Car Detailing Prices: How Much Should You Pay?

Car detailing doesn’t just make your ride look good. It can actually help it maintain its value.

A well-maintained interior, exterior and engine bay can be worth a thousand dollars or more when you trade-in or sell your used vehicle.

Interior detailing keeps your car neat and clean, preventing stains and smells from settling in. Exterior detailing aims mostly at protecting your car’s paint job.

And a clean engine gives your car curb appeal when it’s time to sell. (There’s debate on whether it helps your car operate more efficiently or not.)

So, should you get your car detailed every few months like some car lovers and experts recommend?

We’ve broken down the value of auto detailing – what you pay, what you get, and if and when you should do it yourself.

What You Pay for Car Detailing

The price of car detailing varies wildly from location to location, but one thing remains pretty much consistent – it isn’t cheap.

Scanning the prices of multiple shops and mobile detailers in more than twenty states, the prices can be broken down roughly like this –

  • Interior Detailing: $125-$150+
  • Exterior Detailing: $125-150+
  • Interior/Exterior Detailing: $250+
  • Engine Bay Detailing: $50-100+
  • Truck/SUV Surcharge: $20-$70

Some detailers have different pricing for small vs large SUVs, trucks and minivans.

Other pricing findings:

  • Mobile detailers, on average, charge less than detailing shops.
  • “Complete detailing packages” typically include only interior and exterior detailing (no engine bay).
  • Many basic detailing packages are little more than glorified car washes.
  • Tire and undercarriage cleaning are often not included in exterior detailing pricing, and can easily run $100+ each.

Basically, when you’re looking at auto detailing packages, read the included services carefully.

Finding a detailer that has a truly all-inclusive package (interior, exterior, engine bay, tires, undercarriage) is typically your best financial option.

What You Get With Car Detailing (What’s Included)

Like the pricing, what you get with an auto detail varies quite broadly from one company to another. But here are the most common services included with different types of detailing packages.

Basic Interior

  • Vacuuming of seats, carpets, mats, and trunk
  • Air purge of vents, seat crevices and other hidden spaces to remove hidden dirt
  • Wipe down all hard surfaces
  • Spot-cleaning of visible stains
  • Application of UV protectant
  • Clean windows and mirrors

Deluxe or Complete Interior

  • Vacuuming of seats, carpets, mats, and trunk
  • Air purge of vents, seat crevices and other hidden spaces to remove hidden dirt
  • Wipe down all hard surfaces
  • Spot-cleaning of visible stains
  • Application of UV protectant
  • Clean windows and mirrors
  • Shampoo and steam clean upholstery, carpets and mats
  • Clean and condition leather seats and surfaces
  • Condition wood grains and vinyl
  • Deep clean vents, pockets, door panels, dashboard, pockets, and console

Basic Exterior

  • Full hand wash
  • Glass cleaning
  • Chrome polishing
  • Clay bar treatment to remove contaminants
  • Hand or machine waxing and sealing

Deluxe or Complete Exterior

  • Full hand wash
  • Glass cleaning
  • Chrome polishing
  • Clay bar treatment to remove contaminants
  • Removal of minor dents/stains
  • Polishing to remove scratches
  • Hand or machine waxing and sealing

Some detailers include wheels and wheel wells in their exterior detailing, but many do not.

Engine bay and undercarriage detailing are almost always separate expenses.

Is Car Detailing Worth It?

There are two different ways of looking at the value of car detailing – the financial value and the personal value.

Financial Value of Car Detailing

The financial value of detailing a car is dependent on two things – how much you pay for detailing and how much of the car’s value you can expect to retain in return.

A complete detail of both the interior and exterior of a car averages upwards of $250, or more than $300 for trucks, SUVs and minivans.

A clean, well-maintained vehicle can expect a valuation 10-15% higher than a dirty, poorly-maintained vehicle.

So, let’s say you plan to keep a vehicle for five years that will be worth $12,000 in “fair” condition when you trade it in.

You get the interior and exterior of that vehicle detailed every six months for a total of $500 per year, or $2,500 over the course of five years.

If you are given a 15% higher valuation at the time of trade-in, that’s $1,800. You have now spent $700 on detailing.

The more expensive your vehicle is (the higher its trade-in/resell value), the better your return on investment when it comes to detailing.

Personal Value of Car Detailing

The other way to look at the value of car detailing is by whether or not (and how much) it improves your life. If you like driving a clean, odor-free vehicle, detailing can make that happen when a standard car wash and vacuum fails.

And since you know detailing can help retain your car’s value, some of the expense of detailing will be offset when it comes time to sell.

In the above scenario, detailing costs you $700 over five years, but $140/year is a pretty reasonable price to pay for happiness and pride in your vehicle.

When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more here.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Scroll to Top