Is Ceramic Coating Worth The Cost? 5 Tradeoffs To Consider

Protecting your car or truck with a professionally applied ceramic coating can guard the paint job for years. You’ll also benefit from a smooth, glossy finish on your vehicle.

There are other paint protection methods available, though. How does ceramic coating stack up with the alternatives, especially given known costs? Let’s examine five tradeoffs to see what’s best for you. 

Paint Protection

Before we dive into the pros and cons of the different paint protection options, it’s important to recognize that any paint protection is good protection.

Between the sun, the road, and all the bits and pieces flying at your paint job, you’ll need some defenses in your corner. 

When choosing the right paint protection solution, it’s also important to consider your location and parking situations. Garage parking in mild climates is much different than the street next to the beach (or out in the hot Georgia sun). 

Finally, don’t be afraid to ask questions and seek reviews or professional opinions. When you’re deciding on how best to protect your investments, be choosy. Ceramic coating is an excellent option, but here are some others to consider. 

Paint Protection Film

  • Best with professional application 
  • Lasts for years 
  • Can be expensive 

Our first option we’ll explore is paint protection film, or PPF. As is sounds, PPF is a urethane film, usually thermoplastic, which is applied over your car’s exterior painted surfaces. Similar to window tinting, the film is adhesive.

It is typically applied with a spray solution to help set the film, and a plastic tool to smooth the film for the application. 

Paint protection film is great for protecting your paint. Because it is a barrier between rocks and debris hitting your paint, scratches and dents are lessened considerably.

Plus, if the film becomes damaged, it can be peeled and a new film re-applied. For the road warriors out there, this is a great product to consider. 

PPF is best applied by professionals because of the labor and controlled environment needed to ensure the best application. The labor, along with the cost of the material, makes PPF one of the more expensive options

Paint protection film is usually applied to high impact areas, as opposed to the whole vehicle. A complete vehicle PPF covering is possible, too, but raises the price.   The trade-off? The protection can last for years, whether just for high-impact areas, or for the whole vehicle.  

Paint Sealant

  • Offers durable protection 
  • Often uses harsh chemicals  
  • Applied with painting process

Paint sealants are products which are typically applied during the painting process. After your vehicle’s paint goes on, the paint sealant is applied. This happens before any other layers of protection can be applied. 

Paint sealants can be applied after the painting process, but this involves stripping all surface layers back to just the raw paint. Some detailers or body shops won’t want to do this, because of warranty concerns. Additionally, there is the potential of damaging the paint itself. 

If the paint sealant is applied properly, your paint stands a solid chance of resisting paint job damage. The protection is temporary, though, as it’s effectiveness wanes over time. Paint sealants usually contain harsh chemicals, too. This makes them less appealing to many customers, as well as auto body shops.

Paint sealants are best when they’re used with additional paint protection products. Consider the paint sealant a first coat of protection, with an additional aftermarket outer coating offering the more durable protection. 

Traditional Wax

  • Great protection 
  • Must be re-applied regularly  
  • Detail shop or DIY

It may seem old fashioned, but traditional carnauba wax is still an excellent alternative for protecting your paint. For decades, car owners, detailers, and body shops have trusted car wax as a quality product.

It’s ease of application and the levels of protection offered, coupled with its price, still make waxing a solid choice. 

Waxing can be a DIY activity, or can be handled by professional detailers. Most waxes are forgiving in their applications.

For many vehicle owners, though, it’s more of the access to the tools and time which have them seeking out a detail shop. 

Auto waxes also need to be re-applied regularly. Most waxes will give about 6-8 weeks of protection. Then, you’ll have to strip the old wax and road gunk before re-applying. This labor intensity may be a sour note for some consumers, too.

Others will swear by the protective abilities of a good wax coat. Determine what’s right, based on your needs and free-time. 

Auto Wraps

  • Complete protection 
  • Different finish
  • Usually expensive 

Auto wraps have become quite popular for vehicles looking to advertise a business or decorate in a unique color/paint scheme.  They cover a vehicle’s paint job, similar to PPF, but aren’t clear, so you don’t see the vehicle’s original paint. 

Auto wraps provide complete protection to any area of your vehicle you cover. For vehicles which are guaranteed to see road wear and tear, an auto wrap may be a good solution. The wrap may even be able to emulate the paint on your car.

Once applied, you’ll wash and polish a wrap, just like paint. Be sure to use a wrap approved soap and polish, though.

Wraps can be very expensive and aren’t a DIY project. Your vehicle will have a unique wrap designed and measured just for your vehicle’s specifications.

The vinyl pieces of the wrap are cut to match the panels/dimensions of the vehicle. They are then applied by professionals in a controlled environment. 

Wraps can last for upwards of 10 years, though, so your wrap investment is offset by effectiveness. You’ll receive great protection for the life of the wrap. Regular wash and polish maintenance can give you the most out of the wrap, over time. 

DIY options

  • Purchased at auto parts stores
  • Offers decent protection
  • Least expensive option

Last, but not least, it seems appropriate to talk about over-the-counter DIY paint protection products. These sprays, polishes, waxes, or otherwise are available at most automotive and automotive-related stores. They are usually not too expensive and are fairly easy to apply. 

If you’re regularly including washing as part of a vehicle maintenance schedule, adding a polish/wax can be an easy step to include. Some protections are even included in the types of soap you choose. 

DIY paint protections can use products like Graphene, Teflon, Nano-quartz, or ceramic as their bases. These different products all show the potential for helping to protect paint and vehicle surfaces. Some will even provide protection for upwards of three months. 

Ultimately, though, the over-the-counter products aren’t as durable as professionally-installed protections. You’ll also have to keep up with regularly applying the products to keep them effective. Some products can be washed off with certain soaps, so be careful which products you mix. 

DIY paint protection also doesn’t protect your paint like a PPF, car wrap, or professional ceramic coating can. These products are effective at providing a durable layer of protection which resists scratches and dings.

Over-the-counter paint protection focuses more on giving a glossy appearance, beading water quickly, and resisting UV damage from the sun. 

Choices, choices, choices

Deciding on a paint protection option can be a choice between price, availability, and needs. You’ll really want to consider what you’ll personally need for your vehicle.

You can also consult the pros. A professional auto spa, such as EZ Auto Spa can be a great resource to address questions and concerns. 

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