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The Beginner’s Buying Guide

It is constantly asked “what should I buy first” or “just tell me the main things to buy, I don’t want to get too crazy into detailing.” This article is to help you begin with a jumping point for doing the normal basics for a home detailer. How you take it from here is up to you.


You do not need to buy everything on this list nor by it from where we have linked to. It is intended to help out the new people who are interested in getting into detailing and are (understandably) massively confused by the heaps and heaps of product choices. There is an initial sticker shock. However, these products will last you months, if not years depending on how often you decide to detail your vehicle.

To simplify this article, it is suggested that you purchase the following:

  • The Basics;
  • 1 or 2 Soaps;
  • An APC (All Purpose Cleaner);
  • ONR (Optimum No Rinse) or Ultima WW;
  • A Spray Wax/Detailer;
  • A clay bar OR Nanoskin product;
  • Iron X;
  • Collinite 845; and
  • Griot’s Garage Polisher with the Appropriate Pads.

Pricing Disclaimer

Prices on this page are not exact. Prices recorded were accurate at the time of posting and may have gone slightly up or down, so be sure to check your total before hitting the checkout.

The Basics:

  • 2x 5 gallon buckets – $5 each on Home Depot. The orange ones.
  • 2x grit guards – $12 each on Amazon. One for each bucket.
  • 2x Wash mitt – Chenille microfiber $5.95 @ TRC. By having two, you can dedicate one for the top half of your car, saving one for the dirtier lower portion of your vehicle.
  • Wheel Woolies – $56.99 @ Amazon. It’s a good idea to have various brush sizes for the wheels and wheel barrels. These also rinse and clean up easily, and don’t spray product back in your face like some longer brushes (looking at you, EZ Detail Brush).
  • Mother’s Tire Brush – $7.99 @ Amazon. Simple, stiff brush for tires.
  • Mother’s Wheel Brush – $10.99 @ Amazon. A soft brush for the wheel face.
  • Meguiar’s Glass Cleaner Concentrate – $29.73 @ Amazon. This dilutes 10:1 so you get 11 gallons out of this one gallon. Safe on tinted windows, great for around the home too. Easy to use, non-streak, smells like grape drank.

All Purpose Cleaners:

  • Meguiar’s D101 APC – $20.99 @ Amazon (comes with sprayer). This can be diluted 4:1 or 10:1 depending on level of cleaning needed. Great for all parts of the car including sensitive interior parts (vinyl, leather, rubber, upholstery) at the appropriate dilution.


  • Meguiar’s Gold Class Shampoo – $8.99 OTC. Rinses ok, cleans ok, best bang for your buck going OTC. I always have some on hand.
  • Duragloss 901- $13.29 @ Amazon. Better cleaning power than Gold Class, smells like cherries, can be found OTC. Under the name ‘902’ in a gallon size.
  • Optimum Car Wash – $19.99 @ Amazon. High lubricity, cleans and rinses well. A little pricier, but from a reputable manufacturer. Smells like blueberries.
  • Carpro Reset – $30.99 @ Amazon. Currently my favorite soap. No gloss enhancers, no wax, no fillers. Rinses and cleans very well to show the true status of your paint. Really designed for coatings like CQuartz or Opti Coat, but won’t do anything to other sealants or waxes.


  • Optimum No Rinse – $21.02 @ Amazon. Everyone should have a bottle of this. Can be diluted to clay lube, quick detailer, and rinseless wash. Add it to your soap bucket while performing a regular 2 bucket wash for added lubricity.
  • Ultima Waterless Wash + – $20.99 @ Autopia. Another great, versatile product that can be diluted to serve as a clay lube, quick detailer, rinseless or waterless wash(ONR isn’t recommended for waterless). This product has a slight amount of protection that it leaves when used as a waterless or rinseless wash, and is very slick.
  • Meguiar’s Ultimate Quik Detailer – $7-9 OTC – Great OTC product. Smells nice, the bottle will last you.
  • Meguiar’s 34 – $20-25 OTC. A somewhat overlooked choice in the quick detailer department. Can be used for clay lube, QD, or after polishing to remove oils.
  • Meguiar’s Ultimate Quik Wax – $7-9 OTC. Similar to Quik Detailer, just with wax added. This is available in gallon sized, called D156 Express Spray wax. Great as a drying aid or last step product booster.


  • CarPro Iron X – $19.99 (500ml) @ CarPro. Can be expensive as it can take up to 500ml for some vehiclesWe recommend buying in bulk for best value. Warning: Fallout removers are incredibly pungent. Be careful when using it. Avoid spills in living areas. Use gloves, eye protection, and possibly a respirator when using.
    • CarPro sells a lemon scent but is more expensive and some people think it smells worse.
  • Sonax Wheel Cleaner – $16.49 @ Amazon. Designed for any type of wheel. NOT to be used on paint.
  • Meguiar’s / Mother’s Clay Bar Kit – $15-20 OTC. A great way to start really detailing your car. These kits come with a clay bar, a microfiber towel, and a bottle of QD.
  • Nanoskin Fine Mitt – $40.71 @ Amazon. Better than clay since it lasts longer and you don’t have to throw it out if you drop it, just rinse it off. The price may scare you, but you’ll buying 2+ clay kits to equal the lifetime of this. Large though, cannot reach smaller areas.
  • Nanoskin Fine Sponge – $11.69 @ Amazon. Same as above, just in a smaller version. I prefer this to the mitt.
  • Meguiar’s DUB Wheel Cleaner – $9 OTC. OTC version of Sonax. For wheels only. Not as strong though. A good choice to keep as a backup.

Compound & Polish:

  • Meguiar’s 105 and Meguiar’s 205
    • $33.80 for M105 on Amazon.
    • $27.66 for M205 on Amazon.
    • These are pretty much the standard in first time recommended products. They are tried, true, and proven to work in a variety of settings. M105 has extreme cut and M205 can actually get pretty aggressive if used with an appropriate pad. There is a slight learning curve to M105.


  • Meguiar’s Microfiber Cutting Pads – $10-20 @ Amazon. Cuts quicker than foam, and better to use on tougher clear coats (VW, Audi). Heats up quickly though.
  • Lake Country Pads – Polishing, finishing polish, & LSP – prices vary. We recommend the CSS pads. You need at least 3 of each step – polishing, finishing polish, and LSP (last step product).

Waxes and Sealants:

  • Collinite 845 – $19.99 @ Autopia. The ‘winter wax’ for most of the members here. Very tough, very durable, great price point. 4-6+ month durability.
  • Menzerna Powerlock – $49.99 (16oz) @ Autopia. A little pricey, but worth it. Incredible slickness and some added gloss. 4-6+ month durability.
  • Blackfire Wet Diamond – $49.99 @ Autopia. This was the go-to sealant for a long time for many people. It’s price point is a little much with all the other available products out there now, but there is no better looking sealant on the market in my opinion, especially on dark colors. 4-6 month durability depending on prepwork and conditions.


  • Edgeless 300 All Purpose Towel – $15.00 (10-Pack) @ TRC – get as many as you can, at least 10. These will be for your dirty jobs – under the hood, exhaust pipes, door jambs, etc. That way you don’t have to feel bad about tossing them after a particularly dirty job.
  • Spectrum 420 Plush Dual Pile – $3.95 each @ TRC – at least 5. Very plush, great for wax removal, drying, QD application/removal.
  • Standard Green Glass & Window Towel – $2.75 each @ TRC – at least 3. Low nap, great for cleaning windows.
  • Eagle Edgeless – $4.95 each @ TRC – at least 5. Similar to the spectrum above, though not as ‘bulky’. Great for delicate jobs, like wax and sealant removal on softer paints.
  • Dry Me a River! Jr – $5.25 each @ TRC – 1 or 2 is fine. Good for sucking up lots of water.


  • Harbor Freight – $79.99 @ Harbor Freight. Good entry level DA. Not expensive, but still can produce impressive results. You get what you pay for though. Garry Dean gets great results with this and says it’s the best available DA in the price range by a landslide. There are some mods you can do to it to quiet it down if you’re handy.
  • Porter Cable 7424XP – $149.99 @ Autogeek. A bump up from the HF. More power, a little loud, but still cuts great. Usually the first choice when getting into DA polishing.
  • Griot’s Garage – $169.99 @ Griot’s Garage. Probably the best entry level machine you can get. More powerful than the two above, lifetime warranty. If you can afford it, get this one.
Updated on 31 March 2022

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  1. Like a derp, I accidentally bought Blackfire’s WW instead of the sealant. When ordering make sure you’re getting BF-300, and NOT BF-110! I now have 128 ounces of their WW (Which is fine, totally useable, but now I still need to buy a wax!)

    1. You can see all of the Terminology and Acronyms explanations here. There is a link at the bottom of all of our pages to this location. You can also search “acronym” on the website to find it easily.

  2. Thank you so much for you this informative and insightful guide. I’ve picked up a starter set just now and look forward to joining the auto detailing journey.

  3. You list two products in the compound and polish section, and they both appear to be compounding product. I thought this was a 2-step process. Are those products a 2 in 1 thing? One pass does both compounding AND polishing?

    1. M105 is a compound product and M205 is a polishing product. Their official names are “Mirror Glaze Ultra-Cut Compound” and “Mirror Glaze Ultra Finishing Polish,” respectively.

  4. Your link for the Griot’s Garage polisher is broken now, what model were you referencing?

    1. Thank you for that. We have fixed the link as well as some others. Also went through and adjusted to current pricing.

  5. I notice Iron X is listed up top in green to try and simplify this article. However, it’s not mentioned anywhere else in the guide.
    Can you post a link and quick description of it’s intended use?

    1. Thank you for pointing that out, it’s a great point. We’ve swapped out the recommended decontamination in the appropriate section to Iron X so now it will line up properly.

  6. Currently cant get Griot’s Garage in Canada. What do you think about TORQ polishers? Are they any good?


  7. Is Collonite 845 still recommended if one wanted to use a ceramic wax, like say Meguiars Hybrid Ceramic wax, or would those be redundant?

    1. If you’re asking about duplicating layers, it’s generally not recommended. Layering doesn’t work well for most waxes and sealants. Most times, it’s recommended just because it’s a way to ensure you didn’t miss any spots. Typically, the way bonding works doesn’t allow for layering.

      1. First question, what color Lake Country Pads do you recommend buying to start with?
        I’ve visited the Lake Country web site to read about each color’s intended purpose to match your recommendation (polishing, finishing polish, and LSP), but the descriptions of each color seem ambiguous.

        Second question, would you use M205 for both polishing and finishing polish with different pads? I’m not sure if I’m supposed to use another product here.

        Also, you recommend the Lake Country CSS pads but I believe they are CCS*.

  8. At waxes I don’t see SOFT99 Fusso Coat , yet it is superior to Col 845 in both chemical tests and real life tests.

  9. First question, what color Lake Country Pads do you recommend buying to start with?
    I’ve visited the Lake Country web site to read about each color’s intended purpose to match your recommendation (polishing, finishing polish, and LSP), but the descriptions of each color seem ambiguous.

    Second question, would you use M205 for both polishing and finishing polish with different pads? I’m not sure if I’m supposed to use another product here.

    Also, you recommend the Lake Country CSS pads but I believe they are CCS*.

  10. Not seeing the Griot’s garage polisher on this list. Was it removed?

  11. The Harbor Freight link is broken under machines. Nice list!

  12. Are waxes like Collinite 845 or 476 and Soft99 Fusso really worth it when we have hybrid products like Turtle Wax Hybrid Ceramic Spray or Meguiar’s Hybrid Ceramix Wax?

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