My first car was a 1994 Acura Integra. At 16, the pride I took in driving that Acura was shown in how spotless I kept it, inside and out. Now, 25 years later, my car is often covered with baby food and dog hair. Although I don’t always have time to keep it spotless, having a clean car remains a priority.
Detailing has been found to increase the resale value of vehicles by up to 15%, according to CarWise. Regular deep cleans of vehicle carpets, seating and outer tires can prevent staining, grime and odors that would otherwise become a more permanent fixture. In addition, the UV inhibitors used during the detailing process prevent weather damage to the paint of the vehicle, and detailing of the engine bay allows for easier maintenance in the future. The cleaning products used with detailing also act as a preventive measure since they provide protection against future stains.
So, what does a detailing job typically entail? It normally includes a vacuum job, a wash and wax, tire cleaning, window wash, mirror and trim cleaning, and an interior polish.
Surprisingly, detailing your car at home is both easy and affordable. Here’s what you’ll need and what it’ll cost—if you don’t already have the necessary supplies.
Most likely you’ll have a vacuum at home, but if not, you can purchase a medium-sized wet vac with car-appropriate attachments. $40
DETERGENT WITH WAX
Specialized detailing car wash products often include wax mixed in with the detergent, which serves to protect your car’s exterior. $20/gallon
This product dissolves dirt and brake dust with minimal elbow grease. $15/quart
BRUSHES, RAGS AND SPONGES
A small amount of elbow grease is unavoidable, unfortunately. Microfiber mitts are a popular choice. $15
ALL-PURPOSE CLEANER CONCENTRATE
Designed for both exteriors and interiors, this product can be used to address any problem areas such as carpet stains or dirty hubcaps. $10/quart
In addition to adding shine to your tires, tire cleaners often include a darkening agent that can minimize fading. $5/quart
Use glass cleaner designed for vehicles, as household window cleaners often contain chemicals that could damage your windshield. $2/quart
This will give your vehicle that new car shine. $10/quart
The beauty of at-home car detailing is that your cleaning can be customized. Has your car been through mud that mucked up the tires but didn’t add a speck to your windshield? There’s no reason you couldn’t wash those tires with wheel and tire cleaner and call it a day.
Auto detailing at the shop will always be a full-service job, running around $50 – $150 each visit, depending on the size of your vehicle. The total cost of the products above is roughly $120, but this is a one-time cost that will enable you to have sufficient quantities of product for many cleans. A quart of cleaning product could provide at least 10 washes, bringing the cost of each detail at home to just $12 or less. Choosing to detail your own car is an economical option that allows for customization and flexibility. It requires a bit of hard work, but I’d say that the juice is worth the squeeze.