Cleaning Up

One thing you can still do yourself is wash your car.

And just as you used to be able to save a lot of money by working on your car, it’s possible to save money – and more than you might think – by cleaning your car yourself.

It typically costs about $12 to run through a basic automated car wash; if you opt for the wheel/tire cleaner and a spritz of wax – which isn’t worth much – the tab can sail to $20 or more.

That’s a couple hundred bucks a year – assuming you like to keep your car clean. Which you should, for self-interested reasons (more coming).

You can keep your car clean yourself – better – a  dozen times for the price of one full-service car wash. A jug of high-quality car wash soap, some wheel/tire cleaner (and a brush, to scrub the tires) shouldn’t cost you more than about $20 – less if you watch for sales. You probably already have a bucket and a soft cloth, such as an old bathroom hand towel you can use for free. Gift Card i... Buy New $10.00 (as of 08:25 EST - Details)

Keeping your car looking good will also help keep its value looking good – which will save you big money by not losing it. A tired-looking car with blotchy paint, glaucomic headlights and permanently stained wheels won’t sell or trade for as much as one that still looks great.

You could, of course, have it professionally detailed prior to trade-in or sale, but that will cost you a lot more than $20. A detailing job usually costs $75-$100 or more.

And if you let it go too long, even a professional detailer can only do so much. It’s analogous to not working out until you’re 50 and then expecting a trainer to give you six pack abs in a weekend.

Keeping your car clean can also keep it from rusting – which can cost you a fortune in repair costs as well as kill its resale/trade-in value. Cars that aren’t kept clean tend to rust faster because moisture – which accelerates rust – doesn’t drain or dry out as well or as quickly (and maybe not at all) when drainage holes are blocked by accumulated dirt.

Also, it’s easy to overlook minor paint scratches when a car is dirty.

It’s important to not overlook them because paint is like skin; the purpose isn’t just to look pretty – it’s to protect what’s underneath. If the pain chips and the metal underneath is exposed to air and moisture, it will begin to rust. And once it begins to rust, it’s hard to stop the rust.

And not easy – or cheap – to fix. You can’t buff out rust.

But it’s more than just a matter of aesthetics. Or saving money. Or even time savings (and sometimes, the line at the automated car wash is so long you could have washed your car yourself faster – and never had to drive anywhere to do it, either).

It’s good exercise – and it’s a pleasant way to spend some time with your car. It might even get you interested in trying to work on it!

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