Detail My Car

How to Choose the Right Automobile Paint Protection for Your Car

The black colored pickup car parked on the road. Horizontal outdoors shot.

Bought a new car and not sure what kind of automobile paint protection you need? This guide will help you choose the best option for your car.

Why would you consider automobile paint protection? Let us quickly run a situation by you.

Your car is a bright and shiny candy apple red; the chrome is still shining after your paint jobs first wash.

Then, you hear a thunk on your roof, and a bird calls out overhead. You become painfully aware that gravel from the road is getting flung against the bottom and sides of your car.

The bird droppings will eat through your clear coat, exposing your paint to chipping, and the rocks will scrape through anything. The thing is, this isn’t even a worst-case scenario there are so many other things that can damage your paint.

Any of these things have a high likelihood of causing significant damage to your paint within the month to the first year of ownership. Your paint needs protection, what are your options?

Automobile Paint
Protection Options

There are three common options for automobile paint protection. We’ll list them here and then go more in-depth down below.

Clear Coating

We know what you’re thinking. “My car already has a clear coat; why does it need another one?”

There’s a simple answer. The clear coat that your car comes with serves two purposes. That clear coat smooths out any imperfections in the paint job underneath, and it provides the most basic protection against water and other simple environmental hazards.

The first clear coat won’t protect against impact. Your second one will do a much better job. Clear coats specifically created to protect your car are made of chemicals that bond tightly over the top of your first clear coat.

This solution is often much cheaper than the next two, but it requires much more maintenance year-round. This kind of coating will wear away gradually as it absorbs damage—kind of like an airbag for your car’s paint.

You should reapply your second clear coat multiple times a year to prevent wear.

Protective Film

Protective film works like a vinyl wrap. Your installer will apply it around the outside of your car like a giant sticker. Protective wraps have several benefits. Most importantly, the installation price can vary depending on the amount of protection you would like.

Protective film was developed to strategically protect the areas of your car that are exposed to the most day to day damage. So, you can decide to wrap just the grill or the first half of the vehicle instead of wrapping everything at once. Depending on how you typically drive, you may only need partial protection.

Protective film for cars is also incredibly durable and self-healing, to an extent.

Paint protection film should be considered a mid-level car paint protection strategy. This strategy is best for a commuter car that isn’t too concerned with looks, not your show car or hot rod.

Ceramic Coating

Ceramic coating is the top tier option for protecting your paint job.

Ceramic coating is a chemically bonding, thin coat of ceramic that sits over your clear coat. Applications of this technology can become expensive for two reasons. Ceramic coatings are usually applied to a full car all at once, they require extensive prep time, and they require specialized environments.

To properly coat your car, your paint must be thoroughly cleaned and clayed to remove even the smallest imperfection and piece of grit.

However, a ceramic coating will give you some extreme benefits. It will protect against UV radiation, acid from bird droppings, and bugs, as well as abrasions and most impacts short of a collision.

If you want to coat your car once and forget about coating it again for 3-7 years, you should use a ceramic coating. Any show cars, sports cars, or hot rods should be protected by ceramic – especially if the car paint is original.

Choosing Your
Paint Protection

Commonly, you’ll be choosing between price, ease of maintenance, and durability. So, given the following situations, which coating should you choose?

You Need Something NOW

In this case, you want something now. It doesn’t have to be the best, but you don’t want your paint to disappear in a month.

This situation calls for either a second, more durable clear coat or transparent film. Despite the downsides of these options, they should give you adequate protection, and they can be applied relatively easily.

That’s where the similarities end. If you’re in this situation, you need to consider what you value more, longevity, or aesthetics. A second clear coat will buff out nicely, while a plastic film will get dusty and scratched no matter how much you clean it. However, a plastic film will last for years where a clear coat will last for months.

You've Just Finished Your Passion Project or Bought Your Dream Car

In this situation, we recommend either a second clear coat or a ceramic coating.

Both of these options rarely ask you to compromise on aesthetics. While they do differ on durability, they will both buff out nicely – letting your work shine.

Next, to make this decision, you need to consider how you’re going to use your car. Will it sit inside a garage most of the year, or will you be daily driving it?

If you’ve finished a restoration project and you expect to leave it in the garage most of the time, maybe go with a second, more durable clear coat (though we still recommend a ceramic coating for peace of mind).

If you’ve just bought your dream car and you expect to be driving it everywhere, then always go for a ceramic coating. Nothing sours the taste of a new vehicle like paying for repairs a month after purchase.

You Want to Protect Your Everyday Driver

You’ve just bought a new van or SUV for traveling with the family, and you want to protect the paint on long road trips and the drive to and from school.

In this instance, we recommend either a ceramic coating or a plastic film. Aesthetics are less critical than longevity in this situation, so we would typically recommend a plastic film for in-town drivers.

If you live in the country and typically drive over gravel or dirt, go with ceramic. You’ll need the extra durability that ceramic offers to prevent scrapes and scratches that lead to rust.

Protection Is
Worth It?

We know, paint protection is optional. However, the money that it will save you down the road in repairs should more than makeup for any upfront expenses.

We recommend a ceramic coating above all else but respect that each situation calls for a unique budget. However, if you’ve read this and decided to go ceramic for your automobile paint protection, we would love to speak with you.