Comparing Ceramic Coating vs Wax: 6+ Key Tradeoffs to Consider

The man polishes the body of the vehicle with special wax to protect the car

For many years people waxed their cars. This often improved the cars’ good looks and added a nice sheen to the vehicle and also provided some protection.

These days, many car owners are turning to stronger, better coating solutions, such as ceramic coatings. These coatings are often preferred because they are more durable and last longer compared to wax.

That said, some folks still prefer sticking with traditional wax coatings. Before deciding on a specific coating for your vehicle, it’s smart to consider the tradeoffs.

Let’s take a look at the positives and negatives of ceramic and wax coatings. This way, you can decide which is better for your vehicle.

Tradeoff #1- Ceramic Coatings Last Longer

A good wax job will last about four to six weeks, and the right synthetic waxes could last a few weeks longer. Still, wax jobs rarely last more than two months. At that point, it’s time to stripe the wax down, clean your vehicle thoroughly, and then rewax it.

Doing that every six to eight weeks is a pain, and in practice, you’ll probably have to reapply wax about once a month.

With ceramic coatings, on the other hand, you can typically expect the ceramic layer to last several years or more. Even the most affordable Do-It-Yourself (DIY) ceramic coatings should last six months or more.

Ceramic coatings often last a year or more. And high-quality, professional ceramic coating jobs could last the lifetime of your car.

This means you don’t have to waste time and money constantly reapplying the ceramic coating.

Tradeoff #2- You Can Touchup Ceramic Coatings But Have To Redo Wax Coats

Even a professionally applied, high-quality ceramic coating will wear thin someday. And in the course of daily driving, certain hazards may speed up the breakdown process. Stones might chip the coating, and harsh weather conditions could wear the ceramic thin, for example.

With ceramic coatings, you can use SiO2 boost sprays to provide extra protection should parts of the coating be wearing thin.

Importantly, you don’t need to redo the entire coat but can instead touch up weak points. This will save you time and money while also ensuring that your vehicle is protected.

With wax, trying to touch up weak spots is impractical. The wax itself simply isn’t durable enough, and if you’re going to spend time trying to fill in weaker areas, you may as well use that time to redo the wax coating altogether.

And in practice, this is what typically happens. The wax starts to break down, so you strip off the coating that remains and then reapply it. Quite frankly, this can become a pain.

Tradeoff # 3- Ceramic Coatings Are Far More Durable

By now, you may have already drawn this conclusion, but it’s worth expanding on: ceramic coatings are far more durable than wax coatings. When durable, protective wax coatings came along, it was a good development for car owners. Wax makes cars shine and also provides some protection.

That said, modern ceramic coatings are far more durable. Wax won’t provide much protection against things like flying stones, or errant car doors in parking lots. Wax also doesn’t provide protection against Ultra-Violet (UV) radiation, meaning simple sunlight may slowly wear your vehicle’s paint job thin.

Durability is vital for protecting your vehicle. A perfectly intact wax job may prevent road salt from coming in contact with metal during the winter, for example. This will help slow and prevent rusting.

However, if a single stone hits your car, it could quickly cut through the wax and the paint underneath, exposing the metal, and later on, causing rust.

A stone could also cut through a ceramic coating and scratch the metal underneath. However, there’s a good chance that the stone will glance off of a ceramic coated vehicle. It typicallu won’t cut through the ceramic coating, and even if it does, it may not get through the paint underneath.

This is because the ceramic coating itself is far more durable and thus can stand up to threats like flying stones.

Trade-off #4- Ceramic Coating is Hydrophobic While Wax Attracts Debris

One of the best benefits of ceramic coating is its hydrophobic properties, which means water will quickly run off of the surface. Hydrophobic surfaces are, in fact, very slippery, and many other things too will quickly run off the surface.

Bird droppings, road salt, pollen, cars can act like magnets for debris, but these hazards often have a hard time sticking to vehicles with ceramic coatings.

Wax, on the other hand, often makes it easier for debris to stick. Pollen, salt, pretty much anything can quickly embed itself in the wax. That’s because the wax is very soft.

Indeed, while waxed cars often shine the day they’re waxed, after just a few weeks your car may end up dirtier, rather than cleaner. The paint already found on your car can probably shrug off road salt, pollen, and other threats better than the wax itself.

Wax is great for sprucing up your car for a day or two. If you want your classic muscle car to shine at an auto show, it’s smart to wax your car. If you want to protect your vehicle day in and day out, wax might hinder your ability to do so.

Why? If salt or other hazards stick in the wax, they’ll have more time to damage your car.

Trade-off #5- Wax coatings are typically cheaper

Whether you’re getting a professional wax job or buying some DIY applications at your local big box or automotive store, wax is almost always cheaper. As we’ve seen, there are plenty of reasons for that. Wax is a much less durable, and chemically is a more simple solution.

Automotive waxes have been around for decades with the first bottled wax appearing back in 1944. Meanwhile, protective ceramic coatings wouldn’t start to regularly appear until the 1970s with nanoceramics created in the 1980s.

And while the wax formulas today are very similar to many wax coatings used decades ago, ceramic coatings continue to evolve, becoming easier to apply, more durable, more affordable, so on and so forth.

More advanced technologies tend to be more expensive. That’s true with ceramic coatings. However, given how much more durable they are, and how much more protection they provide, ceramic coatings arguably offer a better value.

Trade-Off #6- When it comes to applications, wax is more forgiving Than Ceramic Coating

Applying both wax and ceramic coatings requires skill and practice. If you’ve never applied wax or ceramic coatings, the first time you do so may not produce ideal results. There are a lot of subtle motions while applying and buffing both wax and ceramic coatings, and you may need a bit of practice before you get it right.

With wax, the coating will likely start to break down in a few weeks, so you’ll get plenty of chances to try and try again. With a ceramic coating, if you want to maximize protection for your vehicle, you may have to either touch up the coating or strip it off and start again.

Removing ceramic coatings is also a bit more difficult and time-consuming. You can use a clay bar to remove ceramic coatings, but you’ll need lots of elbow grease. Various solutions can help aid the ceramic coating process, but you can expect to put in an intensive effort either way.

Sufficiently high-pressure washers will remove wax coatings, although you may need to use very high pressures, which could damage your vehicle. You can also use a clay bar to remove wax coatings. Ultimately, it’s best to use wax removal shampoos as they’ll reduce the risk of damage.

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