Paint protectants keep your car's paint from fading in the sun or being harmed by everyday contaminants like bird
droppings, insects, or acid rain. Protecting your prized car's finish might not be optional for you, but there are
options for how you go about it.
Generally, you have three different routes available: wax, paint sealant, or ceramic coating. Each of these
protectants has pros and cons that make them better suited to different drivers. While all of these options will
protect your paint, they vary considerably in just about every other way.
What Are Your Paint Protection Options?
For years, wax was the go-to paint protection product. But over time, synthetic options and ceramic coatings have
gained popularity for their extended durability.
Another reason people apply these products is for their hydrophobic properties. This is a measure of how well water
beads on the surface. Super water-resistant surfaces are easier to clean (some even call them self-cleaning).
Wax vs Paint Sealant vs Ceramic Coating
||Boosts paint depth and vibrance
Easy to apply
||Only 4 - 8 weeks of protection
Can stain plastic trim
Not as hydrophobic as ceramic coatings
||Better protection than wax
Compatible with waxes and polishes
6-12 months of protection
Shiny, glass-like finish
Increased paint depth
||Doesn't boost paint depth or vibrance as much as wax
Not as protective as ceramic coatings
Lasts up to 5 years
Superior hydrophobic properties
||Doesn't boost paint depth or vibrance as much as wax
Difficult to apply
Doesnt work with waxes and sealants
Long curing time
Car waxes are a combination of organic materials like carnauba wax and/or beeswax with a solvent like mineral spirits
or naphtha. Wax is easy to apply and boosts your paint's vibrance and shine better than any other option. This makes
it a great choice for competition cars or a quick shine.
Wax typically lasts anywhere from one to two months. Its durability depends on how many coats are applied and how
much time is spent outside the garage. Though other options are more hydrophobic, you'll still get a nice water bead
Waxes are available in spray, liquid, and paste forms. Sprays are the easiest to apply but offer the least amount of
shine and protection. Liquid wax is the next step up, offering better shine and protection with the same easy application. Pastes require the most elbow grease, but the finished product is ultra glossy and provides the
Car Wax Features & Benefits
||4-8 Weeks (Sprays 2-4 Weeks)
|Paint Depth & Vibrance
|Types of Products
||Pastes Liquids and Sprays
Did You Know?Carnauba wax is harvested from the leaves of the Copernicia
Cerifera tree in Brazil. The wax keeps this palm tree's leaves safe from the harsh rays of the sun while allowing it
to absorb helpful nutrients.
Paint sealants are sometimes referred to as synthetic car wax due to their similarities to wax in application and protection. These coatings are made of synthetic chemicals and polymers that bond with the clear
coat. This contributes to improved hydrophobic properties and protection against the elements.
Paint sealants are more durable than natural alternatives and can last up to a year. Sealants give a high-gloss
finish that boosts overall paint depth. They're also compatible with waxes and polishes.
However, paint sealants take longer to dry and are a little more difficult to apply than waxes. Also, while they do
provide a gloss to the paint, they don't offer as much depth as wax.
Similar to waxes, you can find paint sealants in spray, liquid, and paste forms. Their levels of protection, shine,
and ease of application follow the same pattern as waxes.
Sealant Features & Benefits
|Paint Depth & Vibrance
|Types of Products
||Pastes, Liquids, and Sprays
Ceramic coatings offer the best protection against UV rays, physical contaminants, elemental damage, and corrosive
One of the biggest advantages exclusive to ceramic coatings is that they can be used on your entire vehicle. While
waxes and sealants are usually limited to painted body panels, ceramic coatings can protect the panels, trim,
wheels, glass, and even parts of the interior like the dash and leather seats.
Ceramic coatings are chemical solutions with high concentrations of silicon dioxide (SiO2). When applied to your
vehicle, they form a chemical bond with the clear coat and harden into a protective shell. SiO2 is a flexible and
strong glass derivative found in sand and quartz. This is why you'll also find these coatings labeled as quartz and
glass instead of ceramic.
While they provide durable protection, ceramic coatings still don't guard against deep scratches or rock chips. For
that kind of defense, a paint protection film is going to be your best bet.
Is There a Difference Between Nano, Quartz, and Glass Coatings?While there are
plenty of different names used in place of “Ceramic Coating,” most of them mean the same thing. In fact, the term
“Quartz Coating” comes from the quartz-crystalline structure of silicon dioxide. The term "Glass Coating" is used
because silicon dioxide can be sourced from sand and glass.
A professional ceramic coating typically costs around $1,500 - $3,000. This price depends on factors like the size of
your vehicle, how much paint correction is needed, and the amount of buffing required. You can also buy a ceramic
coating to apply yourself for $70 - $300.
Pro Tip: Some companies only sell their ceramic coatings to certified detail shops that have taken
that brand's training classes. You may get a higher-quality coating if you go to a professional detail shop.
Ceramic Coating Features & Benefits
||Up to 5 Years
|Paint Depth & Vibrance
|Types of Products
||Sprays and Liquids
What are the Different Types of Ceramic Coatings?
The most popular types of ceramic coatings are nano, graphene, and spray. Nano and graphene ceramic coatings are
considered “true ceramic coatings” due to their high silica content. Spray coatings vary considerably in their SiO2
content but are viable options for many DIY detailers and are great for boosting an existing coating.
Nano Ceramic Coatings
Nano ceramic coatings (commonly referred to as “true ceramic coatings” or “quartz coatings”) are the most difficult
products to use, but the result is ultra long-lasting protection. These coatings include a large amount of silicon
dioxide and have a consistency similar to super glue.
Applying a true nano ceramic coating requires patience and meticulous attention to detail. You'll need
to detail and polish your clear coat to perfection before you begin the application. If any imperfections are missed, they'll be trapped and amplified until the coating wears off or is removed.
Do You Have to Ceramic Coat the Whole Car?If you prefer the way wax makes your
paint shine but want more protection, you can still use a ceramic coating for certain parts of your exterior.
Coating the plastic trim, headlights, and glass will keep these pieces safe from elemental damage. It'll also make
it easier to clean wax, bug guts, tar, and other gunk off. While there are products sold as plastic-specific ceramic
coatings, you can use a spray, nano, or graphene coating on these parts.
Ceramic coatings take longer to cure compared to waxes and sealants. Before the coating's cured, you'll need to avoid
getting your car wet. Depending on the cure time of the product you select, this could leave you without a car for a
day or two.
However, despite the troubles of application and high price tag, a quality, well-maintained nano ceramic coating can
provide up to five years of protection and superior hydrophobicity.
Graphene Ceramic Coatings
Graphene coatings are nano ceramic coatings with a small amount of graphene added. Graphene is the thinnest material
known to man and is about 200 times stronger than steel. This is designed to improve on the protection ceramic can
They're more expensive but claim to offer anti-static properties, better water beading, a “slicker” finish, and up to
10 years of durability. However, there isn't a whole lot of research supporting these claims yet. Many of these
factors are also influenced by the quality of the application and product you buy.
Spray-On Ceramic Coatings
Spray-on ceramic coatings are the easiest to apply and remove. They're also considerably cheaper than nano or
graphene coatings, costing only $15 - $30 a bottle.
These sprays don't take as long to cure, making them ideal for at-home detailers who are short on time. They can also
be applied every 3 - 6 months as boosters for nano and graphene coatings.
Even though ceramic sprays can be layered up to three coats, they offer less protection than nano or graphene
coatings when used alone. Another tradeoff for choosing a spray coating is it only lasts six months to a year before
you need to reapply.
Sprays with large amounts of silicon dioxide offer good durability but with a high price tag. On the other hand,
sprays with small amounts of silicon dioxide aren't as durable. But they'll be less expensive.
While most companies won't outright tell you the silicon dioxide content in their spray, a good indicator is how the
product is labeled. If the spray is marketed as a booster, the silica content could be close to 5%. But if it's
labeled as a ceramic coating, it's more than likely to have SiO2 levels of 30% or higher.
Paint Protectant FAQs
With so many different products and a fair amount of chemistry involved, there's a lot of confusion surrounding paint
protectants. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions and answers.
Can you wax after applying a ceramic coating?
It is possible to wax a ceramic-coated vehicle, but there are a few things to consider:
- It's essentially pointless to add wax to a ceramic coating. Not only would it be difficult to get the wax to
stick, let alone look nice, but the benefits of wax come from its interaction with the clear coat. If the clear
coat is covered with a ceramic coating, the wax isn't capable of producing its eye-catching depth and gloss.
- If you're thinking about using paste wax, the solvent base could reduce the durability and overall lifespan of
the ceramic coating.
There are hybrid products like ceramic waxes available, though. These are typically spray waxes infused with Si02 polymers for easy application and enhanced durability.
What protectant can you use on paint protection film?
You're free to use wax, sealants, or ceramic coatings on your paint protection film (PPF). But, familiarize yourself
with some of the benefits and setbacks of each type before you do:
Waxes - Waxes can be used to protect your PPF as long as they contain less than 5% naphtha or
kerosene. If the wax contains more than 5%, the chemicals could eat through the PPF, rendering it useless.
Sealants - As long as the sealant is labeled as PPF-safe, you should be good to go. To be extra
careful, you can ask your PPF's manufacturer if they have a recommended brand.
Ceramic Coatings - Ceramic coatings are the best PPF protectant by far. They offer improved UV
protection, make the film easier to clean, and add a layer of defense between stubborn contaminants and the film.
Getting a PPF and ceramic coating is as close as you can get to total protection for your vehicle.
What can you use on matte-painted cars?
If you have a matte paint job, then any product that adds gloss or shine is out of the question. That includes most
traditional waxes, sealants, and ceramic coatings. Fortunately, matte-specific options for these products are
How should you protect a vinyl wrap?
Unfortunately, standard waxes and sealants won't cut it when it comes to protecting a vinyl wrap. You'll want to seek
out a vinyl-wrap-specific polish as a replacement for these traditional options.
You could also add a PPF to your vinyl wrap to boost exterior protection. You can then top this, or just the wrap,
with a ceramic coating designed to work with these additions.
Which protectants are compatible with glazes?
Glazes are only compatible with waxes and sealants. This is due to the presence of polishing oils in the glaze
formula. Ceramic coatings need an oil-free surface to cling to the clear coat. The glaze would have to be removed
for the coating to be applied.
Should You Choose a Sealant, Wax, or Ceramic Coating?
The answer to whether a ceramic coating is better than wax or sealant is…it depends. All of these coatings offer
desirable benefits, but it boils down to what you're planning to do with your vehicle.
A Ceramic Coating is Right for You If…
…You're most interested in long-lasting durability, easy cleaning, and top-notch protection. They're the most
hydrophobic option and will still add a nice gloss to your paint. The application process, time, and cost are a
deterrent for many though.
You Should Use Wax If…
…You want the best paint depth and vibrancy. Waxes are also best for drivers on a tight budget. But, wax needs to be
reapplied frequently and doesn't offer as much protection as sealants or ceramic coatings.
Sealants are Great If…
…You're looking for the best of both worlds. They're easier to apply than a ceramic coating and offer more protection
and longevity than a wax. The downside to sealants is that while being a good middle ground, that's all they'll ever
be. They won't give you the deep shine of a natural wax or the unwavering protection of a ceramic coating.
The Truth ABout Car
Paint Sealant, AvalonKing |
Silicon Dioxide, Pub
On Ceramic Coating: A Genius Innovation Or Not?, Torque Detail |
Why You Need To Maintain Ceramic Coatings, Dr Beasley's |
Nano Coatings, Nano Tech Auto |
The Breakdown on Nano Coatings, Dr Beasley's |
Ceramic Coatings: Which is Better?, Glove Box Detail |
Paint Protection Film
(PPF) FAQS, Detail Maniac |
Thread: Seeking Recomendations for Paint Sealants to use on PPF Film.,
4 Reasons Why You Absolutely Need A Ceramic Coating on PPF, Dr Beasley's |
the Facts About Matte Paint for Cars, Ceramic Pro |
Can I Polish Vinyl Wrap?, The
How to Protect a Vinyl
Wrap, Ceramic Pro |
You Need to Know About Glazes, Dr Beasley's |
Thread: Is it okay to use glaze before coating?, AutogeekOnline |
A Guide to Using Ceramic Coating on Plastic Surfaces, AvalonKing
This article was researched, written, edited, and reviewed following the steps
outlined in our editorial process. Learn more about CJ's editorial standards and