What Do You Really Need at the Car Wash

Eight million cars are washed every day at car washes. And the numbers only continue to grow. If you’re a proud car owner, you’ve probably been to a car wash at some point. And if you have, you’ve seen the sign that shows you all the packages and add-ons you can get for your car.

With so many options, it can feel a bit confusing at times. Is it worth the money to get all of these extra services? Should you go with the basic wash or the “Supreme” wash? While everyone has a different opinion on the matter, we have some basic car wash tips to keep your car, and your wallet, happy.


An overwhelming majority of car washes are owned and operated by individuals, and are not part of a chain. Because of this, each car wash tends to have different prices, package names, and services. But these are the three most common levels of cleaning car washes often offer.

  • Basic – just as the name and implies, this is a cut and dry car wash. Soap is slathered on, soft monster looking scrubbers move over your vehicle, and then water is sprayed from every direction. You finish my pulling out through a blow dryer and back onto the streets.
  • Better – a step above the Basic wash, the Better wash does the exact same thing and throws in a few extra bonuses. It usually includes triple foam soap, instead of the normal, and an undercarriage wash as well. Then it finishes it off with a sealant to keep your paint chip free and safe from the elements, or so it claims.
  • Best – this is the creme de la creme of car wash packages. It does everything the Better wash does, plus tire cleaning. Sometimes it includes bug protection, rust resistor, or some other add-on, but sometimes those are kept separate so that you have to pay more.


You’re at the kiosk to customize and pay for your car wash and a line of impatient cars are building up behind you. Which special features and services should you say yes to? Are they worth the few extra dollars here and the few extra dollars there? Here’s the lowdown on just a few of the add-ons you might encounter.

  • Sealant – cars made before the 1980’s may find a sealant a nice bonus, but newer cars just don’t need it. Dealerships now use a much higher quality paint and clear coat that keeps the car’s color in top condition. While some car owners may still prefer to get a car sealant on occasion, a car wash sealant won’t do you any good. Save up for a professional to use high quality chemicals to do the job right.
  • Bug Protection – many car washes offer a product called Bug Bloc that they can spray on your car. The purpose is easy to guess based on the name, but it basically makes it easier to wipe bug remains off your car. This service is truly optional and is neither good nor bad. It is recommended for those who live in Florida and deal with lovebug season, but, otherwise, it’s a personal choice you will have to make.
  • Rust Resistor – while it sounds like a great feature to include, the ability to protect your car from dreaded rust, it is highly controversial. Several companies that supplied rust resistant sealants to car washes have gone under because their product was a scam. Some companies do provide high quality rust protection that really works, but it is expensive and won’t be found at a $5 car wash. So you should save your money on this add-on and wait until you can afford the real deal.
  • Undercarriage Wash – this is the one car wash add-on that nearly everyone can agree on. While you may be cleaning your car for aesthetic reasons, the undercarriage should be cleaned to get rid of salt, debris, and other damaging components to keep your vehicle running smoothly. This is money well spent to lengthen your car’s lifespan and help reduce the risk for costly repairs.


Wax on, wax off! We can all agree wax will keep your car looking shiny and beautiful on the road. Some car enthusiasts wax their car 4-6 times a week to keep the showfloor appearance. But is the car wash the place to get this detail taken care of?

Many experts say no. While car wax is a great idea that they recommend, the wax used in everyday car washes won’t do the job. But you don’t need a professional either. Most auto parts stores have waxing kits that you can use yourself in your own driveway. It takes a little elbow grease, and can cost you in the ballpark of $20, but car owners agree it looks much better and lasts longer.

All in all, a car wash is a great, quick and easy tool to get the top layer of grime off and clean the undercarriage. But never turn your back on a bucket of water and a sponge and the fun you can have getting the family involved in washing the car. And for fancy extras, hire someone who is trained and knows what they’re doing.

If you found this article insightful, consider sharing it on Facebook, Twitter, and other social networks with your friends. And if you’ve had experience with car wash add-ons or doing it yourself at home, comment below!

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