Keep Your Car Looking Fresh

I’m a car person.

I love cars.  I love driving cars.  I love engines with great torque and a responsive engine.  And I especially like it when my own car is clean.

Like really, really clean.

If I had my way, I would get a full service car wash every week.  Or better yet, a really detailed service, since it seems like no matter how much you pay, they still just do a mediocre job.  Am I right?  How many times have you paid $25 to get a “premium car wash” and there are still crumbs on your floor or traces of spilled coffee in your cup-holder?

So frustrating.

Like I said, I could pay $100 a month on car washes, but in reality, I only spend $25 every month and even that is pushing it.  I really could use that extra $300 a year elsewhere—most likely somewhere that wouldn’t be a source of disappointment.

So what’s the solution to keeping your car looking great without spending hundreds of dollars a year to do so?

Well, like everything that needs to be done right, you’ll need to do it yourself.  I know it’s not exactly what you want to hear, since time isn’t really one of those things we have a lot of.  But I think there’s a good compromise that will take care of your car and your budget, while still saving you cash.

Tip #1-Invest in Supplies

Instead of spending money every month on an expensive car wash service, one thing I do is use the money to buy all the supplies I’m going to need to detail my car myself.  Those things include leather conditioner, cleaning spray, carpet cleaner, wheel cleaner, tire shine, window cleaner, and a supply of rags to use for inside of your car.  Once you have your supplies, you might initially have to spend an hour or two cleaning out your car to your standards.  Everyone’s standards are different.  Some people are just fine with a general cleaning, while others are the type to use cotton swabs to get at the dust in your heater vents.

From there, it’s just a matter of keeping up with the cleaning.  Any time I fill up my tank, I make a point to throw away any trash or other “life debris” that makes its way into my car.  Then, once a week, I get out my supplies and do a quick clean—it takes about 15 minutes and the car looks and smells great afterwards.

Tip #2-What About the Wash?

Did you notice I left one supply off of my list of things to buy?  Car soap.  And here’s why: I don’t actually wash my car myself.  This is the one thing I still get done for me because it saves time.  Before I enter the car wash I spray on the wheel cleaner, pay for the cheapest wash (about $5), and then take advantage of the free vacuum station to get out any crumbs, dirt, or dust from the carpets and seats.  I do this twice a month—sometimes I’ll go to the self-wash, which can be a lot cheaper.  I’m still spending some money, but a lot less than before and overall I feel like my car is up to my standards.

Tip #3-It’s a Car, Not a Closet

Some people open their trunks and have to dig around to find things.  Or they have to move a mountain of stuff from their front seat in order to make room for you.  Is this you?  STOP!  Not only does added weight negatively affect your gas mileage, but you’re not going to be able to keep your car looking great if you just use it for a dumping ground.  Don’t let things just sit in your car—take them into your house or throw them away as soon as possible.

Your car is kind of like your body—the better you take care of it, the younger it will look.  My car is 7 years old, but because I keep it clean and don’t treat it like a trash can with wheels, people compliment me on it all the time.  It’s not a fancy car, just one that is well-loved—on my terms and on my budget.