This question is asked a lot more than you might think, and is, of course, dependant on your location in the world. I know within the UK you would usually have a set price given by the car detailer and that would be it. You’d pay and perhaps give a tip although it would be a surprise to the car detailer. On the other hand, in the USA there is a tipping etiquette to almost every service that is done for you.
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So, in the USA you would be expected to tip a percentage on top of the bill, and that percentage you select would reflect how pleased you are with the service that has been carried out. One thing you need to remember is there is a difference between someone who would simply wash your car and a car detailer. I go into more depth about this here, in my car detailing guide.
A car detailer will often put in a lot of work, and they have substantial knowledge to carry out the job. Depending on the package you select, it could range anywhere from a few hours to even days on your car. If you feel that you are really pleased with the outcome, then tipping well would be welcome because you’ll likely want to call them back once a year perhaps or when you, or a relative purchases a new car.
The tipping percentage varies and I think you would need to trust your gut with what the best, appropriate tip would be. By giving an over-generous tip, it’ll certainly keep the car detailer in your good books and they’ll want to go above and beyond next time they do your car. Remember, detailing a car is a tough job and the art of car detailing is being specific and detailed into every task they do. You want them to hoover ever area of carpet in your car. You want them to protect each interior surface with a new sealant restoring it to an as new condition. You do not want any that will do / half bothered attempts at cleaning your car because you are the guy/girl who doesn’t tip. Equally, giving your vehicle in a complete mess will likely make it harder for the detailer go above and beyond (for example, if you leave a whole host of rubbish which would take you under 2 minutes to clear yourself). Yes, they’re ‘paid’ to clean the car but you’re asking a car detailer here whose main focus really is on the detail, not basic cleaning. It shouldn’t have that much of an effect but if it takes you 2 minutes to clear the rubbish, do so. It’ll make the car detailer more enthusiastic about getting into the nitty-gritty and really try to exceed your expectations.
Anywhere from 10-30% tip, I would say would be reasonable, with 30% being really impressed by the outcome. Don’t forget car detailers will price in their packages accordingly as they won’t necessarily want to rely on tips. Sometimes not tipping can indicate you’re not happy with the service – this is in particular for the USA however it, of course, depends on the car detailer. Trust your instinct.