TAMPA - 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.
"Not only are the mechanicals of your car important to be maintained, but also the appearance," said Angie Hicks, founder of Angie's List . "Many people don't even think about that, but when it comes to resale value, you want a car that looks nice. You'll get a better return when you sell it."
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.
If you really want the full treatment, spring for a complete auto detail. Detailing typically includes washing, waxing and detailing the exterior and vacuuming, deep cleaning and detailing the interior.
Detailer Roderick Darring fills us in on the, er, details: "We actually get into a lot of intricate areas that a basic car wash wouldn't or maybe the average consumer wouldn't - down in in the wheels, door jambs. We also can treat the leather to keep it supple. We'll do a thorough vacuuming underneath the seats and down in all the nooks and crannies including the trunk area. Then we literally lather up everything and scrub it with antibacterial soap, including the doors, dash, seats, carpets, floor mats, steering wheel, gear shifter, cup holders, sun visor and seat belts."
Whew! Now you know why they call it "detailing." 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.
"When hiring an auto detailer, you want to make sure you've got someone who is trustworthy," Hicks said. "I mean let's face it you're giving them the keys to your car. Additionally, you want to know what kind of experience they have and also what kind of products they are going to be using because you want to be sure they are using products that are good for 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.