Ceramic coatings have been the industry-standard for providing durable protection to a vehicle’s exterior surfaces. If you’re considering having your car ceramic coated professionally, or doing it yourself, you need to be clear on the pros and cons so you can decide if it’s actually worth it.
- Advantages of Ceramic Coatings
- Disadvantages of Ceramic Coatings
- Is it Worth It?
Advantages of Ceramic Coatings
- Keeps the car cleaner for longer and makes the car easier to clean
- Provides UV protection, wash marring resistance and chemical resistance
- Leave a long-lasting high-gloss finish
- Excellent durability
One of the main benefits of a ceramic coating is that it both:
- Makes the car easier to clean
- Keeps the car cleaner between washes
Ceramic coatings make the surface of the vehicle feel incredibly slick and hydrophobic (water-repellent), meaning that dirt and traffic film find it more difficult to actually stick to the car. This means it is much easier to wash it off, and less dirt actually accumulates when driving the vehicle.
This doesn’t mean that you can get away with washing the car infrequently though, or using improper techniques. Ceramic coatings do require maintenance in order to keep them performing at their best (more on this later).
High Level of Protection
Another advantage of ceramic coatings is that they provide an excellent degree of protection against:
- Wash-inflicted marring and swirl marks
This is because the coating itself forms a very hard layer of protection over the paintwork. For perspective, most coatings are roughly 4-5 times harder than clear coat paint on the average vehicle.
UV-protection helps the car to maintain its rich color, whilst the chemical resistance helps to avoid bird poo and other contaminants etching into the actually paintwork on the car.
Although not scratch-proof, ceramic coatings also help to shield the car against swirl marks and marring inflicted during the wash process. However, care should still be taken to wash the car using the proper tools and techniques to maintain the finish.
Extremely Glossy Finish
Ceramic coatings ensure that the vehicle has an ultra-glossy surfaces for years to come.
This is due to the prep that goes into applying the coating (as the paintwork is thoroughly cleaned and polished to enhance the gloss and remove minor defects), and because the coating itself is designed to deliver a reflective, shiny finish.
Perhaps the main benefit of a ceramic coating is that it offers the glossy finish, high level of protection and ease of maintenance for a very long time, particularly compared to more traditional waxes and sealants.
Ceramic coatings typically last between 2-5 years depending on the coating itself, how well the surface was prepared and how the coating is maintained. In comparison, waxes and sealants typically last between 3-6 months before they need reapplying.
Disadvantages of Ceramic Coatings
- Not scratch-proof
- Time-consuming and labour intensive application process
- More expensive than waxes and sealants
- Requires frequent maintenance to maintain maximum performance
- Tendency for water spotting
A common myth about ceramic coatings is that they are scratch-proof, however this is unfortunately not the case.
Although coatings are significantly harder than the clear coat paint on a car, they can still get scratched and stone chips can still happen. They only provide some protection against very light swirls which make occur during the wash process.
If you are looking for protection against scratches and stone chips, check out PPF. This is a transparent layer of polyurethane which shields the paintwork against mechanical damage. It is not indestructible by any means, but it is the best way to protect against scratches and chips.
Check out my complete comparison between ceramic coatings and PPF for more info.
Difficult Application Process
This is not so much of an issue if you plan on hiring a professional detailer to apply the ceramic coating, but if you intend on doing it yourself, you should be prepared for a labour-intensive and time-consuming process.
In order to prepare the car for a ceramic coating it must:
- Be thoroughly washed
- Chemically decontaminated using iron and tar removal chemicals
- Physically decontaminated using clay
- Machine polished to level the clear coat and remove defects
- Cleansed using a panel wipe solution to remove polishing oils and residues
The preparation alone can easily take 1-2 days before you even think about applying the coating.
You also need to make sure it is applied in the correct environmental conditions (temperature, humidity) and in an indoor space in most situations.
Although the process of actually applying the coating after the surface has been prepared is not too complicated, there are still plenty of things that can go wrong and be difficult to correct if the installer has limited experience.
Check out my complete guide to applying a ceramic coating at home for everything you need to know.
If you are hiring a professional detailer to install your ceramic coating, you should make absolutely sure that they have good testimonials and evidence of their work on social media or their website.
There are unfortunately examples of customers being told their car has been ceramic coating where actually the detailer has only used an inferior spray sealant which lasts just a few months.
Be very wary of low prices. If it sounds too good to be true, it definitely is.
Another barrier to entry of ceramic coatings is the high costs associated with the application process.
Here are the average prices for ceramic coating packages in various regions (including a machine polish to remove minor swirls and scratches and prepare the surface):
- USA: $1000-$1500
- UK: £500-£800
- Canada: $1200-$1800
- Australia: $750-$1500
If the vehicle requires more extensive machine polishing, the price can be significantly more.
Check out my article on the cost of ceramic coatings to learn more.
If you plan on coating the car yourself, the cost will be cheaper. However, you will need to factor in the following average expenses to prepare for and apply the coating, in addition to your basic wash chemicals and equipment:
- Ceramic coating (£60/ $90)
- Iron fallout remover (£10/ $18)
- Tar and glue remover (£10/$18)
- Clay bar (£15/ $25)
- Dual-action machine polisher and pads (£200/ $300)
- Polishing liquid (£25/ $40)
- Panel wipe solution (£10/ $18)
- Microfiber towels and applicators (£25/ $35)
Requires Frequent Maintenance
Another myth about ceramic coated cars is that they do not need washing. This is absolutely not the case.
In order to maintain the coating the vehicle should be washed frequently (ideally every 2-3 weeks) using the proper tools and techniques.
Over time, the coating’s hydrophobic properties may start to diminish indicating that the coating is clogged and will need a deep clean and chemical decontamination to restore the performance. This is why many detailers recommend a coating health-inspection and detail every 6-12 months.
Do not make the mistake of having a 5-year coating installed and thinking you can get away without washing or looking after the car for the duration as it will be a total waste of money. Coatings require proper care and maintenance in order to make the investment worth while.
Check out my complete guide to maintaining a ceramic coating to learn more.
Are Ceramic Coatings Worth It?
If you are looking for a high level of protection for your car to keep it looking glossy for years to come, and do not mind washing the vehicle frequently then a ceramic coating is worth it in my opinion.
It has several key advantages over traditional waxes and sealants and will help to improve the resale value of the car, provided you keep up with the maintenance.
If you do not want to maintain the car yourself, or hire a professional detailer to do it for you then a ceramic coating is not worth the investment as you will not see the benefits for very long and the cost will not be justified.
Also, if you are just looking for scratch and stone chip prevention, a ceramic coating will not be of any benefit to you either. Instead, consider PPF as an alternative. It’s significantly more expensive, but provides as much protection against abrasion as possible in the industry.
Looking to learn more? Check out this complete guide to ceramic coatings for more information.