Should You Tip Your Car Detailer?

Vehicle, services, current condition, and quality are all things to consider when calculating how much you should tip your car detailer.
Written by Drew Waterstreet
Reviewed by Jessica Barrett
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Tipping is customary in any service industry and car detailing is no exception. A 15% tip is the recommended average but several factors can influence this amount.
When calculating an appropriate tip, you’ll want to consider type of vehicle, services selected, current condition, and quality of service. 
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How do you tip car detailers?

While it is not required, it is recommended to tip your auto detailer when all your needs are met or exceeded. The average tip is 15%, but there are plenty of factors to consider when determining if you should tip more or less.

Detailing services

Most car detailing shops offer a variety of menu items that will leave your car in pristine condition. A car wash is only meant to clean off external debris. Meanwhile, it’s a car detailer's job to recondition, repair, and protect the interior and exterior of your vehicle to make it look new again.
Detailing services can include:
  • Exterior wash and dry by hand
  • Interior scrubbing, brushing, and vacuuming of the entire car
  • Polishing with abrasive compounds to remove scratches
  • Waxing to provide a protective layer and a glossy finish
  • Glass cleaning inside and out
  • And more—ask and you shall receive
The detailer will be happy to fulfill your requests. But, consider tipping a little extra for customized and premium services—your detailer will thank you.

Type of car

The larger your car is, the more time and resources (soap, wax, polish, etc.) it takes to fully detail. Vehicle categories are usually broken down into economy, truck, and SUV. Consider tipping extra for larger vehicles like trucks and SUVs.
Pro Tip Many detailing shops will already account for the vehicle size differences in their baseline prices. Keep an eye out for that and tip accordingly. 

Current condition

We all know that there is a difference between dirty and DIRTY when it comes to your vehicle's current condition—tipping should vary in context.
  • Do you have three or four kids dropping crumbs down every crease of the car?
  • Have you gone all winter tracking snow and street salt into your car without cleaning it?
  • Have you EVER had your car detailed before?
These are the questions you should potentially ask yourself before arriving at the car detailer. 
Car detailing is a strenuous task—it’s important to be aware of how hard the detailer is going to have to work to get your car back to perfect. Since the prices aren’t directly correlated with how dirty your car is, it’s recommended to increase your tip if you know the job is going to be a tall task.

Quality of service

Some people think of their car as just something that gets them from point A to point B. Other people treat their car as a luxury. Wherever you lie on this scale, consider tipping extra if your car is handled with care and your service expectations are exceeded.
Tipping can also be an important gesture if you plan on being a repeat customer. If you receive quality service, tipping is a form of saying thank you to the detailer. Good customer relationships can lead to a higher likelihood of future positive experiences.
MORE: How to become a car detailer

When should you not tip car detailers?

Tipping is non-obligatory and is subjectively based on the service received. Here are some things to look out for when determining whether or not to tip:
  • If you’ve determined that the service is of poor quality or your service is left incomplete, tipping is not required.
  • Auto detailing shops will often give you a time estimate to coordinate your servicing around your schedule. If your service runs inconveniently late, you could reduce or forgo tipping.
  • If you notice any damage caused to your vehicle after detailing, you can consider not leaving a tip. If the damage is severe enough, you should inquire about compensation.
  • If you’ve received poor customer service, tipping can be reduced.
Businesses can only be as good as their worst review. Constructive and polite criticism is often a better form of feedback as opposed to silently reducing a tip to zero. You never know when someone is just having a bad day. Be kind.
Pro Tip Keep an updated photo log of your vehicle’s condition so you can have a point of reference for any damages caused during detailing.

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FAQs

A car wash is just a quick cleaning of the vehicle’s exterior. Car detailing is reconditioning, repairing, and protecting your vehicle's interior and exterior against wear and tear. This process is done manually rather than via a drive-thru.
Getting your car detailed regularly will help maintain the longevity of your vehicle’s interior (seats, mats, upholstery) and exterior (paint, rims). It’s a very labor-intensive task, so it’s up to you if you want to take it to a shop or break a sweat.
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