Maintain your car's appearance


Getting your car washed and waxed on a regular basis is one of the easiest ways to preserve its paint and keep it looking nice. Removing other environmental contaminants such as road salt, sap, tar and bugs in a timely manner also goes a long way to making your car's paint and clear coat last longer.

Keeping up your vehicle's appearance both inside and out not only means you can take more pride in your ride, it also helps you preserve your vehicle's resale value and makes it more appealing to potential buyers.

  • Car washes: Most car wash businesses offer a variety of washes, from basic to premium. A basic wash at a drive-thru shop can go for as low as $3, while a premium wash can be up to $20 or more.
  • Auto detailing: An auto detail company typically includes these services: washing, waxing and detailing the exterior and vacuuming, deep cleaning and detailing the interior. The cost for many detailing services such as basic washes or interior cleanings can start at less than $100. More comprehensive services such as full exterior or interior details can cost several hundred dollars, while more advanced processes such as paint color correction or ding, dent or chip repairs may cost thousands. Many auto detailing shops off pick-up and drop-off services as well as mobile detailing so your car never has to leave the driveway.

Angie's List asked highly rated companies how frequently you should clean your car. Most experts recommend getting your car washed every other week, waxed with the change of each season and professionally detailed every six months to a year.

A number of factors can influence the decision.

  • Driving conditions: Do you live in a rural area with gravel or dirt roads or driveways? The dust kicked up and caked onto your paint means you'll want to wash your car more frequently.
  • Season: The grime and dust from road salt in the winter can do corrosive damage to your vehicle's underbody and paint. Hitting bugs in the summer can have a similar effect.
  • Parking location: If you're not fortunate enough to park your car in a garage every night, parking underneath trees that drop sap or in areas prone to gatherings of birds that drop bird stuff should convince you to wash your car often.
  • Commute distance and conditions: If your daily commute involves long distances on the highway, your car's exterior will be exposed to more road grime and bug strikes than a vehicle with a short non-highway commute, necessitating washing your car more frequently.

Angie's List Hiring Tips:

  • Many drivers opt for the convenience of a drive-through or automatic car wash. However, not all car washes are created equal. In fact, some automatic car washes – especially those that use rotating brushes or agitating cloths - can damage your vehicle's paint.
  • It takes research on the driver's part to avoid damaging car washes by asking the car wash operator about how often the brushes or cloths are cleaned or replaced. Car washes that offer hand washes or having your vehicle hand washed by an automotive detailing shop are all options to avoid damage from automatic car washes.
  • Before hiring a professional auto detailer, ask questions about their training, their cleaning process, and the products they use. Ask to see other work they've done and be sure you understand the costs involved.