How Much to Tip a Car Wash or Auto Detailing Service

Is tipping expected at the car wash or auto detailing shop? The answer is yes, even though like others, I admit tipping culture in the United States is getting out of hand. But how much is appropriate to tip for good service?

This article covers tipping etiquette and average tip amounts for hand car washes, full-service details, and mobile services. We’ll provide example tipping amounts so you can show your appreciation for a job well done.

Note: I’d love to hear some thoughts from our readers about tipping, no matter if you reside in the US or another country. Please leave a comment at the bottom!

how much to tip at car wash

Related: How to Detail Your Car Exterior

The Case FOR Tipping

Car wash attendants and professional detailers provide a valuable service by cleaning and detailing our vehicles. It’s a tough, physically demanding job requiring them to be on their feet for hours, often working outdoors in extreme temperatures.

Most car wash workers are paid minimum wage or just above, relying on tips to supplement their modest incomes. Tipping even a couple dollars shows our appreciation for their labor and allows us to support working class people.

Detailers may be paid a higher wage, especially when it’s their own company, but the job take a great deal of skill and attention to detail. Going above and beyond is commonplace in such a competitive business.

Both car washes and auto detailers provide a luxury we take for granted – having our big investment, our cars, cleaned and detailed.

The Case AGAINST Tipping

The practice of tipping car wash attendants is outdated and some say fuels inequality. Unlike waiters who rely on tips to make up for lower minimum wages, car wash workers and detailers earn at least minimum wage already. Their base pay reasonably compensates them for simply doing their everyday job duties.

As consumers, we shouldn’t feel obligated to pay extra on top of the advertised price of a car wash or detailing service. Tipping disproportionately burdens middle class customers who can least afford it. And since tips are often shared among workers, outstanding employees don’t reap the full benefit.

If business owners want to pay higher wages to attract better workers, they should build that cost into pricing transparently.

On top of that, I tip should be a reward for service that’s above and beyond the norm, and not standard practice just because a job was done as stated. Let’s do away with arbitrary tipping expectations to make things fairer.

How Much Should You Tip?

amount to tip car detailer

The tip amount you leave the car wash attendant or car detailer should depend on the size of your vehicle and how many additional services other than exterior washing they perform on it. And, of course, the quality of the job should be a consideration as well.

Below are the 5 most common tip amounts you can expect to give at a full service car wash or auto detailer. All amounts are based off a job well done.

If you feel you received poor service, there’s nothing wrong with tipping less than the standard amount. On the other end of it, feel free to tip more to an attendant or detailer who has done an exceptional job.

Two Dollars

A $2 tip is fine if you have an economy size car that is getting washed and towel dried by hand.

Three Dollars

A $3 tip is better if you’re getting your economy size car vacuumed in addition to the washing and hand drying.

Four Dollars

$4 is a standard tip if you have a bigger car to get washed, such as a van, truck, or SUV. These vehicles require more time to wash which means a bigger tip is better.

Five Dollars

A better tip to give if you’re getting your larger vehicle vacuumed as well as washed.

10 to 15 Percent

If you are getting a full service car detailing in addition to a wash, then a 15% tip on the total amount will be best. This percentage is also a good amount if you cannot decide on a proper tip to give the person. So, for example, if your complete auto detailing services costs $100, then leave the person who did the work a $10-$15 tip.

Final Thoughts

Overall, the amount of your tip should be based on the quality and value of the service you received for the money that you paid. Although tipping is never something that is required, it does show an appreciation to the service person for the quality job they did on your car.

Tipping for auto services seems to be more common in larger cities but there’s no rule that says you can’t tip a car wash attendant in rural Iowa.

See Also: Best Car Covers for Winter Weather

If you’re a return customer and the attendant remembers the nice tip you left last time, they often go above and beyond the call of duty in order to please you and sometimes even throw in some free extras they know you’ll appreciate.

Some may disagree with me on this, but if the service was bad, it’s completely fine to lower the tip amount or not leave a tip at all. Tipping is something that should be a bonus and not something expected.

Unfortunately, too many businesses disagree with this and you’ll often be best to take your business to someone else.

Mark Stevens


  1. A fair general guideline is 10-15% of the total cost of the service you used if you’re unsure of how much to offer.

  2. Like any other tool, there is a need for thorough information about car detailing and why it is essential. There are reasons for that mentioned in this blog and how that can be achieved here. By the implementation of them, people can improve a car’s look.

  3. I myself am a detailer. Most of my pay is based on tips for a normal full swrvice wash i get 5$ from employer. 1 person does the whole car where i work. Its a hand wash all the way. So 10 dollars is a good tip but in my opinion should be standard it pays me 15$ per car in n out. With a 5$ i dont complain but only 10$ for all that work is not good takes 30-40 mins of hard nonstop work per car. A truck should be 15 but 10 cant complain i get 7$ from employer for truck. A wax 20-40$. And a full detail meaning shampoo everything condition everything clean engine wax the whole 9. 50-100$ is good.
    I have customers that tip 20$ on exterior only. We dont get paid by the hour but by the service n tip. If people dont tip good then we dont get paid.

  4. I personally tip 10 percent to the person who actually did the detailing on my vehicle, I get my full interior and exterior detailing as well as my almost weekly car wash from Budget Auto Detailing which is local to me here in Burlington. Their service is always top-notch as everything is spotless everytime I pick my car up from them so I guess that 10 percent is just a nice gesture for the effort of the person who did great work on my car.

  5. I usually give a 50% tip of the service price for a single crew only. But , if they’re a lot. I tip them 80% and it gets shared. I hope it’s still a good deal.

  6. I am looking for info about automatic car wash tipping: can you give me your thoughts on that? No one washes or dries the car, but I was thinking perhaps a tip is appropriate because the guy hoses down the car a bit to loosen the dirt before I drive through the car wash. Thanks for the article, very informative!

    1. What’s funny about that? Isn’t it normal to see a tip jar at any fast food restaurant now a days? I don’t see how it should be any different at a McDonald’s.

      1. So fast food places, huh? What next, the cashier at the grocery store? The sales person at Macy’s? I’m all for tipping but draw the line at fast food places

    2. I’ve noticed tip jars at all fast food places for many years now!!!! Even Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts!!!! Ridiculous!!!

  7. In my neck of the woods, 10% is a standard tip. I tend to make $30 on a $300 detail. Thanks for the info you provided on this website.

  8. It is costing me over $400 for detailing my Tundra, money well spent. But I cringe at paying a tip on top of this. When the company charges this much for a complete job, surely an extra gratuity is superflous?

    1. I completely agree with you Gail. I think the tipping culture is out of control. Yes, I agree that in certain situations where someone providing a service goes above and beyond their duty, a tip may be called for and appreciated. But to automatically tip someone for simply doing their job? That I have a hard time getting on board with.

      I’d love to hear what others think on this topic.

      1. The thing is rge detailer/ washers pay is vased on tips. So if you dont tip he doesn’t get paid. Especially on a 400$ job im sure he put in alot of work expecting a 50 dollar tip. With no tip you ruined his day

      2. I totally agree with you! Tipping has gotten out of control. I had a mobile hand car wash come to me; they had everything on the truck to do what a hand wash detailer does! I had the “Wash & Wax Deluxe”. My car is a compact car. Cost was $70. The owner and one worker worked on my car for about an hour and 15 minutes, give or take. They did a great job!! When they were done, I mentioned to the owner that I was just going to tip his worker, but he said “we split the tips”, So I said ok and handed him my $10 tip. When I mentioned the service to my brother, with the cost, etc., he told me my tip was way too low and that I should have given AT LEAST $15 …. Or $20! And then he laughed and said, “He’s not gonna come running back to you so quick next time you call”. I would love to have everyone’s opinion on the tip!

    2. So if you are spending more money on a better detail your tip should be higher just like you will tip higher at a nice restaurant than at a small diner because your bill is higher even when the server at both places do the same amount of work

  9. I go to a drive thru carwash and the small SUV is hand dried by 5 people. I can’t pay for my service and give each person 3 bucks. What’s recommended here?

    1. If you want to tip, just give the $3 to one of them. They normally divide all tips between them at the end of the day.

  10. I always have to tip the last person I see, the one who gives me my keys back, so I never know if the tip gets shared.

  11. Good reminder to tip according to services done during detailing. Sometimes you forget about all of the work that goes into detailing: tires, windows, polishing, etc. The tip should match the types of services.

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