6 Simple Examples Of How Much A Full Car Polish Is

Over time, you might notice that the paint of your car isn’t as shiny as it once was and is full of scratches, marks, and paint scuffs.

If that’s the case, it might be time for you to consider a car polish. But how much does a full car polish cost?

Quick Answer

Generally, a full car polish done by a professional detailing service costs anywhere from $150 to over $1,000. The price of the polish mainly depends on the size of your vehicle, the level of paint damage, and the level of polish chosen by the client.

This article will break down the price of a complete car polish so you can better understand all of the costs involved.

I’ll also answer what a full car polish includes, whether it’s worth it, how often you should do it, how to polish your car, and compare it to waxing.

How Much Does a Full Car Polish Cost?

If you want to make your car look as good as new, a car polishing job may be all that you need.

However, before going through with it, it would be wise to understand how much it would cost.

Below is a list of some popular detailing service providers across major US cities, so you can get an idea of how much the usual price for polish is:

ShopCost for full polish
KS Detailing, New York$500
R3 Auto Detailing, Houston$350 – $850
Total Steam Auto Detailing, MiamiStarts at $315
Prime Automotive, Los Angeles$200
Chicago Auto Pros, Chicago$620
Mr. Detail Auto Salon, SeattleStarts at $1,075

As you can see from the table, there are significant variations in price from each detailing service provider across major US cities.

Keep in mind that there are dozens, if not hundreds, of these services in larger cities, so you can expect to find a service that meets your needs no matter what your budget is.

Most of these services offer different options to choose from, depending on the severity of the situation.

More extensive polishing work will cost more and take longer to complete.

From the data collected, I concluded that it would be hard to find a service that’d polish your car for less than $200, at least in the larger cities.

Highly reputable businesses that use the latest polishing tech can charge over $1,000 for a full polish.

Furthermore, the price goes up if you have a large truck or SUV.

What Steps Does a Full Car Polish Include?

Now that you know the price, let’s see what you’ll be getting for the money spent on a full car polish.

Quick Answer

A full car polish includes cleaning and preparing the car, applying polish using a pad or clean cloth, buffing, cleaning, and applying wax. These steps ensure that any accumulated damage on your car’s paint is corrected without doing a complete repaint.

A full car polish removes any scratches, swirl marks, and rough spots in your car’s factory paint job.

Keep in mind that this is general information.

You should always discuss the exact process your car will go through with the detailing shop before committing, so you know exactly what to expect.

Detailing service providers use a highly specialized abrasive polishing technology, allowing them to come close to the paint without actually touching it.

That’s why you don’t see scuff marks all over your car after a professional polish.

Some services also have multiple polishing stages on offer, so you have more options to choose from depending on the severity of the paint damage.

Here is a description of the three most common stages of car polish:

  • Stage 1: Recommended for newer and/or well-maintained cars. This treatment gives the vehicle a gloss-enhancing polish and is quick to complete, usually taking no more than 2 days.
  • Stage 2: This option is a little more advanced. It uses a combination of medium and ultra-fine polishes to address any minor scratches and other paint damages. It’s best for cars from 1 to 5 years old, and it takes 2 to 3 days to complete.
  • Stage 3: A 3-stage polish involves a combination of compound, medium, and ultra-fine polishes designed to fix significant damage, no matter the car’s age or history. Due to the advanced machinery techniques used throughout the process to fix the deeper scratches, this option may take up to a week to complete.

Keep in mind that a polish can only do so much, and if the scratches or other damage are too deep, the car detailer may decide that it would be too dangerous to try and remove them without causing additional damage.

You’ll be better off with a complete car repaint in some instances.

Is Polishing Your Car Worth It?

Polishing a vehicle isn’t necessarily cheap, so is the investment worth making?

Well, the answer to this question largely depends on your priorities when it comes to your car’s appearance.

Quick Answer

Generally, professionally polishing a valuable car is worth it. The benefits include a much better appearance of the car, great preparation for paint protection, and higher resale value of the car. Polishing cars that are not expensive might be an unwise decison, given the cost for a professional car polish.

Paint marks, scratches, or spots on your car don’t look great on the eye, but If you see your car as a tool that gets you from point A to point B, you probably wouldn’t care too much if the paint is a little rough. 

With that said, there are other reasons why you should consider polishing your car.

Namely, if you properly maintain your vehicle, which includes polishing, the car will retain its resale value.

This reason alone makes the investment worth it in the end. 

Not only will you keep the car looking fresh for you, but for the potential next owner too, who will be happy to pay a little extra for a well-maintained vehicle.

Some other benefits of a full car polish include:

  • Polishing extends the lifetime of the paintwork. Exposure to outside elements can slowly but steadily damage the paintwork. Dust builds up over the years. It can’t always be removed with a regular wash. By polishing the car, you’ll keep the quality of the paintwork high, which will, in turn, make it more resilient to peeling, cracking, and other damages.
  • Polishing reduces car wash frequency. Wax and polish get rid of the built-up dirt on the car’s body, which means it won’t require as many regular washes.
  • The car will look glossy and shiny. Your vehicle may never look 100% as good as the day you bought it, but polishing will definitely make it come pretty close.
  • Polishing corrects scratches and paint defects. No matter how hard you try to prevent them, scratches and other paint defects are bound to happen, and polish can do wonders in fixing those to make your car look nice and shiny.

How Often Should I Polish My Car?

Quick Answer

You should polish your car once or twice a year. If you drive the car frequently and care about its appearance, do a lighter polish four times a year. Polishing your car frequently ensures it stays in pristine condition. Any minor scratches will disappear with a well-done polish.

No matter how much you pay for your car polish, it often means money well spent. Its effects will last for months, depending on the quality of the polish. 

I would recommend polishing your car once every year, as doing it too frequently isn’t good for the paint and is also time-consuming and expensive. 

The car probably won’t look as shiny in the last few months before the next polish, but it won’t be too noticeable. 

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Theoretically, you can also do it every 3-4 months, as that is long enough between sessions to prevent major damage to the paint. 

If you want to keep your car looking fresh and as pristine as possible, you should go with the latter option.

The polishing method used is also a contributing factor to the frequency of polishes.

Lighter waxes and polishes require less prep work and aren’t as hard on the paint, so you can safely do them 2-3 times per year.

Here are some main pointers that’ll help you determine how often to polish your car:

  • Vehicle age: If you just bought your car from the salon, it might be unnecessary to polish it in the first few years. After that, doing it twice a year would be ideal. If the car is older, multiple polishes per year would be required to keep it looking shiny.
  • Parking: If your car is kept in a garage, it won’t come into contact with outside elements like bird excrement or harsh weather conditions. Polishing it once per year should be more than sufficient.
  • Car usage: If you drive the car daily and frequently on rough terrain, not polishing it once or twice per year may cause it to lose its shine permanently after a few years. 
  • Polish type: The quality of the product you use to polish your car affects its duration.

Car Wax vs. Polish

A lot of people seem to confuse car wax with car polish. So, let’s look at what each term means and how the two differ.

Firstly, it’s easy to see why people confuse the two since they both fix and protect a car’s paint.

Some products even claim to be a combination of both, but it’s best to do each step separately if you’re doing it yourself.

A car polish will remove minor scratches and swirl marks with the help of abrasives.

Your car’s paint starts to lose its shine due to oxidation from the outside environment, and polishing can fix that by removing the top layer.

The abrasive properties of the polish can damage the paintwork if used excessively, which is why it’s in your best interest not to polish your car more than twice per year.

On the other hand, car wax adds an extra layer of protection to the paintwork after the polishing is completed.

The wax makes the paint more resilient to its surroundings.

For example, most modern waxes come with UV inhibitors that prevent sun rays from damaging the car’s paint.

How To Polish a Car

So far, I’ve talked about all the factors that come into play when you want to have a professional detailing service polish your car. 

However, that is far from the only option.

If you want to save a lot of money, or simply prefer working on your car yourself, taking on the polishing project yourself may be a good alternative.

Polishing the vehicle yourself is easier than you think, and here’s what you need to do:

Perform a Regular Wash on the Car

Before you get into polishing, you should first wash the car with regular car soap and clear water. 

When washing, remember to do so in a straight line, as washing in circles can leave swirl marks.

It’s not that straight lines won’t leave marks, but they’ll be way less noticeable. 

The regular wash will remove all the dust and dirt so that only the most stubborn stains are left to buff out later.

Polish the Vehicle

After cleaning your car, it’s time for polishing. Take a clean, damp buffer, microfiber cloth, or applicator pad.

Never use a dry buffer as it can cause damage to the paint.

Spread the polishing compound over one car panel. It’s best if you do each panel individually. 

Then, spread the polish by applying moderate pressure.

Don’t go too fast or too slow to ensure you’re doing a thorough job.

You’ll feel the paint get warmer, and the scratches will start to disappear.

Eventually, the glossy finish of your car will be clearly visible.

Move on to the next panel. Repeat the process until you go through every nook and cranny of your vehicle.

Wash the Vehicle Again

To clean up the foam and leftover polishing compound, do another complete wash, preferably with a pressure washer. 

After that, clean the vehicle with soap and rinse with clean water.

Allow the car to air dry before moving on to the wax application. Applying wax to a wet surface isn’t possible because the wax will just slide off the car.

Apply a Coat of Wax to the Paint

This step is optional but very helpful. The wax coating will hide any remaining imperfections and swirl marks.

To wax the car, mount a foam pad to an orbital sander and apply a mix of paste wax and fine finishing polish. Use the sander to spread the wax over your car.

Use light, constant pressure, and a medium speed. When you’re done, remove excess wax using a microfiber towel.

Key Takeaways

  • Prices for a full car polish can vary significantly in price, mainly depending on the vehicle size and condition.
  • Prices typically range from $150 to over $1,000.
  • Polishing your vehicle is beneficial long-term.
  • You don’t need a professional service to polish your car.


AutogeekOnline: Abrasive Technology – THE most important factor when it comes to polishing paint

Car Driver: How To Polish Your Car Like a Pro

Carwale: Polish vs Wax: The Differences

Auto Detailing Lab: 3 Tips On How Often To Polish Car

Bell Engineering: Car Polish Tips And Benefits Of Car Polishing


Jan-Lucas Ganssauge
Jan-Lucas Ganssauge