How Much Does A Car Wash Cost

How Much Does A Car Wash Cost

Getting your car washed regularly is important for maintaining its appearance and value. But with so many options from drive-through tunnels to hand washing services, how much does an average car wash cost? The pricing can vary quite a bit depending on the type of wash, add-on services, location, specials, and other factors.

This comprehensive guide will explain the typical costs of different car washing services in 2023 and the variables that affect pricing. We’ll cover everything from basic washes at gas stations to premium full-service details so you know exactly what to expect and budget for cleanings.

Average Costs for Basic Exterior Washes

For a basic exterior car wash cost that quickly cleans the outside of your vehicle, here are some rough averages for pricing in 2023:

  • Self-service wash – $3 to $8
  • Automated drive-through wash – $7 to $20
  • Quick “gas station” wash – $10 to $15
  • Mobile wash & detail service – $20 to $50+

As you can see, pricing can swing wildly based on factors like wash methods, location, level of service, etc. Next, we’ll break down what impacts costs for different options.

What Impacts Self-Service Car Wash Prices?

At a self-service wash where you spray down your own vehicle, costs typically range from $3 on the very low end up to $8. Elements that cause pricing variance include:

  • Duration of wash time – Price depends on total minutes sprayed. Usually $1.50 – $2 per 2-3 minutes.
  • Water temperature – Heated water may carry a slight upcharge.
  • Soap options – Bring your own or buy specialty soap for $1-2 per use.
  • Brand of location – Major branded washes like Gotcha Wash charge slightly more.
  • Area cost of living – Big cities like LA or NYC will pay more versus small towns.

With do-it-yourself washing,DURATION and amenities selected generally determine the total bill. Now let’s examine drive-through wash pricing.

What Impacts Self-Service Car Wash Prices?
What Impacts Self-Service Car Wash Prices?

Factors Impacting Drive-Through Car Wash Cost

At drive-through washes, pricing is usually $7 to $20 depending on these key factors:

  • Type of wash package – Options range from basic $7 exterior wash to $20+ premium packages.
  • Membership discounts – Members might pay $2-5 less per wash.
  • Brand of wash – Major chains like Zips often cost more than independents.
  • Extra add-on services – Undercarriage spray, wax, etc. add $2-5 apiece.
  • Location – Urban washes in places like NYC or LA have higher baseline costs.

The wash package and membership status make the biggest difference at drive-through tunnels. Now let’s see what makes gas station pricing vary.

What Impacts Gas Station Car Wash Pricing?

For a quick rinse at gas station stalls, costs are typically $10 to $15. But what causes the range?

  • Wash time – $1-2 for every 2 minutes is common. More time equals more money.
  • Water usage – Some stalls charge per gallon which adds up quickly.
  • Soap options – Foamy soap may add $1-3 depending on brand quality.
  • Gas discount – Some will deduct $2-3 with a 20 gallon gas purchase.
  • Loyalty programs – Apps like GetUpside offer cashback on certain gas station wash purchases.
  • Premium upgrades – Wax or tire shine spray can add $1-5 per item.

The duration, gallons, and special discounts really sway the pricing at gas station washing stalls.

What Impacts Gas Station Car Wash Pricing?
What Impacts Gas Station Car Wash Pricing?

Factors That Affect Mobile Car Wash Prices

Mobile services that come to your home or office provide exterior washing that typically ranges from $20 for a basic wash up to $50+ for a premium detailing. Variables that cause price fluctuations include:

  • Vehicle size/type – Larger vehicles like SUVs cost more to wash by hand.
  • Level of clean – Basic $20 wash vs. $50+ premium detail.
  • Frequency discounts – Scheduling regular visits every 2-8 weeks may get 10-20% off.
  • Extra add-on services – Wax, engine wash, pet hair removal adds $5-20 each approx.
  • Location – Service may cost more in urban areas vs. rural due to parking etc.
  • Time taken – Some charge by the full hour for your scheduled appointment.
Factors That Affect Mobile Car Wash Prices
Factors That Affect Mobile Car Wash Prices

Average Costs for Full-Service Interior Cleans

If you want both the interior and exterior cleaned, full-service washes provide that comprehensive washing. Typical prices are:

  • Full-service car wash cost – $25 to $50
  • Auto detailing shop – $100 to $300

Factors impacting full-service pricing include:

  • Wash package/tier – Entry-level vs. premium full-service wash.
  • Detailing services – Hand waxing, leather treatment add significantly.
  • Vehicle condition – Heavily soiled interiors take longer requiring added fees.
  • Extra add-ons – Odors, stain removal, headlight restoration etc.
  • Level of detailing – Basic interior wipe-down to thorough steam cleaning.
  • Type of shop – Dealerships cost more than local detailers.
  • Technician’s time required – Some charge hourly shop rates.

Full detailing services obviously cover an enormous range based on the condition of your car and services desired. This makes quoting an average price difficult, but expect to pay $50 to several hundred dollars if you want an intensive interior and exterior restoration.

Factors That Increase the Cost of Any Car Wash

While we’ve looked at pricing factors specific to each wash type, some elements impact costs across all methods and services. These include:

  • Vehicle size – Larger exteriors mean more soap, water, and time required.
  • Vehicle condition – Heavily soiled cars take extra effort to clean thoroughly.
  • Exotic vehicles – Special care for high-end paint or materials adds cost.
  • Rush orders – Same day or express washes may carry surcharges.
  • Extra cleaning – Pet hair, odor or stain removal can add fees if extensive.
  • Location – Major metros with high overhead tend to have higher base pricing.

No matter where you go, larger and messier cars cost more to tidy up, while extras tack on too. Keep that in mind when budgeting any car wash.

Okay, given all these factors, what’s the best way to estimate car wash costs?

How to Estimate Car Wash Prices

Based on typical current rates and pricing variables, you can reasonably estimate costs using these ballpark ranges:

Cheapest Options

  • Self-serve wash – $5 for 5-10 minutes
  • Gas station wash – $10 for 5-minute exterior spray

Economy Washes

  • Exterior car wash cost – $10-20 drive through, no extras
  • Quick mobile wash – $20-30 for small exterior only

Mid-Tier Washes

  • Standard full-service wash – $15-30, interior and exterior
  • Basic mobile detailing – $30-50 for small vehicles

Premium Washes

  • Full detail at wash shop – $50+ for midsize vehicle
  • Showroom detail from mobile pro – $100+ for midsized vehicle
  • Head-to-toe detail at boutique shop – $200+ for standard sized car

Deluxe/Exotic Services

  • Collector car concierge service – $500+
  • Private jet detailing – $1000+
How To Estimate Car Wash Prices
How to Estimate Car Wash Prices

How to Save Money on Your Car Wash

If you’re looking to reduce car wash costs, here are some smart tips that can help you save:

Join a monthly car wash membership – Usually offers discounted per-wash pricing or unlimited washes. Especially valuable if washing weekly or more. Look for new customer promotions – Many washes offer free or discounted first visits.

Choose wash frequency over wash intensity – Do frequent lighter washes rather than intense deep cleaning only occasionally. Go for quality self-serve washes – Invest time, not bigger money. Build your own loyalty rewards by frequenting one location.

Use gas discount incentives – Take advantage of fuel purchase discounts of $.50 or more off. Seek group on deals – Groupon, LivingSocial and similar sites offer car wash cost gift certificates at a discount. Choose wash times wisely – Earlier and later hours often have reduced pricing due to slower demand.

Key Takeaways on Car Wash Prices

Self-serve and touchless washes offer the most control over final pricing. Time used and amenities drive cost. Drive-through washes range wildly from $7 to $20+ based primarily on wash package and membership status.

Quick gas station rinses are usually $10-15 for 5 minutes or less. Frequency programs can provide discounts. Mobile wash & detail prices run $20 to over $100 depending on vehicle size, level of detailing, and frequency.

Full-service interior cleaning can be $50 for basic and upward of $200+ for premium detailing. Bigger, messier vehicles, exotic status, and extra services add to the bottom line regardless of wash type. Memberships, gas incentives, off-peak washing and strategic extras buying help reduce total price.

The Convenience of a Car Wash vs. DIY Washing

As evidenced by the variety of pricing ranges, professional car washing indeed comes at a cost. That said, the benefits in convenience and quality balanced against doing it yourself often makes the price worthwhile for many. A few advantages to weigh:

  • Hassle-free – Avoid having to hand wash and detail yourself.
  • Time-savings – A drive-through wash takes 10 minutes versus hours DIY.
  • Water/energy efficiency – Professional washes recycle water instead of home car washing.
  • Streak-free – Superior results from high-end soaps, waxes and techniques.
  • Frequent washing – No excuses not to wash every 2-4 weeks.
  • Consistent clean – Same high-quality wash each time.

For all of these conveniences, paying a reasonable price is a bargain compared to the chore of tackling it yourself. When you value your personal time and energy, professional washing for $20 or less per month proves well worth the cost.


Q: What is the cheapest car wash option?

A: The cheapest car wash options are usually self-service washes where you spray down your own vehicle. These typically cost as little as $3-5 for a basic wash.

Q: How much does an automatic drive-through car wash cost?

A: An automated drive-through car wash will cost $7-20 on average depending on the type of wash package, membership discounts, location, and any add-on services. Most are in the $10-15 range for a basic wash.

Q: What factors increase the cost of a car wash?

A: Larger vehicle size, heavily soiled condition, exotic status, rush service fees, extensive interior cleaning needs, and add-on services like waxing or headlight restoration can all add to the base cost of a car wash.

Q: Are mobile car wash services more expensive?

A: Yes, mobile detailers tend to be more expensive than stationary car wash locations, with average costs ranging from $20 for a simple exterior wash to $50+ for a premium full service detail.

Q: How can I save money on professional car washing?

A: Join a monthly membership club, look for new customer specials, go at off-peak times, minimize extra services, take advantage of gas station incentives, and seek group coupon deals to save on car washing.


While car wash prices can seem high compared to do-it-yourself washing, the convenience and quality make it worthwhile for many once factors like time savings are considered.

Understanding the typical costs for different services and what impacts pricing can help you budget and find deals. With the right approach, professional washing is an affordable way to keep your vehicle looking its best.

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