Car Wax Alternatives: All Alternatives Compared (Ceramic Coating, Clear Bra, etc.)

Car wax is a great product in order to preserve and protect your car’s paint effectively. But surely, car wax is not the only option and there are lots of alternatives, be it professional products or DIY products. I researched all possible car wax alternatives and this post is going to tell you about them.

Here is a list of car wax alternatives:

  • Spray Sealant
  • Spray Waxes / Quick Detailers
  • Ceramic Coating
  • Graphene Coating
  • Paint Protection Film (PPF)

As you can see, there are definitely some alternatives to car wax that you can use to protect your car’s paint. Of course, not all of them perform the same and each of these options has disadvantages and advantages, compared to car wax.

Spray Sealant vs. Car Wax

The following table compares spray sealants and car waxes by taking a closer look at important factors around car paint protection. In order to make it comparable, I rated each product from A to F.

CriteriaSpray SealantCar wax
Ease of applicationAC
Cost to purchaseAB
Cost to installAA
Amount of preparation needed CC
Level of gloss providedDA
Level of paint protectionBB
DurabilityBB
Suitability for beginnersAB –
Do you need it?AA
ResultB+B –
Spray sealants are perfect for beginner. Car wax is harder to apply, but it provides a much better protection.

As you can see, spray sealants are extremely easy to apply, quite cheap, and offer a decent level of protection. The major disadvantage is that spray sealants usually do not provide a very glossy finish.

Of course, it is really difficult to generalize this, as there are thousands of different spray sealants and car waxes on the market. Some spray sealants are fused with Carnauba wax, which provides a very glossy finish. At the same time, some car waxes are not durable at all on lose their protective properties after a few weeks.

I wrote a really great article about how long car wax lasts. As you might have imagined, it really depends on the type of car wax you are using. Make sure to check out this article!

As already mentioned, spray sealants are extremely easy to apply. You just spray the product on the car and wipe over it with a clean microfiber towel. Car wax on the other hand needs a bit more skill to be applied properly. Applying too much car wax or not distributing it evenly can result in a milky-looking paint.

Spray sealants and car wax require a similar amount of preparation before you can actually apply the product. Washing the car, claying the car, washing the car again, and wiping it with an isopropyl solution is necessary in order to get the best out of your car wax and your spray sealant.

In the end, I totally recommend both types of products. I think that every car enthusiast should have a spray sealant and a good car wax. If you have to decide between the two, I would recommend a long-lasting car wax. The level of protection will be similar to a spray sealant, but the glossy finish is hard to beat and a nice extra. This recommendation of course only holds true for cars with a glossy finish.

If you own a car with a matte finish, car wax is definitely not the product you should choose to protect your car. Actually, there is a lot more to consider when cleaning a matte car, so I wrote this in-depth guide about it here. Make sure to check it out!

My Favorite Products

I am so happy that you like this post so far! 🙂
I am sure that you will also love my product recommendations, which will make your detailing experience much better. Check my favorite products out here:

  • Wash Mitt: Amazon Basics Deluxe Microfiber Car Wash Mitt: Click here
  • Pressure Washer: Karcher 13246440 K 5 Premium Full Control: Click here
  • Car Wax: Soft99 Fusso 12 Months: Click here
  • Quick Detailer: SONAX Xtreme Brilliant Shine Detailer: Click here

How Much Does A Spray Sealant Cost?

I researched the most popular spray sealants on the market and take look at their prices in order to be able to give a general answer to the question. The table below shows my findings.

Spray SealantVolume
in Fl. OZ
Cost
in $
Cost per use
in $
Turtle Wax 53409 Hybrid Solutions Ceramic Spray Coating16 151.50
Chemical Guys Paint Sealant16 404
Meguiar’s M2116 Mirror Glaze Synthetic Sealant 2.016 202
303 SiO2 Based Touchless Sealant16 202
Optimum Opti-Seal8306
CarPro Reload Spray Sealant17 404

The average price for a spray sealant is $32.50 for a 16 Fl. Oz. bottle. Prices range from $12 up to $60 for a 16 Fl. Oz. bottle of spray sealant. The average price per use is $1.95 with some spray sealants costing up to $6 per use.

In order to calculate the average price per use, I calculated an average amount of 10 cars until the product is emptied. The only difference is the product from Optimum, which comes in a smaller size. Here I calculated with 5 cars until the product is emptied.

Of course, all products are different and some are more productive than others, so take these prices with a grain of salt. Nevertheless, they are a good estimation and give you a hint regarding the cost of a spray sealant.

Curious to learn more?
Click here for other articles you will like!

How Long Does A Spray Sealant Last?

Spray sealants are very durable products, especially if you compare them to natural car waxes or even show car waxes. In the table below, you can see how long each of the above-mentioned spray sealants lasts on your car, according to the manufacturer.

If you are interested in how long a car wax can last on your car, make sure to check the article I wrote about it. It is really in-depth and worth a read. Check it out here!

Spray SealantDurability according to manufacturer
Turtle Wax 53409 Hybrid Solutions Ceramic Spray Coatingup to 12 months
Chemical Guys Paint Sealantup to 12 months
Meguiars Mirror Glazeno information given
303 SiO2 Based Touchless Sealantup to 6 months
Optimum Opti-Sealno information given
CarPro Reload Spray Sealantup to 4 months
Spray sealants last anywhere from four to twelve months, according to the manufacturers

The average durability of a spray sealant is 6 months. Some spray sealants last up to 12 months, while others last just 4 months. The durability of a spray sealant is heavily influenced by the paint preparation performed before the application.

The last sentence of the previous paragraph is very important. Manufacturers of course try to advertise the highest possible durability of their product, but this durability is not always realistic.

The factor that most noticeably influences how long a spray sealant will last on your car is the paint preparation that you perform beforehand. Applying a spray sealant to a dirty car will drastically decrease the durability of the product and is just a waste of product.

On the other hand, applying a spray sealant to a perfectly prepared car will maximize the time the product will last on the car and also how well it protects the car.

How To Prepare Car Paint For A Spray Sealant

As mentioned above, preparing car paint properly before applying a spray sealant is the most crucial part in order to maximize the durability of the product.

Perform these steps when applying a spray sealant:

  1. Wash your car
  2. Clay your car
  3. Wipe the car with an isopropyl solution
  4. Apply the spray sealant

Many people will ignore steps 2 and 3, which decreases the durability of the spray sealant. It is absolutely crucial to clay the car in order to remove any embedded contaminants. Embedded contaminants cannot be removed by washing the car and need to be removed before applying any kind of sealant.

Neglecting to remove embedded contaminants before applying a long-lasting sealant can lead to rust spots and can destroy the car’s paint. Make sure to clay your car before applying a spray sealant!

Wiping the car with an Isopropyl solution needs to be performed in order to remove any leftover clay lubricant or other dirt that might still be on the car. The alcohol will also dissolve any leftover waxes, oils, and sealants that the clay bar might have missed.

After the Isopropyl wipe down that car’s paint is naked and the spray sealant can bond to the surface perfectly, maximizing the durability and protective properties of the product.

Do You Need A Spray Sealant?

Spray sealants are great for car enthusiasts that value protection and durability over gloss. The polymers in the spray sealants offer great protection and durability for up to 12 months. The downside is that spray sealants do not provide the car with a lot of shine.

If you want to protect your car for a long time without spending a lot of money, spray sealants are the way to go.

If you want to increase the shine of your car after applying a spray sealant, you can add a natural carnauba wax on top of the spray sealant. This way your car will have the sought-after wet-look while also being protected from the environment.

Spray Wax vs. Car Wax

Before comparing spray waxes and car waxes, it is important to note that there is no clear definition of spray wax. Sometimes, these waxes are also called quick detailers, ceramic wax and some other names.

In the following comparison I will not differentiate between the different names, but instead consider all the products the same.

The following table compares spray waxes and car waxes by taking a closer look at important factors around car paint protection. In order to make it comparable, I rated each product from A to F.

CriteriaSpray WaxCar wax
Ease of applicationAC
Cost to purchaseAB
Cost to installAA
Amount of preparation needed AC
Level of gloss providedDA
Level of paint protectionEB
DurabilityEB
Suitability for beginnersAB –
Do you need it?AA
ResultCB –
Spray waxes are great for beginners and shine in every category except for durability, level of gloss provided, and the level of protection

As you can see, spray waxes excel in nearly every category. These products are extremely easy to apply, suitable for beginners, cheap, and need nearly no preparation before applying them to the car’s paint.

The big downfalls of these products are the durability, level of gloss provided, and the level of paint protection. In these categories, car waxes are far better.

Spray waxes will protect the paint but are not nearly as effective as synthetic car wax. They will also not last as long and need to be applied much more often, increasing the actual cost per use.

From my personal experience, I can say that the Sonax Brilliant Shine Detailer that I used for a long time loses its hydrophobic properties after a month of regular driving. Do not get me wrong though. The product is amazing, you just have to apply it regularly and more often than a car wax.

How Much Does A Spray Wax Cost?

In order to give a general answer to this question, I checked the most popular spray waxes on the market. The table below shows what I found.

Spray WaxVolume
in Fl. OZ
Cost
in $
Cost per use
in $
Meguiar’s Hybrid Ceramic Wax32200.66
Sonax Brilliant Shine Detailer25200.85
303 Spray Wax16151
Turtle Wax T-477R ICE Spray Wax20120.64
Car Guys Hybrid Wax Sealant18201.18
Meguiar’s Gold Class Carnauba Plus Premium Quick Wax16100.66
Shine Armor’s Fortify Quick Coat8202.66
Spray waxes are cheap to buy, come in large bottles and their cost per use is extremely low

The average price for spray wax is $16.71. The price can range from $12 to $20 with the most products being priced close to $20. The cost per use is $0.80 on average with some products costing close to $0.60 per use.

In order to calculate the cost per use, I calculated that an average of 15 cars can be coated with a 16 Fl. Oz. bottle of spray wax. Given that the products above come in a variety of sizes, I adapted the number of cars that can be coated with each product in order to make the numbers comparable.

I also decided to leave out the Shine Armor’s Fortify Quick Coat when calculating the cost per use. This product is a clear outlier and including it in the calculation would result in a wrong result.

As you can see, spray waxes are not very expensive and most of them are really productive so the cost per use is extremely low. Combined with the easy process of application, you should definitely try out these products!

How Long Does A Spray Wax Last?

Spray WaxDurability according to manufacturer
Meguiar’s Hybrid Ceramic WaxUp to 12 months
Sonax Brilliant Shine DetailerUp to 4 months ( 6-8 bi-weekly car washes)
303 Spray Wax3 months (90 days)
Turtle Wax T-477R ICE Spray Waxno information
Car Guys Hybrid Wax SealantUp to 6 months
Meguiar’s Gold Class Carnauba Plus Premium Quick Waxno information
Shine Armor’s Fortify Quick Coatno information
Some spray waxes last a long time, while others last up to a couple of months

On average, spray waxes last 6 months. Some spray waxes can last up to 12 months while other last only up to 3 months. The performance and durability are heavily influenced by the level of paint preparation before applying the product.

As always, the level of paint preparation has a huge impact on the durability of a product. It is not different with spray waxes. The better the paint is prepared, the better the product can bond to the surface and the longer it will last.

Nevertheless, spray waxes are meant to work as quick protection, so it is not necessary to clay a car before applying the product. For spray waxes, it is good enough to wash the car properly and then apply the product to the wet paint.

A cool advantage is, that many spray waxes or quick detailers act as a drying aid and help you dry the car quickly while protecting the car at the same time.

How To Prepare Paint For A Spray Wax

As mentioned above, spray waxes are meant to act as a quick way to protect your car. So there is not a lot of preparation needed.

In order to prepare the paint for a spray wax, it is enough to wash the car properly with a pre-wash procedure and the two-bucket method. Claying the car afterward is beneficial, but not necessary for the spray wax to bond to the paint.

Washing the car properly and removing all surface contaminants is enough preparation before applying spray wax. Spray waxes do not contain strong chemicals that bond to the surface for a long time, so it is not necessary to clay the paint before applying the spray wax.

The way you can apply spray waxes already shows that they are not meant to last forever but to make it easy and fast to protect your car. One example is Meguiar’s Hybrid Ceramic Wax. In order to apply it to the car, you spray it on the wet paint and just rinse it off.

The product is formulated in a way that you do not have to touch the car in order to apply the product evenly. It is enough to rinse the car after applying a bit of product to each body panel of the car.

Of course, you can apply the product with a microfiber towel, and I do it that way, but it is not necessary. This shows, how easy it is to apply spray waxes to your car!

My Favorite Products

I am so happy that you like this post so far! 🙂
I am sure that you will also love my product recommendations, which will make your detailing experience much better. Check my favorite products out here:

  • Wash Mitt: Amazon Basics Deluxe Microfiber Car Wash Mitt: Click here
  • Pressure Washer: Karcher 13246440 K 5 Premium Full Control: Click here
  • Car Wax: Soft99 Fusso 12 Months: Click here
  • Quick Detailer: SONAX Xtreme Brilliant Shine Detailer: Click here

Do You Need A Spray Wax?

Spray wax is great for people that want to protect their car from contaminants fast and in an easy manner. Spray waxes are extremely easy to apply and work very fast, which makes them a great product for every car enthusiast.

A spray wax should be in every car enthusiast’s car. It is extremely easy to use, does not need a lot of preparation, and can act as a quick detailer. If you have bird droppings on your car, but you do not have the time to perform a proper car wash, spray waxes are the way to go.

Spray the contaminant, let the product sit for a bit, and remove the contaminant with a microfiber towel. The wax will give you enough lubrication to remove the contaminant without scratching the clear coat.

All in all, every car enthusiast should have spray wax. The level of protection is not the best and spray waxes do not last as long as other products like ceramic coatings, but spray waxes are easy to apply, cheap to buy, and very versatile.

Ceramic Coating vs. Car wax

The following table compares ceramic coatings and car waxes by taking a closer look at important factors around car paint protection. In order to make it comparable, I rated each product from A to F.

CriteriaCeramic CoatingCar wax
Ease of applicationCC
Cost to purchaseFB
Cost to installFA
Amount of preparation needed FC
Level of gloss providedAA
Level of paint protectionA+B
DurabilityA+B
Suitability for beginnersEB –
Do you need it?DA
ResultC –B –
Ceramic coatings are incredible durable and protect paint effectively. In all other categories, car wax is the clear winner

Ceramic coatings are a very interesting product. On the one hand side, they are extremely expensive, it is very expensive to install them, and the amount of preparation before applying a ceramic coating needed is enormous.

Once the preparation is complete, applying a ceramic coating is similarly hard as applying a car wax. You need to be careful, but you cannot really damage anything. The only big problem is that ceramic coatings last super long, so any mistake you might make will be sort of permanent.

If you decide to have a ceramic coating installed at a professional detailing shop, you should be willing to spend a lot of money. As I mentioned, the actual act of applying a ceramic coating is very easy. What is really expensive is all the time spent preparing the paint and having a spot where the ceramic coating can harden completely.

But all of that cost and effort is not wasted. If you value durability, great protection, and gloss ceramic coating is the best product. No other product is as durable as a ceramic coating. No other product protects paint as effectively. Another advantage is the gloss that a ceramic coating provides. It moreover also makes the car extremely easy to wash.

Compared to car wax I still feel that a ceramic coating is too expensive, too time-consuming to apply and overall not suitable for a lot of car enthusiasts. This is why I think a car wax is the better product for the majority of people.

How Much Does Ceramic Coating Cost?

Before we can take a closer look at how much a ceramic coating costs, it is important to distinguish between the cost for the actual product and the cost of the installation. In this paragraph, I will take a look at the cost of the actual product. In the next paragraph, I will take a look at the cost to install a ceramic coating on your car.

What makes ceramic coatings so crazy expensive is not the product itself, but the installation that should absolutely be done by a professional. All the time spent preparing the car and let the ceramic coating harden makes the installation very expensive.

I decided to take a look at the most popular ceramic coatings on the market to see what costs you should expect if you decide to buy a ceramic coating. After that

Ceramic CoatingVolume
in Fl. Oz.
Cost
in $
Cost per use
in $
Sonax Ceramic Coating2.57035
Nano Bond Ceramic Coating 13535
Migliore Strata Coating2.59045
Carpro CQuartz 1.78047
Avalon King Armor Shield IX17070
GYEON Quartz Q² Syncro Ceramic
Paint Protection Coating Kit
1.7170100
Ceramic coatings come in small bottles with little volume at a hefty price tag

The cost for consumer-grade ceramic coatings range from $35 to $170 with an average of $85.80. The average price per use for a DIY ceramic coating is $55.30. The price per use ranges from $35 to $100.

As you can see, ceramic coatings are not only very expensive to buy, they are also very expensive per use compared to other sealants and waxes.

In order to calculate the cost per use I had to take a look at a lot of forums and at the manufacturers’ websites. It seems like 1 Fl. Oz. is enough product to coat exactly one normal sized car like my BMW 3 series. So I went with this number to calculate the cost per use.

But as I mentioned above, the actual product is not too expensive. What is really expensive is having a ceramic coating installed professionally. In order to give you a valid range of prices you should expect to pay for a ceramic coating, I took a look at some professional detailers and their prices.

I e-mailed 20+ detailing shops and received a few answers.

The table below shows the results.

CompanyLocationCost for a
ceramic coating in $
Darien DetailNew York City2,500 – 3,500
Mr Detail SeattleSeattle425 – 1,895
First Texan Car DetailingHouston795 – 1,195
Extreme Detail DCWashington DC399 – 1,899
Autospa Seattle1,060 – 1,840
Prices for installing range from a few hundred dollars to multiple thousands

The costs for a professional ceramic coating starts from $1,035.80 to $2,065.80 on average. Prices range from $399 up to $3,500. The actual cost for a ceramic coating depends on the level of paint correction needed, the age of the paint, the size of the car, and the quality of the product used.

It is important to mention that these prices are starting prices. A ceramic coating at Extreme Detail DC for a small car will start at $399. Depending on the amount of work needed, this price can increase drastically very fast.

The same goes for all other companies that I mentioned above. There are a lot of factors that determine the actual cost of a ceramic coating.

Most noticeably, these factors are:

  • Size of the car: The bigger the car, the more product needs to be used and the more time it takes to coat the car. This makes the whole procedure more expensive.
  • Condition of the paint: The worse the condition of the paint, the more paint correction needs to be done. This takes a lot of time and material, making the ceramic coating process more expensive.
  • Type and amount of product used: There are different kinds of ceramic coatings. Some involve one layer of a cheap version while other coatings involve two layers of a very expensive, high-quality product. Depending on what you choose, the price can change drastically.

How Long Does A Ceramic Coating Last?

In order to determine how long a ceramic coating lasts, let’s take a look at the information that the manufacturers provide. Moreover, I decided to take into account what kind of warranty a professional detailing shop gives on their work.

The results are shown in the tables below.

Ceramic CoatingDurability according to manufacturer
Sonax Ceramic Coating1 – 3 years
Nano Bond Ceramic Coating2 – 3 years
Migliore Strata Coating> 1 year
Carpro CQuartzup to 2 years
Avalon King Armor Shield IXat least 2 years
GYEON Quartz Q² Syncro Ceramic
Paint Protection Coating Kit
more than 2 years
Most consumer grade ceramic coatings last from one to three years

Here is how long a warranty the consulted companies give.

CompanyLocationWarranty for a
ceramic coating
Darien DetailNew York Cityno information
Mr Detail SeattleSeattle1 year – lifetime
First Texan Car DetailingHoustonLifetime
Extreme Detail DCWashington DC6 months – lifetime
Autospa Seattle2 years – lifetime
Most companies offer a warranty from 1 year up to a lifetime warranty

Consumer-grade ceramic coatings last anywhere from one to three years depending on the installation and maintenance. Professional ceramic coatings come with a warranty from 6 months up to a lifetime depending on the level of service chosen.

As you can see, the durability of consumer-grade ceramic coatings does not differ a lot. Most products will last you anywhere from one to three years, depending on the number of maintenance washes performed and also depending on how well the product was applied to the car.

Some products come with special sprays that are meant to be applied regularly in order to increase durability.

When it comes to professional-grade ceramic coatings it is hard to find information about the durability of the products used. If you take a look at the warranty that comes with the installation, you see that you can always have a lifetime warranty if you decide to go for the best service possible.

If you choose a different service package the warranty decreases to either five years, two years or even less than a year.

Overall professional ceramic coatings can last up to a lifetime if installed properly, professionally, and on perfectly prepared paint.

My Favorite Products

I am so happy that you like this post so far! 🙂
I am sure that you will also love my product recommendations, which will make your detailing experience much better. Check my favorite products out here:

  • Wash Mitt: Amazon Basics Deluxe Microfiber Car Wash Mitt: Click here
  • Pressure Washer: Karcher 13246440 K 5 Premium Full Control: Click here
  • Car Wax: Soft99 Fusso 12 Months: Click here
  • Quick Detailer: SONAX Xtreme Brilliant Shine Detailer: Click here

How To Prepare Paint For A Ceramic Coating

Preparing paint for a ceramic coating takes a lot of time and is a lot of work.
Ceramic coatings coat the paint and everything that is on the paint.

As you do not want any debris, bird droppings, industrial fallout or scratches to be coated by the ceramic coating, it is important to get the paint into the best possible condition before applying the ceramic coating.

Not only does this improve the look of the car, it will also increase the durability of the ceramic coating.

Here are all the steps needed to prepare a car for a ceramic coating:

  1. Washing the car
  2. Claying the car
  3. Wiping the car with an IPA (Isopropyl alcohol) solution
  4. Paint correction (Polishing and touch-ups)
  5. Wiping the car with an IPA solution

The first three steps decontaminate the car completely. Washing the car removes any contaminants on the car’s paint. Claying the car removes any embedded contaminants and left-over sealants from the paint. Wiping the car with an IPA solution makes sure that anything that the washing and claying procedure did not remove is actually removed and that the car paint is “naked”.

After the decontamination of the paint, it is important to correct it. Paint correction includes polishing the paint and touching it up where needed. Polishing the paint removes light scratches and swirl marks in the clear coat.

The polishing compound removes a bit of the clear coat in order to level the surface again, removing scratches and swirl marks and making the paint look shiny again.

It is important to wipe the car with an IPA solution again, in order to remove any leftover polishing compound.

After these steps, the paint will look shiny and brand-new again and is ready to be coated with a ceramic coating.

Do You Need A Ceramic Coating?

Applying a ceramic coating onto a car can seem very lucrative as a ceramic coating offers the best possible protection against contaminants and is also incredibly durable.

A ceramic coating is great for very valuable cars that need to be protected against environmental contaminants in order to preserve their value. For everyday cars, other types of paint protection are good enough as they are cheaper and easier to install without sacrificing a lot of quality.

Nevertheless, a ceramic coating is only sensible for absolute car enthusiasts or anyone with a very valuable car that is seen more as an investment than a car to drive.

Professionally installing a ceramic coating is extremely expensive and takes a long time. A DIY installation also comes with high costs, needs a lot of equipment, a safe place where the car can stand, and takes a lot of time.

Why a ceramic coating is not for every car enthusiast out there becomes even clearer when it is compared to other types of paint protection.
Surely there is no other product out there that protects the paint as well as a ceramic coating, but some car waxes or spray sealants are not too far behind.

These products are cheaper, do not need a professional installation, and are much easier to apply. Moreover, they also offer great protection against contaminants and are good enough for most cars and car fans.

Graphene Coating vs. Car wax

Graphene coatings are the new hype in the automotive industry and are supposed to have miraculous properties. It is supposedly 200x times stronger than steel, extremely hydrophobic, and prevents water spots even better than ceramic coating.

After researching graphene coatings for a few days, I noticed that there are many split opinions about these kinds of products.

According to experts, Graphene only works, if it is a hexagonal grid spread evenly over the whole car. The big problem is that most products you can buy are infused with Graphene, meaning that the actual product is added to a solution. This is also why you need to shake the products really well before applying them, as the graphene otherwise sits at the ground of the bottle.

It is unclear how it is possible to apply an even layer of graphene if the Graphene is just added to the solution and not really fused to it.

Make sure to check this video if you really want to learn about the chemistry behind Graphene coatings:

In the end, Graphene coatings are a very controversial and new product that I have absolutely no experience with so far and where the science is still unclear.

Given that most real Graphene coatings (not talking about Graphene infused sprays that can be bought for as little as $20) are extremely expensive I think it is best to stay away from these products until their value is clarified by science.

This is also the reason why I will not compare them to car waxes just yet.

Paint Protection Film (PPF)

A paint protection film (PPF) or clear bra is the best possible paint protection out on the market. Comparing it to car wax is not really fair, as a good and high-quality DIY application of a PPF is nearly impossible and the level of protection is not comparable to car wax at all.

Nevertheless, a PPF is an alternative to waxing a car, so I have decided to give you some more information on PPFs and compare this kind of protection to car wax.

What Is A Paint Protection Film?

A paint protection film or clear bra is a multi-layer polyurethane film with self-healing abilities that is applied to the car’s paint. The thickness of this film ranges from six to eight mils (0.15mm to 0.24mm). PPFs protect against any kind of paint damage including stone chips and chemical stains.

The thickness of a PPF protects the car against any kind of damage, including stone chips and chemical stains. No other paint protection, including ceramic coatings, is able to protect the paint against these kinds of damages successfully.

On top of that, most PPFs have a top coat with self-healing properties. So even if the PPF is damaged, it can recover itself and still protect your car.

Paint protection film vs. Car wax

CriteriaPPFCar wax
Ease of applicationFC
Cost to purchaseFB
Cost to installFA
Amount of preparation needed FC
Level of gloss providedAA
Level of paint protectionA+B
DurabilityA+B
Suitability for beginnersFB –
Do you need it?EA
ResultD –B –
PPFs are the best way to protect a car and are extremely durable. In every other aspect car wax is the clear winner.

As mentioned multiple times now already, a PPF or clear bra is the best way to protect your car’s paint. No other type of protection comes close to clear bras.

Clear bras can protect your car’s paint against any kind of damage, be it manual damage like scratches or stone chips, or chemical damage like bird droppings or other acidic etches.

Not only do PPFs protect paint really well, but they also last very long.

The downside of this kind of paint protection is that it is extremely expensive and hard to apply. A DIY application is nearly impossible and even if it were possible, the quality of the job would suffer drastically. A PPF should definitely be applied by a professional and is not suitable for beginners.

In my opinion, most people do not need a PPF. I think this kind of extensive paint protection is suitable for high-end luxury cars or for people that really love their car and cannot stand a few stone chips. For the everyday car enthusiast, a spray sealant or a car wax should be enough.

How Much Does A PPF Or Clear Bra Cost?

As mentioned above, a PPF should be applied by a professional and is quite expensive. Even though it is expensive to put a PPF on a car, money can be saved by only covering parts of the car with a clear bra.

Usually, there are three different types of coverage:

  • Partial front end coverage
  • Full front end coverage
  • Full car coverage

It is important to note, that the actual price of an installation depends on a few different factors:

  • Condition of your car
  • Type of PPF applied
  • Type of coverage
  • Complexity of the application

In order to find out how much it is to install a PPF I took a look at a range of professional detailers that offer this service. You find their prices in the table below.

DetailerLocationPartial front end
in $
Full front end
in $
Full car in $
Just PPF It San Franciscofrom 1,000from 1,800from 5,800
Pista Film SolutionSeattlefrom 950from 1,900no info
Metropolitan DetailSeattleno infofrom 2,495no info
Highline CustomsPortlandfrom 7951,6954,200
Alset AutoPortlandno infofrom 1,949from 5,799
VelocityPuyallupfrom 799from 1,499no info
Extreme Detail DCWashington D.C.from 650no infoup to 10,000

Installing a PPF starts from $650 for a partial front-end coverage and can cost up to $10,000 for a full car, depending on the size of the car and type of PPF. On average, a partial front-end coverage costs $838.80, a full front-end coverage costs $1,899 and a full car coverage costs $6,449.75.

How Long Does A PPF Last?

In order to find out how long a paint protection film lasts, I contacted the above-mentioned detailing shops and asked what kind of warranty is offered with their installation.

Check the below table to find out what answers I got.

DetailerLocationWarranty
Just PPF It San Francisco10 years
Pista Film SolutionSeattleno information
Metropolitan DetailSeattle10 years
Highline CustomsPortland5 years – lifetime
Alset AutoPortlandno information
VelocityPuyallup10 years
Extreme Detail DCWashington D.C.12 years

PPFs come with a warranty of 5 years to lifetime, depending on the body shop and the type of PPF installed. Most PPFs come with a warranty of 10 years and are likely to last at least that long. The level of installation and maintenance can severely influence the durability of a PPF.

As you can see, most body shops give a warranty of at least 10 years. Some others even give a lifetime warranty, depending on the type of PPF applied.

If you have a PPF installed, you can expect it to last up to 10 years or longer with proper care.

Do You Need A PPF?

A partial front-end coverage is a good choice for a daily driven car in order to prevent paint chips and keep the resale value high. A full-coverage is only a great choice for expensive, high-end, luxury cars, as the installation is very expensive and only makes sense if the car is very valuable.

A paint protection film is the best way to protect a car against any kind of debris, scratches, and even paint chips. It will keep the paint in pristine condition for many years and protect the value of the car.

The big downside to a paint protection film is the associated cost with it. Installing a paint protection film or clear bra should be performed by a professional and is very pricey.
Prices depend on the level of coverage and the type of material used.

In general, installing a clear bra will cost at least $650 for a partial front-end coverage and can range up to $10,000 if you decide to cover the car completely.

This fact makes a clear bar suitable for high-end, luxury cars that are an investment rather than a daily driver. For cars like Ferraris, Lamborghinis, Porsches, etc., a PPF is a great choice as it preserves the value of the car.

For other cars, a PPF is only a smart choice if you are a real car freak that cannot stand any chips or scratches on the car at all.

If you can handle some minor damage, there are other paint protectants on the market, that are far cheaper than a clear bra, but still, protect the car very well.

Here Are All My Favorite Car Detailing Products

Proper car detailing requires a lot of products. Given that the market for car detailing products is huge and there are many different products available, it can be very confusing and hard to find seriously high-quality products online.

I want to make sure that you as my reader get great car detailing products, so I decided to list my favorite products down below. I am sure you and your car will love them! 🙂

Microfiber Wash Mitts: Microfiber wash mitts are the go-to piece of equipment for every car cleaning enthusiast. Without a proper wash mitt cleaning a car is impossible. These are my favorites:

  • Amazon Basics Deluxe Microfiber Car Wash Mitt: Click here
  • Armor All Microfiber Car Wash Mitt: Click here
  • The Rag Company – Cyclone Wash Mitts: Click here

Car Shampoo: Car shampoo is the only suitable shampoo for washing cars safely. Make sure to get a high-quality car shampoo to prevent scratches. Check my favorites here and get yourself a good car shampoo!

Pressure Washers: If you are serious about car detailing and about cleaning your cars properly, there is no way around a high-quality pressure washer. I know that they are expensive, but trust me, a good pressure washer is a game-changer. Check out my recommendations below!

  • Karcher 13246440 K 5 Premium Full Control: Click here
  • Greenworks Electric Pressure Washer GPW2003: Click here
  • Karcher K1700 Electric Power Pressure Washer: Click here

Paint Protection: Paint protection is something that belongs to every car detailing routine. As it is so important, there are many different products and many different use cases. Check the list below to find my favorite paint protection products.

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Jan-Lucas Ganssauge