If you want your car to look its best, and you don’t have the time or experience to perform your own detailing, then your local car detailer is going to become one of your favorite businesses. However, if you are a Do It Yourselfer, you will want to check out these posts for car detailing toolsand accessories. Regular car detailing will keep your car in pristine condition, which helps to give you pride in your vehicle, and can even help when it’s time to sell.

While basic detailing can be relatively affordable, full detailing can be quite expensive. However, the prices usually reflect the amount of work, materials, equipment, and experience that is necessary to get the job done right.

If you’re considering a detailing service in the near future, it can help to know more about what detailing covers, as well as how much you might expect to pay in a few of the main cities in the United States.

What Does Interior Car Detailing Cover?

When it comes to interior detailing, a standard service will include vacuuming, as well as cleaning and polishing on all surfaces. A detailing technician will use various products to bring out the shine in plastic and leather, and they’ll remove any grime that has built up in areas like the door sills, the steering wheel, electronic controls, and the gear lever. Basic interior treatment won’t include shampooing or stain removal, and most detailers will charge extra for these services. Other services like animal hair removal and cigarette odor removal will also cost extra. You can expect to pay between $35 – $100 for basic interior detailing, and this is typically true for most urban areas in the country. Vehicles with extensive leather upholstery may incur an additional fee, so it can be a good idea to call ahead of your visit to let the company know your car model and some information about your interior.

Exterior Detailing Options

Exterior detailing is typically more intensive, and costlier than the interior detailing. While some packages will include a basic interior vacuum service, most of the price comes from the products and time that it takes to clean and polish the outside of the car.

A basic exterior detailing will include a hand wash and dry, including removing any debris, tar, or insect residue that has built up on your car. Most companies will also clean and apply a protectant to rubber seals around windows, and they’ll clean your wheels and tires, while applying a protectant/shine enhancer to your tire sidewalls. If your car is not heavily soiled, then basic detailing will usually be your best option.

Mid-level detailing usually includes a wash and wax, on top of the cleaning service offered with basic detailing. Waxing is performed on all exterior body panels, and is either hand toweled and buffed, or buffed using a circular pad on a high speed rotating buffer. Waxing provides additional protection for your vehicle, reducing the damage caused by water and UV rays. Waxing also provides your car with a high gloss finish that will make a newer model car look as if it has just left the production line.

Full detailing is not offered by all companies, and is the most expensive of any option. This detailing will use extensive cleaning and restoration methods to remove light scratches or discoloration on the body panels of the car, and may also cover detailing inside of the engine bay, including pressure washing and degreasing. Some companies consider all SUV vehicles in this category, simply because of the size and the time that it takes to clean them.

Car Detailing Price Comparison Between Five Cities Across the US

Prices can vary slightly between different states and cities, but they all share similarities in that basic hand washing is relatively affordable, whereas full detailing can significantly bump the price up. These prices have been taken from prominent businesses in their respective cities, and should be used as indicators, rather than as absolute cost estimations. Even within a single city, prices will vary depending on the services that are offered and the type of clientele and vehicles that a particular detailing company caters to.

Prices may also vary depending on the current condition of your vehicle, so as always, call around a few detailers in your area to find the best price on offer. You can also look for online reviews for local business to find a company that you can trust.

New York City

New York City is often considered as one of the least affordable cities in the United States, but it’s actually possible to find relatively affordable detailing within the metropolitan area.

  • Hand Wash: $35 – $45
  • Mid-Level Detailing: Up to $200
  • Full Detailing: Up to $235


Seattle is another relatively high income city where prices can sometimes be inflated when compared to the rest of the country. However, it is possible to find affordable basic and mid-level detailing, and even heavy detailing is not out of reach.

  • Basic Wash and Dry:$40 – $70
  • Mid-Level Detailing: $125 – $200
  • Heavy Detailing: $200 – $275

San Francisco

One detailing shop we looked at in San Francisco was able to compete on basic and mid-level prices, but saw a significant increase for full detailing.

  • Exterior Hand Wash: $35 – $45
  • Mid-Level Detailing: $115 – $270
  • Full Detailing: Up to $430


Some Chicago detailers were on the expensive side, even for basic detailing, however a number of companies included waxing in their basic tier offerings, meaning that the price was reflective of the overall value.

  • Hand Wash & Wax – Up to $100
  • Mid-Level Detailing – Up to $200
  • Full Detailing – Up to $300


Some of the rates we found in Boston were competitive with larger and more expensive cities, and it’s even possible to get full detailing at some companies for a very reasonable price.

  • Basic Wash: Up to $50
  • Mid-Level Detailing: Up to $90 – $140
  • Full Detailing: Up to $259

Even with a broad comparison, it’s easy to see that basic detailing can be quite affordable, and even stepping up to full detailing will be worth it if you’re driving a brand new or highly valuable car. Treating your car to a detailing service can allow you to save time, especially considering that you won’t need to research and source all of the best cleaning products. Even if you start with a basic wash or wax, you’ll find that most reputable business will provide excellent results that will make you look at your car in a new light.