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What is Car Detailing?

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By Alex Neely on April 15, 2021 in Life Hacks

Nothing compares to the first long look at your clean car post-wash. The tires are glowing, and the paint is shining. Suddenly, you’re wondering if your ride is more glamourous than you! No stress, you’ll always be the more fabulous one, but let’s talk about car detailing and how you can level up from just your basic car wash.

What is car detailing?

Car detailing is a total makeover for your car. Think outside the realm of your usual soap and water. The goal of car detailing is to get your vehicle as close to the “like-new” look as possible. While a basic car wash cuts it for most of the year, it’s good to get a full detail about two times a year. This includes both interior and exterior cleaning, waxing, polishing, and more. We’ll break down some of the services you might encounter!


  • Carpets – Perhaps you drive everywhere with Buddy, your best friend and Golden Retriever. While you love his companionship, he’s famous for shedding ALL over. Also, there was that one time he got a little motion sick on the way to the dog park. With car detailing, you can get the carpets vacuumed and steam cleaned to remove stains and unwanted hair.
  • Seats – The steam cleaning can also be used to get tough stains out of your seats, so you can finally forgive your (human) BFF for spilling his chocolate ice cream in your passenger seat during your last road trip!
  • Dashboards, Doors, Windows, and Panels – From glass cleaning to leather treating, these steps will help give the interior of your car that new car shine. No more dirt, grime, or fingerprints all over your windows and doors.
  • Odor Removal – Even though a car detailing can’t guarantee you’ll get that famous new car smell back, there are steps in the service to help give your car a fresh and clean scent. Plus, you can always install a new air freshener right after cleaning to keep your car smelling extra fresh.

We definitely consider this whole process a step up from using the free vacuums at the car wash!


  • Wash – A lot of detailing processes start with a simple wash and dry. However, this is just the first stage, so you’re in for a treat that is sure to stand out from your usual drive through car wash. We can’t forget to mention that all the detailing is done by hand, so no fancy machines doing the work = perfect precision.
  • Clay Bar Cleaning – Clay bar is a super neat concept. It is “an engineered resin mixture that auto detailers use to remove contaminants and pollutants from the surface of your car’s paint, glass, fiberglass, and metal” according to Washos! This isn’t a necessary step for all cars, but it is helpful when making your paint silky smooth.
  • Wax – We’ve already told you the importance of waxing your car – it helps protect your car against scratches, exposure to the elements, chipped paint, and rust! This + that cool clay bar cleaning will leave your car smooth AND shiny! Just like a brand spanking new diamond ring…or close enough, right?
  • Tires – Sometimes it’s easy to forget that our hubcaps are light silver underneath. All the dirt, mud, and grime on the roads slowly build up on your wheels and take away that original color that twinkles when the sun hits it just right. Let the experts give your tires a little TLC and you might not even recognize them!

While this is not an extensive list, we wanted to preview some of the services you could expect to see listed so you’re not blindsided when you roll up for your detailing!

How much does it cost to detail a car?

According to the pros at Car Direct, “you can expect to pay $50 to $125 for an average sized vehicle and $75 to $150 for an SUV or van.” Be aware of the package you are getting. If you opt for an upgraded package, you could see additional expenses tacked onto your final bill.

Always be sure to ask for an estimate or quote before services, so you don’t end up paying more than you’re comfortable with!

Where can you get your car detailed?

Do you have a favorite car wash near you? While you might be used to just asking for your “usual” clean; next time you go, ask about their detailing packages. You might be surprised to find out that they offer full interior and exterior detailing at an affordable cost! If they don’t, you can search “car detailing near me” and a few local shops might pop up. Supporting local business AND leaving with a like-new car? Everyone wins.

It’s important to remember while detailing your car might seem like a big expense in the moment, you’re investing in your car for the future. Taking care of your ride now could mean it lasts longer, or you could sell it used for more when/if that day comes. Plus, it can make you feel fancy in your “new” car!

Alex Neely is a Data Analyst at Say Insurance. He graduated from the University of Missouri with a Bachelor’s of Science in Mathematics with an emphasis in Actuarial Science. His experience is in Statistical and Financial Analysis. Alex enjoys applying his analytical background to the Say team to help guarantee the best experience for our customers.