Why Is Ceramic Coating So Expensive? An In-Depth Explanation:




Harley Davidson Road Glide ceramic coating

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If you’re considering having your vehicle ceramic coated, chances are you’ve already noticed that the price is not the same as having a wax or sealant applied. A coating costs much, much more. Why is that?

Ceramic coating is expensive for a few reasons. The product itself costs much more than a bottle of wax. It’s more time consuming to apply and requires more expertise to do it right. It also performs better and lasts longer than other protection so naturally, it commands a higher price.

Let’s take a closer look at why exactly it costs so much more to have your vehicle ceramic coated.

Ceramic coatings have a higher product cost

The first and likely most obvious reason is that the ceramic coating itself comes at a higher price. Ceramic coatings come in tiny glass bottles that can cost more than 5x the price of a bottle of wax. The materials they’re made with are more expensive and the research to develop them was more expensive too.

It doesn’t just stop at the higher price of the actual product, either. Another contributing factor to coatings being more expensive is the amount of product you need to use. You’ll likely use 5%-10% of a 16 oz bottle of wax to do a car. Ceramic coatings are a different story – in most cases you’ll use at least half, if not the entire bottle for one application.

Gtechniq Crystal Serum Light Review

I prefer to apply as thin a coat as possible regardless of if I’m using a coating or a sealant. This reduces the amount of excess product I’m wiping off and allows me to get the most out of a bottle. Even with this strategy, I rarely get more than 2 applications out of a bottle of Crystal Serum Light (which is still my favorite coating, by the way).

When compared to any other form of paint protection, you’re paying more money for less product when it comes to a ceramic coating. That will directly translate into the price a professional will charge you to have it applied to your car.

Wax/Sealant (16oz)
Collinite 845$19.95
Jescar Powerlock$32.00
Ceramic Coating (50ml)
GYEON quartz MOHS$129.99
Gtechniq Crystal Serum Light$109.95

There are other product costs that are elevated when applying a coating as well. It’s important to consider that things like applicators and microfiber towels cannot be reused after an application.

The coating will begin to crystalize once it comes into contact with oxygen which essentially leaves glass shards in the towel. To add to that cost, you need to use quite a few towels to apply a coating in order to avoid having high spots left over. A couple of towels is enough to apply a coat of wax. With a coating, you need to use multiple towels – and they’ll be garbage when you’re done.

Best ceramic coating for cars
Datsun 280Z wearing Gtechniq Crystal Serum Light

Ceramic coatings require more labor to apply

The process of applying a ceramic coating properly is much more involved compared to using a wax or paint sealant. While the procedure to put the coating on the paint itself might be similar to “wax on, wax off” there is a lot more that goes on during one of these jobs.

The biggest difference between applying wax and applying a coating is the prep work required beforehand. As I mentioned in this article, the more prep work you do before applying a paint sealant, the longer it’ll last – but it isn’t a requirement. With a coating, it’s required.

You can apply a wax or sealant to your paint after nothing more than a car wash if you want to. That means you can typically do the entire job in about an hour or so.

This is absolutely not the case with a ceramic coating. There needs to be multiple steps done before coating a car including cleaning, decontaminating, and perfecting. Failure to do so can cause your expensive new ceramic coating to not perform or last as long as advertised. Here are the steps most detailers will take to apply a ceramic coating:

Obsessed Garage Karcher pressure washer

Pressure wash

First, the vehicle needs to be thoroughly rinsed with a pressure washer to get as much loose dirt off as possible before it’s even touched by hand. Some detailers will start by using a stronger cleaner as a pre-rinse to help break down grime and weaken any existing waxes or sealants that might still be on the surface.

Iron/fallout remover

Next up is a form of chemical decontamination. This is the product that you’ve probably seen in videos before – most of them will turn red or purple when they come into contact with iron. This helps to break down or remove certain contaminants such as brake dust and industrial fallout.

Hand wash

After rinsing the iron remover off the surface, the car will undergo a typical 2 bucket hand wash. Some detailers will choose to use a foam cannon for extra lubrication but it isn’t always required. If a stronger pre-rinse wasn’t used during the initial step, a stronger soap that’s intended to strip wax will likely be used.


If you’re just washing your car like normal, it’s not the end of the world if you leave some water behind. This is crucial when applying a ceramic coating though so all water needs to be removed from any cracks or crevices. This process is typically done with a mix of towels and compressed air in an effort to be sure the car is fully dry.

Clay bar

Now it’s time for mechanical decontamination. Using a clay bar will pick up any contaminants that still remain after using the iron remover. The sticky clay will grab onto these sharp particles that are stuck in your paint and pull them out.

Paint correction

The amount of compounding and polishing required will be determined by the condition of the vehicle’s paint. In situations where the car is suffering from a lot of swirl marks and scratches, this step can take days to complete.

Multiple stages of compounding and polishing might be required to get the paint in proper condition. This is important because any scratches or marks will be locked in under the coating for years.

Alcohol wipe down

Next up, the detailer needs to be sure that there are no waxes, polishes, or oils remaining after the previous steps. There are a few different products that can be used to do this such as a wax/grease remover, isopropyl alcohol, or a purpose-made product like CarPro Eraser.

Coating application

After all of that, the coating can finally be applied. This process is similar to waxing a car in that it gets wiped on and the excess wiped off after a certain amount of time. There’s a bit more to it than that though as different ceramic coatings have different flash times and give different signals when they’re ready to be wiped off.

Curing the coating

Most ceramic coatings will cure on their own within 24 hours or so. During that time, it’s important to keep the car from getting wet. Some detailers will use expensive infrared lights to speed up the curing process of your coating. This cuts down the time it takes for the coating to fully cure and be safe to wash or drive in the rain.

As you can see, there is a lot more that goes into the coating process than simply waxing a car. This takes a lot of time and because of that, the cost of labor goes up substantially.

Ceramic wheel coating

Ceramic coatings require skill and experience to apply

The DIY ceramic coating companies will tell you that anyone can apply these products effortlessly with perfect results. While that’s always a possibility, the truth is, ceramic coatings aren’t always easy to work with.

It’s worth noting that everyone’s idea of a “good job” is different. Inexperienced car enthusiasts that apply DIY coatings might think it looks perfect but someone with a trained eye will be cringing at the results. So yes, anyone can apply a ceramic coating. Whether or not the results are acceptable is a different question.

Part of what you’re paying for when hiring a professional to apply your coating is their expertise. They’ve likely applied the same product on hundreds of cars. They know exactly what to look for and how to use the product. They know the best way to fix mistakes (and how to spot them in the first place before it’s too late!).

As with anything else in the detailing world, technique is everything.

Ceramic coatings perform better than any wax or sealant

This one is obvious. A ceramic coating is going to outperform any other paint protection when it comes to durability, self-cleaning and water behavior, and longevity. If you want the baddest product on the block to protect your paint, it’s going to cost you.

Ceramic coatings make a big difference when it comes to how quick and easy it is to wash your vehicle. They’ll save you time and once again, increased efficiency is often another reason for a higher price.

Ceramic coatings are a premium service

This one might be a bit controversial. Coatings are well known for being the best option when it comes to protecting your paint. For some, paying thousands of dollars for a paint correction and coating job is something to brag about. Many people in the car community believe that more expensive must mean it’s “better”.

I remember reading a story in a business book about a person trying to give away an old coffee table. They put it out at the curb with a sign that said it was free for the taking. No one was interested so instead, they replaced the sign with one that said “For sale – $50). It was stolen within 30 minutes!

It’s natural for us to assume something is of high value if it has a high price. I’m not saying ceramic coatings aren’t worth what people are paying for them, but this can play a role in the marketing. Us gearheads love to spoil and pamper our cars – paying a high price for something can make us feel like we’ve given it “the best”. For some, that provides a certain type of satisfaction.

Harley Davidson Road Glide ceramic coating
Harley Davidson Road Glide wearing Gtechniq Crystal Serum Light

Final word

There’s no denying that ceramic coating is expensive and some might even consider it to be overpriced. But when compared with any other products, it’s simply better. It also requires much more time to apply and the product itself is expensive. Because of all this, the detailer has no choice but to charge you a lot more money compared to having a simple wax or sealant applied.

This post is part of our series on the truth behind ceramic coatings.

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