What’s the Best Kind of Car Wash?

“Wash me.” We’ve all seen this helpful hint etched into a layer of dust on a stranger’s (or maybe our own) car. When your car gets grimy, what’s your go-to routine? Do you run it through the laser wash? Swing by the gas station for an automated scrub-down? Or maybe you’re the type of vehicle owner who hand washes, waxes, and dries your masterpiece. There are pros and cons to different car washes. Here are a few of our observations for the best way to wash a car.

Automatic Car Wash

This type of car wash is popular at gas stations and other independent car wash facilities. You select your wash, drive up to the conveyer belt, and put your car in neutral. You’re then pulled into a tunnel. Brushes and hoses go to work for a few minutes, your car gets a nice rinse, and then you’re on your way. There might be a set of blow dryers at the end of the tunnel, or even an attendant with a chamois waiting to dry off your car.

Pros of an Automatic Car Wash

Time — If you’re in a rush, using an automatic car wash can help you save a few minutes.

Ease of Use — It’s simple. Push a few buttons, pay, and let the car wash do the work.

Cons of an Automatic Car Wash

Detail — If you’re the type who wants to make sure every detail of your car is spotless, an automatic wash might not be for you. While it’s quick, you might be left with some bugs, dirt, or water spots at the end.

Breakdowns — You always run the risk of one or more wash tunnels breaking down, which can cause traffic jams on nice days.

Damage to Paint Job — Depending on the vehicle and the type of material used in the brushes of the car wash, you may notice some scratches on your paint job after running the car through the wash.

Automatic Touchless Car Wash

This type of car wash is similar to the automatic car wash. The main difference is that your car remains stationary during the wash, and the machine uses streams of water to wash your vehicle instead of brushes. This can save you from possible dings and scratches caused by other automatic car washes. The other pros and cons of automatic touchless car washes are the same as those of automatic car washes.

Self Service Car Wash

Self service car washes allow you the room to wash your own car by hand. You typically pay to use the soap, water, and brushes available at the facility.

Pros of a Self Service Car Wash

Space — Self service car washes are great for people who don’t have a driveway of their own, such as condo or apartment dwellers.

Convenience — If you don’t have the supplies to wash your car at home, a self service car wash is a convenient solution.

Detail — Make sure your car shines exactly the way you want it to by washing it yourself.

Cons of a Self Service Car Wash

Price — Considering that you’re doing the work yourself, self service car washes are a little pricy.

Crowds — Just like other public car washes, you may run into lines and long waits on nice days.

Auto Detailing Service

Make an appointment, drive your car to the detailing shop, and the rest seems to take care of itself. When you pick up your car, it’s sparkling inside and out. Auto detailing services hand wash and dry your car’s exterior, wax it, and clean the interior meticulously.

Pros of Auto Detailing Services

Detail — Nothing beats having your vehicle hand washed and detailed by professionals.

Convenience — You get professional results without the elbow grease.

Cons of Auto Detailing Services

Price — Depending on the level of service and the reputation of the detailing service, get ready to shell out some cash for this car wash option.

Detail — Wait, this is a con too? Yep, that’s not a typo. Make sure to check reviews of detailing services and ask around before you decide where to take your car. You may end up with a subpar — but still very expensive — result if you’re not careful.