Washing the car at a car wash is expensive. Enough said.
The average price for a drive through automatic car wash in my neck of the woods is around $13.50. If you wash your car once a week it adds up to a whopping $702 per year. The valet/hand carwash services range from around $50- $100 (depending on which services you choose), that could add up to over $5,000 per year, just to keep your car shiny and clean!
It’s important to look after a large investment like a motor vehicle but if you’re anything like me you do actually think of this continual expense every time you’ve just forked out your money and you’re sitting in your car in the drive through carwash (there’s plenty of time to think in there!) or when you drop your car off.
Perhaps you plan to cut down to every fortnight or less to make it a bit easier on the wallet. Which is what I did, the car washing got put down the list as a lower priority and started happening every month or two and I did save a few $$. However, it wasn’t until I invested in a very lovely, shiny new car, which was BLACK, for me to change my mind and decide I really do need to keep up with the weekly washing as anyone else with a black will know, they show up every skerrick of fingerprint, raindrop or bird poop. Like in a really, really big way, there is nowhere to hide with black cars!
The solution? Wash the car yourself
It was at this point I decided to take matters into my own hands. No longer would I be a lard-ass and sit in that money-gobbling machine of laziness or hand over my keys to allow someone else to do the work. I would go back to washing and polishing my car by hand, the way my Dad taught me when I was a kid.
Now if you’ve never washed (or polished) a car by hand before it can seem like a daunting task. Where to begin? Which products to buy? Let me simplify the process and tell you it’s easier than you may think.
Step 1: Wet and wash the car
Ideally, situate your car on the lawn where the water runoff will be beneficial. You will need a hose, bucket, sponge/brush and some sort of soapy goodness to get rid of the dirt. You can even get brushy things that attach to the end of your hose. I like to use the brush part of my household ‘dustpan and brush’. It doesn’t REALLY matter what soapy goodness you indulge in, there’s plenty to choose from in the automotive aisles at the shops, Kmart have a good selection and not expensive at all. I personally like to use an all-purpose household cleaner; the one I like is biodegradable and pretty gentle so it won’t hurt the lawn or the car duco. First of all just wet the car all over with the hose. Then make up a soapy mixture in a bucket and just start scrubbing away, working around your car. I actually find the process rather therapeutic. Once you get back to where you started from throw the rest of the soapy water over the roof and bonnet of the car and rinse all the way around with the hose again. Total cost per wash = less than $1 (depending on which product you use).
Step 2: Dry the car quickly
I’m sure there are divided opinions about how to get the best spot-free finish. Some think a spin around the block will air-dry to perfection, others swear by those leather chamois thingos. Personally, I just use a bunch of old towels. I have a stack of old white terry towelling nappy squares which are brilliant. Again, just work your way around the car, step back to admire your work every now and then until you get back to the beginning.
Total cost = $10 max (for a chamois, old towels are free)
Step 3: Wax the car if you’re a goody goody
By now your car will be looking very pretty but there’s just one more step. Wax. Wax will protect your paintwork and is well worth the effort in the long-term. Again, there are a million products on the market but the one I like is the liquidy one in a bottle that you spread over the car then buff off. I like that you can see where you’ve put it on (it creates a whitish coating until you buff it off). You then just use any old soft cloth to buff in a circular motion to bring up that beautiful shine. Do a section at a time.
Total cost = Less than $1 per application
And that’s it!
You could go all out and get the tyre blacking stuff if you want, I also like to use a product like “Armour-all” on the inside hard surfaces from time to time to protect them from becoming brittle in the sun.
Yes, it will cost you time but it will save you a lot of money and doing it yourself you get a much better result. You will be rewarded with a car that keeps its condition and value and ultimately will have a much higher return should you end up selling it or trading it in.
In the end it will cost you less than $5 for a full wash, wax and detail, plus a few hours of your time but think about the savings! It won’t even take you that long if you do it weekly, you don’t need to wax every single time and the detailing will keep for longer than a week so the real cost is more like just $2-3 per week, far less than paying someone else to do it anyway. Unless you’re doing a lot of driving through muddy areas you won’t even need the soap every week, a quick once over with water and a brush should be sufficient as the wax acts as a barrier to repel dirt and grime.
Why not pocket the $13.50 or $55 this weekend and wash the car yourself? Perhaps get a team of two and see how fast you can get it done.