How Long Does Car Detailing Take?

How Long Does Car Detailing Take?

One question I get asked a lot by family and friends is “how long does detailing a car take?”. Once they realize how often I clean my car ( sometimes twice a week ), they think I am insane….which may be true I’m not sure, but that is a whole different discussion.

I get comments such as “You must spend your whole life cleaning your car “, or “how dirty can your car get in a few days!” etc.

how long does car detailing take

The general public typically has a gross misunderstanding of how long it takes to detail a car. It is either underestimated or completely overestimated.

So how long does it take to detail a car?

I’m sure that most regular readers of this blog will know that there is no cut and dry answer to this question and it can depend on many different factors. In my own experience the time it takes to detail a car can vary wildly and can be influenced by several different things. These include

  • What Steps Need to be completed on the car?

  • Current Condition Of the Cars Interior / Exterior

  • How Efficient/Knowledgeable the person carrying out the detail is

  • Materials Used (Eg is Ceramic Coating being applied )

With the rise in popularity of detailing and the “glamification” of the practice over recent years, the lines have been blurred so to speak between a simple car wash and an actual detail. So what does detailing mean in 2020? In my opinion, this term is now used to cover all aspects of car cleaning and paint protection, no matter how small a job at hand.

It turns out the world and its mother is now a “detailer” these days.

For me, to truly answer the question of how long it takes to detail a car to someone, I usually end up breaking it down into various categories.

In my personal experience these are as follows :

  1. A “Quick Detail” or Waterless Wash

  2. A Standard Maintenence Wash

  3. A Maintenence Wash with Interior Clean

  4. A Decontamination Wash / Polish Preparation

  5. Compounding / Polishing & Ceramic Coating Applied

These are the classifications of “detail” that I am familiar with. There are other scenarios, but I have tried to group them as best I can to answer the question at hand.

How Long Does a Quick Detail Take?

Quick Detailing is a process that I would consider taking less than 30 minutes.

Quick Detailing is a simple solution that cuts down your regular washing routine by maintaining your car’s paint when it is just lightly dusty or has some light water spotting. If you have not read my article on “how to keep your car clean between washes“, you should consider checking that out HERE. This will cover a lot of things that fall under the “quick detailing” category.

For me, quick detailing is a step I would perform between my weekly washes if I did not have time to do a “normal” wash with two buckets and water.

To properly Quick Detail your car you’ll need a few high quality, plush microfiber buffing towels, and quick detailing spray. A car duster also works well at removing the top layer of dust before quick detailing but is not necessary.

During a quick detail, I also like to give the exterior glass a clean using a good quality dedicated glass cleaner.

Quick Detailing is not just for the exterior of your car. There are detailing sprays for your car’s interior as well. A personal favourite of mine is AutoFinesse Interior cleaner, used with some microfiber clothes to keep on top of interior dust and dirt.

I can usually complete a quick detail in 15-30 minutes max.

How Long Does A Maintenance Wash Take?

A standard maintenance wash takes approximately 45-90 minutes.

Obviously, there are different types of maintenance wash, for example, are you using just buckets and water? Or Are you using a pressure washer with a pre-wash snow foam step before any contact washing is done?

best pressure washer for car detailing

For simplicity, I am going to base this on my Maintenance wash routine, which I carry out weekly.

How Long Does A Maintenance Wash &  Interior Detail Take?

A standard maintenance wash takes approximately 60-120 minutes.

This is all the steps I have outlined above, but including a full clean of the interior of the car. The time it takes to do this will depend on the condition of the interior, but if you are like me and tend to keep on top of the dirt in the interior, it should not add too much time to your maintenance wash.

In my case, this usually consists of

  • Vacuuming – The first step to cleaning the interior of a car includes vacuuming seats, headliners, rear cargo area, trunk and shelf.
  • A good brush to use on the car mats to remove any trapped dirt. ( i also vacuum these )
  • Interior trim and surfaces are removed of any grime, dirt and bacteria using interior specific cleaners that are safe on all surfaces
  • Glass Cleaning – A glass cleaner is used to clean the glass.

I am not a huge fan of interior dressing so I don’t usually use that. However, one important factor that is often overlooked is the scent. I usually change my air freshener about once a month.

In my routine, a maintenance wash and interior clean takes about 2 hours.

How Long Does A Decontamination Wash & Polishing Prep Take?

This process will usually take between 2-4 hours.

Now we are getting into the serious steps of detailing, whereby a large amount of time will need to be put in, which will lead to exceptional results. I would advise that a good decontamination wash be performed on a car at least once a quarter, or about 4 times a year.

This is also necessary before undertaking a machine polish of a car, or the application of a ceramic coating.

Iron X

Decontamination/Polish prep includes all the steps I have outlined above in the maintenance wash steps with the addition of the following.

This is usually something you can build into a maintenance wash, but as I said it is only necessary a few times a year if you are keeping on top of your vehicle.

How Long Does Polishing a Car & Ceramic Coating Take?

This is usually measured in Days Rather than Hours. The time to complete can vary depending on several factors such as

  • How many polishing steps? ( 1 step? 3 Step? )
  • Type of Coating Applied? ( Some coatings are more difficult to apply and need a longer curing time )

I would estimate that the average paint correction and protection can take from 1-3 Days On average. This can take longer if heavy paint correction is required.

This may seem excessive to some people but Don’t forget that before any of this can take place, the full decontamination wash should be carried out.

Paint correction on a car can take many hours, and some badly damaged paint will take days to restore to a perfect finish. Ideally, the paint should be defect-free before applying any sort of ceramic coating. This is why people are often shocked when they get a quote for a professional application of a ceramic coating, which can cost $$$$.

As well as the polishing, the application of ceramic coating can be quite intricate, with some coating curing times quoted at up to 24-48 hours.

In Summary -How Long Does Car Detailing Take?

As I mentioned earlier, “Detailing” is now a catch-all term that is used to describe a number or a combination of different steps. However, I will do my best to summarize with the following

– A “Quick Detail” or Waterless Wash = Less than 30 Minutes

– A Maintenance Wash = 45-90 Minutes

– A Maintenence Wash with Interior Clean = 60-120 minutes

-A Decontamination Wash / Polish Preparation = 2-4 Hours

-Compounding / Polishing & Ceramic Coating Applied = 1-3 Days On Average

So how long does it take you to do the above detailing? I would love to hear your opinion, so please leave a comment or join the discussion on the DriveDetailed Forum

Until Next time,

Happy Detailing!

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About the Author – Darren O Hara

Darren is the founder of the DriveDetailed blog and is a keen detailing enthusiast living in the rainy south of Ireland. When he is not cleaning his car he is always researching ways he can improve his techniques and enjoys testing out new products.

Darren currently drives an Audi TTRS and is a big fan of performance cars.

You can follow Darren on Instagram @darrenoharacork

22 thoughts on “How Long Does Car Detailing Take?

  1. Hey Darren,

    This is a great article. Lots of great information in it. I can’t seem to find it on the “forum” to make a comment. Love it and thanks again. Always learning from you.


  2. A car gives us comfort on the journey. It is like a family companion. So, it needs some extra care and car detailing is such of a kind.

  3. If anyone buys a car then cleaning the car is necessary to keep your it brands new for many years. It was a wonderful experience to read your blog about How long does Car Detailing take I found some amazing tips and information. Keep posting dude. Waiting for more blogs.

  4. That’s good to know that detailing could take anywhere from thirty minutes to a few days, depending on what you have done. I would think that it would be good to know how long it will take to have it done, so it would be good to decide what will be done beforehand. I’ll have to do that if I have my car detailed so I can know how long it will take.

  5. Here we come to know about that how long does car detailing take. It is one of the importance information which is known by every car holders. It gives us some true and insightful information regarding it. I hope you will keep on updating us with such a great blogs.

  6. It is a wonderful article stating about how long does car detailing take. Content here based on facts right. Anyone searching for same topic may find their shelter here. I am sure many people will come to read this in future. Great blog indeed, will visit again future to read more!! Found an another website it has lots of valuable information for everyone.

  7. The exterior of your vehicle is what is presented to the world as you navigate between destinations. It is important that the exterior of your car is detailed and washed. After all, that is what people see, and that is what you are presenting to the world. If your vehicle is very dirty, and if you have business meeting to attend to, it is not going to leave a good impression with the business associates or clients that you are meeting. Instead of leaving a bad impression, call us immediately for car washing and auto detailing.

  8. I used to do full valets, so a good valet took me about 4 hours, plus coating another 2 hours on single stage hand polishing, so this is 6 hours just to clean the car. When i was in this business all this detailing stuff wasnt very popular, but i’am thinking of getting back to bussiness. I’d say its about 22 hrs of labour for a full valet and detailing average

  9. Thank you for sharing that it can take a few days to do a paint correction on a car that has badly damaged paint. My sister just got into an accident recently while she was parking her car in the basement of a supermarket. I will suggest her to do a paint correction which can take a few days to finish but at least she can get peace of mind seeing her car is looking fine again.

  10. I want to get my car detailed nicely, but I’m not sure how to go about it. It makes sense that I would want to consider getting a professional to do it! I just don’t have the kind of time required to get this done myself, after all.

  11. Very good article…there are multiple variables when it comes to car detailing and i like that this article does go over some things relative to time….if your not going to put the necessary time required it absolutely makes sense to just pay a professional to do the job because some things if rushed will cost you more because you will pay twice to get the same job completed..

  12. Thank you for explaining each step of the car detailing process. You explain it very clearly and easy to understand. I recently started a mobile detailing business and came across this article, it has a lot of great info. Thanks!

  13. Thank you for explaining that a standard maintenance wash should take about one to two hours. My husband has been thinking that it’s time to get his new car detailed since he wants to keep it lookin new for as long as he can. It’s good to know how long to plan for since we’ve never had this service done before so we’ll be sure to keep this time frame in mind when we take it in this weekend.

  14. This blog told how people could get this car detailing done as it is not too famous or ordinary. This will help them increase the value of their vehicles, but that should be done by the right person. Let’s see how it works.

  15. It was interesting to learn. At the moment I am renting a car because I am just about to buy my own. Renting has helped me out more than once, and when I needed a car, I could always get a good car hire in Edinburgh

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