Automatic Car Washes Vs. Hand Washing

In today’s world, we’re all about convenience. Being able to quickly clean and wash your car in an automatic car wash has its advantages. You’re in and out sometimes in as little as 10-minutes. However, there can be a risky trade-off to your car’s paint finish, not to mention the cost. On the flip side, washing your car by hand is preferred by many car pros. You’ll have more control over the process with less harm to your ride.

The Auto Car Geek Team has collectively washed and cleaned thousands of cars and trucks. Here are the pros and cons of automatic car washes vs. hand washing.

Pros – Automated Car Washes


Most traditional car wash bays are well-run operations. They’re in the business of cleaning as many cars as possible everyday. The greater the number of cars washed, the greater the overall profit. You can typically get in and out of an automated bay within 10 or 15 minutes. If you’re in a hurry, this is a huge time saver.

Added Amenities

Some automated washes have free vacuums for paying customers. This may be a perk for those needing to clean out their interior quickly.

Cons – Automated Car Washes

Paint Damage

These automated bays can and will create heavy swirl marks and scratches. Dirt and dust particles become embedded in the cloth attachments, which whip around at high speeds. Imagine thousands of tiny razor blades swirling around and on your new car’s paint. Even the best car wash companies don’t replace or clean their equipment often enough to prevent damaging your ride. However, if your car’s finish is damaged, you can remove swirl marks and scratches.


The most basic washes can set you back $5 or $10 a pop. That can add up fast. If washing weekly, that’s close to $40 spent.

Pros – Washing Your Car By Hand

Consistent Cleaning

You’ll get to more dirt and grime hand washing, and working one section at a time. Drive-thru automatic bays can sometimes miss spots on quarter panels and lower door areas.

Prevent Swirls & Scratches

Washing by hand is a more gentle cleaning method. Using clean water and a quality wash mitt can help reduce your chances of harming the paint finish. Better yet, use the two bucket method detailed in our hand washing guide.


Over time, washing your car by hand costs less. Even after factoring in equipment needed (hose, car wash soap, buckets, etc.), it’s cheaper to do it yourself. Plus, the harm done by automatic car washing bays can cost an arm and a leg to correct by a pro detailer.

Cons – Washing Your Car By Hand


Washing by hand requires more time and is less convenient. It can take anywhere from 30-60 minutes to properly wash your ride.

Dedicated Space

You’ll need a driveway or an open area to wash by hand. Plus, access to freshwater.

Auto Care Geek
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