A black sedan at a carwash

The Importance of Cleaning Your Car Before Shipping


When you ship your car it’s going to be exposed to the elements, road, and traffic grime, so what’s the point in cleaning it? Actually, there are some very good reasons why you should be cleaning your car before shipping and this post will explain what they are. In addition, as a bonus, we’ll examine why cleaning your car, in general, is important, and share some helpful car cleaning tips. 

Why your car needs to be clean before you ship it

While it might seem counterintuitive, getting your car cleaned before shipping it can be a huge help. 

The exterior of the car needs to be cleaned before the carrier arrives because this allows them to inspect for pre-existing damage. You also need to inspect with the driver to ensure nothing is missed. 

There have been cases when people tried to ship their cars in dirty condition in an attempt to hide preexisting damage. The hope would have been to hold the car shipping company liable for the damage under the pretext that it happened during the shipping service. Companies are aware of this ploy and if your car isn’t clean when it’s time for the visual inspection, you’ll just delay your shipment.

Once you’ve cleaned your car, the pre-shipping inspection can be done. Make sure you’re prepared for the inspection by carefully documenting any existing dings, scratches, dents, or chips. If you want to do a thorough job, take pictures for reference. 

When your car is delivered, another inspection will take place to ensure your vehicle didn’t suffer any new damage during transit. 

Detailing your car can protect it during shipping                                                    

If you choose to ship your vehicle on a typical open-car shipping trailer, there is the smallest possibility that small scratches will occur. This will be from road debris striking up off the road as it travels along the highway.

For an extra layer of defence, consider choosing graphene or ceramic paint coating protection. This extra layer that can be added as part of a car detailing service, protects your vehicle from scratches and also delivers UV protection from the bright sun.  

How much does it cost to get your car cleaned?

If you don’t want to clean your car or haven’t got the time before its shipping date, a professional car clean or detail will set you back between $75 to $225. The higher the price, the more detailing services you receive. 

Tips for cleaning your car

You’ve probably been cleaning your car for many years, but have you been doing it correctly? Are you using the correct cleaning products? Let’s give you some tips on how to make your car spotless, inside and outside. 

Cleaning the inside of your car

The interior of your car is not exposed to the elements, but things like the seats, steering wheel, and dashboard are still prone to cracking, fading, and peeling. It’s therefore critical that you regularly care for the interior of your car. The cleaning method depends on the material in most cases, so let’s look at the options for leather vs. fabric cleaning.

  • Vacuum the seats: Regardless of whether your car seats are fabric or leather, they’ll benefit from a vacuum to remove the dirt and crumbs from between the cracks of the seat. If you haven’t got the right attachments for your vacuum, head to your local car wash or gas station where you’ll likely find a coin-operated vacuum. If there’s debris embedded in the cracks, use an old toothbrush to scrape it out. 
  • Use a cleaning solution: Before you use a cleaning solution for the first time, do a spot test on a small area. If your car seats are leather you don’t want a cleaning solution that contains bleach or ammonia as these can damage the leather. Use a bristle brush to dislodge the dirt and wipe clean using a microfiber cloth. 
  • Apply a conditioner to leather seats: If your leather seats are looking a little tired, using a leather conditioner will bring them back to life by replenishing the natural oils in the leather and helping to prevent fading and cracking. Apply the conditioner and then leave your car in the shade for half a day so it’s not exposed to any UV light. 

Your seats are not the only interior that needs routine cleaning. Here are a few more tips:

  • Clean all the little nooks and crannies: Carefully use a clean cloth around the radio buttons and trim lines. To clean out the air vents, you’ll find a foam brush or paintbrush works very well.
  • Remove all the trash from under the seats and the door cards: Move the car seats so you can get at the trash and debris that’s lurking out of sight. Remove the floor mats and shake them off. Don’t forget carpet cleaning your car is also important. 
  • Organize any belongings: If you want to keep items organized and off the floor, invest in seat organizers, dash caddies, trunk organizers, or visor organizers. However, a word of warning, you’ll need to remove all personal items before you ship your car. 
  • Clear out the trunk: Take out all unnecessary items and there will be more space when you need it. In addition, it could make a difference to the gas consumption.   

Cleaning the exterior of your car

Cleaning the exterior of your car is more challenging. Not only is there more to clean, it’s also harder. 

Cleaning your tires and wheels should be the first job, just in case of splashes. Here are some tips for effective wheel and tire cleaning:

  • Clean each tire thoroughly, one at a time: Wash, then rinse, dry, and move on to the next tire. If you do it this way, it’ll prevent them from air-drying which tends to leave spots. Don’t use the same towel for drying your wheels and tires and the body of your car.  
  • Use the right scrubbing brushes: A brush with feathered bristles shouldn’t scratch the surface of your wheels. To clean behind the spokes and the inner areas of the wheels, you’ll need a long, slender brush. For the tires, you can get away with using a stiff brush. 
  • Use the correct cleaners: You can buy a range of different cleaners, depending on the type of wheels you have. A combined wheel and tire cleaner should remove dirt, grime, and brake dust. 
  • Polish your wheels: The final step is to wax your wheels. This helps to create a barrier against grime, dirt, dust, and various other elements. It also means that the next time your wheels need a clean, a quick rinse should do the job. 

Now your wheels and tires and clean, time to move onto the body of your car.

  • Park your vehicle in the shade: Never wash in direct sunlight because heat speeds up the drying process and leads to water spots. 
  • Rinse your car first: This removes any loose dirt laying on the car’s surface. 
  • Use a bucket with a cleaning solution and another with clean water: Don’t use dish detergents or hand soap. 
  • Start at the top and work down: The bottom part of a car tends to be the dirtiest. Don’t wash in circles, instead, wash in lines. 
  • Rinse and dry your car: If you rinse frequently, it’ll reduce the number of water spots. Use a microfiber cloth to dry your car, not forgetting the door jambs, trunk, and hood jambs. 
  • Consider a clay bar: This removes contaminants from a car’s surface. If the surface feels rough to the touch after you’ve cleaned it, consider using a clay bar.
  • Wax your car: Waxing helps add shine and also protects the pain. 

What about the headlights and grills? Don’t they deserve some attention too? Absolutely, and here’s what to do:

  • Headlight cleaning:
    • Use a dry cloth or toothbrush to apply a small amount of whitening toothpaste to the headlight. Leave it to sit for around a quarter of an hour and then wipe it off. 
    • Sanding: Sanding may be the best solution if the headlights have an outer layer of haze.
    • Headlight restoration kit: There are plenty to choose from and they cost around $10. 
  • Removing bugs:
    • Dryer sheets: Soak the dryer sheet in warm water and use it to wipe the bugs off. 
    • WD-40: Spray on, let sit, and wipe off. However, don’t spray directly on the car’s paint.
    • Bug remover spray: Various commercial sprays are available for getting bugs off the front of your vehicle.   

Other ways to prepare your car for shipping

As well as cleaning your car, there are several other things you can do to get your car ready for shipping. 

Carry out any necessary maintenance

There are a few basic maintenance tasks you should complete before you ship your car. For example:

  • Make sure the battery is fully charged
  • Empty the gas tank to 1/4 full
  • Check the tire pressures
  • Check the various fluids such as oil, brake, engine coolant, washer, and power steering

Secure any removable parts

If there are any removable parts on the exterior of the car, either secure or remove them. 

Remove personal items

Clean out the interior of your car along with the trunk. Remove all personal items as this reduces the risk of loss, damage, or theft. 

Deactivate toll tags and parking passes

Parking passes and toll tags aren’t needed during the auto transport journey.

Now you know what to do to get your car ready and appreciate the value of keeping your car clean, it’s time for you to get in touch and talk about car shipping prices and to get a quote.

Get a quote

Our friendly team of car shipping advisors is waiting for your call at (864) 546-5038. Alternatively, why not use our Live Chat option? 


Why is it important to clean your car?

It’s important to clean your car because it comes into contact with all sorts of debris, dust, bugs, bird droppings, salt, and grime. If you don’t clean your car, these deposits will eat away at the finish and paint of your car. 

Why is it important to clean a car?

Regularly cleaning your car helps protect it. It can also boost the resale value of your car. When your car is clean, it’s safer to drive. 

Do cars get damaged in shipping?

It is extremely rare, but yes, cars do get damaged during shipping. Most of the time, the damage is minor. 

Does cleaning your car make it last longer?

Washing your car regularly will help it last longer. This is because a build-up of dirt can be detrimental to the paint. 

Do I need to clean my car before shipping it?

Yes, you do because it’ll make it easier to inspect for any damage.

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