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Are Car Washes Really that Cheap?

Professional Valeting V Cheap Hand Car Washes

There is growing evidence everyday that these cheap hand car washes are not as cheap as they may seem.

Now I know some of you reading this may react with “but they do a good job” and “they are cheaper than professional valeting”. In all honesty some hand car washes do a good job. I know of a couple and yes they are cheap. However I have seen many cars in my time that have been subjected to damage caused by phosphoric acid based products being used as a pre-soak on your vehicle.

The green or sometimes pink liquid that gets sprayed around the lower sections of the car, and more often they get sprayed over headlights and delicate trims thats the stuff that causes damage. The main reason these products are used is for speed of cleaning and to save on costs.

Hand car washes work on a quantity not quality basis. A hand car wash will spend around 20 mins at the most cleaning your car where as a good valeter will spend up to a couple of hours on your car for their most basic service. The results may look the same but after going to a hand car wash when you really look at your pride and joy you’ll start to see the tell tail signs of a cheap rushed job: staining on aluminium trims, swirl marks across the body panels, paint etching from high strength incorrectly diluted products, areas of the car will sometimes be missed.These are just a few signs of poor workmanship and no attention to detail, the list keeps growing.

Each week we receive calls and emails from customers telling us that their local hand car wash has damaged their car. In fact once I even took my own car to a hand car wash which highlighted the damage that can be caused. This cost me a refurb on 1 alloy wheel of my E-Class as they scratched it with the jet wash lance that didn’t have a protective rubber cover over the metal end.

Now to put things into perspective a reputable professional valeter will charge around £30-£50 for a Gold valet which will consist of the same level of cleaning to the exterior and the interior. No professional valeting job would leave areas unfinished and certainly wouldn’t be seen using an acid based product unless totally necessary. And in which case it would be diluted correctly and used in the correct manner not sprayed all over the car.

Ok so £30-£50 is a considerable jump from your £15 at the local hand car wash, but is it really? £15 for 20 mins work or £30-£50 for an hours work.
Now factor into that £30-£50 the cost of chemicals the correct level of insurance the running costs of their van/unit, the convenience of a mobile service and they aren’t really that far apart.

Now consider you are also paying the valeter for their knowledge and understanding of their trade, When was the last time you asked a hand car wash attendant about the chemicals ? Was the person working on your car able to tell you? or did they give the age old excuse of the boss deals with those sort of questions. If the person cleaning your vehicle cannot tell you mere basics of the chemicals or the methodology used then surely you would question yourself, ‘should i really be taking my car their to be cleaned?’

Which brings me neatly to answering the question at the start. Hand car washes are by no means as cheap as they seem. If they cause damage to your vehicle its you thats left with the repair bill. Take for example my alloy wheel perfectly fine before I entered the hand car wash no scratches, no kerb rash, no chips 1 trip to a hand car wash and scratched. That hand car wash cost me over £100 their response, must have been there before you came in….. So is a hand car wash really as cheap as it seems? I’d safely say with absolute certainty NO. Stick with a professional.