’t want every job. We want the projects where we can provide results as understood by both parties for the value exchanged.

    For those in the auto detailing profession, I have to believe it’s similar. Why on earth would you waste today doing work for less than your value on a project you don’t want to do, knowing you will get grief afterwards, and possibly someone telling the world what terrible work you did?

    More importantly, and has not been mentioned in this article and the comments, is that the business owner (that would be you), needs to learn also. You need to understand how business runs. You are probably very good-to-excellent at detailing; but that does not make you knowledgeable in running a business. If you are just starting out, or are thinking of starting your own operation, I would suggest you build a team around yourself. At a minimum, you want an accountant, a banker, an attorney, representatives of your suppliers (not the reps, but an officer of a few of them). Create your Advisory Board from that group. They will all have a stack in the success of your business. They will all be able to provide you with the insights and knowledge you don’t have yourself. They will also see that you are serious and understand business. They can help you with a business plan to determine if the numbers have a chance in working, BEFORE YOU START WRITING CHECKS. They can help you with research, finding where the demographics and psychographics are in your best interest, where advantageous properties are; the list goes on. You need to educate yourself about business to no lesser degree than you are trying to educate that share of callers who you want to convert into clients.

    Trust me, we believe it is always better to pass on projects where the two parties aren’t of the same understandings. Trust me also when I say that every day brings new inquiries. You don’t lose anything when you decline an ‘uninformed’ potential client.

  6. Kevin says:

    I like to use the cheeseburger comparison when I am get questioned about why I charge so much more than “the guy down the road”. (side note: is it just me, or is there ALWAYS a guy down the road)
    If you walk into McDonalds or Burgerking, you can get a cheeseburger off the dollar menu, sometimes you can get two cheeseburgers for a dollar. You can also go to a very well known steak restaurant in New York City and pay upwards of $40-$50 for a cheeseburger. Based on just name alone, you are still asking for the same thing. “I would like a cheeseburger” The difference then comes down to what has gone into making that burger. One dollar gets you a cheeseburger that may or may not even be beef with a slice of the cheapest “cheese” on the market microwaved for you buy a 16 year old who may or may not even be in high school yet. The $40 gets you a burger made with top sirloin chuck by a professional chef with years of training and practice cooked EXACTLY the way you want it with the properly aged cheese of your choice. BUT, based on the words alone, it’s still a cheeseburger.
    You can even relate it to the auto painting industry. When people ask me for advice on where to get a panel painted or repaired, I tell them they should look to spend about $300-$400 per panel to have it done right. However, they can go to Macco and have the whole car painted for $299.
    Bottom line, if you have put in the time and the money to develop yourself as a professional detailer and paint correction specialist, you deserve a higher dollar amount. If someone wants the $99 “detail” down the road, that person is just not your customer, they want a different service than what you offer. I still would love to see that guy walk into Burger Bistro in NYC and say “The guy down the road is selling his burgers for a dollar”. 🙂

  7. Chubby says:

    ‘sure the rough part of town is cheaper to lease a shop at …. but is that where you want your car’
    I own a nice shop in the ‘rough side of town’ … turn it into a nice secure place….
    Bentley dealership on 11ave in nyc …. hooker haven ..
    au revior

    • Jean-Claude says:

      I believe it’s relative to the shop and market. Around Atlanta, the rough part of town can be very unsafe. In other areas, the ‘rough part of town’ may be relatively safe.

  8. Steve says:

    Great article it is always good to get different perspectives on a topic.

    My issue is not that I cant afford Jean Claude’s services or any of the other contributing detailers on this site (as noted you ultimately get what you pay for in service, expertize and product quality and an education).
    Unfortunately only the two detailers in my area that were posted on the “Detailers Map” are OBB.
    (time to update the map)

    So I am left with asking who ever I pick out of the phone book “how much is a full detail” and try to guess are these guys any good?

    And while I realize that one asks questions and it is not how much they charge It would be so much more reassuring if I could get recommendations from any of the contributors on this site.

    I trust you guys, I don’t trust the guy on the end of the phone telling me he is the best and cheapest or the best and not the cheapest or the website with a flashy Lambo as their logo.
    I want an place like Detailed Designs where I can get an education as well as a great detail job, so next time I can do it myself

    Me as a customer who has tried to educate himself mainly from reading every blog on this site still feels woefully inadequate in knowing if I can trust this guy or that guy to take care of my car.

    Just an unashamed plea for help.


    Fort Lauderdale, FL

  9. Sandra Groeschel says:

    I am reading your articles with great interest.
    The middle of December I will be taking delivery of my special order Porsche Panamera. I ordered it in GT silver. I am also having the entire front end and front fenders “wrapped” in Xpel. Would it be worth considering having Modesta BC-05 coating or CQuartz Finest also applied before taking delivery?
    If this was your car, how would you car for the film and paint day in and day out? I don’t want to do anything that might damage the paint or the Xpel!

    • Hi Sandra,

      Please accept my apology as I am just now seeing that you ask me something.

      Yes. In my experience, our clients LOVE a coating over clear bra. In terms of care, regular washing with non-reactive chemicals(read my piece of p21s Total Auto Wash for more info on that) will keep the surface in great shape.


  10. Jay says:

    Spot on article, and some great replies. We go through this on a regular basis just like you, and it gets old fast! The best questions we get are “How much does it cost?” , and “How long does it take?” and if you were watching me on camera you’d see my eyeballs almost roll out of my head. I so bad want to sarcastically answer “How much does dinner cost?” or “How long does it take to drive home?” , but my customer service standard wont allow me to do that. Instead, I swallow my pride and attempt to start to dig for more information on what they’re looking to accomplish. And, like you, usually get something like “The full everything” as an answer. I usually want to throw my phone at this point but once again, i take a gulp and usually answer back very vague “We have a variety of different services, priced differently depending on what services will be performed and the size and condition of vehicle. We have prices as low as $19.99 up to $5-$600. Please come down for a free quote” And then try to end the conversation.

    We take on pretty much all jobs, and all budgets- we have prices for everyone. I’ve spent countless hours trying to figure out how to handle these types of customers, and there is no amount of education that we can provide that would effectively handle all these clients by phone. So i found the best way is to mention “starting prices are $xx to $xxxxx” covering the price spectrum thoroughly enough to entice most people just to come in, then i asses the condition of the car and attempt to upsell.

    • Jay,

      Educating new clients to this end of detailing can be incredibly in depth as you know. I just finished a consultation with a client, in person, and it took about 90 minutes. Fortunately, both of us are on the same page in terms of just wanting the best for his needs. It’s the ironing out of his needs that is time consuming as there are *countless* nuances that must be touched on.

      Thanks for the comment Jay.

  11. Rich Bovino says:

    Thank you for a well written, powerful and descriptive article on the “full detail” It is a term I wish we in the detailing community can eliminate because of the wide range of descriptions and definitions of it’s meaning. I find myself doing exactly what you mention in the beginning of your article, asking the client exactly what they want rather than simply committing to a term. Bravo!

  12. Mike says:

    I’m just a regular joe, not a pro detailer, just a clean car freak/enthusiast and the bare minimum it takes me to do a full detail on one of my cars is 8-10 hours. If I took my car to a pro shop, and asked for full paint correction, I would expect 16-20 hours minimum (obviously depending on condition, etc). Time is money. I’m not sure what a pro detailer charges for his rate, but I would expect a minimum of $50/hour and probably up to $100/hour for the top guys.

    I have one of the top guys in the country near me and I drool over the cars he gets in his shop. I’ve never inquired about prices because I know I can’t afford him. But if I was to, I would prefer to him take a look at my car, get a feel for what I’m looking for and tell me, for example, “that is a 25 hour job at $100/hour”, etc.

    Since I can’t afford the best, I’ll keep doing it myself to the best of my ability. But I would never take my car to a mediocre detailer due to price. There’s a reason my local dealer has “DO NOT WASH” on my customer record.

  13. Danny says:

    It’s a simple response to the question not a long winded one or the “My detail is a thousand dollars” to get them to go away.

    Why not the simple”Details range from $800 to $2500″ which would you like?

    • We don’t want to waste the caller nor our time if it is clear they are not going to seriously consider our services due to our pricing. But, whatever we say, we are not trying to offend anyone or sound disingenuous. We want even those that are looking for a different type of shop than ours to maintain their dignity. I honestly don’t have the perfect solution for this. But we do the best we can.

  14. Paul says:

    And thus this is why I’m mobile. Everything I need to clean a vehicle is in that van except water and electricity. Most job sites offer that, and its not a problem with the client. I have been cleaning cars since age 15, and now going on 46. I charge a fair price for the work I do, and that has kept me in business for 11 years. Thanks.

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