The Best Car Washes

It's an easy call: You can whip out the bucket, soap, and Armor All and spend the afternoon cleaning your ride on the driveway, or you can sit back and let these suds masters—young and old—make you shine in a matter of minutes.

Photograph courtesy of Flickr

It's an easy call: You can whip out the bucket, soap, and Armor All and spend the afternoon cleaning your ride on the driveway, or you can sit back and let these suds masters—young and old—make you shine in a matter of minutes. Ian Daly

CLASSIC CAR WASHES:

SEATTLE: Elephant Car Wash

The original shop, established in 1951 and worthy of seven spin-offs, is as much a Seattle landmark as the Space Needle, thanks to its big neon-pink elephant. [616 Battery St., 206-441-6776; elephant-carwash.com]

MADISON, WISCONSIN: Octopus Car Wash

The staff motto is ⿿Many Hands to Serve You,⿿ and the rotating green octopus illustrates the point. There are locations in six states, but this was the first. [2202 University Ave., 608-238-1111; octopus-carwash.com]

WACO, TEXAS: Genie Car Wash & Lube

The huge genie in a jeweled blue turban looming over the building looks like a refugee from Frank-and-Dino-era Vegas. [916 N. Valley Mills Dr., 254-776-9274; geniecarwashwaco.com]

SAN BERNARDINO, CALIFORNIA: Sparkle Car Wash

Big rainbow spires sprout from this masterpiece of Googie architecture straight out of American Graffiti. [276 E. Highland Ave., 909-883-5919]

MODERN CAR WASHES:

MIAMI: Karma Car Wash and Cafe

This car wash–cum–restaurant offers eco-friendly cleaning agents plus tapas, wine, and Belgian beer. [7010 Biscayne Blvd., 305-759-1392; karmacarwash.com]

LOS ANGELES: Santa Palm Car Wash

Santa Palm has a waiting room primed for celebrity sightings. Hence the assertion that the hot spot hoses down "more Rolls-Royces than any other car wash." [8787 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood, 310-659-7888; santapalmcarwash.com]

ORANGE COUNTY: Miami's Auto Spa

More like a Spanish Mission villa than a car wash, this place pampers your car with lamb's-wool pads and horsehair brushes while you sip free Starbucks. [2472 Pacific Coast Hwy., Torrance, California, 310-325-9299; mautospa.com]

CHICAGO: Simon's Shine Shop

Simon's will hand-wash your car and park it for you while you shop the neighborhood—or simply enjoy the complimentary Wi-Fi. [1439 W. Shakespeare Ave., 773-348-2000; simonsshineshop.com]

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