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View Full Version : What's reasonable to expect for a $175 detail


Robert A
10-06-2006, 12:40 AM
My car was just detailed today for the first time in several years, and I'm not sure what is reasonable to expect in terms of look and quality. The owner of the shop is coming out to look at the car tomorrow, and it looks like they might have taken some shortcuts. What questions should I ask? What is reasonable to expect for this price?

The car is 6 years old, garaged day and night, 50k miles, and dark metallic blue. The car's was essentially "clean" before the detail, but living in Los Angeles, it was exposed to traffic, pollution, etc. All paint is original (except bumpers) although it has been washed at regular hand or machine car washes throughout its lifetime. Daily commutes are short.

The $175 detail included interior and exterior work, but not undercarriage, engine bay or a gratuity.

Used to be, a full detail made the car really look new and really clean, not just shinney. Maybe that look costs more now, I don't know.

Your guidance is appreciated.

picus
10-06-2006, 07:12 AM
Well you're in SoCal, so the prices are likely a bit exagerated there. That said, for $175 in and out in most large cities you will get the following:

Hand wash, including full tire cleaning (all brake dust), all bugs and debris removed, etc.
Hand wax / sealant
Trim cleaned and dressed
Windows cleaned
Chrome polished, including exhaust tips.
Engine bay wiped down (not cleaned, wiped)
Door jambs cleaned/waxed
Tires and fenderwells dressed.

Inside:

Vacuum and removal of all debris, spot cleaning on mats. Includes trunk.
Clean and dress all vinyl/rubber
Condition leather

I can't think of a single quality detailer I know (a lot of them) that won't do all of that for $175. My price for the service above is $150 (so close). What you will likely *not get* for $175 at a good detailer in SoCal.

Clay
Any polishing/compounding (so NO scratch or swirl removal)
shampooing of carpets/mats/uphostery
A/C vent cleaning/de-oderizing
seat removal
sealant *and* wax

I will be completely up front. It is unlikely that a 6 year old car that has 50k and is blue AND has been machine car washed doesn't need compouding. I see a lot of cars and I would bet that you have at least moderate swirling in the paint, and for the car to look "really new" you would need at least a 2-step compouding process. A wash & wax is great for making a car clean, re-hydrating trim, cleaning debris on the inside, conditioning leather, etc... but it's a maintenance thing, not restorative. You will not be correcting any defects in the paint, which is likely what you need. If you're really interested post a picture of the car with the sun right on the hood, I can usually tell you exactly what it needs from a picture like that. My guess is it will look something like this:

http://gtaindetail.com/pics/ml500072706/a.jpg (the one on the left)

Make sense?

What in particular were you not happy with?

Robert A
10-06-2006, 08:34 AM
You pretty well described what I got. They did it at my home, and I didn't have a chance to check it out until after dark, but my wife (who saw the car in the early evening) commented that it hadn't been buffed out in places, leading me to think it was a quick job. My "garage light" lookover suggests that no polishing compound was applied, but I'll look at it more closely this morning.

Nevertheless, when a proper hand is performed by a detailer, aren't they supposed to apply a layer of polishing compound (or somehting similar) to get the swirls and surface scratches removed first? If not, how much extra do you charge to provide that service?

Well you're in SoCal, so the prices are likely a bit exagerated there. That said, for $175 in and out in most large cities you will get the following:

Hand wash, including full tire cleaning (all brake dust), all bugs and debris removed, etc.
Hand wax / sealant
Trim cleaned and dressed
Windows cleaned
Chrome polished, including exhaust tips.
Engine bay wiped down (not cleaned, wiped)
Door jambs cleaned/waxed
Tires and fenderwells dressed.

Inside:

Vacuum and removal of all debris, spot cleaning on mats. Includes trunk.
Clean and dress all vinyl/rubber
Condition leather

I can't think of a single quality detailer I know (a lot of them) that won't do all of that for $175. My price for the service above is $150 (so close). What you will likely *not get* for $175 at a good detailer in SoCal.

Clay
Any polishing/compounding (so NO scratch or swirl removal)
shampooing of carpets/mats/uphostery
A/C vent cleaning/de-oderizing
seat removal
sealant *and* wax

I will be completely up front. It is unlikely that a 6 year old car that has 50k and is blue AND has been machine car washed doesn't need compouding. I see a lot of cars and I would bet that you have at least moderate swirling in the paint, and for the car to look "really new" you would need at least a 2-step compouding process. A wash & wax is great for making a car clean, re-hydrating trim, cleaning debris on the inside, conditioning leather, etc... but it's a maintenance thing, not restorative. You will not be correcting any defects in the paint, which is likely what you need. If you're really interested post a picture of the car with the sun right on the hood, I can usually tell you exactly what it needs from a picture like that. My guess is it will look something like this:

http://gtaindetail.com/pics/ml500072706/a.jpg (the one on the left)

Make sense?

What in particular were you not happy with?

picus
10-06-2006, 10:15 AM
You pretty well described what I got. They did it at my home, and I didn't have a chance to check it out until after dark, but my wife (who saw the car in the early evening) commented that it hadn't been buffed out in places, leading me to think it was a quick job. My "garage light" lookover suggests that no polishing compound was applied, but I'll look at it more closely this morning.

Nevertheless, when a proper hand is performed by a detailer, aren't they supposed to apply a layer of polishing compound (or somehting similar) to get the swirls and surface scratches removed first? If not, how much extra do you charge to provide that service?

If they advertised that they will remove swirls and scratches for $175, then they should. There is no question about that.

That said, most detailers I know in your area (I know 4 or 5 *really good* ones) will not even bring out a polish/compound for under $200-$300. My "one step polish" package, which is one polishing step via machine, is $250 for exterior only. It is likely your car needs more than one step, to give you an example my multi-step (as many as it takes to remove the majoirty of marring) starts at $350. It sounds like a lot, and it is - but consider this. Yesterday I "multi-step" compounded a Z4, a car that is likely half the size of your 530i, exterior only, and it took 7 hours with a rotary to get most of the marring out. This is not uncommon; I actually work pretty quickly in general (10 years experience), so in terms of the money spent it's only "a lot" if the results aren't what you expect. Remember, polishes/compounds aren't "applied", they are "performed", as in, you need to use them with a buffer (be it DA or rotary) to break them down, this sluffing off a layer of clear and removing scratches, it is not un-skilled or easy work, and it certainly isn't quick work.

Washing/waxing etc is considered the "quick" work, normally. Most guys can wash & wax a car in under 2 hours. As soon as you pull out the buffer that time at least doubles, so the price goes up accordingly. I personally (as much as I hate to admit it, since it's pre-judging a business) would not really trust a detailer to polish my car for $175 in a major metro area, it's too little, so I know they will need to cut corners.

This brings up the question - how can a detailer wash a car that needs a polish? Well, some do and some don't. Some customers don't want to pay for polishing, some don't "see" the swirls. In most cases when I get a call from someone who asks for a wash & wax and I suspect has swirls (car is more than 2 years old, black, etc) I make a point of telling them than it will not remove swirls/scratches. If they choose to have me out knowing that I won't be polishing, that's their call.

So ya, if they told you they would buff the car for $175, then they should have, period. However, as you asked in your original post for $175 I generally would expect to pay a good shop/mobile detailer *at least* $250+ to polish/compound a car in the SoCal area.

picus
10-07-2006, 09:33 AM
You should raise your prices. :)

schley
10-07-2006, 11:29 PM
You should raise your prices. :)

If you are talking interior and exterior for 250 I would say you are a alittle higher than average for a detailer in so cal.

I wouldn't pay more than 250 for the entire car including polishing (sorry not 1 step either) get out the 2/3 step polishes and go to work.

I find it a better value to have the exterior done separately if you don't want to do it yourself. Pay 100-150 for the exterior polishing/sealant/wax and you are paying for the skill and experience.

picus
10-08-2006, 09:27 AM
You wouldn't pay more than $250 to get the interior and exterior done, multi-step compouding? Well, I can't generalize all detailers, but of the 10-15 I know in the SoCal area who I consider to do "good work" none of them will match that price. If you have someone who does quality work for that price, keep 'em, because he's killing himself on pricing in that market. I am not advocating high prices, I am advocating paying for quality work. $100 for polish/seal/wax is "express detail" in almost any major metro area. Head over to Autopia.org and ask what people charge, and I'd be surprised if there is a detailer on there who charges $100 for a polish job.

Just look at it this way. The average price of products in a multi-step detail is about $10, so you're down to $90. Now you need insurance, gas if you're mobile, rent if you're not, so you're down to about $75 profit. I think we can agree that even the fastest detailer can't do a wash/clay/polish/sealant/wax/dress tires/trim/do chrome/clean jambs/do wheel wells, etc in under 3-4 hours, so you're now talking under $25/hr. That's just not enough to survive in LA, SF, NY, Miami, Toronto, Seattle, Atlanta, or any other metro area in North America.

Off topic, sort of: Here is a recent, long, songoing thread about detailer pricing: http://autopia.org/forum/showthread.php?t=78433&highlight=pricing

It's an interesting read, you'll see there are a couple different perspectives amongst detailers here. Those who think anything over $200 is too much for any job (they tend to live in smaller, more rural areas), and those detailer who do this professionally and won't touch a car for under $200. You'll also see that in general everyone agrees that most "detailers" do a pretty crummy job, and tend to give us all a bad name. There are probably 10,000 threads on that forum regarding "fixing" other peoples mistakes, so perhaps the perspective you get from detailers on autopia, like me, is that if you want it done right, in general you're going to have to pay. For the most part detailers work out their pricing on an hourly rate they hope to get, so if a process takes them 4 hours, the charge is 4xtheir rate = price. The hourly rate is what changes from detailer to detailer and area to area, but even in the smallest towns $35-$40/hr seems to be the going rate.

FWIW, two of the professional detailers I generally refer people to in SoCal are Patrick at Excel Detail and Joe at Superior Shine. AFAIK, Patricks prices *start* at $190, and Joe's polishing prices start around $300.

kevinp
01-05-2007, 02:17 PM
:D You wouldn't pay more than $250 to get the interior and exterior done, multi-step compouding? Well, I can't generalize all detailers, but of the 10-15 I know in the SoCal area who I consider to do "good work" none of them will match that price. If you have someone who does quality work for that price, keep 'em, because he's killing himself on pricing in that market. I am not advocating high prices, I am advocating paying for quality work. $100 for polish/seal/wax is "express detail" in almost any major metro area. Head over to Autopia.org and ask what people charge, and I'd be surprised if there is a detailer on there who charges $100 for a polish job.

Just look at it this way. The average price of products in a multi-step detail is about $10, so you're down to $90. Now you need insurance, gas if you're mobile, rent if you're not, so you're down to about $75 profit. I think we can agree that even the fastest detailer can't do a wash/clay/polish/sealant/wax/dress tires/trim/do chrome/clean jambs/do wheel wells, etc in under 3-4 hours, so you're now talking under $25/hr. That's just not enough to survive in LA, SF, NY, Miami, Toronto, Seattle, Atlanta, or any other metro area in North America.

Off topic, sort of: Here is a recent, long, songoing thread about detailer pricing: http://autopia.org/forum/showthread.php?t=78433&highlight=pricing

It's an interesting read, you'll see there are a couple different perspectives amongst detailers here. Those who think anything over $200 is too much for any job (they tend to live in smaller, more rural areas), and those detailer who do this professionally and won't touch a car for under $200. You'll also see that in general everyone agrees that most "detailers" do a pretty crummy job, and tend to give us all a bad name. There are probably 10,000 threads on that forum regarding "fixing" other peoples mistakes, so perhaps the perspective you get from detailers on autopia, like me, is that if you want it done right, in general you're going to have to pay. For the most part detailers work out their pricing on an hourly rate they hope to get, so if a process takes them 4 hours, the charge is 4xtheir rate = price. The hourly rate is what changes from detailer to detailer and area to area, but even in the smallest towns $35-$40/hr seems to be the going rate.

FWIW, two of the professional detailers I generally refer people to in SoCal are Patrick at Excel Detail and Joe at Superior Shine. AFAIK, Patricks prices *start* at $190, and Joe's polishing prices start around $300.


Remember, he is quoting Canadian dollars!!!:rofl:

Only joking picus:D

Totoland
01-05-2007, 04:47 PM
Very interesting thread!

I work in a detail shop environment and can tell you, I probably spend 12-14 hours on each BMW that I detail. That's more time than I would allow in "driveway" detailing because I would omit wet sanding, chip filling, steam extraction of carpeting, polishing headlight lenses. I also don't do engines unless the owner specifies it.

I'd say the average full detail I do in an on-site environment is at least 6-8 hours and I charge $25 per hour.

I typically go over the car with the owner and let them know specifically what needs to be done and give them a pretty close estimate BEFORE I even start. There are lots of folks that are cheaper than mine, but I have specific customers that go nowhere else because they trust my work.

You certainly have 2 excellent recommendations: Excel Detail and Superior Shine have stellar reputations in the S. Cal area.

RBull
01-06-2007, 02:00 PM
Interesting thread. I believe what you're saying on pricing is very reasonable Picus. You opinion comes from years of involvement in the industry and in different markets. There is a lot of time, labor, cost involved and more skill than most of us realize or experience ourselves.

joyriide1113
01-09-2007, 02:45 PM
Ignorance is bliss to many! If they don't "see" the swirls, and if they think a car "should" become looking older in 3 years, then a regular 1 step hand wax is good enough for them.

If Picus was in Miami, I'd want him working and maintaining my direct family's cars.

Totoland
01-10-2007, 04:45 AM
One of the biggest pieces of detailing to remember is: Unlike tint and clear bra installation, where the installer's mistake involves removing material and replacing/fixing, a detailer that makes a mistake can be disastrous and cost many hundreds of dollars. Burning through the clear coat on plastic trim, misuse of product on leather, using the wrong product on wheels to eat the clear/paint. Lot's of areas for expensive repairs.

I've been approached by several folks that wanted to know why my detail prices are 3 times (or X times) higher than someone else and my answer is: because my work is 10 times better than their's! I have no problem getting (and keeping) customers that I always exceed their expectation of work performed.

I'll take some pics of a black 745 tonight that was "detailed" prior to auction. You'll be shocked, but they only pay the auction detailers $50 per car....and the auctions gets exactly what they paid for.

Totoland

picus
01-10-2007, 07:40 PM
Very good point Totoland - just another often overlooked skill detailer needs to possess; the ability not to screw up. While I often tell people it's harder to burn paint than most people think, it is still not *that* hard. Cheers.

RBull
01-11-2007, 10:18 AM
^ I hope your tutorial helps me to avoid that.:)

coolguy1
02-10-2007, 12:56 PM
How much would u guys would pay for this service? Is $200+tax resonable for this? sounds v.expensive to me. When does "Compouding" come into play on a 2006 525i Silver Gray?

exterior: Wash, clay bar, polish, and wax. clean and dress tires.
Interior: Dash/door panels cleaned and dressed, vacuum carpets, windows, shampoo carpets, and clean/condition leater.

Thinking of getting that done for my 1month old CPO 2006 525i.. would like to get some detailing done since I have noticed lot of rock chips on front hood and bumper.. So hoping with this detailing it will prevent it to some extent in future.

picus
02-10-2007, 04:10 PM
$200 is not even close to expensive for that the level of service is adequate. Polish = compounding; odds are on an '06 he will just do a light polish (assuming you don't have significant marring) to just clean up and light marring and bring some gloss back to the paint.

What you described is what I call my "One step polish + Interior", I charge $350 for it; it's about 6-7 hours of work. The exterior alone (clay+polish) is normally 3.5+ hours. Of course it all depends on the kind of shop it is; quick and dirty or a thorough job.

FWIW, detailing will not help prevent stone chips. :(