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In recent years, ceramic coatings have exploded in popularity. These products are no longer only available to professionals, but are now more widely available to consumers. Anyone now can purchase a consumer grade ceramic coating and apply it to their car all by themselves. Being that the technology is relatively new, there is plenty of confusion that comes with the many marketing buzzwords that are used in the industry. It’s truly difficult to distinguish the good ceramic coatings from the bad, as well as true ceramic coatings from the “watered-down” hybrid ceramic sprays.
In addition to true ceramic coatings, there are many hybrid formulas that are infused with other elements. Resulting from this is a mind-boggling number of different variations for hybrid ceramic products. I did include some hybrid formulas here on this list, but I’ve tried to limit the products to mainly ceramic-based coatings.
In actuality, it’s difficult to know exactly what these formulations consist of. A good indicator of determining if the product is indeed a true ceramic coating is looking at what type of container the coating is packaged in. If it is in a plastic container, it is most likely not. Most ceramic coatings will be packaged in a small glass or metallic container and typically in smaller volume.
What to Look for in a Ceramic Coating
Some of the main things to look for when buying and using a ceramic coating are its: durability, ease of application, and cost. Ceramic coatings will last longer than paint sealants and even longer than traditional waxes, although depending on which ceramic coating you go with, it can last between 1-2 years.
As for application, some coatings are easier to apply and some more outdoor-install friendly than others. Some glide on and buff off effortlessly like Gtechniq’s Crystal Serum Light, yet some others like CarPro CQuartz UK 3.0 may take a bit more effort to use.
Ceramic Coating Cost
Finally, cost can vary rather significantly with some ceramic coatings costing $30-40 (usually lesser known brands) and other more reputable brands costing over $100. Some of these kits also include a supplemental “topper” as part of a two-part installation, which can drive up the cost as well. This top coat acts as a sacrificial layer, effectively providing you with a longer lifespan of your ceramic coating.
One more factor in cost has to do with volume of product. Most true ceramic coatings coming in a 30mL or a 50mL package. As a rule-of-thumb, a 30mL bottle can cover your average-sized car, meanwhile a 50mL bottle may be needed for a larger truck or SUV.
How this Ceramic Coating List was Compiled
Below is a list of ceramic coatings that I’ve ranked in order of most recommended by automotive detailers and detailing enthusiasts. This data was pulled from various car detailing forums, as well as detailing-related Facebook Groups and detailing-oriented YouTube channels.
This list was curated a bit differently from some of the other lists on The Track Ahead because ceramic coatings are a relatively newer technology. Because of this reason, there is not as much data to work with. This is why I’ve combined recommendations from detailing forums with other sources such as YouTube videos and Facebook Groups. By combining all of these reliable sources, I believe this list is largely comprehensive in identifying the best ceramic coatings available on the market today.
Best Ceramic Coating List
- CarPro CQuartz UK 3.0 – 30mL / 50mL
- Gyeon Quartz Q² Cancoat – Spray Ceramic Coating
- Gtechniq – CSL Crystal Serum Light 30mL / 50mL
- NV Nova Evo Hybrid Ceramic Coating
- Gyeon Quartz MOHS – 30mL
- Esoteric PolishAngel Cosmic V2 Car Coating (50mL)
- Sonax CC36 – Spray Ceramic Coating
- Adam’s UV Ceramic Coating (50mL)
- Nano Bond Ceramic Coating (30mL)
- Drexler Ceramic Coating Kit
Details on Each Ceramic Coating
Excellent durability. This is one of the most durable consumer-grade ceramic coatings that you can buy; CQuartz UK 3.0 is generally used as a benchmark to test against other coatings’ durability. Great applicator pad and suede applicators are provided for consistent and easy application. Downside is that it is a little harder to apply than others and requires a bit more effort to buff away. Slightly more friction when buffing away especially in colder weather.
Although this coating comes in a spray form and may not be considered as a hybrid ceramic coating, it makes it near the top of the list for its incredible durability. This durability is comparable to many the true ceramic coatings. Requires installer to spray into the applicator towel before applying to the car’s paint. Excellent hydrophobic properties and water sheeting capabilities. Economical price; one spray can is good for at least two vehicles.
Another highly-regarded ceramic coating known for its ease of application. The coating goes on so smoothly; it is a pleasure to apply. Round applicator pad may not provide as consistent and even application as a rectangular-shaped pad. Can wipe away practically as soon as it is applied. Incredible water beading when used with EXO as a topper.
Perhaps a little lesser known and not as widely available as some of other coatings here. Durability of this ceramic coating is uncanny. Cost is on the high side. A slightly thicker in consistency with more friction as you apply. Can immediately wipe down as soon as it is applied. Excellent gloss and helps to hide some imperfections in paint.
Gyeon Quartz MOHS – 30mL / 50mL
Recommended ceramic coating that can be a bit more finicky to work with than others. It has a quicker flash time so smaller sections should be worked at a time. It also may have less than optimal results if not installed in a controlled environment. Conversely, if it is installed correctly in a milder climate, it can yield outstanding results.
This is the non-spray ceramic coating version of PolishAngel Cosmic Spritz, which is recommended by detailers for its ease of application. Very hydrophobic exhibiting high gloss.
Good durability. Works well for a regular-sized vehicle, however you might consider an additional kit if you’re coating a larger vehicle. The kit is purchased as a two-stage kit that is typically offered as an option. Aggressive water beading behavior.
A good ceramic coating that has a unique feature: a UV additive that allows you to see where the coating was applied. This is a good option for beginners or those who are worried about application with even coverage. This UV-additive helps the installer to identify spots that may have been missed. User friendly, but a bit costly.
This is a very low cost option for a ceramic coating that appears to be a durable coating. Highly reviewed with excellent ratings on Amazon. I mainly placed this one on this list for these reasons, however lower on the list due it being lesser-known brand.
Offered as a two-stage ceramic coating; base coat is tackier while top coat provides desired slickness. Good hydrophobic properties. Price is high for a lesser-known brand. Just like the Nano Bond ceramic coating, this is low on this list due to it being a less reputable brand, however it does have excellent reviews on Amazon.
Ceramic Coating FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)
- What exactly is a ceramic coating?
- Which ceramic coating lasts the longest?
- Are ceramic coatings worth it?
- What does a ceramic coating protect against? What does it not protect against?
- What’s the difference between a ceramic coating and a wax or sealant?
- How do you apply a ceramic coating?
- Can you apply a ceramic coating without performing a paint correction?
- Can a ceramic coating be removed?
- Can you apply a ceramic coating to wheels, plastic trim, or glass?
- Can a ceramic coating be applied outside?
- How do graphene coatings compare with ceramic coatings?
What exactly is a ceramic coating?
A ceramic coating is a silicon-based polymer that can be applied to the exterior of a vehicle. Ceramic coatings create a very strong bond to the exterior surface, making it difficult to remove. In addition to bonding to the vehicle, it in itself is a durable coating that is thicker than your traditional wax or paint sealant. A ceramic coating is a form of paint protection that is not an alternative to paint protection film (PPF), but more of an alternative to wax/sealant. Finally, ceramic coatings exhibit excellent hydrophobic characteristics allowing water to bead up and sheet off of the ceramic coated surface.
Ceramic coatings can come in a variety of formulations utilizing silicon dioxide, titanium oxide, graphene, etc. Regardless of what the manufacturer uses in their product, the base is always a ceramic coating. Many of these products start out with a ceramic coating and have added other ingredients to produce their own unique product. It would be naive to believe every manufacturer’s claim that their product is the latest and greatest product to hit the market. The best thing to do is to research any particular coating and look at the reviews and testing of these products to gauge their performance. Most times, there is some science behind it, but not enough to make it into some miracle product that is superior to a standard ceramic coating.
Which ceramic coating lasts the longest?
Some ceramic coatings do stand our in various tests that I’ve come across online as being the longest lasting. The short answer to which ceramic coating lasts the longest is CarPro CQuartz UK 3.0 as universally one of the longest lasting ceramic coatings. On Autogeek and Autopia forums, I hear that Gyeon Quartz Q² Cancoat has very high durability. I have also seen long-term testing done on various YouTube channels with a couple of products that stand out as very durable; the ones that come to mind are NV Nova Evo Hybrid Ceramic Coating and Nano Bond Ceramic Coating (30mL) on Car Craft Auto Detailing and Scott HD YouTube channels.
The answer above addresses ceramic coatings that are applied as a one-step coating. This means that there is one layer that is applied to the car’s surface without the use of a topper. Usually, adding this extra “topper” coat extends the life of any particular ceramic coating.
In addition to these ceramic topper products, there are other factors that can affect the lifespan of your ceramic coating:
- Washing your car with proper wash technique: touchless is best, otherwise two-bucket wash method.
- Park in a garage or covered parking rather than outside.
- Adding on a spray ceramic “topper” after you do a maintenance wash.
Are ceramic coatings worth it?
It really depends on you and your vehicle. If you don’t care a great deal about the condition of your car’s exterior, plan to sell the car soon, or take your car to the nearest self service car wash to wash your car, then maybe ceramic coatings are not worth the price and effort to you. This paints a picture of the kind of person a ceramic coating would be worth it to:
- Cares about their car’s exterior paint and how it looks.
- Plans to wash their car themselves to ensure that it does not get scratched up from commercial car washes.
- Wants to keep their car for at least a few years and wants to ensure that it is protected from the elements.
Ceramic coatings offer these main benefits to the car owner: enhanced gloss and appearance, added durability from chemicals and the elements, excellent hydrophobicity to make washing your vehicle easier to do.
I’ll give you an example of why I applied a ceramic coating on my a new truck I recently got and why I thought it was worth it. After I ceramic coated my truck, I’ve noticed that the everyday dust, dirt, and animal droppings that would typically stick to the vehicle’s paint was now easier to remove when washing. When it did come time to wash my vehicle, most of these contaminants would come off quite easily with a bit of car soap. Before coating, there’s no way I could do this as most of those contaminants were stuck on the paint and required more time to scrub to remove. Finally, when it came time to dry the vehicle off, I didn’t even need to use a drying towel to dry. I was able to take a leaf blower and blow about 95% of the water off my vehicle since the coating is so hydrophobic. For me, the ease of maintenance when washing my vehicle makes a ceramic coating totally worth it.
What does a ceramic coating protect against? What does it not protect against?
Despite what some early ceramic coating manufacturers may have claimed, ceramic coatings are not an indestructible or “bulletproof” coating. Although ceramic coatings may be more durable and longer-lasting protectant than waxes and paint sealants, they are still vulnerable to rock chips, water-spotting, scratches, and swirl marks. Vehicles that are ceramic coated will also still need to be wash regularly to ensure that any contaminants that sit on the coating does not degrade the coating.
So what are ceramic coatings good for? They are good for protecting against light scratches, corrosion, heat, chemicals, environmental effects, and industrial fallout. It may also slow down the effects of UV radiation resulting in oxidation and other clear coat damage, although this is claim is debatable. A benefit of having a ceramic coating when dealing with contaminants is that the coating repels water very well, so it makes washing the car a breeze.
What’s the difference between a ceramic coating and a wax or paint sealant?
Traditional waxes have the lowest durability out of the three, lasting around 2-3 months. Paint sealants are man-made (synthetic) waxes that provide excellent protection with a longer lifespan (around 4-6 months). Ceramic coatings are much more durable than these two options due in part to its bonding properties to a car’s paint on the nano scale, but also because of its hardness properties. That is why it is more difficult to remove than waxes and sealants. Ceramic coatings can last for 1-2 years with a consumer grade coating.
The application process for these three options can vary. With traditional waxes and paint sealants, the product is normally applied to an applicator pad either by hand or by machine polisher, and then is applied to the paint surface. After the product is applied, it will then be removed by buffing away the product from the surface to remove excess product from the paint. Ceramic coatings differ in that it is typically installed by applying the liquid to the applicator (only by hand). The liquid is then applied to the vehicle’s surface, allowed to dry/flash, and then is wiped away with a microfiber towel.
Finally, there are differences in the final appearance of a wax, a paint sealant, and a ceramic coating. All products will exhibit hydrophobic properties, but the look will vary slightly if you have a good eye. Traditional waxes (especially ones that contain carnauba wax) will usually exhibit a very warm and rich gloss to the paint, which is highly desirable. Paint sealants are man-made; although it is made to last longer than waxes, it doesn’t have that warmth and depth that you would get with a wax. Finally, ceramic coatings can offer a glossy look and can look quite good after its application, however many argue that it still just doesn’t look as good as a good ‘ol fashion carnauba wax. This is especially true on darker colored vehicles.
How do you apply a ceramic coating?
In order to be applied, a car’s paint needs to be washed, decontaminated, and typically paint corrected. One of the most important things with applying a ceramic coating is the prep work involved. Not only do you want a good, clean surface for the ceramic coating to bond to, but you also don’t want to lock contaminants in the ceramic coating too.
The ceramic coating product is applied to an applicator pad and then applied to the vehicle in small sections at a time. It is applied evenly in a back and forth pattern. The product will then flash, which means that it has molecularly arranged itself into a low-energy shell that protects itself from outside elements and is less likely to react with outside chemical influences. After the product flashes, the product is then wiped off.
The rest of the vehicle is applied in the same fashion until the whole vehicle is done. Once a ceramic coating is applied, it forms a semi-permanent bond to the paint surface. Some say that using a clay bar will remove a ceramic coating, but in my experience, you’ll most likely need to mechanically machine polish in order to remove a ceramic coating.
Can you apply a ceramic coating without performing a paint correction?
If you are planning to ceramic coat a used vehicle, I would almost always recommend performing some level of paint correction to ensure an even and consistent surface for the new ceramic coating to adhere to. It is possible to still apply a ceramic coating without doing a paint correction, however at the very least the vehicle should be washed and chemically and mechanically decontaminated beforehand.
On new vehicles, you may or may not choose to perform a paint correction prior to applying a ceramic coating. New vehicles can still have contaminants in the clearcoat due to industrial fallout, railway fallout, etc. After washing, claying, and using an iron remover at a minimum, the vehicle can be ceramic coated to a good degree of effectiveness. Some argue that you must always polish before applying a ceramic coating and although this is the ideal case, it is not absolutely necessary if you have done a mechanical and chemical decontamination.
Can a ceramic coating be removed?
If you look up the answer to this question, you will be met with a several different answers. As you know, ceramic coatings are resistant to chemicals, therefore chemicals alone will simply not remove a ceramic coating. If someone suggests some kind of chemical or dish soap as a means of removing ceramic coatings, it is likely not going to work. As for mechanical methods of removal, there are mainly two methods: using a clay bar and using a machine polisher with compound/polish.
With regards to clay bar, I’ve personally found that it does next to nothing to remove existing ceramic coatings especially ones that still have substantial life to them. Perhaps if the ceramic coating was on its last legs, a clay bar might do something but I highly doubt it. In my personal experience, I’ve found that the only way to remove a ceramic coating is to use a machine polisher and polish it off. In the past, I’ve used a standard polish such as Meguiar’s M205 polish with a Porter Cable 7424XP dual-action polisher to remove a ceramic coating. If you want more information on how to remove a ceramic coating, I’ve written a guide here.
Can you apply a ceramic coating to wheels, plastic trim, or glass?
Ceramic coatings can be applied to wheels, plastic trim, and glass, with some caveats. Typical ceramic coatings are made to be used on a car’s paint, so using it on other materials might be incompatible. In most cases, the incompatibility resides with how it might react with the material and not with issues bonding to the material’s surface. There are some reports of ceramic coatings being applied to plastic trim and it causing the trim to discolor, and with glass there are complaints of it causing the wiper blades to not wipe properly or chatter when in operation.
There are ceramic coatings that are marketed specifically for wheels, specifically for glass, and specifically for plastic trim. Is it all marketing jazz, or is it a legitimately formulated product to ensure safe application? It’s up to you to decide, but in my experience I haven’t had issues applying a regular ceramic coating to wheels, plastic trim, and window glass.
I would just made sure to test it in a small spot first to see if it causes any problems before doing it on the rest of the wheels/trim/glass. And just to add, if I had the option of choosing a specific ceramic coating made for a particular product (i.e. wheels, plastic trim, glass), then I would do so to make sure that what I was applying was more likely safe to apply on that particular product. The only reason I have used a regular ceramic coating on other parts of the car was simply because I had leftover from doing the paint and didn’t want it to go to waste.
Can a ceramic coating be applied outside?
The best environment to apply a ceramic coating is indoors where there is low exposure to contamination and no exposure to direct sunlight. When you apply a ceramic coating outdoors, these two main things can ruin the application of your ceramic coating. However, I won’t say that it cannot be applied outside because frankly, not everything has access to a garage or shop to work in. I fall into that category and so every ceramic coating I’ve applied has been outdoors. Now with that said, it has been extremely challenging to do so and the time it takes to apply a ceramic coating increases drastically.
Ceramic coating products don’t recommend these products to be applied in direct sunlight. If you’ve ever tried to do so, you’ll find that the product flashes too quickly or even worse, evaporates once it touches the hot surface of the vehicle. At the very least if you’re doing this outside, you should do it under some sort of cover or fold-up canopy. If you have no other choice, I’d wait until an overcast day or cooler day to do it. I’d then work in much smaller sections than what is recommended by the ceramic coating manufacturer.
The other issue you’ll run into applying a ceramic coating outside is the contamination. Dust, dirt, bugs, pollen, leaves, bird droppings, and the like will cause your careful and delicate application of your ceramic coating to be much less perfect. Again, doing this work indoors easily removes all of these issues from the equation. If you must do it outside, try not to be parked under any trees, electrical lines, or anything that could cause something to fall down onto your ceramic coating. You also need to keep an eye on the weather and ensure that you do not have any chance of rain that could occur during your application process, but also up to around 24-36 hours after during the curing process. The problem here is that if rain drops land on your coating, it may becomes etched into that coating if left there to dry.
So can a ceramic coating be applied outside? Yes it can, but it is not ideal. There are some perfectionists out there who have access to a garage who say you should never apply a ceramic coating and I just think that’s unfair. I still think its possible to do a decent job applying a ceramic coating outside, but you should just know what you’re dealing with. If you do what you can to minimize the contamination that will occur, avoid applying in direct sunlight as much as possible, work in smaller sections, and know that you’ll likely get less ideal results than if it were installed in a controlled environment, then it’s very possible to apply a ceramic coating outside with some decent results.
How do graphene coatings compare with ceramic coatings?
Graphene coatings started gaining some traction around 2020 and continuing into 2021. The hype has died down a bit likely due to the fact that there isn’t much evidence showing any significant improvements over traditional ceramic coatings.
Keep in mind that graphene coatings are typically ceramic coatings that has graphene powder mixed into it. You’ll notice this when looking at a bottle of a graphene coating from its visibly darker black-tinted color compared to a clear ceramic coating. If a graphene coating is left standing still for a long period of time, you will notice that the graphene settles down to the bottom of the bottle.
Graphene coatings generally marketed as having some benefits over a traditional ceramic coating. These include better water spot prevention and hydrophobicity. From the testing that I’ve come across, I can’t find any evidence that prove graphene coatings actually prevent water spots any more than your typical ceramic coating. As for its hydrophobic properties, it does indeed offer good water beading/sheeting characteristics, however this is probably due to the ceramic coating itself, prior to the addition of graphene.
If you want to purchase a graphene coating to use, that is totally fine to do. Just do a bit of research to ensure that it has good reviews and comes from a reputable manufacturer since graphene coatings are a newer technology. However, I wouldn’t use one in the hopes that it is some kind of new and improved coating over a standard ceramic coating. Perhaps one day the technology can be improved to the point where noticeable improvements are made, but at this time, graphene coatings are more of a buzzword than anything.
Various Detailing Facebook Groups: Detailers of Facebook, Detail Freaks, Detailing 101 by Autogeek, Mobile Detailers of Facebook