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Why do Detailing Services Vary in Price So Much? Here's the Various Types Available out There:

The local car wash says $150, the guy on craigslist says $25 while the detail shop says $600 for the same thing - a 'full detail.' So why the big discrepancy in pricing? It's just a wash, wax, shampoo and vacuum, right?

In simpler terms, this can be explained in a simple analogy. Let's say that your afternoon cravings have kicked in and you want a nice and juicy steak to kill the craving. You have 3 options: boxed steak from the freezer at Walmart, Joe's Diner, next to the shady pub, or the high end La'Fancy restaurant in the downtown area. All these three offer the same product but they are all different in the experience they offer, the level of service you expect from a brand name and its chef and the quality(taste, texture etc.) of the food. Just like that, detailing varies. We have compiled a list of factors that we have noticed and may help you make a better judgment.


We are not talking about the experience of the detailer. We are talking about something even more important - your own experience. Were you treated cordially? Was your car treated respectfully and gracefully? Did everything feel like a breeze or a haggling festival? Did you feel like your expectations were met and everything was a step ahead of what you wanted? Were you kept in the loop while the car was being worked on? Usually, a high price tag comes with a quality experience where you get an exceptional AND unique style of customer service combined with high quality of workmanship. The focus is on customer satisfaction and convenience - after all, this is a service you are receiving, correct?

Products Used

This is always a hotly debated topic among customers, forum kings, group members and detailers alike. There is a very 'holier than thou' attitude among everyone - but we're humans and have varying opinions and knowledge bases so we can expect conflicts, arguments and discussions. It's when emotions start trumping reason that this becomes an issue. But I digress. The general consensus *can* be right. For example, just to toot our own horns, Opti-Coat Pro has been time tested and proven to withstand years of wear and tear while holding up against environmental contaminants. It's pricey the first round, but just like other quality ceramic coatings, but in the long run they hold strong against elements, wear and tear. With that being said, you can expect a price difference in a coating that lasts 5+ years versus a sealant that lasts one month and the only expertise required for the sealant may be being able to walk to the local Walmart and buying anything that says 'wax' on it. Speaking of expertise...


Before we go headlong into this topic, here's an important pointer to note. Someone who has been doing detailing for 10 years or 20 years or since the Big Bang occured might seem like a great professional for hire but they can also be a great candidate to landing an asteroid impact onto your car akin to the one that wiped out the dinosaurs. In other words, experience is redundant if it isn't polished(pun?) regularly with new skills learned and implementation of newer technology, as needed. Now, for example, we understand a lot of detailers prefer a certain classic way(especially the ones bragging about rotary buffers) but new innovations help improve workflow and reduce damage done to the vehicle. As a customer, we recommend that you do a little bit of research before shelling out big dollars towards a detail but at the same time avoiding cheap solutions that may cause more harm than good. Seems like one paragraph leads to another...

Level of Service

Speaking of solutions, there are various tiers of detailing that will help you avoid tears of agony and migraines of madness:

Production Detailing:

This is usually your car wash detailing or low-end detail shops or what you can find at most dealerships. The focus here is on quantity and less on the quality of the job. Products used here are bulk and general. You may end up finding more scratches and swirls on your car after the detail. However, the car will definitely look cleaner and shinier despite that. Look to spend a few early hundreds on your vehicle.

High-End Detailing:

This is usually your boutique detail shop or specialists where the focus is on quality and not as much on quantity. Several hours to days can be spent on working on the vehicle to ensure that the surfaces of the vehicle look good. You will end up with a vehicle that is less scratched up and will look shinier and glossier. You will also notice a very personal touch to each car that goes through this type of work. These shops or specialists carry unique candies for your car such as limited waxes and top tier ceramic coatings such as... you guessed it, Opti-Coat Pro. This is where you can spend several hundreds of dollars to a few thousands and get amazing results. The caution to the wind is that they are like gems in the rough trough.

Show Car Detailing:

This is very rare form of detailing that is often rarely ever seen and misused all the time! Not many people are willing to spend several thousand dollars restoring a vehicle which is usually where the price ranges are. This type of detailing is done on very limited high-end show cars that gather more mileage inside a boxed truck than actually being driven on the road themselves. This can include Bugattis, limited Lamborghinis, limited Ferraris, limited Porsches... you get the point. These can be classic cars or relatively newer cars. If it's a limited classic, it can sometimes take weeks to get the car to look like a showroom finish. Once they get detailed, a lot of these cars are stowed into the collector's lot or paraded out in a show or encased inside a museum.

Craigslist Detailing(Honorable Mention):

Definitely can be summed up as the 'black market detailing', this comes with a tempting price tag such as $25 for a full detail. Usually, this ends up causing more damage to your vehicle than any good due to cheaper products that corrode the surfaces or with low experience of the professional that may cause swirling or scratching of the paint job. Like the saying goes, 'A professional detail costs money but wait till you try an amateur one.'

Mark Up

A lot of detail shops in high traffic areas or dealership lots have a huge overhead that they have to pay for along with various bills and costs affiliated with running a business. Hence, they tend to have bloated prices for the quality of service they may provide. Some companies back it up with a high level of expertise(along with exuberant claims such as doing 8000 cars per year and a bulletin board of certifications) and great customer service while others, sadly, don't. Hence, just because the price is very high, you may want to ask a few questions before committing to a certain service or product. There are always options and what matters is what suits you the best.

Bonus: The Bigger Picture

The truth is, a lot of businesses, despite whatever vision or philosophy they have, need to provide for themselves or their family. Additionally, a lot of businesses that go 'under the table' don't pay taxes which are needed to provide schooling to our next generation of children, roads for transportation, care for elderly, research for diseases, health care and various organizations and services provided by the government. So, next time you may choose a detail, it may be just nice to pay a little extra but ensure that we are all in this together as a society rather than individuals. Everyone is a human being and we all work hard to serve and help others.


So, what to do? Good products and high level of service will be usually priced accordingly. We recommend shopping around or choosing a trustworthy and reputable business that provides you with the level of expertise and workmanship that suits your needs. We think that its your philosophy aligning with the business you choose that matters the most which usually extend beyond the workmanship visible to the naked eye. There is no 'wrong' or 'right' here but more or less, 'what is the best fit for you?'

For information about our services, please check us out at You can e-mail us at or give us a call at 707-681-5944. Thank you so much for reading!

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