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Detailing shops and carwashes might claim they can preserve your vehicle’s finish. But having a car detailed—or washed—is not like changing engine oil. Don’t change the oil and your wheels’ days are numbered; don’t detail the car—or even wash it—and you might lose a little resale value down the line, but probably not even that much, and for sure not enough to pay back all your cleaning costs.

No, the reason to have your car detailed—or even washed—is the same reason you comb your hair or wear a clean shirt: to look good.

Our Ratings Tables show how area detailing shops were rated by their surveyed customers. You can also do some quality checks on your own—

  • Ask shops to show you other customers’ completed cars.
  • Assess the shop’s cleanliness—a messy facility may be a sign that the shop will be sloppy in its work.
  • Ask the shop whether it uses a three-step polishing process (polishing, buffing, and waxing) rather than the less effective one-step polishing process some shops use.
  • Ask the shop how carpets will be cleaned. Most shops have hot-water-extraction equipment, which is usually the most effective method.
  • Ask the shop how quickly it can detail your car. A shop that reports it takes only an hour or so to do the work likely isn’t providing the same service as shops that take half a day.
  • Ask the shop to show you proof that it carries a current liability insurance policy.

Of course, you’ll want to check cost. The price comparison scores reported on our Ratings Tables indicate how each shop compared to the average shop that quoted on the same jobs. As you can see, we found big shop-to-shop price variation.