Break out the calculators, grab your pen protectors, and pull-up a chair, because we’re about to get nerdy. While most detailing enthusiasts understand that ceramic coatings do an outstanding job of protecting hard surfaces like a vehicle’s paintwork and clear coat, few people know what the true cost of ceramic coating a car entails.
It’s time to prove that in order for a ceramic coating to function properly, money has to be spent on preparation, application, and aftercare, all of which can vary greatly depending upon who tackles these tasks, and the number of man-hours involved.
There’s a slew of ceramic coating products to choose from too, with prices ranging anywhere from the wallet-ripping professionally applied approach, to the surprisingly affordable DIY nano ceramic coating kit.
Being that some vehicles also require things like paint correction, which can severely impact the overall cost, one must factor-in the amount of labor spent as well.
Remember, good work ain’t cheap, and cheap work ain’t good. Wise words that ring especially true in today’s blog article, as we break-down the true cost of ceramic coating a car.
- The Difference Between Price and Cost
- Professional Ceramic Coating Products – Breaking Down the Cost
- Breaking Down the Price of Professional Ceramic Coating Packages
- Upkeep for Professional Ceramic Coatings
- Total Cost of a Professional Ceramic Coating
- DIY Ceramic Coatings – Breaking Down the Cost
- Best DIY Ceramic Coating Value For The Money
- The Cost of a DIY Ceramic Coating Install
- The Real Cost of Paint Correction
- The Surprisingly High Cost of Not Using a Ceramic Coating
- Parting Shots
The Difference Between Price and Cost
Determining whether or not a project like ceramic coating a car is “worth the investment’ really depends upon one’s familiarity with the DIY approach, financial cushion, and personal preferences.
In contrast, there are those frugal individuals in this world who refuse to spend a single cent on labor, instead opting to undertake every step of the ceramic coating process on their own. This means investing long hours on the preparation stage alone, as the removal of water spots and amending small paint imperfections remains a mandatory procedure.
But last time we checked, time was money, and therefore time spent equaled money spent. So it’s important to weigh how much your time is worth before opting for the DIY ceramic coating approach.
Now that we’ve clarified all that jazz, let’s focus on another confusing topic: The difference between price and cost.
The price of something is the financial sum one spends on a particular product or service. For example, the “price” of a single unit of Armor Shield IX nano ceramic coating kit is set at $69 USD.
Cost, on the other hand, is typically linked to the amount of money lost (or time spent) when using particular products or services.
For example, the cost of installing Armor Shield IX will include:
- The price of any necessary preparation/detailing supplies (car shampoo, clay bars/mitts, polishing compounds, isopropyl alcohol, microfiber cloths, etc.)
- Sweat equity involved in completing prep work (based on either how much money your time is worth, or the amount you are willing to pay someone to complete this task)
- Time spent applying the ceramic coating itself
- Overall cost of upkeep (including booster/topper sprays, as well as products and time spent on routine car washes)
Professional Ceramic Coating Products – Breaking Down the Cost
A professional-grade ceramic coating is specially formulated to be installed by certified detailing experts, which means the only cost that you’ll have to worry about down the line is upkeep.
Pro ceramic coating installs typically are a 5-day process, and include everything from surface prep work and paint correction, to product application and curing.
Unlike DIY applications, most professional coating services are sold in “packages.” Regardless of what package you end up opting for, you can expect to receive something similar to what’s listed below when requesting a quote.
- Prep work (includes washing the vehicle, followed by the stripping of any existing wax, PPF products, or ceramic coatings, polishing, paint correction, and an isopropyl alcohol wipe-down)
- Product supplies (includes ceramic coating and materials used to install said product)
- Labor required for applying ceramic coating (will vary depending upon complexity of job and vehicle size)
- Storage of vehicle post installation for curing
Quick Nerd Note: If the vehicle being professionally ceramic coated requires paint correction, the cost is going to increase exponentially. So always be sure to get a quote that includes any necessary paint correction services.
Breaking Down the Price of Professional Ceramic Coating Packages
A while back we wrote an article that examined the differences between DIY ceramic coatings and professional grade ceramic coatings. In that article, we proved that pricing tends to increase based upon the length of the protection covered by a warranty.
Here’s an example of what one popular professional ceramic coating shop offers in the form of ceramic coating packages.
1. Gold Package
A package that offers “permanent protection with a lifetime warranty.” It includes four layers of pro ceramic coating, as well as a layer of “premium top-coat.” The pricing for this premium package varies based upon the size of the vehicle and prep work required, but typically ranges in the $1,500-$2,500 USD range without paint correction.
2. Silver Package
The next level down comes with a 5-year warranty plan. With this package buyers get one layer of 9H-rated ceramic coating, plus one layer of “light top coat.” The prices for this service hovers in the $900-$1,400 USD range.
3. Bronze Package
The company’s basic package includes one layer of “light” ceramic coating, which is only guaranteed for up to 24 months. Pricing runs anywhere from $600-900 USD.
Upkeep for Professional Ceramic Coatings
Most professional coating dealers suggest you use an aftercare product, or a silica-based topper/booster of some sort. While these ceramic-friendly coating enhancers typically work quite well when applied regularly, they are also heavily marked-up by installers looking to ensure sizable profit margins.
Pricing varies greatly, as the cost of a pro-grade ceramic coating booster typically ranges anywhere from $50-$75 USD, and one bottle will only last you 2-3 months.
Outside of using a topper/booster product, the only other up-keep that’s required after a pro ceramic coating install, is a routine car wash every other week. If you prefer to let a professional handle your car’s maintenance, you’ll likely be coughing-up no less than $60 ever two weeks to have a mobile detailer come clean your vehicle. That may not sound like much, but over the course of five years those bi-weekly pro car washes will set you back around $7,800!
Quick Nerd Note: Variances in professionally installed ceramic coating pricing are typically reflective of the pro installer’s running hourly rate and their mark-ups. Regardless as to which package you choose, a reputable ceramic coating shop will provide services that come attached to substantial fees.
Total Cost of a Professional Ceramic Coating
So let’s break out that calculator and crunch some numbers.
Assuming that you choose a lifetime warranty professional ceramic coating package, and you keep your car for 5-years before trading in, this is what you’re looking at spending…
- Professional ceramic coating installation = $2,000
- $60 protective spray (x5 years) = $300
- $60 professional car wash every 2 weeks (x5 years) = $7,800
Total Cost = $10,100
While you can cut a huge chunk of that cost out of the equation by washing the vehicle yourself every two weeks, you will need to factor in the whole “time is money” viewpoint.
Once you know how much your time is worth, and the expenses of the car cleaning supplies that must be sourced, you can then figure out whether or not it is better to have a pro handle your car washes.
DIY Ceramic Coatings – Breaking Down the Cost
If you’re the type who prefers to take matters into your own hands, opting for the DIY ceramic coating method is going to be the ideal option. So what are you willing to spend on a ceramic coating, and the products and tools required for its install?
With the DIY approach, you’ll be tackling all of the preparation on your own, so don’t let the upfront cost of all of the necessary tools and materials scare you off. This approach is still far less expensive than a pro ceramic coating install.
Price of DIY Surface Prep Supplies
Before lunging head-first down the DIY path, take the following prices into consideration.
- Car Wash Supplies ($70-100) – For the tried-and-true, “two-buckets-and-a-beer” method, you’ll need a high-quality automotive shampoo, a microfiber wash mitt, at least 8-12 clean microfiber cloths, and a brush for cleaning wheels and tires. Most car owners will purchase a kit that contains all of these items, which typically runs anywhere from $70 to $100. Since you’ll be using many of the items in this kit for aftercare, going this route is a good investment.
- Clay Bar/Mitt ($30) – After washing the vehicle, you will want to clay the entire car to remove any deeply engrained impurities. Lubrication will also be required, so opting for a clay kit for around $30 will provide you with everything you needed straight out the box.
- Polishing Supplies ($150) – You’ll want to use a variable speed electric polisher, polishing compound, auto-friendly painter’s tape, and microfiber discs and cloths for the polishing and buffing stages. Be prepared to spend a sizable chunk of change on these supplies.
- Isopropyl Alcohol (IPA) Prep Spray ($10) – The final step in the ceramic coating prep work process requires the spraying of an isopropyl alcohol mixture, followed by the wiping of all sprayed surfaces with a microfiber towel. You can create your own IPA spray kit for less than $10, and that includes the cost of a plush microfiber towel or two.
Total Cost = About $300
Best DIY Ceramic Coating Value For The Money
There are a lot of DIY ceramic coating products on the market nowadays. Some are truly great, and are worth every penny, while others are anything but “as advertised.” This is why it is so important to only purchase DIY ceramic coatings that have been highly reviewed by a blend of unbiased independent third parties, automotive journalists, automotive detailing experts, and consumers.
Luckily for you, Armor Shield IX checks all of these boxes, which is why it remains the highest rated DIY nano ceramic coating on the planet.
Each kit includes a 30ml bottle of nano ceramic coating (more than enough to coat the typical coupe or sedan), an applicator sponge, three sheets of suede applicator cloths, a microfiber buffing towel, professional nitrile gloves, and clearly illustrated instructions. All this comes in at just about $70, with free shipping to most locations.
That said, the size of the vehicle you plan on coating will determine how much product you will use, which is precisely why AvalonKing routinely offers discounts for first time buyers.
The Cost of a DIY Ceramic Coating Install
Now that we’ve covered the cost of DIY ceramic coating prep products and the coating itself, it’s time to focus on what your time is worth.
This can be a bit difficult to calculate, as people tend to value their time differently, and preparation and installation times can vary depending upon the amount of work required and size of the vehicle.
That said, an average DIY ceramic coating like Armor Shield IX can typically be installed in about 2 to 3 hours, which includes time for things like beer breaks and unexpected visits from nosey neighbors.
You’ll also have to factor in time spent on prep work, which can take anywhere from 4 to 8 hours to complete, depending upon the condition of the vehicle’s surfaces.
Hell, we might as well let you do the math on that one, because there are just too many variables to consider here. For all we know, your going rate could be $300 an hour and require routine backrubs, both of which require a lot of commitment.
Total Cost of a DIY Ceramic Coating
Assuming that you plan on washing your vehicle every two weeks as directed, and don’t plan on contracting this out to a professional, it’s safe to assume that the $300 bill for all of the aforementioned car cleaning supplies can be applied.
You purchased three kits of Armor Shield IX to coat your full-sized pickup truck, which you plan on keeping for at least five years. That means you will be looking at spending a fuzz under a grand over the course of that period, assuming that the ceramic coating lasts the duration of its achievable, 5-year lifespan.
- Ceramic Coating Prep Work and Car Wash Supplies – $300
- 3 Armor Shield IX Kits – $210
- Car Washing Kit (x5 years) – $500
Total Cost = $940
The Real Cost of Paint Correction
If your vehicle features an extensive amount of surface blemishes, you will need to consider the cost of paint correction as well. For a more in-depth look at this endeavor, check-out our article regarding the topic of DIY paint correction.
- Electric polisher – ($100)
- Polishing compounds – ($50 per kit)
- Microfiber polishing pads – ($15 per 5-disc pack)
Total Cost = $165
Quick Tip: In comparison, a professional paint correction procedure will set you back anywhere from $400 to $800. Naturally, these numbers will vary depending upon the amount of work needed and the professional’s hourly rates. Either way, there’s a lot of money to be saved by doing paint correction and prep work on one’s own.
The Surprisingly High Cost of Not Using a Ceramic Coating
Let’s assume that you’re old-school, and you want to protect your paint via the traditional wash, wax, and polish treatment. You’ve got several options to consider, and after looking over the pricing of the pro and DIY ceramic coating approach, one might assume that the wax method might be considerably cheaper, right? Wrong again!
The Extreme Cost of a Routine Pro Wash and Wax Job
Say you want a detailing company to wash your car every two weeks. At $60 per wash, five years of pro car washes comes to roughly $7,800, which is a hefty chunk of change for some soapy water and a little microfiber love! Factor-in wax and polish services once a month, and this pro care package average comes to a whopping $13,800 over the span of half a decade!
The Real Cost of DIY Waxing and Detailing
If the numbers above scared you, don’t worry, there’s an alternative option. While taking projects like paint protection on head-first may require some dedicated time and energy on your behalf, it is far less expensive than paying a pro.
That being said, if you wish to go about waxing and polishing a vehicle, consider investing in the following items.
1. Car Wax and Polish Supplies
Most DIY car detailers use an all-in-one wax and polish product. While pricing is dependent upon the product selected and bottle size, a typical 16oz jug will set you back about $20, and for medium-sized vehicles, will be enough for around three applications.
However, being that most waxes only last around six weeks or so, the overall annual cost quickly swells to $180. That means that over a five year span, you will likely spend close to $900 on waxes and polishes alone!
2. Application Supplies
To correctly apply a product like an all-in-one wax and polish, you’ll need a variable speed electric polisher/buffer/sander ($100) and a $15 sleeve of microfiber pads.
The average mid-size sedan gobbles-up about five pads per application, so at $3 a pad, that breaks down to $15 for each wax job, not including the wax itself. Tallied-up to mirror the average six-week wax regiment most people follow, and that turns into an annual cost of $135, or $675 over the course of a 5-year span.
3. Car Washing Supplies
Assuming that you stick with the aforementioned $100 complete car wash kit, a five year span will add $500 to your car detailing grand total. Naturally, these numbers will vary depending upon how often you clean your vehicle.
Once added-up, five years of routine DIY car washes, as well as waxing and polishing comes out to $2,075. While this may appear affordable, wax-based paint sealant products offer very little protection against things like surface scratches and UV ray baked-on contamination.
In the title we posed a simple question: “Is Ceramic Coating Worth It?”
By this point it should be obvious that the answer really depends upon who’s applying it, what product is being used, and how well said ceramic coating is maintained. Yes, over the long run it is a more cost effective product than traditional waxes and polishes, both from a professionally installed and DIY viewpoint.
That said, here are a few closing thoughts on the matter that may help solidify a few facts.
- A ceramic coating can last up to five years if correctly prepped and applied. This just so happens to coincide with the average length of time the typical car owner keeps their vehicle before trading it in.
- Wax may protect a surface, but it also tends to absorb contaminants, especially when they are allowed to dry.
- A nano ceramic coating requires very little routine service and maintenance, and when it does, cleaning is made super easy by the product’s hydrophobic capabilities.
- A professional grade ceramic coating install tends to run around $600-$2,500 on average, whereas a DIY nano ceramic coating only costs about $375-$600 depending upon the size of the vehicle.
To help outline the differences in the cost involved with some of the more popular “topical surface protectants,” we have constructed the table below. This shows the “overall cost” of the three most popular methods of protecting vehicle paint over a five year period.
|PRO Wash/Wax/Polish||DIY |
|$11,800 (install + 5 years of upkeep)||$940 (product + 5 years of upkeep)||$13,800 (install + 5 years of upkeep)||$2,075 (supplies + 5 years of upkeep)|
Knowledge dropped, it’s time to decide what works best for your busy schedule, and your pocketbook. If you’re willing to put in the prep work, buy the supplies, and are willing to learn some basic automotive detailing skills, then the DIY ceramic coating route is the way to go.
However, if you don’t have the time or interest, and can afford a pro install, going that direction might be best. Oh, and as for wax… you can go ahead and skip that shit entirely. Wax is quickly becoming an outdated form of paint protection, with many pro detailers predicting that it will be labeled obsolete by the turn of the decade.
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.