With the amount of marketing we’re being bombarded with in the auto detailing space it can be hard to tell if what we’re being shown is real or just sleazy companies trying to make a quick buck. Before and after photos and videos of muddy water being thrown on $300,000 dollar supercars are around every corner of the world wide web.
With all these messages it’s hard to know what’s real, what’s not, and what’s being over-hyped. I’m hoping I can help you get a good idea of what to expect when getting your vehicle ceramic coated. Should you have it done by a professional? Should you do it yourself? Should you do it at all? Only you can answer these questions, but you’re going to need all the info before you make a decision.
For starters, let’s be very clear about the images you might have seen online:
There is no such thing as a “before and after” photo that shows the appearance of a ceramic coating. The 50/50 shots you see online are the results of a paint correction. A ceramic coating might look a bit glossier than bare paint but aside from that, there won’t be any visual difference.
Ceramic coating before and after shots are fake
We’ve all seen a side-by-side or 50/50 photo of a car. It’s typically a black or other dark color paint. The scratched side looks like the vehicle has been tortured with a Brillo pad and the other is smooth as glass. These types of photos aren’t new but what they’re being used for is different these days.
Many companies use these photos to market their latest ceramic or graphene coating. While there’s nothing wrong with these photos, the message you’re hearing is misleading at best. The only time you should see these types of photos in legitimate marketing material is when someone is selling paint correction services or a clear coat repair service like RestorFX.
Using these photos to promote a ceramic coating implies that their coating is either a magical paint repair tool or an impervious layer of protection that deflects paint chips and scratches. It is not.
Anyone with any experience with or general knowledge of ceramic coatings should be able to see the lie, however since ceramic coatings are still relatively new, the general population hasn’t been educated on the capabilities or purposes of a ceramic coating.
What to expect from a ceramic coating
Ceramic coatings are an incredible method of protecting your vehicle’s paint. Having a ceramic coating installed will make regular maintenance washes much easier since the coating makes the paint “slipperier”. Water droplets carrying mineral deposits will run off of the surface more easily due to the hydrophobic surface created.
Ease of cleaning is the number one reason most people will choose to have their vehicle ceramic coated. Having a coating applied will also make the paint look deeper and enhance the gloss of the paint. After having a ceramic coating applied it may feel slightly grippy but when the coating is fully cured it will feel more similar to wax. This does differ slightly between different coatings.
What NOT to expect from a ceramic coating
A ceramic coating is many things. It isn’t a magic potion that will keep the paint in perfect condition regardless of the abuse it receives. Let’s take a look at a few things a ceramic coating can’t do.
A ceramic coating will not prevent your vehicle from being scratched. We’ve all seen some bogus claims about 9H or 10H ceramic coatings preventing scratches. This simply isn’t true – a ceramic-coated vehicle can be scratched fairly easily still. Proper care and washing techniques are just as important as unprotected vehicles.
If a coating installer or seller claims their coating will last forever and you’ll never have to wash your car again they are lying to you. Regular maintenance washes are still important to keep your vehicle looking its very best.
The idea that a ceramic coating will remove washing from your vehicle’s maintenance regimen is asinine. A coating will not magically keep your vehicle clean permanently, it will just make maintaining your vehicle’s exterior much easier when done properly.
Proper washing techniques and using the correct products are paramount to your coating’s longevity. Using a harsh car wash soap can damage the coating and negatively impact the water-beading and self-cleaning properties that you once loved.
Head over to this article for some of our favorite ceramic coating friendly soaps.
There’s an idea being sold by many in the industry that a coating will completely prevent water spots from forming on your paint. While a coating will aid in shedding water more easily, water spots can still form since a water spot is nothing more than heavy minerals left behind when the water drops evaporate.
If left unchecked these heavy minerals will etch into the coating nearly as easily as they would unprotected clear coat.
How much should a ceramic coating application cost?
When someone asks how much it will cost to have a ceramic coating professionally applied there are a few things to consider. Unlike automotive repair where there is a specific amount of time suggested for a specific job multiplied by the shop’s hourly rate, there is a lot more that’s taken into consideration by the shop giving the estimate.
The first variable the shop will look at is the size of the vehicle. A Mercedes Sprinter will be more costly than a Mini Cooper because of the vast difference in surface area.
The second variable is paint condition. This is where the majority of the cost comes in. Unless the vehicle is brand new a paint correction is important to make sure the surface is as close to perfect as possible before the coating is applied.
The third variable is the coating you choose. There are typically three levels of coatings available from a coating manufacturer. The most cost-effective coatings are consumer-grade. These can be purchased by anyone. The second tier is a professional-grade coating which can only be purchased by approved installers.
The third tier is similar to the second in that it’s a professional grade coating and only approved installers can purchase them. However, there will be higher standards for the detailers that are approved to install them.
Second and third-tier coatings will come with a warranty from the coating manufacturer. Third-tier coatings will have a longer warranty than second-tier coatings and will be more expensive.
You can expect a coating to cost anywhere between $750 and $2,700+ depending on the coating you choose and the size of the vehicle. If a paint correction is required expect that to add on another $800 and $2,000+.
These estimates are just that, estimates. For a more accurate price, I would encourage you to reach out to a few local installers for a quote. Make sure to do your research when choosing an installer. Check out their work on social media, talk to current clients, and read their Google reviews.
Ceramic coatings aren’t a magic bullet by any means but like a nonstick frying pan makes cooking easier than a cast iron skillet, a ceramic coating will make your regular maintenance washes a walk in the park!
Jeremy got his start in the automotive industry in 2012 as a detailer. He also tried sales and a role in the service department at a Chrysler dealership before deciding to become an automotive technician for Volkswagen. Read more about Jeremy: