You’d think between hand washing and automatic washing, hand washing would be the obvious choice for your car. After all, at home you can clay, wax, and polish your car exactly how you like it, whereas an automatic wash just soaps your car up and lets it air dry. But the debate isn’t so cut and dry, and there are benefits and drawbacks of both.
Hand washing does give you the power, but it’s also a lot more time consuming, and some studies show that washing your car at home can actually damage the paint job over time. Plus, you’re washing all those contaminants from your car straight into storm drains! It’s not the best choice for the environment, so avoid doing it too often.
Automatic car washes are quicker and overall without the risks, but they don’t provide the detailing you can do at home, and the air-drying methods they use can leave your car streaky.
The best method is to combine! Wash at home sometimes so you can give it a nice wax, and hit the automatic wash to prevent grim buildup between hand washes.