Powder Coated vs Painted Alloy Wheels: Which are Best?


Painted and powder coated wheel finishes are both very popular but they both have their own pros and cons. In this article, I’ll compare these two alloy finish types so you can decide which is the best option for your car.

The Quick Answer

Powder coated alloy wheels are more durable than painted alloy wheels. Powder coatings are more resistant to corrosion and UV-light so are less likely to crack and peel, or fade over time. Painted wheel finishes are cheaper but also require more regular cleaning to prevent corrosion.

Painted Alloy WheelsPowder Coated Alloy Wheels
More susceptible to scratches, chipsVery durable finish which will last many years
Less UV resistance so more likely to fadeLess UV resistance so less likely to fade
Cheaper optionMore expensive
Requires more regular cleaningNot as easily corroded by brake dust built-up
Finish is more likely to be completely smoothFinish is more likely to be slightly textured
Painted vs powder coated alloy wheels

Painted Wheels

Painted wheel finishes are the most common for both aftermarket wheels and OEM wheels. This type of finish is also known as “wet painting”.

It first involves priming the wheels. Once the primer has been applied, the wet paint is applied in a spray format allowed to dry and then covered in a clear coat to protect the color underneath. If the wheels are being refurbished using this method then they will also need to be chemically stripped and sandblasted to remove the current finish.

Painted wheels can come in gloss, matte or satin finishes and are available in a huge variety of colors. The finish is more durable compared to diamond cut wheels, however it still requires regular cleaning and maintenance to prevent corrosion.

Powder Coated Wheels

Powder coated wheels are rarely seen on brand new cars and the finish is often selected when the wheels are being refurbished instead.

The existing finish is first stripped chemically and then the wheels are sandblasted. The powder is then applied to the wheels and then they are baked in an oven so the powder sets. A clear coat is then applied and the wheels are baked again.

You can get either gloss, matte or satin finishes using this powder coating method and there are many colors available. You can also get quite unique finishes using glitter powder coatings. The main advantage of powder coating your alloys is that it provides a very durable finish which helps to protect against corrosion more than other finish types.

Comparing Powder Coated vs Painted Finishes

Now we know the basics about each wheel finish, let’s compare them in the following categories:

  • Durability
  • Cleaning and Maintenance
  • Appearance
  • Price

Durability

Powder coated wheels are more durable than painted wheels. The powder coating finish is incredibly durable and resistant to corrosion meaning that it should last for over a decade if cared for properly. Powder coatings are also more resistant to chips and scratches and are less likely to fade over time.

Painted finishes are reasonably durable if maintained properly, however if they are not cleaned often, they will become corroded more easily.

Cleaning and Maintenance

This leads us nicely onto the cleaning and maintenance needed for each type of finish.

To ensure they last as long as possible, both painted and powder coated wheels should be cleaned every month at least on a daily driven vehicle. This should be done using a pH neutral or mildly alkaline wheel shampoo/ cleaner and a soft microfiber mitt.

If the wheels are left for a long time without cleaning then brake dust will accumulate. Once it’s been left on the wheel for more than a few months, aggressive cleaners will be required to remove it and these will promote corrosion. Brake dust is also actually corrosive in itself and if left to bake onto the finish, will eventually eat it away and cause it to peel, flake and crack exposing the bare metal underneath.

Whilst both finishes should be maintained properly, the consequences are more severe if painted wheels are not cleaned frequently enough as they are more susceptible to corrosion compared to powder coated wheels.

In order to further protect the wheels, a ceramic coating or wheel wax/ sealant can be applied to prevent the brake dust from sticking to the finish and to make cleaning easier. Again, both types of finish will benefit from this but it’s slightly more important with painted finishes.

Appearance

It’s possible to achieve matte, gloss, and satin finishes in a variety of colors with both painted and powder coated wheels. With powder coatings you can also achieve some more unique finishes by using glitter.

When the process if performed properly, the finish should be smooth with both methods. However, powder coated wheels can look a bit more textured if the process hasn’t gone completely perfectly. Painting the wheel also makes it easier to color match compared to using powder coatings which cannot be mixed together to achieve the right color.

Price

Typically painted wheel refurbishment/ color changes are approximately $50 cheaper in the USA and £25 cheaper in the UK for a set of 4 wheels compared to powder coated wheels. Here are some tables with average UK and USA prices for powder coating and painting alloy wheels.

RequirementPainted FinishPowder Coat Finish
4 alloys 13-17”$350$400
4 alloys 18-19”$375$425
4 alloys 20-21”$400$450
4 alloys 22”$425$475
Cost of painted vs powder coat alloy wheel refurbishment in the USA
RequirementPainted FinishPowder Coat Finish
4 alloys 13-17”£200£225
4 alloys 18-19”£225£250
4 alloys 20-21”£250£275
4 alloys 22”£300£300
Cost of painted vs powder coat alloy wheel refurbishment in the UK

Which Finish is Best for Your Alloys?

If you’re looking for the most durable finish possible and don’t mind spending slightly more, then go for powder coated wheels. However, if you are looking for a simple repair or color change, then painted finishes offer better value for money if you are only planning on keeping your car for a few years.

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Heather

I first became interested in car detailing around 4 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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