How Often Should You Wash Your Car?

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When you arrive at your destination to the waiting gaze of your friends and family, showing up in a clean vehicle adds shine to your arrival.

The question of how often should you wash your car is one that has a layer of personal choice, and one that is related to the care and upkeep of your car. While some may prefer to wash their car every few days to keep it shining and fresh, others may only feel the need to do so when the grime presents an issue in terms of visibility through hazed over dusty windows. One end is vanity while the other is safety, as the paint of your car can be significantly damaged after long periods without a wash. Here we’ll consider the deciding factors on car washing, and also touch upon waxing and detailing to truly make your car fresh and clean.

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The Deciding Factors

washing car

The purposes behind washing our cars vary, but fundamentally we wash our cars to maintain their appearance, while also protecting their resale value. A car that has poorly maintained paint that is faded and chipped from a lack of washing is far less appealing than a car that had sufficient upkeep to keep its paint’s color brilliant. To begin, consider the age of your car, its current condition, and whether or not you plan on reselling the car or keeping it yourself.

Utility-Based Washing

Washing our cars is important as it prevents contaminants like pollen, tree sap, the occasional splattered bug, dust, and air-borne pollutants from adhering to our cars. By washing them off, they are unable to do corrosive damage to the clear-coat atop the paint and ultimately the substances beneath, whether plastic, metal, or otherwise. Auto detailing experts suggest washing your car once each week to prevent such contaminants from damaging the finish and paint on your car.

Appearance-Based Washing

If you are concerned with maintaining a spotless and shining appearance for your vehicle, then ongoing washing is essential. To prevent the wash from ever getting too comprehensive, washing the car often is best, as upkeep is easier than a deep clean. In order to accomplish this, you will need to wash your car at least once a week; although, more times may be required if the vehicle becomes dirty for any number of reasons. Sap from a tree or an unfortunate bird migration above your parked car may be reasons to have to wash your car again throughout the week.  This may bring rise to issues concerning cost, which is another key deciding factor.


The cost of car washing can be inhibitive as the cost per wash runs between $5 and $10 with you doing all the labor. Automatic car washes generally range anywhere from $8 to $30 dollars depending upon the complexity of your wash and whether waxing is included. Hand-washing options can cost anywhere from $15 to $50 for a wash, with dditional fees for waxing, and interior and exterior detailing. How often should you wash your car is a question answered by factors beyond preference, as the costs can quickly pile up.

Thus the importance of having a clean car will translate into your willingness to pay for it. Thankfully, there are many options to do so in the modern market that can save you money. Car wash packages are increasingly common and include purchasing a select number of car washes in advance so you can receive a discount per wash. Other options include monthly fees that provide for unlimited washes, allowing you to spend as much time as you’d like ensuring that your vehicle is glimmering.

How Often Should You Wash It Then?

To answer the question as to how often you should wash your car, we must first ask whether we are washing our car for appearance or for resale value maintenance. This will determine whether we pursue the minimum of washing, or the preferred number to maintain our preferred condition. After having done this, there are a number of factors that we must take into account when determining how often to wash our car.

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The location of where your car is parked and housed, when not in use or while you are at work, will determine a great deal about how often you should wash it. If you home is lush with greenery and trees that provide a rustic feel, but also leak a substantial amount of sap on your car, you’ll need to wash it more often. Being near industrial areas can lead to a greater deposition of corrosive pollutants upon your vehicle that could be hazardous if it comes in contact with your vehicle.

Living near the ocean, however convenient for vacation, exposes your vehicle to corrosive salt air, running further risk of damage to your paint job that can not only damage the appearance, but lower the vehicle’s resale value. Urban environments also have their detriments to your paint including pollution from automobile emissions and also the ubiquitous pigeon ever-present in many major cities across America. The weather of the location in which you live is also a key factor to consider, with heavy winds, acid rain, hail, and extreme heat or cold all running their toll on the paint job.

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Driving Habits

The frequency and distance that you drive your vehicle each week is also impactful upon the answer to how often should you wash your car. Greater driving in general exposes the car to greater levels of pollution, bugs, and other environmental threats. Driving in heavy traffic often increases the amount of emissions and other pollutants as well, requiring more wash and care. If you enjoy off-roading in the muddy back-roads of your town, the car will certainly need to be washed to remove corrosive mud and debris from its body and underbelly to prevent corrosion and rusting.

Waxing and Detailing Your Car

car wax and detailing

The decision to wax and detail your car is also largely a matter of preference; and whether or not to do so is also influenced by the current condition of your vehicle. A car with faded and splotchy paint with no clear-coat will benefit little from waxing, while a vehicle that encounters a great deal of sun and still has a healthy hue to the paint color will greatly benefit. This is because the wax will prevent fading and protect the clear-coat and paint beneath. Waxing not only adds shine to your car, but also helps to prevent corrosion and fading of your paint.

Waxing your car can be done as often as preferred, although is certainly influenced by the seasons. During the summer months with heat and sun blaring down upon your vehicle, a coat of protective wax is highly valuable. During the winter months, a well-waxed vehicle can help the snow to slide off smoother and with less effort, and guard against the extra salt on the roads. If you want showroom quality, waxing weekly is great. If you’re looking to maintain the paint and protect the vehicle, once each month is sufficient, although twice monthly during hot summers or in warm climates is recommended.

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Detailing your vehicle, whether in terms of the exterior rims and grilles, or the interior upholstery and dash, improves upon its appearance and overall look. Sitting inside a well-detailed vehicle with polished glass, free of dust and debris, adds to the driving experience. Scrubbed-out and shining rims improve upon the look of your waxed and polished paint. The degree to which you detail your vehicle will be a matter of preference, and many full-service car washes also offer detailing services as part of the package.


The question of how often should you wash your car has many answers depending upon your personal preferences. If showroom quality is desired, a few washes a week and ongoing touch-ups are essential to ensure that the vehicle is spot-free. Should you not demand showroom quality of your vehicle, but be happy with a moderately clean look that is sufficient to protect your paint and resale value, then a weekly wash should cover you. These two methods will maintain the resale value of your vehicle and protect the paint. This however may not be what you prefer, and how often should you wash your car if you aren’t concerning with looks differs greatly.

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If you do not intend upon reselling your vehicle and have no concern for its outward appearance, the amount that you wash your car should be sufficient to prevent visibility issues, and those that can lead to the malfunctioning of the car. Allowing salt to build up following a winter without removing it prior to the warm summer can contribute greatly to rot, which can spread to the frame of your car and render it unsafe and ultimately un-drivable. Allowing the windows to be glossed over in dirt can lead to visibility issues that affect safety. At minimum remove corrosive materials and keeps the windows clear.

Refer back to Keeping Cars Clean for more advice and strategies on how to keep your car clean and shining so it gets you where you need to go in safety and style.

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