full service car wash – what is it? pros and cons

a full service car wash can be a great way to keep your vehicle clean and looking sharp, but it's not for everyone. here's what you need to know about them!

full service car wash

if your car is dingy and dirty, it’s time to have it washed. however, the local car wash probably offers a lot of options, many of which can be confusing to discern.

with all of the options available to you, it can be difficult figuring out what’s best. as an example, what is a full service car wash, and is it right for you?

in this guide, we look closer at the full service wash for your car. we evaluate the pros and cons, so you can determine if it’s worth the money. our guide also focuses on the differences between the express vs. full service wash, and we discuss how long this cleaning should take.

what is a full service car wash?

the full service car wash ensures a deep cleaning of the vehicle, both inside and outside. a complete detailing is performed on the exterior and interior. you can expect a spotless finish that helps the vehicle look like it just drove out of the showroom.

it’s usually the highest option at most commercial car wash locations. therefore, it will take the most time and be the most expensive choice.

full service car wash pros

1. best value

there’s nothing cheap about the full service wash. it’s going to cost more than the standard exterior wash and it won’t be performed in the automatic car wash. while the cost is significantly more, the value is unbeatable.

let’s say you spend $15 for an express car wash that sends your vehicle through an automated machine. you aren’t getting much for that amount of money. on the other hand, you could spend $100 to $200 for a full wash and get every available service. when you break down what you are paying for, the full service wash turns out to be a better investment overall.

related:how much does a car wash cost?

2. high-quality products used

if you take your vehicle through the automatic car wash, cheap products are going to be used. many of these cleaners contain abrasive and harmful chemicals that can actually lead to damage of the car paint. if you regularly visit these car washes, you may notice a foggy appearance to the paint over time.

on the other hand, the full service car wash service is going to use high-quality products on your vehicle. these are going to be the best of the best, guaranteed to work well on vehicles. additionally, many companies are switching over to eco-friendly products that only make you feel better about the purchase.

3. complete customization

when you pay for a full service wash, you have more flexibility to choose what’s important to you. most detailers are going to let you choose from a list of services and add what you want. you can be picky about what you choose and try to keep the price to a minimum or you can go all-out and have everything performed.

here are a few of the services that might be offered:

  • window cleaning
  • wheel detailing
  • tire cleaning
  • headlight restoration
  • interior detailing
  • engine bay cleaning
  • rain-x application
  • wax or polish application

if you do choose to get all of the services performed, ask for a discount. it should be slightly cheaper per item if everything is included.

related:what does a full car service include? (& what does it cost?)

4. includes hand wash/dry

the best way to protect the car’s paint is to hand wash the vehicle. with a full service wash, most providers will hand wash the vehicle instead of sending it through the machine.

instead of getting the dull finish that comes from the automatic or the annoying swirl marks, you can be sure your car’s paint looks showroom worthy. there won’t beany water spotseither because the car will be hand dried instead of going through the automatic blower. your car’s surface will be wiped down with microfiber cloths, ensuring a perfect finish.

related:are touchless car washes better for your car?

full service car wash cons

1. cost

the biggest downside to choosing a full service car wash is the price. instead of spending $15 on an express wash, you could be looking at well over $150 for all of the services you choose.

that’s ten times as much money. however, when you look at the value you receive for this amount, you see that the full service wash actually gives you more for your money.

2. time

there’s nothing better than driving through an automatic car wash and coming out a few minutes later with a clean vehicle. anyone can find time to do this and make it look like the car is taken care of.

however, when you need a full service wash, you must be prepared to give up your vehicle for a longer time. you also aren’t going to sit inside of it while it’s detailed. some people choose to have the car cleaned during a lunch break when there’s a little extra time.

related:how much to tip a car wash (attendant or detailer?)

what are the differences between an express vs. full service car wash?

the main difference between an express car wash and a full service car wash is the cleaning and washing done. a full service car wash will leave your vehicle very clean both on the inside and outside. an express car wash will be done quickly, usually on the outside only.

we’ve already looked at the time and money cost difference. you aren’t going to need a lot of time to get an express wash and it only costs a little pocket change. on the other hand, you could spend an hour or more waiting for the full service car wash and it’s going to hurt your pocketbook.

with the express car wash, you are going to run your vehicle through a machine. in the end, it might blow dry your car, but no employees will be touching the vehicle. with the full service car wash, employees are going to take the time to hand wash and dry your vehicle, both of which are better for the paint.

there’s also no customization to the express car wash. you pull up to the machine and pay for the service. typically, it involves a touchless wash and dry. while children are usually thrilled to drive through the car wash, this isn’t normally what’s best for your vehicle and it won’t provide a spotless finish.

additionally, you may be able to add a few extra perks, such as a spray-on wax or rain-x treatment, for additional money. however, there’s no comparison to the customization available with the full service wash. if you want a complete detail performed on the vehicle, this is your best option.

how long does full service cash wash take?

the time it takes for your full service car wash can vary from twenty minutes to several hours. there are numerous factors that change the time taken. for starters, it matters what services you choose. the more you expect from the car wash, the longer you can plan on it taking.

additionally, you must consider how busy the company is. if you need to make an appointment, you should be able to get in and out quicker than if you just show up during a busy time.

most companies provide an indoor or outdoor waiting area where you can relax while the car gets cleaned. if it’s going to take a while, you might prefer getting picked up, so you can go about your day without putting pressure on the workers.

how to save money at the full service car wash?

there’s no cheap way to get a full service car wash. you can expect to spend a good chunk of money on the service, but there are still ways to keep more money in your pocket.

here are a few tips that might help you save.

  • keep your car clean. the cleaner your vehicle is, the less work the team has to do.
  • get more frequent service. while this might cost you more initially, the fact that the car will always be clean helps the team get the job done faster. if you are visiting more often, the cost might go down.
  • shop around. you can shop all of the local companies to see who offers the best price. however, the lowest price doesn’t always mean that’s who you should go with. it’s also important to research customer reviews to ensure your money is well spent.
  • sign up for a loyalty plan. some companies will offer a discounted package if you are frequently visiting. maybe you get a free wash after ten or you earn a discount for prepaying. either way, the savings will add up.

while it’s important to save money, don’t ever skimp on the tip. many of the workers rely on these tips to earn an income, so you don’t want to cut them short, especially if they do a great job.

frequently asked questions

how much to tip at a full service car wash?

if you should tip after a full service car wash depends on the quality of service you received. if you feel that the employees did a good job, it is common to leave a tip. tipping is not required but always appreciated by hard working staff. the amount you tip is up to you, but $5-$20 is typical for a full service car wash.

what does a full service car wash include?

a full service car wash usually includes an exterior wash of the car, a thorough interior vacuuming, and a cleaning of all interior surfaces. some places may also offer additional services such as polishing, engine bay cleaning, and headlight restoration. most full service car washes are customizable, so be sure to tell them what you want in advance.

how much does a full service car wash cost?

a full-service car wash costs anywhere from $70 to $250 on average. however, there are many factors that can affect the price, such as the location of the car wash, thetype of vehicleyou have, and the services included in the package.

is car wax used in a full service car wash?

whethercar waxis used on your car’s paint at a full service car wash depends on where you get it done. this will be included in most full service car washes, but it’s best to ask them ahead of time to make sure you’re getting what you pay for.

final words

a full-service car wash can be a great way to keep your car looking new and clean without any effort on your part, but it’s important to weigh the pros and cons before deciding whether or not this is the right option for you.

a full-service car wash is quite expensive to get done frequently, but it can be worth it every once in a while if you are not a good car detailer yourself. i hope you enjoyed this article and now have all the knowledge you need to decide if a full service car wash is for you.

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magnus sellén
written by:

magnus is the owner and main author of mechanicbase. he has been working as a car mechanic for over 10 years, and the majority of them specialized in advanced car diagnostics and 2022年世界杯淘汰赛 . certified automotive diagnostic technician.