Are Cheap Car Detailing Products Worth It?

When it comes to car detailing products, there is very much a “spectrum” of options.

If you look at the enthusiast end of the market, there are products that cost fairly substantial sums of money.

Even ‘mainstream’ brands like Turtle Wax and Meguiar’s are now getting into offering premium products (such as Turtle Wax’s Hybrid Solutions range) while the brand has traditionally been more value focused.

On the other hand, you can often walk into your local big box retailer such as a Walmart (in my local market, the equivalent is The Warehouse – “where everyone gets a bargain”) and pick up an entire detailing kit for less than the price of a single more premium product.

A quick look on The Warehouse website shows I could pick up this entire ‘Autohaus’ (home brand) kit for about half the price of a single Turtle Wax Hybrid Solutions product:

You can get an essentials-only kit for even less money!

So what’s the deal – is there any merit in using “cheap”/inexpensive car detailing products, or do you need to opt for more premium products to get good results? Are cheap car detailing products worth it? In this article, I’m going to share my experiences and give my advice on whether or not you should consider using cheap car cleaning kit. 

Having used many different car detailing products over the years – from entry-level to premium – my take is that there is nothing inherently wrong with buying inexpensive products PROVIDED you set your expectations correctly.

Cheap detailing products tend to get the job done, and not much more. If you’re ok with that, then you’re ok to go ahead and use them.

The Autohaus wash and wax isn’t going to deliver as good results as something like Meguiar’s Ultimate Liquid Wax and Wash (I would know, as I’ve used both). When I used the Autohaus product, it definitely cleaned my car but it wasn’t as easy as using Meguiar’s alternative, and there was little in the way of wax shine.

However, it was still better than not cleaning the car – and I would still do a DIY wash/detail with cheap products over using a machine car wash any day of the week.

One thing I would avoid is using cheap car cleaning wash mitts/sponges/microfiber towels (and by cheap I mean the really inexpensive stuff that you often see bundled into kits at big box retailers).

While a cheap-and-cheerful car shampoo is unlikely to do any damage to your paintwork – the only damage might be to yourself, having to wash your car more often or put in more effort – there is risk in “mechanical” damage to your paintwork. What I mean is that some bargain basement wash mitts can have such poor quality (and stinginess with respect to the size and volume of the microfibre “fingers” attached to the mitt) that using such a product against your paintwork could cause some damage. The same goes with cheap drying towels, some of which are so meagre it’s like trying to dry your car with newspaper.

The risk here is marginal in most cases, but I would say it is worth investing in better wash mitts/sponges/drying towels.

At a high-level:

  • If you’re on a tight budget, then bargain/inexpensive detailing products are good – particularly car wash/shampoo. In fact, if you need to clean your car for as little money as possible then I’d just recommend going out and buying a basic home-brand/no-name brand kit.
  • However, don’t be tempted to quantity over quality. If you could pick between a smaller number of premium products (e.g. having one good wash and one good wax in your arsenal) versus having some big multi-piece kit for the same price point, I’d go for the premium products every time.
  • Be wary of cheap wash mitts and buffing cloths, these are often the Achilles’ Heel of cheap car detailing kits and can potentially cause damage to your paintwork. If possible, invest in higher quality washing/polishing/buffing equipment and look after it.
  • You can usually get away with bargain basement wash/shampoo, but try to go for better quality waxes and/or polishes/compounds. Not only are they easier to apply and get better results with, but some cheap products can be excessively harsh.

What is your view on using cheap car detailing products? Do you think it’s ok, or do you feel the need to save up for something better quality? Feel free to leave a comment below to share your opinion. 

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