How Much To Tip At Car Wash (And Detail) Businesses

Image Credit: Nejron via Envato Elements

Image Credit: Nejron via Envato Elements

How Much To Tip At Car Wash (And Detail) Businesses


Knowing how much to tip a car wash attendant or car detailing professional isn’t usually obvious if you don’t get a regular car wash with attendants or detailers.

Occasionally there will just a tip field on a credit card slip or possibly be signage at a car detailing shop or car wash mentioning tips. Rarely is there much instruction on how much to tip.

It can stress you out when you just to get your car clean and don’t want to offend anyone. Getting your car washed doesn’t need to be that difficult.

Let’s dive into the details of how much to tip and when you should or shouldn’t tip, and who you should hand the tip to.

How Much To Tip At Car Wash And Detail Businesses

As with most service jobs here in the US, tipping car wash attendants and detailers falls in the 10% to 20% range. Deciding how much to tip depends 5 factors – how good of a job was performed, courtesy of staff and professionalism, size and how dirty your vehicle is when you hand it off, and if you requested an extra work beyond the norm.

Exceptional service and results, especially on a large and filthy car or truck deserve a large 20% or greater tip. Poor service on a smaller or typical size vehicle with lackluster results should be responded with a tip that reflects that. 10% or no tip if the service and results were that bad.

Tipping Ranges For Car Washing And Car Detailing

Let’s dig a little deeper into answering how much should you tip:

  • 10% tip should be given if the bare minimum service was provided and you didn’t have unique requests, a bigger car, and your vehicle wasn’t filthy.
  • 15% tip should be given for a good quality detailing or car wash and you didn’t have unique requests, a larger vehicle, and your car or truck wasn’t filthy.
  • 20% tip or more should be given for exceptional service, situations where you have unique requests that were met, an unusually large SUV, or you vehicle was particularly filthy or challenging to clean properly.

You may also want to consider tipping car wash attendants a little more if you plan on being a return customer and want to establish report with them. Giving tips, especially a generous tip, will ensure you receive top notch service in the future.

The 5 factors you should weigh when considering how much should you tip are:

  1. Quality of service
  2. Professionalism and courtesy of staff
  3. Car or truck size
  4. Car or truck condition
  5. Special requests

Please keep these 5 factors in mind when deciding how much to tip a car detailing professional or attendant. The tip shouldn’t be only calculated based on how friendly a person is or how clean your car or truck turns out.

Remember, the difficulty of the job you’re requesting should be a factor that determines how much of your hard earned money you should add on top of the total amount.

Attention to detail is becoming a bit of a lost art these days and finding a person that can appreciate putting in the extra effort to do a good job with a smile is harder to find.

If you feel that it’s worth paying a little extra money to the person that delivered an outstanding result, I encourage you to dig a little deeper and reward them for being a shining example of what we would like all detailers and car wash attendants to be like.


Is Tipping At A Car Wash Or Detailer Expected?

Tipping car wash attendants is only expected if they are performing services beyond simply running your car through an automatic tunnel wash. Services such as hand drying, vacuum service, tire shine, etc.

Giving tips is more than a nice gesture. It is often part of how car wash attendants increase their salary to a reasonable range.

Car wash owners often explain to new hires the average tip a car wash attendant can expect based on past history.

This incentivizes the car wash attendants to do a better job and benefits not only the attendants, but the car wash owner, and you.

Who To Tip At A Car Wash Or Detailer?

It sometimes isn’t clear if you should hand a tip to the car wash attendant, use a tip box, or add the tip to your bill at time of payment.

Car washes handle these things differently but they often have instructions on display if they have a system that is different than simply handing a tip directly to the car wash attendant.

Some things to keep an eye out for if there are an expectation to pay for tips at time of purchase such as a tip line on a credit card slip or a tip box at the register or waiting area.

Who To Tip When More Than One Attendant Attends To Your Vehicle?

What if multiple car wash attendants or car detailers work on car or truck at the same time? Which car detailer or car wash attendant do you hand the tip over to?

Washing your car can be a big job and some car washes will split duties between different teams or car detailers.

In the instance that you’re receiving a full service car wash and multiple attendants work on your car or truck, look around for a tip box or signage about tipping car wash attendants. This is likely not the first time the question has come up.

If you can find no tip box or signage about how to tip, find an employee that is not one of the attendants washing your vehicle and ask them how tips are handled.

Should You Tip Car Wash Attendants Or Detailers?

Not everyone tips car wash attendants. Unlike in the restaurant industry where tipping is very well established, people are a little less aware or prepared to tip at a car wash if they don’t use these services regularly.

Car detailers are even less accustomed to tipping but it is also common and greatly appreciated. A full service car wash from a detailer will be far more thorough and effort than a simple tunnel wash and towel drying.

It is very much appreciated by car wash attendants and detailers to receive a tip and relied upon to supplement their income.


When Should You Not Tip Car Wash Attendants Or Detailers?

There are very few instances where tipping a car wash attendant isn’t suggested. But there are some:

No Tipping Signage

There are some local car wash businesses or car detailers that adjust their pricing and wages to incorporate tips. They will usually clearly display this through signage or disclaimers on websites.

Tipping car wash attendants can create unwelcome confusion among the staff and car wash owner.

Honestly, this isn’t your problem however. You may feel a tip on top of the standard fee is merited. If that is the case, do so.

Just know, it isn’t expected and will be a very welcome bonus to the detailer or car wash attendant who receives it in these circumstances.

Unrequested Car Wash Services Were Performed

If there is a situation where you have specifically requested a car wash service be skipped and that car wash task was performed anyhow, you may want to consider withholding the tip in full.

It’s important when tipping car wash attendants, they receive a proper tip for the best service. Following instructions, especially when these are out of the norm is very important.

A good car detailer or car wash attendant will be able to stay on top of custom requests along with other normal car wash services.

Requested Car Wash Services Were Not Performed

An even more important time to consider withholding the standard tip is when a car wash service that was paid for was not performed or performed satisfactorily.

Giving tips is the method of accountability used between customers and car detailers or car wash attendants. As a car detailer myself, I don’t expect a you to tip a car wash and detailing if I drop the ball. I will be grateful for a smaller tip but missing a detailing task, especially one that was paid for is an obvious reason to not give a good tip or no tip at all.

Damage Of Any Kind Happens To Your Car Or Truck

No matter how small or large the damage you may have received to your vehicle, you should not be paying for a tip. If anything, you should be receiving a refund, in part or whole.

Most car washes and car detailers have had an experience where some type of damage has occurred to a customer’s vehicle at some point. Accidents happen.

Tips are not expected when damage occurs and if you offer a tip under these circumstances, it should be declined.


Why Tip Car Wash Attendants Or Detailers?

Often car wash attendants and detailers have come to expect and depend upon tipping to make their wages more realistic. Even a small tip if the job isn’t done well is appreciated.

Tipping car wash attendants provides incentive to the attendants and detailers to provide friendly service and good work.

It also allows you the ability to clearly and effectively demonstrate your satisfaction or dissatisfaction with the services performed directly to the worker in a meaningful and socially acceptable manner.


Getting your car cleaned on a regular basis is important to maintaining the paint job and ensuring the condition of the interior and exterior over the long run.

A quality car detailing or wash is a premium service most people don’t mind paying a bit extra for if they receive good service and results.

Tipping car wash attendants or your car detailer will ensure that you receive quality detailing services in the future if you plan on being a return customer. And will communicate your satisfaction to the person that performed the good job.

Good luck and happy detailing.

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