The most effective way to keep your car looking its best throughout its life is to frequently wash, wax and detail its bodywork, but it's not enough for the exterior to look good as new - the car's performance should also be kept in peak condition too.
If you use your car daily, you might need to clean it at least once a week to keep it looking fresh. A more detailed clean of its paintwork can be carried out a little less frequently, but should still be done at least several times throughout the year to keep it from losing its sheen and getting rid of dirt and grime that can cause lasting damage. If you only use your car at weekends and keep it safely housed in the garage the rest of the time, you won't need to clean it quite so often.
Using the proper cleaning materials is just as important as following a good cleaning method. Many dedicated car owners swear by hand washing as opposed to automated car washes, which can cause scratches or damage to your vehicle if the brushes have attracted dirt.
The traditional sponge and bucket method is the most effective for regular cleans, as long as you're careful only to use soaps that are recommended for vehicle use - don't risk using other washing detergents from around the house, as these could have a damaging effect on the paintwork. The same goes for your sponges and washing mitts themselves, which should be natural rather than synthetic.
As well as washing with soap and water, you should be sure to use a good quality liquid wax when cleaning your car's paintwork each month. Make sure you rinse all soap off the bodywork before you start to apply wax, and wax should be removed afterwards using a soft cloth to avoid damaging your sensitive paint. Remember to get your car detailed once or twice a year to get a more durable coating of wax or sealant, as well as address any issues such as windscreen replacements to ensure your car parts are up to standard.
Even if you clean your car frequently and it cuts a dashing figure out on the roads, you'll still be letting your image slide if you don't take equally good care of the interior. Vacuum the carpets and cloth seats thoroughly, and if you have leather seats you should use a good quality leather care product. It can be easier to get into a cleaning regime when you set yourself the task of cleaning the interior every time you wax your car.