I firmly believe education is the key to making any important decision. Which is why I’ve decided to break down detailing just a bit for you and show you exactly what your money buys when getting your car professionally detailed.
First off many detailers come at you with many different backgrounds. This is very important to know. Because in the detailing world the detailer’s actual skill level is directly related to the price of the service. let me repeat that… You will always pay for the skill level. Every detailer out there offers basically the same package. The goal is to clean your car. Why do some charge $65 for a “full service” and other charge upwards of $600 for the exact same thing? Are they ripping you off? The simple answer is no they are not.
When you see higher prices I would say easily 99% of the time it means the detailer is more versed, more skilled, and has a solid reputation. Reputation is also very key. I’ll side step in note to point out that even though I consider myself highly skilled I couldn’t just pack up and head to say Florida set up shop and demand $600 a detail. No one down there has a clue who I am and I’d be out of business before I even got off the ground. So higher prices also mean they’ve been around this area for awhile and most if not all of their business is probably word of mouth referrals. I’ve found that people with good reputations and great word of mouth referrals rarely have to advertise. Customers seek them out.
So what kind of detailers offer the super cheap rates? Well it’s one of two types really. A new start up (my rates we’re rock bottom when I first started) business just trying to attact customers in the door (or call the phone whichever the case may be) or hack artist that just don’t have a clue and do nothing but try to undercut the competition constantly (more on those guys later) now once the new start up gets going and the reputation for solid work gets out you’ll notice price increases. It’s not uncommon at all to see reputable detailers and detail shop raise their prices yearly. As their skills increase so does the demand to have them work on your car. And we all know about supply and demand.
Once new skills are mastered you get a better service and it’s only right that the detailer be fairly compensated for such. Think if it as getting a raise at your job. We all like them and do better work to get them. Unfortunately the client is the ultimate boss for the detailer and it’s you guys that pay for our services.. So in essence we get out cost of living raises by increasing our skill level and thus our prices. If you guys out there feel your still getting a top notch service for the increase you keep booking. If not the detailer either looses his clientes and has to revamp his services or they end up fading away. Which is why I say high dollar detailers are not out to rip anyone off. If they did that they wouldn’t last long at all.
Now let’s clarify something. Many different people toss around the word detailing with no regards to it’s actual meaning. Which really makes things confusing when you pick up the phone to ask questions. For example I’ll toss this out. I had a younger guy stop in here asking for a job once. We went through the whole ask and answer routine. He makes a bold claim of once getting out over 100 interior details in one day with a 4 person crew. This threw me back a bit so I had to ask. “What do you consider an interior detail?” His reply “Well at our shop an interior is a vacuum and wiping down the dash with armor all.” And of course he thought this was correct because that’s how he was trained. Which got me thinking of all the other mis-conceptions out there about detailing.
I will be fair in the assumption that if I think other people have been taught wrong maybe somewhere along the lines I’ve gotten a few bad lessons as well. So for everybody reading this my definition of “Detailing” is the rejuvenation of your car to a new as possibly can be achieved status. If that’s not the actual meaning then so be I can live with that. I don’t clean a car. I recondition it. And also to be fair I will list the level of detail shops and what can be expected of them.
The Volume Shop-This is what I would say 85-90% of detail shops in this area fall under. Volume shops are just that. All about how many cars they can push out a day. Most of your volume shops will have a decent sized staff and lots and lots of cars out waiting in line. To me this is what I call a “wash boy” shop. 99% of the dealerships are this way. The plus side to volume shops is they are usually a little cheaper and since their only main concern (regardless of other advertising claims) is getting your car back to you quickly so they can get the next one in. If you’re in a time crunch or don’t really want to invest a lot of money into getting your daily driver back into shape a volume shop is for you.
The bad side to this type of shop is they usually lack a lot of key skills. These guys usually work at or just above minimum wage and are more concerned about the paycheck at the end of the week than they are your car. They usually suffer from a lot of “comebacks” meaning dissatisfied customers. They also usually use the cheapest products possible and cut corners at every stage they can. (hey it’s all about the volume, can’t be spending a ton of cash if you’re going through a ton of product.) I know shops that are almost literally spit and shined and out the door. They use whitewall cleaner for cleaning everything and use filler waxes and polishes to get it done quickly. So when you pick your car up it technically “looks” clean. The only problem with using fillers and whitewall cleaner is it’s just a fake shell. once you wash it again the filler wash out revealing all the scratches they filled in.
Whitewall cleaner just strips out everything. So say putting it on leather (which they do) it will dry the crap out of the leather. How do they overcome that? Silicone dressing of course. Makes it’s all slick and shiny. And pending on the surface they put it on very dangerous. They aren’t technically considered “Hack Shops” because they do have some skills and usually can reasonably get your car cleaned up. The lower price justifies the lower skill level. This is where most detailers start their careers. I would consider what these guys do as “half a$$ing your car” yea it’s ok but it could be so much better if only time would allow it. Like I said if it’s a time crunch and money is tight this is usually the shop to look for. It’s ok but far from anything considered “great”
The Perfectionist Shop- This is what I call a real detail shop. I’d say about 3-5% of shops get to fall into this category. These are usually self manned or very few employees. Shops in this category have high skill levels and have been doing this for years. They tend to know the latest trends in Detailing and use a lot of top shelf products in smaller quantities. Almost all of your mobil detailers fall into this category. The downfall to this type of shop is they will gladly sacrifice time for quality. They don’t tend to use fillers and they have no problem tackling anything you bring them. A lot of these type of detailers go into concourse detailing. Meaning ultra high dollar cars or show cars.
They can correct your paint your interior and your chrome to an exacting science. They are artist and treat their craft with the upmost respect. These guys will come at a premium dollar amount and can take up to several days to detail a car properly. But when you get your car back it is reconditioned to like new or better than new specs properly. Even after a proper washing your paint will still shine like it just rolled off the showroom floor. There are very few of these types of shops around and they usually have a very strict clientele already. But if you have the money and you want proper treatment for a high end collector car this is exactly the type of detailer you need to get ahold of.
The Hack Shop- I honestly debated about putting this on here because it’s truely so subjective. I’d say an easy 10% of shops (possibly more) fall into this category. Most “Hack” shops don’t even know they are a hack shop. So I will only list a few ways to tell if your dealing with a hack shop. First off is the price. If you can find someone saying they can do a full detail for $65 that right there should send up just a ton of red flags. A proper detail can take upwards of 8 hours pending on the detail. for $65 that would be just over $8/hr. and take about half of that right out for products and such. And unless he’s doing it in your driveway using your water and your electricity he’ll have overhead.
I mean it’s a business after all and you have to cover your expenses. By the time it’s done he’ll be working for about $2/hr. So the only way to overcome this is by cutting a lot of corners. Not doing a lot of things, and using the cheapest possible products around. These guys are usually the little corner car lot’s detailers and they tend to try and take business away from other detailers by under cutting their price. Unfortunately they do this to a fault at their own expense. It’s really sad to see these guys in action. usually these guys are fly by night detailers, here today gone tomorrow (because they run out of money) Pretty new to the craft, And unfortunately pretty shady. So asking them a question like “how long have you been detailing” Most will lie and list off years of experience. But the real key is if they’ve been working for years why are they still working for $2/hr???
These guys tend to have very little skills most will compound paint and they filler wax it up leaving swirl marks all over the place. They’ll come up with all sorts of excuses as to why they couldn’t get the specific stain that they “guaranteed would come out” out. They make all sorts of promises and deliver on very few of them. ( I personally will never guarantee anything will come out. You just never know how set in something is) Personally I wish these type of guys would exit the field all together. But like I said most don’t even know.
They’ve been taught wrong and firmly believe they what they know is the only correct way. Stay away at all cost. It’s like throwing money in a trash can even if it’s a cheap bargain.