Even prior to hitting the car lot, most people will spend an immense amount of time researching what vehicle best suits their needs. Then it’s on to comparing offerings from competing automakers, picking apart prices, perusing paint job possibilities, and contemplating which package options offer the best value.

A brand-new automobile is one of the most expensive pieces of personal property you will ever own. And being that our modes of transportation get abused to hell and back on the open road, and even when parked outdoors, providing this investment with some form of protection is pretty much mandatory.

Looking to alleviate these concerns, new car dealers offer car buyers the option of purchasing a paint protection plan, with promises of unrivaled hydrophobic properties, resistance to rock chips, and extended warranties.

But what exactly are dealers installing on our cars? Do they use some kind of sealant, or do things like carnauba wax, ceramic coatings, and paint protection films get put into play? And even if they are using something like a 9H-rated silica-dioxide ceramic coating, are dealership installed ceramic coating products worth it?

It’s time we investigate what goes into car dealer paint protection plans, and show what’s really going down at the dealership.

How New Car Paint Protection Packages Are Advertised

Dealer installed paint protection plans have become as commonplace as rain visors and all-season floor mats. Photo Credit: Smooth As detailing/Facebook
Dealer installed paint protection plans have become as commonplace as rain visors and all-season floor mats. Photo Credit: Smooth As detailing/Facebook

Typically, an optional paint protection treatment is only offered to individuals who are buying a brand-new vehicle, or something like a gently used luxury car, or an exotic import.

Even if it’s an economy car, these dealership paint protection packages tend to be excruciatingly expensive, as even a basic ceramic treatment offered by dealership novices tends to tip the scale at well over $500-$1,000 per application. So why so expensive?

According to a report focusing on new car paint protection by Car and Driver, a dealership protection plan involves a chemical installation process that one should not attempt on their own. Why, you ask? Apparently the chemicals within these protectants “…is not safe.” 

Car and Driver goes on to elaborate that these “…are extremely strong chemicals that are applied by trained professionals…” which gives the reader and/or potential new car buyer reason to believe that they are indeed getting a super strong form of protection.

Dealerships are also quick to point out that in order to receive extended warranties for factory paint, the paint protection plan’s installation process must be done prior to sale. This forces potential buyers to make a decision on the spot, putting the add-on sale squarely in 50/50 territory, with phrases like, “Almost all of our customers opt for the coated vehicle package…” further sealing the deal.

What Dealer Installed Paint Protection Packages Actually Involve

So are dealership coatings actually worth the money, or is it just another feces-filled sales pitch like car wash extras?

While a certain level of professional care is involved in a dealer installed appearance protection package, the resistance levels associated with many of these add-ons tends to be anything but impressive, or permanent. 

First of all, it is worth recalling that nano ceramic coatings will always offer better benefits than polymer paint sealants. Dealership’s often install a sealant as a protectant due to the profit margins associated with using them as dealer installed options. Sealants also tend to crap-out after just a few months, thus requiring the car owner to return to the dealership for a full removal and reinstallation.

How short of a period of time are we talking about here? Publications like Edmunds, U.S. News, and Car and Driver, have concluded that dealer installed polymer sealants require multiple installations every year. Reports have even found that a lot of these “protectants” require reapplication after even a basic wash and polish.

“Another common add-on is a Paint Protection package, which sold for $495 when we encountered it. We contacted the shop that performed the paint protection and learned that it’s basically a wax job.”

-Edmunds

Essentially, dealers are charging new car buyers insane amounts of money to install a paint sealant that is more than likely going to fail after a car wash or two. Looks like that super strong sealant they mentioned in their sales pitch isn’t all that rugged after all…

Quick Nerd Note: The average OEM paint surface offers hydrophobic properties straight off the line, as all new vehicles come coated with some form of sealant from the factory to help with protection during transport. Unfortunately, these repellent characteristics tend to fail rather quickly, as even exposure to an automatic car wash, or pH imbalanced car shampoo products can cause them to falter.

Car Dealership Paint Protection Plans, Adding-Up to One Big Let-Down

New or used, buying a car can be a risky endeavor. Photo Credit: Tom Denic/Facebook
New or used, buying a car can be a risky endeavor. Photo Credit: Tom Denic/Facebook

Although having a layer of protection professionally installed on an automobile’s exterior does take some serious man hours, it’s actually the prep work involved with these add-on products that tends to be the most time consuming and expensive.

However, if you are buying a brand-new automobile, it’s exterior will be in immaculate shape. This means prep work should require little more than the use of a properly blended isopropyl alcohol (IPA) spray solution and a quick wipe-down with a clean microfiber buffing cloth.

“Many of the protection plans are loaded with limits and exclusions that limit their utility when you need them.”

U.S. News

Wait, so if prepping for and applying a paint protectant on a new vehicle is virtually effortless, and therefore inexpensive, why do dealerships insist that it has to be done by a professional and cost a ton?

It’s because a lot of new car shoppers are either completely unfamiliar with paint protection products, are naïve enough to buy into the bullshit being slung at them, or they have loads of dough on hand and simply don’t give a damn. 

Either way, dealer paint protection packages are an outrageous scam. Installing an additional layer of protection atop a paint job is no different at the dealership than it is at a professional automotive detailing shop or at home.

“I have done several vehicles that had the dealer coating installed and after a clay and a good eraser wipe down there is little to no water beading and the paint feels dry.”

-Ian Martinez, Gloss Angeles Detailing

Forever looking to squeeze some extra money out of the unwitting average consumer, certain dealerships have even resorted to adding appearance protection packages to leased vehicles without notifying the customer. Shady, right?

Quick Tip: A few more dealer-installed options you’ll want to skip when buying a new car include rust-proofing undercoating (vehicles already come with this from the factory), glass protection packages, extended warranties, and interior upholstery protection plans.

Parting Shots

Negotiating a dealer’s new car add-ons means widdling down the grotesquely high profits that the average dealership has amassed for itself. The warranty period associated with certain new vehicles covers all kinds of daily driver related damage, including paint damage, so these extras are often completely unnecessary.

And as customer complaints prove, while there some things you should never buy at a car dealership, there are add-ons that are well worth the extra coin, like mud flaps, rain visors, and performance packages.

But as for the whole paint protection package plan, feel free to skip this average auto dealer scam all together, and pick-up a bottle of Armor Shield IX by AvalonKing instead. There’s a reason why it is considered the highest rated DIY ceramic coating on the market and crushes the competition in both protection and glossy shine.

Not confident in your DIY detailing skills, but still looking to protect that brand-new automobile? AvalonKing’s SiO2 Ceramic Boost Spray offers industry-leading levels of surface protection, insane water beading properties, and deep gloss for months on end.

If you enjoyed this article, then you'll love AvalonKing's automotive care products for Do-It-Yourselfers. We create "No B.S. products" for an affordable price. And the best part, we treat our customers like family, so if you have any questions or just looking to chat about cars, we're only an email or call away. Check out our homepage here.