It's All in the Details: Professional Detailing vs DIY

Posted by Lydia on 2 May 2018

Categorised in General



As every driver knows, there are some car maintenance tasks that are clearly “do-it-yourself” (DIY): pumping tyres, replacing air filters, and changing the oil. Then there are those that belong firmly in the professional’s camp: fixing the transmission, installing a new muffler, or rebuilding the engine.


And then there are those maintenance jobs that sit in that gray area between “DIY” and “hire a professional.”


One such task is car detailing. When should you get out the vacuum and the shammies, and when should you let a professional handle the job? Well, it depends on several factors. Here’s a closer look at the pros and cons involved, no matter which way you decide to go.

DIY detailing


Some people think a car wash and a detailing job are pretty much one and the same, but that’s definitely not the case. A car wash will surface clean the car’s body, and sometimes will include a quick vacuuming of the seats and floor. Detailing goes well beyond this, giving your car an in-depth and comprehensive clean, with the informal aim of returning the car to its ‘like new’ condition.


It’s recommended that you get your car detailed once or twice a year. This depends a little on where you live, as that can dictate what work needs to be done. For example, if you live in a hot dusty climate, you’ll see more build-up on your car. But regardless, detailing should be a regular event to keep the car looking its best.


There are a lot of tasks involved in a good detailing job that can be time-consuming. In addition to doing away with all the dust, soot, and other build up, it’s necessary to clean out all the nooks in your tyres and wheels, and then polish them up. Restoring the leather and vinyl (or whatever material your upholstery is) will be the next task, and then there’s the removal of all minor imperfections on the exterior, before getting started on a final polish.  


Yes, detailing takes a lot of time and effort. So while this list might thrill a devoted car fan, it may also exhaust others just by reading it. If a DIY job doesn’t appeal to you, you may want to consider the professional option.


Professional detailing


It’s important to understand that detailing can mean many things. Some detailers will be ready to fix chips and other minor imperfections in your car when they service it, while others aren’t equipped to do so. There are also various levels of detailing, so make sure to do your research and talk specifics with the detailer before agreeing on a service package.


Another big factor here is the equipment and products a professional detailer will have on hand.
Since they use these items daily, they’ll have all the right supplies that might be needed to do the job. If you’re a huge car fan and just bought your dream ride - and plan to clean it very frequently - investing in these items may save you money in the long run. But if you’re just thinking of doing a once-in-awhile detailing, it’s probably not worth it.


The case for DIY


Obviously, a professional detailing guarantees a professional job, which is all some drivers want. But if you enjoy spending a Sunday afternoon in your driveway with a hose, vacuum, and some car polish, DIY detailing might be an enjoyable pastime for you. Likewise if you’re very detail-oriented or have a very particular way you like things done.


At its core, a good DIY job requires time, focus, and patience. If you have these three things, then you may find you enjoy a DIY detailing. It can save money, too.


All detailing takes time and maintenance


Keep in mind, it’s not an all-or-nothing choice. You can try a professional detailing now, and then a DIY next time. Australia has 2,460 car wash and detailing providers, so odds are good that there’ll be one close by if you finish the DIY job and are unhappy with it.


Also, regardless of whether you have professional detailing or DIY, you’ll need to maintain your vehicle afterwards. Often this means little more than a quick squirt with the garden hose at the end of the week to rinse off any soot. But if, after a weekend trip, your auto looks like a rally car,  some quality time with a bucket and brush may be necessary to get rid of all the build-up.


At the end of the day, DIY detailing depends on your skills, free time, and interest level. To make a success of DIY detailing, you need to feel confident you’ve got the goods to do the job, enough time available to do it, and the actual desire to spend your time in that way. Most people are time-poor, and if that sounds like you, then it’s ideal to get a professional for peace of mind.

This doesn't mean you can’t look to do a DIY job in the future. But in the meantime, it ensures you won’t start a job and then be unable to finish it, which can actually create more work for a professional.


Best of all, you can also build a good working relationship with a professional and learn their tips and tricks. Then, the next time around, you’ll be all set to pull off a stellar DIY detailing by yourself.


What other factors do you use to weigh up professional detailing vs DIY? Let us know in the comments below:


Image: Pixabay



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