What to Consider When Choosing a Car Wash

Protect your investment by washing your car regularly. Taking it to a commercial car wash can save time, effort and wear on the environment.

Modern finishes on cars need regular attention to look their best. Regular washing, waxing and polishing not only keeps your car looking new, but also enhances its value when you eventually sell it. How often you do it depends on where it is parked, how much and where you drive, and weather conditions. But in general, you should wash your car every one to two weeks, clean the inside once a month and apply wax at three-month intervals.

Pro Car Wash vs DIY Car Wash

Many people choose a commercial or pro car wash to save time and effort. Others simply lack a place to wash their car. The DIY approach certainly saves money and allows the most detailed attention, if that is your thing.

But DIY can also damage your car’s finish if you’re not careful, which is particularly important when choosing cleaning materials and products. A DIY car wash also tends to waste water and release potentially damaging chemicals into the environment. For those who really want to do it themselves, a self-serve bay offers a happy medium that is easy on the environment and the pocketbook.

A commercial car wash follows environmental regulations and recycles gray water used in the wash. A reputable operator also uses the proper cleaning agents, applied in the right order. Lastly and maybe most importantly, a pro car wash uses the proper materials to clean your car, avoiding harsh fibers and grime build-up that can dull and scratch the finish.

Types of Car Washes

Commercial car washes feature one or some of the following:

  • Self-serve bays operated by coin or credit card, giving a DIYer time to select and perform desired cleaning options.
  • Automated touchless washes. The driver stays in the vehicle while jets and blowers apply cleanser, scrub surfaces and blow dry. These dispense with brush friction, but amp up the power of the chemicals.
  • Automated soft-touch washes. Driver stays in the vehicle while cloth brushes spread milder cleansers.
  • Manual/hand wash. Driver relaxes in a waiting room while employees attend to every surface of the car.
  • Hybrid/semi-automated wash. Driver exits the car, which is routed through a washing sequence. The car is finished with hand-attention to details and/or hand drying.

The Best Car Wash

According to the trade magazine Car Washing & Detailing, a pro hand wash offers the best cleaning, period. However, the best wash for you depends on your goals. If you look to minimize impact on the environment, soft-touch may be your best choice. If you want the least wear on your finish, touchless may be for you. If you want the car to shine like new and desire detailing service options, look for a hand wash.

Is Tipping Necessary?

Is tipping ever a necessity? Some would say it depends upon quality of service. Others contend failure to tip cheats workers out of their base pay. Both are correct — somewhat.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, workers at car washes and auto detailing establishments are subject to national minimum wage requirements. Employers may, at their discretion, include tips in the calculation of wages that contribute to the minimum threshold, as long as they provide that information to the employees ahead of time. However, they must pay the difference if tips do not cover the gap to reach the minimum hourly rate.

Some people tip car wash employees like skycaps at the airport. Something like $2 for an economy car, $3 if hand-dry or vacuum services are performed, or more based on size and services provided. The more generous may tip 10 to 15 percent. Never hesitate to reward a hard-working crew for a job well done.