Automated Car Wash vs. Hand Washing

When it comes to washing your car, which is the best option? Will you get a better shine by running through the automated car wash, or do you need to hand-wash your vehicle to make it truly memorable? If hand washing is better, do you really need to do it that way every time, or can you supplement with the occasional drive-through?

The answer to these questions depends mostly on what you want to get out of your car wash. For most people, it all boils down to three important factors: time, money, and finish.

Pros and Cons of Hand Washing

The best part about washing a car by hand (whether you do it at a car wash or at home) is that you’re in control. You can take as long as you need to achieve the perfect finish and rely on products you trust to maintain your vehicle’s standards. That problem area that always seems to need an extra scrub? Take your time over them. Because you’re controlling the pace of the car wash, the amount of time you spend on your car is up to you.

Other reasons to hand wash your car include:

  • More attention to detail
  • Lower costs
  • Better product choice and selection
  • No limits on when you can wash (since you don’t have to wait for the automated car wash to be open)
  • Inside and outside cleaning options

Of course, unless you’re a professional detailer, chances are you’re going to miss a few things, especially if you don’t have all the right tools at your fingertips. In fact, if you’re using the wrong kind of materials and cleaners, you might end up doing more damage to the paint in the long run.

Other reasons to avoid hand washing your car include:

  • More time required to get it done
  • Lower level of skill than a professional wash
  • Physically demanding/taxing
  • Kids/pets/other distractions

Pros and Cons of an Automated Car Wash

When you’re in a hurry and want to get a quick, easy clean, nothing beats an automatic car wash. These facilities are convenient and easily accessible, making them ideal for a busy driver on the go. They’re also designed to get the best possible clean, taking advantage of technology to reach all those nooks and crannies in your car’s exterior.

Other advantages of an automated car wash include:

  • Step-by-step coverage of your car’s exterior
  • Thorough wash in under five minutes
  • No need to exit or park the car
  • Options in the kind of wash/level of detail you want

Because of their speed and ease, however, automatic car washes don’t always pay as much attention to detail and your specific car’s needs. This means that the finish might not be quite as perfect as you want—especially if you’re accustomed to a more DIY approach.

Other disadvantages of an automatic car wash include:

  • Occasional water spotting (unless you opt to have your car hand-dried)
  • Higher costs
  • Problem areas that may get missed
  • Long waits in high-traffic areas

Hand Wash or Automatic Wash?

For most people, the best approach is a combination of the two. By regularly washing your car by hand, you can keep up a great finish and ensure your vehicle is perfect inside and out. When you’re in a hurry or want a clean car between those deep washes, however, you can take a quick run through the automatic wash and enjoy your finish for longer.