5 Experts Asked: Is Car Wash Wax A Waste Of Money?

Whether your car is old or new, you don’t want to see your vehicle show signs of age.

You may have also heard from some folks that car wash wax might be the solution to your car’s “aging” problems.

But is it, really?

Quick Answer

Car wash wax isn’t as effective as hand-waxing for preserving your car’s paintwork. However, it’s better than your car having no protective layer whatsoever. Car wash wax can still enhance your vehicle’s aesthetic value by removing water spots and enhancing your car’s shine (albeit temporarily). 

That said, whether car wash wax can effectively protect your car or is a waste of money isn’t a black and white issue.

In this article, I’ll go into further detail about the effectiveness of car wash waxes, the cons of using car wash wax, whether car wash wax can do more harm than good to your car, and the pros of car wash wax. 

Do Car Wash Waxes Work?

Car wash waxes are a quicker alternative and supplement to hand-waxing your car.

But do they work for their intended purpose?

Below, I’ve put together a table of ideas from reputable experts around the internet, plus my personal takeaways from their takes.  

Do Car Wash Waxes Work?
Detailing SolutionsCar wash wax works, but only temporarily. It’s more of a maintenance wax for a brighter look.
Wilson Auto DetailingCar wash wax (or spray-on wax) is just as good as paste wax when it comes to looks. But past or hand wax are better when it comes to protective qualities.
“Living With Your Car: Safety, Cost and Care” — Ken W. Purdy, University of Mississippi “I usually skip the extra spray-wax treatment because it seems to vary in efficiency, good in one place, useless in another, and because I can’t seem to bring myself to believe in wax that hasn’t been rubbed down.” 
Sierra Dillard — MotorBiscuit.comThe spray-on wax used in most car washes is mainly for cosmetic benefits.
Keith Barry — consumerreports.comEven car-wash owners agree that spray-on wax only provides aesthetic value.

Downsides to Car Wash Wax

While car wash wax gives your car a noticeable shine, it still has its drawbacks — especially compared to paste wax.

Aside from the factors already discussed above (like its temporary nature and little to no practicality for paint preservation), here are the primary downsides of using car wash wax.

Low-Quality Wax

The benefits of spray-on wax in car washes depend on the wax’s quality and characteristics.

No two spray waxes are alike, since they differ in terms of quality and type.

Some waxes meet your cosmetic and protective requirements better than others, and a few can do you more harm than good due to their incompatibility with your vehicle.

Most low-quality waxes can’t provide any sort of UV protection to your car.

Soft 99 FussoCoat

My car wax of choice! I have used this product for a long time now and can totally recommend it. Better get yourself a quality wax once and save money on unnecessary car wash add-ons.

They may not even help resist water spots as your car dries off after a car wash.

Basically, you’re just throwing away money if you use them. 

If possible, find a reliable car wash company near you that uses high-quality spray wax.

Ideally, the experts at the establishment can examine your car and fill you in on the type, quality, and brand of spray or liquid luster wax you should use to get the results you want.

Application Isn’t As Thorough as Waxing It by Hand

Car wash wax is meant to be sprayed onto your vehicle as a supplement to the wash.

Because the process of spraying is super quick, some spots won’t be hit evenly if at all.

As numerous experts have pointed out, car wash wax functions more as a temporary cosmetic enhancer than a cleaning agent.

For example, in his paper “Living With Your Car: Safety, Cost and Care”, Ken W. Purdy says car wash wax is “good in one place, useless in another” — an unavoidable downside of a process that can take as little as two minutes. 

On the other hand, hand-waxing takes around one to two hours (excluding washing and drying), and (as the name implies) involves applying wax all over your car by hand.

The effectiveness of hand-waxing largely comes from using paste wax instead of spray wax.

However, the procedure is also elaborate enough to ensure complete body coverage.

Can Leave Permanent Stains

At worst, car wash waxes can leave permanent white stains on your car.

Granted, your paintwork may not suffer the brunt of the damage, but the black plastic bits some cars have (e.g., side mirrors, spoilers, rear and front bumpers) will.

Depending on the ingredients in your spray wax, it can leave permanent white stains on the black plastic bits I mentioned.

That said, many spray wax products in machine car washes may not have that issue.

Again, consult your car wash for more information.

Regardless of the type of wax you’re using, it’s always a good idea to cover up your car’s vulnerable bits before applying or spraying car wash wax all over your vehicle. 

Can Make Scratches Worse

Another downside to car wash wax is that if there’s any dirt or debris on the vehicle’s surface before waxing, subsequently applying spray wax can worsen scratches.

Unlike paste wax applied by hand, car wash wax is sprayed onto the vehicle with enough pressure to grind dirt particles deep into the car’s paintwork. 

In contrast, hand-waxing is a more delicate procedure.

Those who are skilled in applying paste wax by hand can spot patches with scratches right away and work around them.

They can also remove visible debris or dirt before rubbing wax over them. 

Can Cause Smearing on Windows

Spray wax can get onto your car’s windshield.

Again, depending on what your spray wax contains, it can cause permanent smearing.

Cleaning windshield smears isn’t cheap, and driving with a smeared windshield can endanger your life on the road. 

It’s Costly Over the Long-Run

Spray wax can seem like a cheap option at first. After all, it takes only a few minutes and works for quick touch-ups.

However, the cost of car wash wax versus hand-waxing adds up over time. 

Even the best car wash waxes only last about a week or two tops. 

In other words, if you want to maintain the shiny look you get right after a spray-waxing job, you’re looking at two or three car wash wax jobs a month.

That’s one too many wax jobs, if you ask me. 

At the same time, you don’t want to forgo car wash waxing completely.

For example, you can get your car hand-waxed two or three times a year, and maybe do a monthly car wash wax for special occasions.

That way, you can get all the benefits of car wash waxing and keep its downsides to a minimum. 

Is Wax Bad for Your Car?

As I’ve established, waxing isn’t a one-time thing. It’s a procedure your car should undergo within regular intervals to sustain its benefits.

If you’re spray waxing your car at least once a month, you might wonder if it’s bad for your paint. 

Quick Answer

Car wax is not bad for your car. Instead, car wax offers a protective layer for the delicate paint to protect it from dirt, debris, industrial fallout, and other things that can damage the paint. Moreover, car wax preserves the value of the car, makes cleaning easier, and saves money in the long-run.

Here are tips to keep in mind to avoid damaging your car’s paint with car wash wax: 

  • Only use non-abrasive products that don’t eat away at your car’s paintwork.
  • Don’t overuse orbital polishers, especially when you hand-wax your car. Too much of it can potentially damage your vehicle’s paint job.
  • Use a clean microfiber washcloth to avoid scratching whenever you wipe and wax your car. 
  • Use clean water. Otherwise, grit or dirt particles in the water can scratch your car. 
  • Rinse the bucket at least once before every wash. Doing that ensures that the water is as clean as possible (for the reasons I already mentioned above).  

Pros of Car Wash Wax

I’ve discussed the downsides of using car wash wax, so let’s get to the upsides.

After all, car wash spray waxes are still relatively convenient, accessible, and affordable.

It’s super easy to apply, and you can minimize unnecessary contact (and scratches) on your car. 

Here are the pros of car wash wax in greater detail.

  • Spray wax protects your car’s paint from the sun’s UV rays. Although it only lasts for about one to two weeks (depending on the quality of the spray wax used), the best ones work well for UV protection. If you live in a place where temperatures are high, paying for regular car wash waxing might be well worth your money.   
  • Spray wax is extremely easy to apply and takes no longer than five minutes. As I mentioned, you don’t need to apply it manually: You can let the car wash machinery take care of that. 
  • Spray wax is much cheaper than getting your car hand-waxed with paste or cream wax. Though the effects of spray wax don’t last as long as those for hand-waxing, the former still allows you to limit your expensive hand-waxing appointments to as little as two to three times a year. 
  • Spray wax has several different variations. For example, you can buy one with a higher carnauba concentration for a longer-lasting shine. Regardless of the type of wax you use, remember to consult with an industry expert before changing waxes to avoid compatibility issues. 
  • Car wash wax gives your car a noticeably vibrant look. It enhances your vehicle’s shine and makes the paintwork pop, even if it’s only for a few days. Car wash wax also helps prevent water spots that can occur while your car dries up after a wash.
  • You can get it done for special occasions. Spray wax is an easy and cheap procedure, so you can get it done for a quick aesthetic boost on special days like car photoshoots, dates, and prospective buyers.

Sonax Brilliant Shine Detailer

Not all spray waxes are bad and this one from Sonax proves it. I have used the Brilliant Shine Detailer for a long time and it always amazes me again. Check some forum to read amazin reviews. This stuff really does work!

Key Takeaways

  • Car wash wax (a.k.a. spray wax) is best used as a supplement to hand-waxing. 
  • Car wash wax cannot replace paste wax, but it can be a refresher or additional layer of protection on top of paste wax. 
  • Car wash wax mainly provides cosmetic benefits like enhancing the car’s shine and preventing water spots. 
  • Car wash wax can also protect the car from UV rays for a week or two if it’s of a good enough quality. 
  • Car wash wax doesn’t provide long-term protective benefits for the car’s paintwork, unlike paste wax which lasts for months.


YouTube: Detailing Solutions: Does Car Wash & Wax Soap Work, And How?

YouTube: Wilson Auto Detailing: Meguiar’s Spray Wax VS Meguiar’s Paste Wax: X-Wax and Ultimate Paste Wax!

eGrove – Ole Miss: Kevin W. Purdy — University of Mississippi: Living with your car: Safety, cost and care 

Motorbiscuit: Is the Wax in Ultimate Car Washes Worth It?

Consumer Reports: Are Car-Wash Extras Worth It?

Top Gear: Will Washing and Waxing Damage My Car’s Paint Job?


Jan-Lucas Ganssauge
Jan-Lucas Ganssauge