What Is Detailing?
Potential Customer question: "Oh, you detail cars? Great, I need mine detailed, how much do you charge?"
The first thing that has to be determined is what level of 'detailing' do you want? Unfortunately in this unregulated, free market, there aren't any universal standards. Where one person will consider a basic wash and vacuum a 'detail', others may think that unless you're spending 40 to 80+ hours on a paint correction, you're only cleaning the car.
So, this means that everything is 'detailing'. What you have to ascertain is the level of details that you are after. What level of cleanliness or 'correction' or what kind of protection do you need? This is where many of us detailers will create simple 'buckets' or 'levels' of detailing, hopefully one of which will fit your needs.
The most basic of these would be something like an exterior wash and vacuum the insides. While this is something that you can get at your local car wash, self serve/drive through etc., what you don't get is the personal attention and the care taken for your vehicle. The car wash is all about fast service at a great price, and they deliver too! Unfortunately, they also deliver non pH neutral soaps and swirl marks in your paint that start to reflect holograms when your vehicle goes through one of those too many times. Sometime the car washes will wipe down the door jams, sometimes not, remember its about speed and efficiency for the price. Don't get me wrong, I have no complaints about car washes, they serve their purpose for the intended audience and if thats is how you like to maintain your vehicle then there is nothing wrong with that.
The next level would be what I call 'decontamination'. this is where we get all foreign particles which have embedded themselves into your vehicles paint, off the paint. While some of these particles you can see with the naked eye, many others you wont see until you perform a chemical followed by a physical decontamination where you use a clay bar to remove the contaminates. Similarly for the interior, this is where we would be spot treating stains in the carpets and upholstery and extracting them, sometimes with the use of steam.
Once you remove all of the contamination you can then move on to the next level which is paint correction. Recall those 'holograms' that are in your paint, or those small scratches you get over time? These are sometimes what can be mitigated with a one or two step paint correction. Sometimes it only takes one step to polish, other times if the paint defects are deeper, like bird droppings, hard water spots, micro-marring, etc, these may require a compounding step before a final polishing, Maybe you only want to reduce the appearance of those things and are happy with a one-step correction instead of all-out 100% correction. This level of correction can only be determined through a consultation where we both get on the same page for the current state of the vehicle and the desired outcome.
The last level is protection. Now, this isn't always the 'last' it can actually be performed at any step, maybe someone just wants to get their vehicle washed and waxed, very typical, and that's ok. There is nothing to say that you have to go through the decontamination and corrections before protecting your vehicles paint, far from it. But if you skip those steps, the longevity of those sealants and waxes will typically be much less since the surface wasn't fully cleaned to optimally adhere to.
I know what you're thinking, 'what about that fancy French term you used 'Concours d'Elegance'?' Yeah, that is the ultimate level of detailing where you can spend anywhere from 100 hours or x times that amount in restoring the appearance of a vehicle. this is typically relegated to show cars and those which have appreciated in value or have been restored to a near mint condition etc.
So what does all this mean? How much does it cost to get my vehicle detailed? that will depend on how far down that chart you want to go. there is no wrong answer, and I will customize the service for you based on how clean or how shiny you want to have your vehicle look.