05.Car-washing options: convenience
You drive into a bay which has a high-pressure washing tool and brush that dispenses detergent. They are usually coin-operated, allow a selection of wash functions and count down so you know how much time is left to clean your car.
- Can collect the waste for treatment and possible reuse – check if your self-serve station does this.
- Cheaper than a serviced car wash, if used regularly.
- Takes a few times to get used to the timed cleaning.
- Possible queues.
Water usage: Between 25L and 40L, according to the Australian Car Wash Association.
Price: $2.70 / wash
Either touchless or brush rollover, this system is a simple drive-in car wash, which is generally paid for beforehand and is located in service stations.
- Totally automated.
- You don’t have to be out in the cold or hot weather.
- Some recycle much of the water used – check whether yours does.
- Incorporates waste treatment into the machinery.
- Can be incorporated into regular routine as most are located at service stations.
- Brush rollover can leave scratch marks on vehicles.
- Touchless may not clean effectively.
- Possible queues.
Water usage: Unknown, but recycling would lower amount used.
Price: $10.00 / wash
A luxury option, also called car wash cafes, these often offer a free coffee with a car wash.
- Many services offered.
- You usually don’t have to be out in the cold weather or heat.
- Can be incorporated into shopping routine as many are located at shopping centres.
- Possible queues
- Up selling tactics sometimes used.
Water usage: 33L
Price: $24.00 / wash
Waterless car wash
These cleaners claim to encapsulate dirt when sprayed onto a car, preventing scratching when you then remove the substance with a cloth.
- Very little water used (other than as an ingredient).
- Allows you to check the car for wear and tear.
- More labour intensive than water methods.
- More expensive than water-based methods.
- Many people fear the rubbing action will scratch the paintwork, but we found it didn’t in our test, Choice March 2005.
Water usage: Very little
Price: $5.50 / wash
There are also mobile car washes that drive to your home and wash your car, however in doing so they are using fuel and can be quite expensive. Waterless mobile car wash options also exist, but again they use fuel to get to you and are expensive. We found a number of products that potentially help you reduce your water use; see Low flow high pressure cleaners for our test results.