How Long Does It Take to Detail the Outside of a Car?

July 4, 2024 by Sam Schlem

How Long Does It Take to Detail the Outside of a Car?

Detail is the name "Car Detailing" so its no surprise that car detailing can often take longer than most people think, most car detailers are perfectionists who thouroughly clean every inch of your vehicle. So "How long does it take to detail the outside of a car?" The time required can vary based on several factors, including the level of detail, the condition of the car, and the expertise of the detailer. Here’s a comprehensive guide to understanding how long exterior car detailing might take.

Factors Influencing the Time Needed for Exterior Detailing

Condition of the Vehicle:

A car that is regularly maintained and washed will generally take less time to detail than one that has accumulated dirt, grime, and other contaminants over an extended period.

Level of Service:

Basic Wash and Wax: This includes washing the exterior, drying, and applying a wax or sealant. This process typically takes 1-2 hours.

Full Exterior Detail: This involves a thorough wash, clay bar treatment to remove contaminants, polishing to restore shine, and applying a protective wax or sealant. This can take 3-5 hours.

Paint Correction: For cars with scratches, swirl marks, or oxidation, paint correction might be needed. This process, which involves compounding and polishing, can take anywhere from 6-10 hours depending on the severity of the paint imperfections.

Size and Type of the Vehicle:

Smaller vehicles, like sedans or coupes, will generally take less time to detail compared to larger vehicles such as SUVs, trucks, or vans due to the larger surface area.

Experience and Skill of the Detailer:

A professional detailer with years of experience will typically work more efficiently and effectively, possibly reducing the time required while still delivering high-quality results.

Steps Involved in Exterior Car Detailing

Pre-Wash and Wash:

The process begins with a thorough pre-wash to loosen dirt and grime, followed by a comprehensive wash using high-quality car shampoo.

Clay Bar Treatment:

A clay bar is used to remove bonded contaminants from the paint surface, ensuring a smooth finish. This step can take around 30 minutes to an hour depending on the condition of the car.


Polishing helps to remove minor scratches and swirls, restoring the paint’s clarity and shine. Depending on the extent of the polishing needed, this step can take 1-3 hours.


Applying a wax or sealant provides a protective layer to the paint, enhancing its gloss and protecting it from environmental elements. This step usually takes about 30 minutes to an hour.

Final Touches:

Detailing the exterior also involves cleaning the windows, dressing the tires, and polishing the trim. These final touches can take another 30 minutes to complete.

Average Time Estimates

Basic Exterior Detail: 1-2 hours

Full Exterior Detail: 3-5 hours

Paint Correction Detail: 6-10 hours

The time it takes to detail the outside of a car can vary widely based on the car's condition, the level of service requested, and the detailer's expertise. For a basic detail, you can expect to spend 1-2 hours, while a full detail might take 3-5 hours. More intensive services like paint correction can extend the time to 6-10 hours. Regardless of the time investment, the results of a professional exterior detail can significantly enhance your car’s appearance and protect its paintwork for months to come. For the best results, consult with a professional detailer who can provide a more accurate time estimate based on your specific vehicle and needs.

Related Posts

Smokey car in frisco

Does car detailing remove smoke smells? Everything we've learned.

Professional Car Detailing can indeed help to eliminate smoke smells from your car, but it isn't always 100%. Here's what we've learned so far. Read more →
Moldy Car

Car Detailing Mold Removal Cost: What to Expect

Car Detailing Mold Removal Cost: What to expect for pricing when you take your car in for mold removal, from mild to severe cases. Read more →
Ceramic Coating Car in Frisco

What are ceramic coatings? Why do I need one?

What are ceramic coatings? Today we take a deep dive into what ceramic coatings are, and why they're important for your car. Read more →