Car paint protection, films and ceramic coatings explained: is it worth it and does your car need it?
What is car paint protection, what are the different options and are they worth it?
Paint protection such as paint-protection film or ceramic coatings are designed to protect your car’s paintwork from stone chips, scratches, bird lime and the elements wearing down your car’s paintwork surface.
Such treatments have grown in popularity and sophistication over the years, ranging from do-it-yourself wax coatings and sealants to professional treatments costing hundreds, if not thousands of pounds. They all provide some protection from the various harmful factors that can eat away at the top layers of your paintwork.
So, what are the options, and more importantly, are they really worth it?
Is paint protection worth it?
It all depends on you, your budget and your car. If you want the peace of mind paint protection offers, then it can be worth it – especially if you have an expensive sports car, a luxury saloon or are going to be doing a significant number of miles.
However, a high-end paint-protection treatment, such as a paint-protection film, might not be quite so cost-effective for a family hatchback or SUV. Thankfully, there are some less expensive and DIY alternatives that can help you keep your car looking in top condition, when combined with regular cleaning.
Additionally, if you have a garage, or if you’re buying a weekend car that won’t get much motorway use, then paint protection may not be worthwhile, because it’s cars that do a high motorway mileage that tend to have untidy paint, including stone chips on the front. No cars are immune from scratches while parked up from careless passers-by, though. That being said, if you look after you car's paintwork with a wax, ceramic or film protection, you may be able to command a higher price when you come to sell your car.
DIY car paint protection - wax and sealants
Price: around £20-70
When you wash your car, you can add a car wax and sealant, either during the shampoo stage or afterwards when the car has been dried to bring a small layer of protective coating to the paintwork.
While this won’t bring the same levels of protection as a paint-protection film or a professional coating, if used regularly, it will offer some protection for your paintwork from bird mess, tree sap, dust and harsh road conditions.
There are also proper paint sealant products that you can apply at home. These are often a bit more involved – some need to be applied and then left to dry for a long time, so would require a garage or a guarantee of good overnight weather. Some last longer than others so check how often they need to be applied.
Price: around £50-100
Ceramic coatings are a chemical polymer solution applied to the paintwork, creating an additional layer of paint protection above the car’s factory paint job, and are an alternative to waxes.
The hydrophobic layer will help prevent dirt, bird lime, stains and marks from external elements from appearing or ruining the lacquer clear coat. It also doesn’t break down in the same ways a traditional wax coating does, so while they may be more expensive then wax equivalents, ceramic coatings will last a little longer.
Professional spray-on car paint protection and sealants
Price: around £150+, depending on car size
A company that offers valet services (including new car dealers) can most likely offer you a professional paint-protection layer. This is similar to the solutions that you can use at home, but entails a more involved spray-on process done by an expert; it’s a longer-lasting way of protecting your car’s paint.
These treatments (with brand names such as Supagard) can protect your paint for several years without needing any extra work. They are often offered as a way of making extra profits at a car dealership, but could be worthwhile when the time comes to sell your car so it's worth considering. You can always have these treatments done later if you opt not to have them applied when buying a new car, or are buying a used car.
Price: around £500+ depending on car size
A paint-protection film is one of the most pricey solutions for looking after your car’s paintwork, but it is an effective way for keeping your car free of scratches and stone chips. It’s a clear plastic film that’s stuck on to the car by a professional, and can be applied to just the front or the whole car, depending on your preference.
It’s not a completely permanent solution, because scratches will eventually build up on the plastic and tend to be fairly obvious, so the protection will need to be reapplied at some point. However, it’s longer-lasting and more durable than most spray-on products and leaves the actual paint totally free of scratches. Even a malicious scratch or scuff from people walking by in a car park may not penetrate down to the paintwork unless the vandal is really dedicated. This solution may not be the best option for most car owners, but if you are serious about protecting your paintwork, or have an expensive sports or luxury car, it can provide the best levels of protection.
Click here for our list of the best car wax and sealants...