Should You Ceramic Coat a New Car? Can You Afford It?
Got yourself a new car?
The interior still smells of plastics and adhesive - not really healthy, but man, it smells so good.
And your paint is just fantastic and shiny. Of course, you want to keep it looking fresh forever, so you meticulously clean it for the first few months. But the harsh reality is that cleaning your car gets old fast, and unless you haven’t officially married it, you’ll eventually want to skip the extra chore.
Enter ceramic coatings.
You’ve heard about them. They really do work, and the best time to get your car coated is right out of the factory.
It's Not Just About The Shine - It’s About Paint Protection And Hydrophobic Properties
Ceramic coatings are the number one paint protection product on the market.
Professional-grade nano-ceramic coatings penetrate deep into the microscopic pores of the clear coat and physically bond to the paint, while forming a thin, hard, and smooth layer on top.
The SiO2 ceramic particles offer protection from UV rays, chemical erosion, and etching from bird droppings, bug guts, tree sap, acid rain, and more. Ceramics have high surface tension and hydrophobic properties, repelling water and ice and preventing dirt, dust, road salt, and grime from sticking to the paint of the car.
Thanks to the strong bond between the ceramic particles and the paint, the coating will last anywhere from 1 to 10 years for the really good ones.
Of course, before you race down to the detailer’s shop, there are a handful of drawbacks you should know about.
Ceramic coatings are not immune to the grit of daily traffic. They cannot protect against rock chips, scratches, gouges, and other mechanical-based erosion.
Traditional ceramic coatings are the most effective but also the most difficult to apply. It’s not recommended to DIY your ceramic coating without help or experience, as improper installation will result in a horrible and costly repair finish.
Ceramic coatings are expensive, and their installation cost at a professional detailing shop can exceed many times the cost of the product itself.
What Will A Pro Level Ceramic Coating Cost You?
Ceramic coatings always seem so expensive. Prices start at around $400 and can reach up to $5,000 or even more for high-end luxury vehicles and exotic supercars.
In most cases you’re not going to want to be on the lower end of that price range when paying a pro detailer because corners will be cut during prep work, application, and the quality of product used on your vehicle. The average price for a pro-level shop is around $2,000.
However, there’s a very valid reason for this. Proper detailing shops will never just apply a ceramic coating to whatever car you drop off. Even if it’s a brand new car. You heard me right.
Тhe car must first be perfectly cleaned and decontaminated to a surgical sterile condition.
The ceramic coating will lock everything that’s already on the paint. Thus, depending on the condition of your paint, detailers will want to perform paint correction in order to remove the existing scratches, swirl marks, and pitting.
Even on a brand new car, imperfections are always to be found, so it’s recommended to go through at least one solid pass of polishing and buffing before applying the ceramic coat.
Some cars need to spend half a week at the detailer’s shop for paint correction, ceramic coating, and then curing time. This easily racks up the cost into the thousands.
DIY ceramic coating kits cost around $100 and up. However, this assumes you have all the necessary detailing products to clean, decontaminate, and polish the paint prior to applying the coating. Depending on the assortment, those can cost you a few hundred dollars as well.
And of course, there’s the cost of labor and time. Getting your car to look 100% perfect before applying the ceramic coating will take you at least a full weekend of arduous work. And you’d better have a clean and well-lit garage, otherwise you’re just wasting your time and ruining the paintwork.
Sealants Vs. Wax Vs. Ceramic Coatings
Ceramic coatings are not the be-all and end-all in the detailing world. There is an assortment of paint protection products that you can use.
Sealants and waxes are much cheaper and targeted toward the average DIY car care enthusiast. You can find a wide range of carnauba wax and paint sealant products between $10 and $50.
These are far more forgiving and easy to install yourself. Car waxes and sealants have hydrophobic properties, although they provide limited protection to your paint. They last between a couple of months and one year at most and are extremely easy to remove with detergents.
Waxes and sealants are a good temporary solution for new cars. If your detailer is booked or your budget is shot, you should wax or seal the paint ASAP to protect it while waiting for a more permanent solution. If you're still confused on what the difference is between wax and sealants, we did put out a guide that compares the differences between waxes and sealants.
Ceramic coatings provide a better layer of protection and more durability. That’s one of the main benefits of ceramic coating.
What About A Ceramic Coating Spray?
Ceramic coating sprays are a step between paint sealants and traditional nano-ceramic coatings.
They are a hybrid product - a solution of ceramic particles suspended into a polymer carrier liquid that’s easy to spray and work into the surface.
Ceramic coating sprays are as easy to use as paint sealants, making them a great DIY product for auto enthusiasts.
However, thanks to their SiO2 content, they offer increased protection against UV rays and chemical erosion. Ceramic sprays have better hydrophobic and non-stick properties, repelling water, dirt, and contaminants more effectively than sealants and sprays.
Price-wise, ceramic coating sprays sit just above paint sealants - approximately $50-$100 for most products. It could of course vary. We’re currently offering our 8oz Ceramic Shine at $39.95 ($59.95 value). Or even purchase 3 for the price of 2!
As good as they are, ceramic sprays contain only a small percentage of SiO2 particles, which means they degrade sooner than traditional coatings. But with how quick and easy as they are to apply and considering the cost savings, it’s an incredible choice for the DIYer.
You can still get reliable protection between 6 and 12 months, which is better than what most paint sealants offer. Waxes are not even in the durability race.
If you’re looking for an affordable middle ground paint protection solution that you can apply yourself, look no further than ceramic coating sprays.
For a detailed exploration of ceramic coating sprays, please read our article: Spray-On Ceramic Coating: A Genius Innovation Or Not?
Does A Ceramic Coating Mean You Never Have to Wash Your Car?
Some not so honest salesmen will have you believe ceramic coatings can protect your paint from anything - heavy scratches, rock chips, meteor strikes. And oh yeah, you’ll never have to wash your car ever again!
This is simply not true! You still have to wash your car regularly, but you’ll find it much easier to do with the coating on than without it. Most of the time, you can simply hose the car down with a pressure washer and it will be squeaky clean.
Of course, the occasional foam treatment will ensure contaminants don’t remain on the coating and will help it perform better for longer.
Does A New Car Need Paint Correction?
We’re often so excited about getting our new car that we can miss obvious scratches, swirl marks, and imperfections in the paint.
In the detailing world, “better than new” is a common term.
Why? Because both automotive manufacturers and dealerships are in the business of making money and selling cars.
Manufacturers have perfected automotive paint and preparation. However, making good business means running thousands of cars through the paint shops each day.
In the name of speed and efficiency, automakers have to make sacrifices in quality. As a result, cars rolling out of the assembly line already have a decent collection of swirls, spots, and fine scratches.
Between the car leaving the assembly plant and you getting the keys, it’s being thrown around on various transports, ferries, and hauler rigs until it finally reaches the dealership. Then, those new cars are being taken in and out of storage, organized in densely-packed lots, and driven around by dealership staff and potential customers.
Usually, there’s no paint protection applied from the factory, at least on mass-manufactured vehicles. So, the clear coat is subjected to increased wear and tear all while being sold as “brand new”.
As a result, many new cars can exhibit some light deterioration of the paint. We’re talking about high spots, swirl marks, light scratches in the clear coat, and unclear or hazy reflections.
Sometimes, you can spot touch-ups or paint corrections performed by the dealership or a third party. These are pretty much always done in a hurry and on the cheap so as to not eat into the dealer’s profit. Thus, the quality is usually far from perfect or even factory-level.
New car paint? Often as perfect as you!
The amount of paint correction needed on new vehicles varies on a case by case basis. Cheaper, mass-produced cars tend to suffer the most, though high-end luxury vehicles are also not immune.
Even manufacturers like Ferrari sometimes sell 6-figure cars with less than stellar paintwork.
Can You Afford A Ceramic Coating On Your Brand New Car?
If you’ve purchased a new car to own, you should allocate some budget to perform paint correction and ceramic coating as soon as you get the keys.
If you’re keeping the car long-term, a ceramic coating is a great investment for your vehicle.
The condition of the paint will only grow worse after delivery. It’s cheaper to spend the money preemptively and protect your paint from the start than paying for more expensive repairs later on.
However, if you’re leasing your new car and know you’ll be returning it to the dealership in 2-3 years, there are some decisions to be made.
A ceramic coating will cost you at least $400-$1,000 on a brand new vehicle with a small amount of paint correction performed.
If you’ve leased a new Mercedes, a ceramic coating costs roughly as much as one monthly payment and should live through the entire lease term. It makes good sense to invest this money and guarantee healthy and good-looking paint for the entire lease.
However, if you’re leasing a new Corolla, the cost of paint correction and coating will exceed your monthly lease payment at least two and up to five times. It doesn’t make a lot of financial sense to invest this kind of money into a daily driver that you’ll be returning after three years anyway.
No dealership will offer you extra money when you turn in the vehicle with a ceramic coating applied, especially if the vehicle is already three years old.
So, if you’re leasing a cheaper car, you’re much better off with a ceramic spray coating. It will still protect your paint better than other DIY products on the market and won’t break the bank.
Likewise, if you’re getting a new truck and know you’ll be off-roading and crawling through some bushes, spending thousands on paint correction and ceramic coatings will offer diminishing returns.
If you’re going to subject your paint to increased wear and tear, you either need to add a clear bra into the mix, inflating your costs further, or you need to stick to DIY products that you can reapply yourself.
Mistakes To Avoid
Okay, if you’re still shopping for a new car, here are some costly mistakes you definitely want to avoid:
Inspect Your New Car’s Paint Meticulously
We know you’re excited about getting in and driving off the dealer’s lot, but make sure they’re not selling you a lemon.
Take the car out in daylight (cloudy conditions are best) and inspect all panels thoroughly. If there are multiple identical vehicles on the lot, check all of them and pick the one with least paint imperfections.
The better the condition from the lot, the smaller your detailing bill later on. Put in the effort now.
Don't Let Your Dealership Wash Your New Car
Dealership car washes are notorious for installing dozens of scratches on your brand new car. The employees there are encouraged to work as quickly and cheaply as possible, meaning your paint will be subjected to harsh treatment, cheap products, and incorrect washing procedures.
Only Trust Reputable Detailing Shops For Ceramic Coating Installation
Traditional ceramic coatings are really tricky. You have to know what you’re doing, and you need to spend the time and effort to prep the car before coating.
Entrusting this work to a cheap dealership, detailing shop, or your buddy who watched a YouTube video is a quick way to ruin the finish of your paint.
If not properly installed, ceramic coatings will leave streaks, applicator marks, and high spots, which are next to impossible to remove without sandpaper and machine polishing with aggressive cutting compounds.
Similarly, don’t buy the cheapest products out there. They might look okay at the end of the job, but will usually offer only sub-par protection and longevity.
If you’re on a budget, try a ceramic spray coating instead!
Don’t Take Ceramic Coatings For Granted
Even with the ceramic coating on, you still need to properly wash and take care of your car.
If you want your coating to last a long time, avoid automatic car washes and aggressive brushes which can scrape away and remove the coating over time, reducing its durability.
Summary: We Wish You Luck With Your Ceramic Coated Car!
Okay, to sum everything up:
Ceramic coatings are great automotive car products and offer superior protection against the elements and grit of daily traffic.
The best time to install them is right out of the dealership lot, as the paint will require a minimal amount of polishing and buffing, and you can keep it fresh from the very start.
If you’re on a budget or leasing a cheaper car, consider using a ceramic coating spray as an alternative. It will give you great protection and it will keep costs at around $100 or less.
If you’re looking for the best ceramic coating that’s easy to apply, consider Torque Detail.