Matte vs Gloss Car Paint Finishes: Pros and Cons


Matte cars have become increasingly popular over recent years, but is it a better finish than gloss paint? In this article I’ll compare all the pros and cons of matte and gloss paint finishes so you can decide which is the best option for your next car.

The Quick Answer

Cars with gloss paint are easier to clean and care for compared to cars with matte finishes. Matte cars hide dust and dirt more, but need to be washed more regularly to prevent the build up of contaminants on the paint. Matte paint is also more expensive and harder to repair if the car is damaged.

Gloss Finishes

Gloss paint finishes are by far the most popular and traditional. There are three main types of gloss finish:

  • Solid: flat color
  • Metallic: solid paint mixed with aluminium powder
  • Pearlescent: solid paint mixed with ceramic crystals

Solid paint is usually cheaper as it is classed as a “standard” finish by most manufacturers. Metallic and pearlescent finishes look a bit more premium and add more depth to the color so typically cost upwards of $500/ £500 as they are classed as an “optional extra”.

If you want to learn more about the differences between each type of gloss finish then you should check out the following articles:

Gloss finishes are easy to care for as most car cleaning products on the market are designed for gloss paintwork. They are also easier to repair in the event that a panel needs respraying.

Matte Finishes

Matte paint finishes have become increasingly popular in the last decade with some major manufacturers such as Audi, Mercedes and BMW offering them on their most premium models. Some car owners also get their vehicles “wrapped” to achieve a matte finish.

Matte cars have a more stealthy look and definitely stand out more compared to gloss finishes. As well as looking more unique, matte finishes have the added advantage of hiding dust and dirt more easily compared to a gloss finish.

Comparing Matte and Gloss Car Paint

In these next sections I’ll be directly comparing matte and gloss car finishes in the following categories:

  • Cleaning and Care
  • Hiding Minor Scratches and Swirl Marks
  • Fixing Deeper Paint Imperfections
  • Hiding Dust and Dirt
  • Price When New
  • Resale Vale

Cleaning and Care

Gloss paint finishes are easier to clean and care for compared to matte paint finishes. Most car care products are designed for gloss finishes so you’ll need to be more conscious of the products you use on the car if you go for a matte vehicle.

No matter what finish you opt for, avoiding automatic and cheap roadside car washes which scratch the paintwork is very important. These places also tend to use aggressive chemicals which can stain the finish which is more likely with a matte car. It’s much better to either wash your car yourself at home (using the proper technique) or hire a professional detailer to clean it on a regular basis.

Make sure you check out my complete guide to washing a car without causing damage if you plan on maintaining the vehicle yourself.

When it comes to apply a wax or sealant, you’ll also need to make sure this is suitable for a matte finish as most paint protection products are designed to enhance gloss. It’s also important to avoid using a car shampoo with wax or gloss-enhancers in the formula.

To get the best out of either finish, it’s advised to wash the car at least every month.

However, it’s better to wash a matte car even more frequently to prevent the build-up of contaminants which become bonded with the paintwork. These contaminants gather on the car when driven or stored outside and cannot be removed by routine washing if they are left to sit on the car for too long. These contaminants include iron fallout, tar, tree sap and water mineral deposits.

These contaminants can be removed by “decontaminating” the car by using chemicals such as iron fallout remover and tar remover. The difference between matte and gloss finishes, is that gloss finishes can also be “clayed” which uses synthetic abrasive clay to remove any remaining contaminants and keep the paint clean and smooth.

A matte finish cannot be clayed or this will ruin the effect, so washing the car more frequently will mean the paint will stay smoother for longer.

Make sure you check out my complete guide to caring for a matte car for everything else you need to be aware of.

Hiding Minor Scratches and Swirl Marks

When a car is washed aggressively by using sponges and brushes, the top layer of paint called the clear coat will become scratched. These scratches are highly visible on gloss paint in the sun and often look like spider webs or swirls, but they also cause the finish to look duller in all levels of light.

Since matte finishes are already textured to create the matte effect, these clear coat imperfections are not nearly as visible. However, it is still important to use the proper wash technique to avoid inflicting this damage as it will keep the color looking richer no matter if the car has a gloss or matte finish.

Fixing Deeper Paint Imperfections

By deeper imperfections, I’m referring to scratches that look white or grey in color which means they have gone through the clear coat and are highly visible in all levels of light, and other forms of damage such as stone chips that have penetrated the color coat of the car.

These imperfections are fixed by respraying the affected panel. This process is far more easy with a gloss finish compared to a matte finish. Since matte finishes are relatively new, some companies will not actually attempt to repair them by respraying. The matching process is also far more difficult because it’s very hard to achieve the exact same finish to the rest of the car.

Hence, fixing deep scratches on a matte car is a much more difficult and hence expensive process compared to a car with gloss paintwork.

If you are concerned about stone chips, then you can invest in paint protection film (PPF) on the hood and front bumper of the car to shield it. This is often worthwhile if you are purchasing a high-end vehicle and drive on fast roads where stone chips are more likely.

Hiding Dirt and Dust

One of the advantages of matte finishes is that they hide dust and dirt more easily than gloss finishes which tend to look dirty more quickly. This is because the dust and dirt create an almost matte effect on gloss paintwork causing it to look dull very quickly.

However, this doesn’t mean you can wash a matte car less frequently. As I discussed earlier, it’s important to clean the car often to prevent the build-up of contaminants which cannot be removed by claying on a matte car.

Price When New

Matte finishes are typically significantly more expensive than gloss finishes on brand new cars. With most makes and models, solid gloss paint is free, and metallic and pearlescent gloss finishes cost around $500-$750. Matte finishes are much rarer and usually cost at least $4000 in the USA. In most cases it is cheaper to wrap the car in a matte wrap instead of opting for matte paint from the factory.

Resale Value

Despite matte cars being more expensive when purchased brand new, they usually have a lower resale value compared to gloss cars. This is because gloss finishes are more universally popular whilst matte finishes are a bit more niche so the demand for a matte car on the used car market is lower. It also could take a matte car a bit longer to actually sell, depending on the make and model.

Here are some more articles you might find useful:

Heather

I first became interested in car detailing around 3 years ago and learnt all the main techniques on my very first car. I spend a lot of time detailing my current car, and trying to keep my family's cars looking presentable too!

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