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I Purposely Drive In Heavy Rain To Get A Free Car Wash

Published 6/1/08 (Modified 3/9/11)
By MoneyBlueBook

Today I was relaxing at home on a lazy Saturday afternoon, tinkering on the computer and watching my weekend mixed martial art fighting shows on TV when suddenly there was a tremendous flash of light from the window, followed by the wallop of a floor vibrating thunder crack. Since I was on the computer, I quickly checked the weather page and confirmed that there was definitely a major thunderstorm heading my way. Weather reports predicted a heavy storm system to move through my neighborhood during the early to late afternoon period with the potential to bring forth severe isolated thunderstorms and heavy rainfall mixed with strong winds, with torrential downpours heavy at times. There was even an online warning issued for frequent lightening and even a small tornado watch. The mere prospect of tornadoes has always baffled me. I live in the Maryland suburban area of Washington D.C. and have never encountered a tornado before during my entire lifetime in this area. There have been limited reports of one or two tiny tornadoes touching down in years past, but their appearances are rare and usually sighted in the less populated outskirts of the central city. The metro D.C. area is simply too urbanized and populated with tall buildings and infrastructure for a substantial twister to develop. However, we do get pretty powerful thunderstorms and heavy rain showers at times - and that's where my dirty, dust covered car comes in.

Thunderstorms and Rain Showers Signal The Tantalizing Opportunity For Me To Get A Free Instant Car Wash

The moment I heard the thunder cracks and verified the imminent rainstorms about to brew, I immediately sprung to action. I quickly got dressed and made a beeline for my apartment building's covered parking garage where my car is parked. I jumped in and went for a drive - to nowhere in particular but just to drive and keep my car exposed to the weather. In fact, my whole purpose for driving was to keep my car out in the open and under the wet and wild fury of mother nature's latest thunderstorm for a free car wash.

Am I the only one who does this? Some people have the spring and summer time luxury of outdoor parking spots out in the open for a free car washing everytime it rains. As my car is parked indoors in a neighborhood where reserved parking is otherwise difficult to find, I have to manually move it outside during anticipated rainstorms to get that momentary free water jet splashing. This time in particular I had to make sure I seized the opportunity. It's been too long since my car had a decent wash. As I rarely drive due to my habit of taking public transportation, and my recent drives have consisted of long inter-state treks to upstate New York during sunny weather, my car has gradually been covered with a layer of extended highway driving dust and dotted with splattered bugs on the front fender and windshield. However, taking the opportunity to purposely drive my car around to receive the brunt of mother nature's newest heavy thunderstorm took care of much of the grime covering it. As I drove around and ran intentional errands during the furious rainstorm, my car was easily washed and scrubbed clean by the heavy rain water and whipping winds. It felt great to save some money and even conserve some natural water resources at the same time. While saving $10-15 by not having to pay for a professional car wash may not seem like much, it still felt good not having to pay money for a luxury convenience I could otherwise obtain for free.

Purposely Going Out Of My Way To Drive My Car Outside During A Rain Storm - Frugal Or Cheap?

Some people might say I'm being super cheap by opting to drive around in my car aimlessly or purposefully running errands during a heavy rainstorm to get a free car wash, but I disagree. It's all about my priorities. I would rather spend those extra few dollar savings on other things. Even using the sum towards a nice tasty smoothie drink would be better use of that little bit of money in my opinion. It may not be a lot, but it's all about the gradual and long term aggregate effects of practicing such frugal, money saving habits. Besides, I enjoy driving in the rain. There's nothing like watching mother nature in all her glory and marveling at the pattering rain, flying leaves from the tree branches, and furious winds. Maybe it's my optimistic and sunny side up type of personality, but whenever I hear news about an approaching severe thunderstorm, I immediately think of free car washes. So long as the storm doesn't have the potential to cause major damage on my driving route through downed power lines or falling tree limbs, I prefer to look at the money saving benefits of such natural phenomenons. Vehicle safety issues or on-the-road driving dangers during heavy thunderstorms have never been serious concerns for me since I always stick to major local roads or wide highways during thunderstorms where errant tree limbs or falling debris are less hazardous problems.

Car washes are one of those ordinary month to month or periodically recurring common expenses that I try to eliminate or minimize from my budget as much as possible. Like personal hair cuts for myself or my morning Starbucks white chocolate mocha habit, I see car washes as a nuisance when it comes to frugality and financial planning. Unfortunately, it's one of the necessary downsides of owning and driving a car - you have to wash it once in a while. While there are many car lovers, gear heads, and auto-philes out there who spend countless hours and manpower effort washing, waxing, and polishing their beloved vehicles' body work, and spending endless time fiddling with engine tune ups from personal home garage setups that would make Jiffy Lube or Pennzoil jealous, I'm definitely not one of them. I treat my 2004 Honda Accord simply as what it is - an inanimate dinosaur-fuel consuming contraption that gets me from point A to point B. I use it to commute to work, shop for groceries, and occasionally take road trips. I don't see my car as a status symbol nor would I would ever want it to be one. Is it really worth paying $40,000 to $70,000 for a brand new, luxury high end sedan or sports car for just that momentary bragging right and the ability to show off to your friends, family, or even strangers on the street? Personally, I would much rather take that extra $20,000 or $50,000 fancy car savings and deposit the money into a high interest savings account or invest the sum into my Roth IRA retirement account to grow it for the future. Every little bit helps, even money saved by taking advantage of free rain-inspired car washes - it's all about the long term aggregate savings over time.

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17 Responses to “I Purposely Drive In Heavy Rain To Get A Free Car Wash” 

  1. Norak says:

    If you take your car out when it rains and go nowhere in particular, then you are using petrol. You might as well go to the supermarket and stockpile on some rice or potatoes.

    Furthermore, after your car has been in rain, doesn't it become dirty when it dries?

    If you're frugal, I think an argument can be made never to wash your car. For someone who buys a new car and then sell its off after a year or two, it may be important because relatively new cars are usually judged by appearances. However, someone buying an old car who resells it usually sells it to someone else who is also thrifty or is looking for parts, and so cleanliness is less important or maybe even not worth it. My car's value now is $5000 and even when I get bird poo on it I don't feel as if it's worth cleaning off.

    If however you work in an environment where you must network or if you feel too much pain or shame from displaying an unattractive car, when that may be an argument to clean it often.

  2. Raymond says:


    I personally have no real shame displaying my so-called unattractive car. I'm the same guy who drove around with an unsightly plastic tape covered rear side window when some car thief broke into my former old car when I was in grad school. It certainly didn't impress the girl I was going out with at the time, but I made up for it in other more financially generous ways.

    As for purposely driving my car around during a rain storm, I usually just make an effort to come up with an errand objective. Sure the errand could probably wait, but the rain storm won't! The more powerful the thunderstorm, the better it cleans :)

    As much as I am against spending tons of money on car washes, it probably is a good idea to wash the car on occasion (whether paid or free). "Bird poo" so to speak is pretty toxic and corrosive on the paint job over the years if it has the opportunity to harden into a diamond like encrustation.

  3. fivecentnickel.com says:

    How much do you really save by doing this? A rain shower is the rough equivalent of a really, really, really bad car wash. I usually go to those self-serve car washes when I happen to be near one and need a wash. I hardly spend anything at all and the results are far better than any rainstorm. Of course, we've been in an epic drought so I haven't been washing the car at all for the past year or so. I just leave it out in the driveway where it catches rain without me driving it at all.

  4. Mrs. Micah says:

    We are fortunate enough to park outside. But I must say, driving during that particular thunderstorm seems like a bad idea to me. It knocked out a number of traffic lights around here, which combined with the torrential sheets of rain (again, in my part of town), made things extremely scary. I had to get home from work and waited a half hour but it was still bad--lights, rain, etc.

    It's not a bad idea, anyway. In a medium rain a quick run out to the grocery store for staples could be useful and still safe enough.

  5. Raymond says:

    Well guys,

    It's definitely not exactly the most brilliant or cost-effective way to save money, but it's just one of a few frugal/cheap things I do. Not sure I really save all that much individually - but it's just one of many things I do that combine into aggregate savings over time.

    When I used to live in an apartment complex with only outdoor parking, my car was kept perpetually clean by all the natural rainfall received. Now that my car is kept inside a reserved indoor parking garage, it's kept away from the harsh winter and summer elements, but it doesn't get the benefit of that natural spray cleaning.

  6. Michele says:

    I have a 2005 Mazda and my dealer washes it for free. Not just when I have service done, but any time I wish. I bring the car in, ask if they have time to give it a wash and usually within 20 mins its done. The only downside is that I have to get it done when they are open, which limits the time available to get it done.

  7. Mimoji says:

    Bad idea - look at your car closely and you'll see streaks of raindrops on it. You're trading one kind of dirty car for another.

  8. debt consolidation unsecured says:

    Your chronicle having to drive for a car wash across the rainy city made me evoke that GoDaddy's commercial of a man stopping in a very hot fueling station.

    Gas and car washes are indeed recurring expenses but anecdotes like yours remind us that we are wasting time and money due to inertia expecting others do what we can too!

  9. komodo dragon says:

    this is a funny post, the tittle in fact captivated me to read further. Its amazing how far people can go with their frugality!

  10. David says:

    Hmmm...I never considered purposely driving my car through a heavy thunderstorm or rainstorm before. If I'm already on the road going from point A to point B and a storm suddenly shows up and pours, that's one thing. But, actually deliberately waiting for a storm to drive in...never occurred to me before. I'm not against it. It just hasn't occurred to me to do that. Then again, my car is parked in an outside driveway so when it does rain, I guess it gets its "car wash". This article did make me think of something. What if before a storm hits, I could scrub soap on my car and then, let the rain pour down on it? Now that would be a real "car wash", lol!

  11. Raymond says:


    The funny thing is...back when I had outdoor parking, I did seriously contemplate breaking into my swimming trunks, and going out to my car shirtless during a pending rainstorm to scrub my car down real good with a sponge and liquid soap. But at the end I figured that was going too extreme!

  12. P Kann says:

    I have done this for 10yrs. My car is parked outside. When rain stops I go out, give it a soapy wash, pour a bucket of water to rinse off suds. That is it. When rain stops for good (sometimes in 2days), I go, dry and buff! This is the way I always did in tropics, where it rains! Makes sense, save water. soap suds washed off in drainage, no chemical damage to environ. Sometimes, I get drenched as rain picks up! Thx. P

  13. Kevin C says:

    Rain and snow contain acids that eat away at the paint and finish of vehicles. After acid rain falls on a vehicle, the water evaporates, but the acid remains. Concentrated by sunlight, this acid can become so strong that it will eat through the finish, ruining the vehicle's paint and appearance.
    When rain or snow falls it can capture environmental pollutants from factory, automobile and truck exhaust. The water has a low ph reading (acidic). The sun heats and evaporates the water but leaves behind concentrated acid spots which cannot be removed.
    When your car is dirty, your vehicles surface is holding all kinds of dirt particles, contaminants and road grime. Mix this with water and you have CEMENT. Whatever is water soluble mixes with other particles and new paint problems are born. Rain WILL NOT clean these particles off of your car.

  14. Dawn says:

    So, let me get this straight. You actually put on your pants, leave your home, and purposely hop into your car during the start of a rain storm JUST to save $10-15 on a car wash? Now that is the pinnacle of cheapness in my opinion. For God sakes man, pay that $10-15 or even $20 and get your poor car a decent car wash and thorough scrubbing. There is no way a random thundershower, no matter how powerful or forceful, can equal the same results as a good old fashioned car wash.

    Besides, these days, you can pay $4 or less to use one of those cheap do it your self car-washing water jet blasters. They come with soap dispensers and brushes for a truly thorough wash. Do this during Spring or Summer and you'll get a work out in the process.

    The other commentators are right....clean your car's body thoroughly or risk future permanent damage to the paint job from acid rain, salt crystals, or dirty grime...or worse.

    And stop this frugality madness :)

  15. Charlie B. says:

    I like your point. It's not just about saving money, it's about saving water too.

    The planet thanks you.

  16. David - a nudist says:

    I don't know if "David" from June 29, 2008 at 1:06 am is me or not, but in case he is, I have to add this. Driving through heavy rain may seem like a good car wash, but it's not safe. Heavy rain can lead to flooding and, if you're not careful, you can be washed away and possibly killed. Most people who die in floods are those that take unnecessary risks by purposely driving through flooded roads. And, floods kill a lot of people...more than lightning and tornadoes. Remember, just two feet of water can pick up any vehicle and take it down-stream. That's when it becomes dangerous and potentially deadly for people inside their vehicles. Plus, when driving through heavy rain, visibility drops dramatically and you may not be able to see where you're going. This, too, can be dangerous and potentially deadly since it can result in a crash. So, be careful with severe weather and heavy rain. If you want to drive in a moderate shower with moderate rain, fine. But, watch out for blinding downpours and flooding conditions. One of the big mistakes people make is they underestimate the depth of the water when they come to a flooded roadway. The road underneath the water could be washed out, which makes the water deeper than they think it is. And, that's why flooding is extremely dangerous. So, be smart, use common sense, and be safe. That is all I have to say.

  17. Sheryl says:

    Saving water for the environment is very important but be aware that any soap applied is washed into stormwater which goes untreated out to sea. So use an Eco-friendly soap that is biodegradable etc. I'd hope car wash businesses have to drain to sewerage.

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