Mobile Detail Pricing: Car Cleaning Vs. Car Detailing

By Patrick Horrigan

Owner/ Lead Tech at We Care Car Care

As business owner and the guy that usually answers the phone here, one of the first questions potential new clients ask us is “How Much is it to have my car done?”

The simple way to answer the question is to give the customer a price after a few quick qualifying questions such as vehicle make/ model as well as finding out what they are looking for. Unless they have been referred from another client chances are they are shopping around by price. In my market there are a few other good detail shops and two quick detailing centers in the area. There only seems to be one other active mobile detailer covering my town and he actually brings me more business.  I have a few new clients that reached out to me for service after visiting my competitor and receiving less than stellar service.   This is lucky for me for a couple of reasons. First it’s more work for me. But more important is the customer has already been educated in what is involved in a detail versus just a car cleaning and understands the value of such service.  The biggest obstacle for obtaining new clients who are shopping around by mostly price point is customer education.

My shop has a set dollar per hour metric we try to meet when pricing out jobs for customers.  That number varies based on what kind of work we are doing. Labor cost is my largest expense and the amount of time something takes directly relates to its cost. I have to pay my guys and myself (labor costs), cost of consumable materials and chemicals, equipment costs and wear and tear, etc. Then there general costs for running business that needs to be covered such as insurance, licenses, tax and payroll services, trade affiliation memberships, web hosting, graphic design services, and so on. My certified, trained and experienced guys and gals that do complicated paint corrections are going to make a bit more then the new ones in training that just do vacuuming and windows, and deservedly so. Most of the quick detail centers that do car cleaning do not need highly skilled workers to just do quick vacuums and hand application of waxes.   We try to make it as simple as possible for customers to understand our pricing online through different packages to pick from. Although we do charge over and above those prices for cars that are very neglected, it’s rare that we have to do that, and it’s always covered ahead of time with the customer.

So what is the difference between cleaning a car and detailing a car?

Think it of it this way, your house. If you are going to have some friends or another couple over for a dinner you run around and pick-up the house first. You get dirty clothes off the floor, take out the trash, maybe clean dishes, wipe the old toothpaste off the bathroom sink, run a vacuum cleaner quickly over the living room rug and if your real ambitious you may even do a wipe down of things like coffee tables. This would be the house cleaning equivalent of a CAR CLEANING.  Now picture your mother coming over to spend a few days to visit. You don’t just pick up the house. You wash the kitchen and bathroom floors, dust the living room, get all the soap scum out of the bathtub, clean the toilet, etc. This would be closer to a full car detailing.

There is a popular local drive through car wash that offers several car cleaning options including an “Interior Detail” for $18 to $49 depending on vehicle size. Their “Interior Detail” includes a drive through tunnel wash, vacuum of the carpets, cleaning of windows and a wipe down of the dash and cup holders and empting of ash trays all completed in under 30 minutes while you wait. Not a bad deal when you think it costs $10 just to drive through the tunnel wash. This would be an interior CAR CLEANING not a CAR DETAILING. By comparison, just a proper vacuum cleaning by us takes 30 minutes or more and more often than not we make more than one vacuum pass once we finish detailing the interior. We have special attachments, tools and brushes, both mechanical and machine powered that helps to dislodge every last spec of sand, fuzzy and dirt from your carpets possible and not just from the parts of the carpet you see but under seats and those hard to reach places.  15871865_1837901273153486_2253928100209425745_nA CAR DETAILING with us also includes all the things mentioned in their package plus a lot more. For example, Dashes are not just wiped down with product. We do a full dry vapor steam cleaning and even a pre-scrub with products designed just for car interiors on really bad cars prior to steam cleaning. We offer several packages for different levels of cleaning from what we would call a basic interior detailing all the way up to a multi-day cleaning where we disassemble parts of your interior like your trim and remove the seats. That detailing package could even be considered more of a restoration then a detailing.

A general wipe down with a cheap dressing like the car wash only covers up years of body soil build-up, germs, dirt and general yuck. Will it look good? Yes it will. Not as good as it would if cleaned the proper way and more importantly just covers up the filth rather then get rid of it. Will We Care Car Care do just an interior cleaning the same as the local car wash? Yes we will but only on vehicles that have been detailed by us already and done as part of a maintenance detailing package.  We would not put our name on anything short of perfect.

That same Local wash also offers exterior “Detailing Services”. For a barging price of just $79.95 they will do a hand rub paste wax that gives you , to quote their website, “Super shine using a hand rubbed quality paste wax that really protects the car’s finish”. Sounds like a pretty good deal. Wax will protect your cars finish, but it won’t produce a super shine alone. flexwrapThat wax special includes a tunnel wash. I could spend all day on the disadvantages of using a drive through car wash. It doesn’t matter how soft the cloth and brushes are, they are scratching the heck out of your clear coat! So they start your Exterior Detail off by scratching your car. Then they hand rub paste wax, buff it off and that’s it for $79.95 for 1 to 3 months of paint protection over your freshly scratched painted surfaces.

For close to the same price, We Care Car Care would do a true proper exterior detailing.  We would start with a complete paint safe rinseless car wash followed by both a chemical and mechanical paint decontamination to remove bonded contaminates that washing alone does not remove.  Once the vehicle is fully cleaned we can finish off the exterior in many different ways. From a simple spray wax to a full multi-stage paint correction and coated with a 5 year ceramic coating. On our trucks we have no less than 60 combinations of options for finishing your paint the correct way and give you real shine. We also include wheel cleaning with a brake dust and iron remover followed by a spray wheel wax. Tire rubber is cleaned with a specific cleaner and shined using a UV blocking tire dressing. All plastic and rubber trim protected. Glass and mirrors cleaned and treated.

There are many differences between Cleaning a Car and Detailing a Car. We Care Car Care is a proper detailing service that comes to you with highly skilled and trained employees, using the proper products that will take care of your vehicle the correct way. Not the fast way!