This is one of the most frequently asked questions we answer, and rightfully so. Paint protection has been around for years and has evolved rapidly as technology has improved, and it was soon discovered to be an easy way for dealerships to make money. There is so much to unpack here when it comes to knowing if paint protection is really worth it. It all comes down to what exactly is being applied to your vehicle, how long you will own it, your expectations, and how much money they want for it? Let’s do this.
What is Paint Protection?
There have been so many forms of paint protection that it’s confused everyone. You could simplify the definition by stating that it’s a product that simply protects the paint. Although, if it was that simple, you might as well do it yourself with a wax or sealant. Historically speaking, paint protection has always been a superior product that preserves and protects your paint from the sun, bird and bat droppings, and other harsh substances. Without going too far into detail, paint protection started as a synthetic sealant and has evolved continuously over the years. There’s been PTFE, Teflon, Glass, Quartz, Ceramic, and now Graphene formulated paint protections, and they all consist of different chemical constructs. The most popular and common form of paint protection used from 2010 to this day (in 2021) is the ceramic coating. These coatings should be installed by a professional and are usually backed with a warranty for your peace of mind. That’s why you can easily spend $500 – $2000 for paint protection these days; it all depends on how long it takes to install, the cost of the product, and warranty.
What can I expect from Paint Protection (aka Ceramic Coating)?
It’s essential to understand what you can expect from a ceramic coating on your car, as they are not bulletproof. Unfortunately, car dealerships have sold paint protection/ceramic coatings as some kind of magic force field; you’ll never have to wash your car again, and that it’ll protect your vehicle from anything. When ceramic coatings are sold like this, the customer is only going to be disappointed. Your expectation of a ceramic coating is that it is an additional layer for your paint and that it makes it easier to keep your car clean. They do not last forever, and yes, you do need to wash your car regularly. A superior quality ceramic coating can only withstand bird/bat poo droppings for so long. The substance will keep eating away at the coating until it’s able to penetrate through into the clear coat. Ceramic coatings are excellent for providing you that extra layer of defence, giving you time to quickly clean off the bird poo or other gunk – saving the paint from permanent damage.
Ceramic coatings are also incredibly beneficial as they ease your car cleaning efforts. Having the glass, wheels, door jambs and even inside the fuel cap protected with a ceramic coating makes life so much easier! You don’t need to be scrubbing away trying to remove the embedded dirt because of the layer of protection it has. Nevertheless, there are rules that you need to abide by to maximum the paint protection’s effectiveness. You must wash your car regularly. If you don’t, the paint will gain a build-up of dirt, pollution, and other particles, which we call ‘contamination’. This forms a very fine layer that clings onto the coating. The hydrophobic (smooth, water beading effect) dwindles away and then loses the self-cleaning properties. If you allow dirt to settle for long periods on your car, it can cause water spots as the water dries on the surface and encapsulates the dirt. This is likely to happen if the car isn’t cleaned regularly or if you leave soapy water on the surface to dry.
Should I get paint protection if I am trading my car in after 2-3 years?
Some people own their car ’til the day they die; others like to trade it in after a few years, so whether you want paint protection will differ from one person to the next. At the end of the day, it’s super important to have your vehicle protected with some form of ‘paint protection’ as there is more than one to choose from. The lifespan of ceramic coatings vary as there are so many different types. Some are extremely basic and will only last 6-12 months; these are very cheap to purchase and usually very simple to apply. Others have a lifespan of over 10 years if well maintained but are more sophisticated to install. Ceramic coatings will vary in gloss/shine, smoothness, hardness, layers required, hydrophobic properties, and warranty duration, which can often be reflected in the price the service provider is charging.
If you only own your car for 2-3 years, you can have a ceramic coating that will exceed 3 years’ duration applied on your paintwork. You will save money and won’t need to spend the extra money you would if your car had a more superior, longer-lasting coating applied. Finding a professional detailer with multiple protective coatings on offer is worth the effort, as they understand everyone has different circumstances and expectations. You may not need something that will last over 9 years – you might want something that’ll be effective for 5 years, or maybe 2 years! Doing so will help the vehicle’s resale value and give you peace of mind that it’s protected.
How much does paint protection cost?
Understanding why a ceramic coating costs what it does is really important, yet it can be quite tricky. When the dealership says their paint protection will cost $1995, but a local and professional car detailer tells you theirs is $1100 – it makes you wonder, why? There are a few factors at play here – The amount of prep work carried out before installing the coating, the cost of the ceramic coating itself, installation coverage (paint, wheels, glass, etc.), and the quality of coating installed. Nine times out of 10 when you purchase a new or used car, the dealership will offer you some kind of protection pack for $XXX, and if you turn down their offer, they will come back with a much lower price. Alternatively, a pro detailer will probably be cheaper but will offer the best price from the beginning (and might even include some small freebies as a sign of goodwill and thanks). They likely won’t be able to discount their price – seeing as it wasn’t inflated in the first place.
Many people don’t realise that a vehicle must be properly prepared before a coating is applied, even when it’s new. Most professional installers will decontaminate the paintwork, perform a light machine polish, and wipe the car down with an alcohol cleaner. It’s also great to clarify what areas are being coated and not assume everything will be done. Will the package include headlights, wheels, windscreen, windows, and door jambs? After all, you are buying ‘paint protection’ so it wouldn’t be farfetched not including these areas. As mentioned above, there are many kinds of protection ranging from $12 on eBay, to hundreds of dollars for a well-known brand. The cost of a product and the time required will impact the price of the service. Some detailers are faster than others, some like to take their time – but if it’s only taking 2-3 hours to complete, you should be concerned about the quality of the service. Lastly (generally speaking), the more durable the coating is, the more expensive the ingredients are, the more the service will cost. You can expect to pay top dollar if purchasing a coating that is backed for 7+ years. Nevertheless, do yourself a massive favour and do your due diligence. Read the warranty terms and conditions; find out what it covers and also what it doesn’t cover – never assume these terms because if you do, you’ll only have yourself to blame if you misunderstood them.
With platforms like YouTube and Google, you can easily research each product being sold to you. Watch videos and read reviews to help make your decision about what protective coating you should get. Also, take into consideration that if the product does not have much of an online presence in 2021, then it’s most likely not a very sought-after product after all. We all know that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is, but if everyone is raving about it online, then that’s a good indication that you’re on the right track! Prevention is better than cure, and your car is worth protecting!