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?

Car sealants

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

Car 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.

Ceramic coatings 

Best car sealants

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

Cleaning product test on car bonnet

Price: around £150+, depending on car size

Need to sell your car?
Find your best offer from over 5,000+ dealers. It’s that easy.

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

Paint-protection film

Paint protection film being applied

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...

Content editor

Ryan is responsible for looking after the day-to-day running of the Auto Express website and social media channels. Prior to joining Auto Express in 2023, he worked at a global OEM automotive manufacturer, as well as a specialist automotive PR and marketing agency.

Most Popular

New Jaguar XF Sportbrake 2024 review: big estate with value boost
Jaguar XF Sportbrake - front tracking
Road tests

New Jaguar XF Sportbrake 2024 review: big estate with value boost

Jaguar's XF Sportbrake may be 8 years old but it just got a whole lot cheaper!
7 Dec 2023
New Nissan Qashqai to get radical look and all-electric power
Nissan Qashqai exclusive image - front

New Nissan Qashqai to get radical look and all-electric power

Major investment in Nissan’s Sunderland plant underpins the new fourth-generation Qashqai
8 Dec 2023
Deal of the Day: Volkswagen ID. Buzz brings retro-style and practicality for £311 per month
Volkswagen ID. Buzz - front cornering

Deal of the Day: Volkswagen ID. Buzz brings retro-style and practicality for £311 per month

All-electric MPV offers style and substance - making it our Deal of the Day for Wednesday 6 December
6 Dec 2023