10 Simple Pros and Cons Of Automatic Car Washes

Since you are too particular about your car’s appearance, you cannot tolerate any amount of dirt on it.

And since you dislike hand-washing in the least, you are planning to use an automatic car wash in the future.

But a question keeps popping up in your mind, “What are the pros and cons of using an automatic wash?”

These are the advantages of automatic car washes:

  • Automatic car washes are very fast
  • Automatic car washes are cheap
  • Car washes are easy to use
  • Touchless car wash systems do not scratch car paint

These are the disadvantages of automatic car washes:

  • Automatic car washes scratch paint
  • Automatic car washes remove paint protection
  • They are not the best option for electric cars
  • Automatic car washes do not clean the car thoroughly
  • Harsh chemicals are used
  • Car washes use a lot of water

Pros of Automatic Car Washes

Just because some car owners deem automatic car washes less safe for their car’s paint, you can’t rule out the pros of automatic washes.

Automatic Car Washes Are Very Fast

Quick Answer

Automatic car washes are faster than hand washing because they rely on an automated mechanism that begins cleaning once your car is parked in the cleaning position. The whole process barely takes three to four minutes. On the other hand, hand-washing can take up to an hour.

Automatic car washes operate in a fast and efficient manner. You don’t have to do anything.

They spray detergent, scrub the dirt with brushes, and rinse with water when necessary. 

Automatic car washes are programmed to perform specific steps during the washing process.

On the other hand, hand-washing requires you to refill your bucket again and again. Applying detergent so that it reaches all parts of the body is also a time-consuming process.

Not to mention the energy it takes to stand in one place for so long, move your hands constantly, and occasionally bend down to clean the tires and the underneath area.

Automatic Car Washes Are Cheap

Using an automatic car wash costs around $10 to $20. Compared to buying equipment to wash a car by hand, this is very inexpensive.

Buying wash buckets, microfiber cloths, shampoos, sealants, and more has a much higher upfront cost than $20.

If you really want to dive into the costs of DIY hand washing a car, make sure to check my article about it here. You will be amazed to learn how cheap the average DIY car wash actually is.

Car Washes Are Easy To Use

Another thing that speaks for car washes is that they are extremely easy to use, given that it is all automated.

The only thing you as the owner have to do is drive your car inside the machine, put it into neutral, and let the machine do its job.

Compared to washing a car by hand, automatic car washes are definitely a much easier to use option.

Touchless Car Washes Are Safe For Paint

Modern touchless car washes only use high water pressure and cleaning agents to wash a car.

There is no type of contact wash involved, which makes these car washes safe for your car’s paint.

Just stay clear of other types of car washes that are not touchless. Why you ask? You will read about it next, when we talk about cons of automatic car washes.

If you are curious to read about all different kinds of car washes out there, check out my informative article about it here.

Cons of Automatic Car Washes

After reading the benefits of automatic car washes, you might be ready to drive your car to the nearest wash station. Hold on!!! Have you considered the cons of automatic car washes?

Automatic Washes Can Damage the Paint

Quick Answer

In general, automatic car washes are unsafe for cleaning cars for multiple reasons. Most noticeably, car wash brushes are not maintained properly and contain a lot of contaminants. During the contact wash phase, these contaminants act as sandpaper and will leave scratches and swirl marks on the car.

With touch-less washes, the same damage occurs from the use of aggressive acids that cut down the grime and eat away the paint. It is one of the major drawbacks of automatic car washes; they cut down the lifespan of your car’s paint. And more or less, everywhere is the same.

Soft-touch car washes can’t afford to use new brushes daily, and hundreds of cars visit a station on a daily basis. The more cars have been cleaned before you, the more damage these brushes can cause.

Likewise, touch-less car washes use harsh chemicals because they have no other means for scrubbing the dirt off. Without clothes or brushes, it gets difficult to clean a car completely. These chemicals are no less harmful than unmaintained brushes.

Make sure to check out my article about all the reasons why you should avoid using automatic car washes if you want to keep your car looking good.

Automatic Car Washes Take Off Paint Protection

Quick Answer

As a general rule, automatic car washes take off any kind of paint protection over time. The more frequent the automatic car wash is used, the faster the paint protection will deteriorate. This is especially true when friction-based car washes are used, as the brushes will scratch off the paint protection.

This is not just the case for car wax, but also for stronger paint protection products like ceramic coatings.

As for car wax, all types of automatic car washes will strongly decrease the durability of the car wax. It does not matter if it is a friction-based car wash or a touchless car wash that is used to clean the car.

The wax on your car serves as a layer for protection against harsh weather, bird droppings, and salt. Without wax, abrasive substances like dust can damage the paint of your car.

If you have used a ceramic coating on your car, there are all the more reasons why you should avoid using an automatic car wash.

First of all, if a touchless car wash is used, the harsh ingredients can damage the ceramic coating over time and even wash it away completely.

Just like wax, soft-touch washes can remove the ceramic coating too. However, it takes several washes to remove it. And when you may realize, it would be too late to act.

Second of all, if a friction-based car wash is used, the unmaintained brushes can scratch the ceramic coating and take it off after a few uses.

Compared to car wax, ceramic coatings are much more expensive, so the damage done is also more costly in return. Once the ceramic coating is damaged, you will have to renew the whole coating, spending thousands of dollars in return.

Check out my extensive article about car wax alternatives all you need to know about them here.

Not Safe For Electric Cars

If you own an electric car, you don’t want to take any risk. So should you try an automatic car wash for it or not?

Quick Answer

High-pressure and soft-touch washes are never safe for your electric car. Besides their effect on the paint, they can damage the sensors and the electric motor. However, low-pressure, touch-less washes in moderate amounts are relatively safe for electric cars.

So high-pressure washing and any negligence from your end (for instance, you forgot to lock the door, fold the side cameras, etc.) can be too costly for you to bear.

I have written a separate guide on what to do when an automatic car wash damages your car. Make sure to check it out here.

Car Washes Do Not Clean A Car Thoroughly

Quick Answer

Automatic car washes do not clean a car as thoroughly as a hand wash. It is impossible for an automatic car wash to clean certain parts of a car like the inside of the fuel filler flap or the inside of the door frame. A hand wash can clean every part of the car thoroughly.

To me, this is one of the biggest downsides of automatic car washes next to the damage done to the paintwork.

You pay a hefty price to use an automatic car wash. Not only do you have a scratched car in return, the car is not even properly cleaned everywhere.

It is far better to perform a thorough hand wash instead of using an automatic car wash.

Not only is it safer for the paint, it is also possible to clean the car thoroughly this way.

A hand was makes it possible to clean every part of the car like the the inside of the door frame or the inside of the trunk.

Actually there are many parts of a car that most people forget to clean properly, even when washing the car by hand.

Make sure to check my article about tips and trick for DIY hand washing a car here in order to avoid the same mistakes.

Harsh Chemicals Are Used

Car washes rely on the use of harsh chemicals in order to speed up the cleaning process.

It is a simple calculation. The harsher the chemicals, the more effective they are, and the less time is needed to “clean” a car.

This maximizes profits for the car wash owner, which is the first concern every business-owner has.

What is ignored in this calculation is that harsh chemicals can damage a car’s delicate finish over time.

You are unlikely to see negative effects after the first wash, but if you use a car wash repeatedly, you will see you paint becoming scratched and dull.

Automatic Car Washes Use More Water

Quick Answer

On average, a friction-based automatic car wash uses 35 gallons or 132 liters of water per car. This is considerably more than the amount a proper hand wash uses.

From an environmental point of view, this is of course a major disadvantage for automatic car washes.

Saving water is the most important aspect of today’s world and automatic car washes do a really bad job at it.

Key Takeaways

  • Automatic car washes are fast
  • Soft-touch washes should be avoided — The brushes and clothes used in them can damage the paint and cause scratches.
  • High-pressure automatic washes can remove the wax and ceramic coating from your car.
  • Avoid taking your electric car to an automatic wash as long as you can.
  • Automatic car washes are more expensive than DIY hand washing
  • Automatic car washes are not as thorough as hand washing
  • Automatic car washes use more water
Jan-Lucas Ganssauge
Jan-Lucas Ganssauge