Why I Still Wash My Own Car

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It’s all part of the greater American Dream: the kids in swimsuits running around the driveway, the green garden hose, the car soap, lots of splashing and general merriness happening. Never mind this romantic notion and the fact that it was replaced with motorized car washes in our busy lifestyles. Is washing my own car still beneficial, financially or otherwise, or am I just wasting my time?

There are a few good reasons I still spend an hour washing my car in the driveway rather than spending the $15 to have the local car wash place do it for me. For me, it’s still worth the effort.

Save Money

Let’s start with the obvious, since that $15, spent frequently enough, can really put a dent in a family’s wallet.

Granted, cleaning and washing at home is not all free either. But the cost of enough soap, sponges and supplies for a year is probably about $20 at worst and easily outweighs the expense of professional cleaning.

What about the time you spend washing the car—could it be better spent on doing something else that produces money? (The old argument that your time is worth a certain amount of money, too). That could be the case if financials were the only consideration, if your time is in fact worth all that much, and if you weren’t spending the same hour driving to, sitting in, and driving back from the car wash. Are you sure you’re saving time?

A Family Event

Making the car wash a family event is a big plus, and something my son actually looks forward to every other weekend. Whenever he’s bored or looking for something to do, he suggests that we “go outside and wash the cars.” Pretty awesome enthusiasm for cleaning from a three-year-old.

Everyone in the family uses the car, so it only makes sense that everyone takes part in the responsibility of keeping it clean. Having helpers also knocks down the time it takes to clean a car and makes it way more fun–now you have victims to splash with water.

Car Clutter

Parents of young children (and even those without kids) can relate to the concept of car clutter. Over time, things naturally accumulate in every crack and crevice of our car—receipts, trash, toys, things that we were supposed to move from place to place, and even food (though we typically ban eating in the car for this reason).

Left untamed, clutter can overwhelm the car and make you feel like a slob every time someone takes a ride. It disrupts the calm and peace of what otherwise could be a lovely experience whenever you ride around town.

No car wash in the world can remove your clutter for you, except to possibly throw it out. Keeping your car clutter-free is only something you can do at home.


The fact that it doesn’t cost me a lot of money to wash my car, that it’s convenient to do at home, and that my family is genuinely excited about doing it means that the cars get washed more frequently than they ever would have if we used a professional service.

Personal Responsibility

Perhaps more important than any of the reasons I outlined above is taking personal responsibility for something I own. Washing our own cars gives us an incredible sense of ownership and responsibility to maintain these family tools—what’s interesting is that the more frequently we do it, the stronger this sense gets, which is exactly how I know it’s there.

We end up taking better care of the car. We maintain cleanliness between washes and try to take things out of the car as they go in. We also make it a point to have mechanics check and fix issues frequently instead of letting them linger. And we tend to have a more long-term view of the life of the car—“How long can this machine last us?” And you thought it was just a car wash…

Just Try It

It’s a bit of a personal motto this year—after all, how will you know if something works for you if you never try it? Commit to it for a few weeks or a few months. If it’s useless for you, let it go. If it’s not, embrace the new tool in your arsenal!

5 thoughts on “Why I Still Wash My Own Car

  1. I typically wash our cars during the summer, but now that it’s cold, any car washes get done at the local wash 🙂 I did have my car taken in this summer only because it had been a really long time since I had it done, I had a coupon for 50% off, and I had some cash given to me for Father’s Day, so I treated myself to the $12.50 (normally $25) high end wash, vacuum and rug shampoo.

  2. Can’t remember the last time I washed my car. I like the personal responsibility point, but I just can’t convince myself it’s the best use of my time when there’s so much to get done. I have certainly never paid anyone else to clean it. I handle car clutter by never letting my 6 yr old leave anything in it. He’s responsible for what goes in and taking it out.

    1. That’s true, and my viewpoint might change over time, but it is a nice break from the hustle and bustle as well.

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