How long a ceramic coating will last is a big deciding factor when choosing which product to go with. There is some confusion out there about the actual effective life of these coatings. Lots of empty promises are being made.
Most ceramic coatings that are available to the public will last 2-5 years. Professional-only coatings can last even longer than that. It all depends on how they were applied and how the car is cared for afterward. A coating rated to last 5 years might only last 3 if it isn’t cared for properly.
You might have noticed that I mentioned the “effective life” of a coating. That is what matters most in terms of the amount of value you can expect from your purchase.
What is the effective life of a ceramic coating?
The effective life is the amount of time the coating will perform as intended. In most cases, this is not the same as the manufacturer’s rating although some companies are quite realistic with their claims.
Technically, the coating will stay on the surface for as long as the company advertises. Will it remain effective in terms of water behavior, self-cleaning, and scratch resistance for that long? Probably not.
Despite what some companies might promise, all ceramic coatings will eventually wear out. They are not a lifetime product that only needs to be applied once. Sure, they’ll last much longer than a traditional wax or sealant. But make no mistake, a ceramic coating will get worn out and need to be reapplied at some point.
Todd from Esoteric does a good job of explaining the effective life of ceramic coatings in this video:
Lifespan ratings for popular ceramic coatings
Here are the manufacturer ratings for some of the most popular coatings on the market. Keep in mind these are not necessarily estimates of the effective life of the coating:
|Ceramic Coating||Manufacturer Rating|
|Gtechniq Crystal Serum Ultra||9 Years|
|Gtechniq Crystal Serum Light||5 Years|
|Cquartz Finest Reserve||2 Years|
|Cquartz UK 3.0||1.5-2 Years|
|Gyeon Q2 Duraflex/Mohs+/Durabead||5 Years|
|Gyeon Q2 Mohs||1.5 Years|
|Modesta BC-01/02/03/04/05/09||3-10 Years|
|Ceramic Pro Silver||5 Years|
|Ceramic Pro Gold||Lifetime|
|Opti-Coat Pro||5 Years|
What factors will change how long a ceramic coating will last?
There are a number of things that can greatly affect the way your coating performs and how long it lasts.
Prep before application
It’s common knowledge that your vehicle will need a thorough decontamination (in depth cleaning, fallout remover, clay bar etc) as well as some form of paint correction to remove scratches before it can be ceramic coated. These things are crucial when it comes to the lifespan of your coating. Failure to do these steps will result in the coating not bonding to the paint properly and failing prematurely.
The environment your vehicle lives in can change how long your coating lasts. If you park your car outside in a desert climate year round, that hot sun is going to take its toll on your coating. Winter driving comes with a lot of sticky road grime and slush that contains salt and minerals – things that can degrade your coating over time.
On the other end of the spectrum, a garage kept show car can likely extend the life of its coating by quite a bit. The type of life your vehicle lives makes a big difference.
Care and maintenance
You can’t necessarily treat your ceramic coated car like a regular one. You need to take care of the coating if you want it to last long. That means avoiding automated car washes and washing it yourself with proper products – often. Using the correct soap is very important. Make sure to check out my post on coating-friendly car soaps.
Avoid using heavy duty cleaners or degreasers when you wash your car. These can greatly diminish or even strip the coating completely if used often.
Ceramic coatings offer great protection from the elements. That doesn’t mean you can neglect them. They don’t have magical superpowers. You need to take proper care of them if you want them to last.
Does the potential lifespan of a ceramic coating actually matter?
In my opinion, it doesn’t. Especially on a daily driver or vehicle that sees the real world regularly.
Things happen to a car when you use it in your regular life. You can’t always control what happens to it. To put it bluntly: it’s going to get scratched. It’s going to get dented. Who knows, it might even get in an accident (but let’s hope not).
Every time you wash your car, there is potential to cause scratches. Your wash mitt might accidentally touch a wheel. Towels hit the ground. Small areas get missed during the wash but are later wiped dry with the rest of the car. Nobody is perfect.
Your kid might bang the handlebar of his bike against your fender. The old lady parked next to you at the grocery store might slam her door into yours. Sap might fall on your roof requiring aggressive use of a clay bar to remove.
Not everyone that rides in your car is going to follow the “only touch the handle or window to close the door” rule. The teenager changing your oil might be leaning on your fender and scratching it.
All of these things are very possible in the real world, even if you take really good care of your car. And in most cases, your ceramic coating will need to be removed in order to fix them.
Think of it this way. In the best case scenario, swirl marks are likely to reappear after a couple of years. You’ll need to give the car a quick polish in order to get rid of them.
If you paid huge money to have a 9 year coating applied, you just wasted 7 of those years. Paint jobs don’t always look perfect for as long as the coating lasts – so what’s the point of a really long lasting coating if it needs to be removed anyway?
Ways to extend the life of your ceramic coating
Putting a little extra effort into caring for your coating can help it to last longer than expected. Whether you applied it yourself or hired a pro, you’re going to want to protect your investment.
Park it indoors
Avoiding the elements as much as possible can really extend your coating’s life. I’ve personally seen waxes and sealants last for years longer than they were supposed to just by keeping the vehicle in a garage and avoiding bad weather. It’s safe to assume the benefits of doing this with a coating are even greater.
Keep it clean
Coatings don’t like to be dirty. Staying on top of routine maintenance will help to avoid the need for heavier duty soaps or cleaners. As long as you don’t let the grime build-up, you won’t need to hit it aggressively to remove it.
Follow up with a detail spray
Using a coating-friendly detail spray, drying aid, or spray topper regularly is a great way to prolong the life of your coating. This acts as a sacrificial layer of protection that will take some of the workload off of the coating itself. It might not last long, but it’ll certainly help. Do this at least every other wash.
This post is part of our series on the truth behind ceramic coatings.
Tim is the creator of Canadian Gearhead. His experience with auto detailing and working for Toyota shows through all of the articles posted here. He runs the Canadian Gearhead site and YouTube channel full-time now and currently owns a 2007 4runner, 2006 Tacoma, and 1991 MR2. Read more about Tim: