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 vehicle paintwork, few people know what the true cost of ceramic coatings entails.
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 does it and manhours involved. There’s also a slew of ceramic coating products to choose from, with prices ranging anywhere from the wallet-ripping professionally applied approach, to the surprisingly affordable DIY nano ceramic coating kit.
Being that some vehicles require things like paint correction, which also impacts the overall cost, it is probably best that we break everything down so that the amount of time involved can be factored in as well. Remember, good work ain’t cheap, and cheap work ain’t good. Wise words that ring especially true in the realm of ceramic coatings.
- The Difference Between Price and Cost
- Professional Ceramic Coating Products – Breaking Down the Cost
- Breaking Down the Price for Professional Grade 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 and a Verdict
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. Some people are completely comfortable with dropping $3,000 on a ceramic pro installation, and that’s after coughing-up about $1,000 for swirl mark and minor paint correction procedures.
In contrast, there are also frugal individuals in this world. Those 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 numerous long hours on the preparation stage alone, for removing water spots and amending small paint imperfections are a mandatory procedure that cannot be overlooked.
But last time we checked, time was money, ergo time spent meant money spent. So think about how much your time is worth before opting for the DIY 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)
- Any 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, and products and time spent on routine car washes)
Quick Nerd Note: As some of you may have noticed, we have excluded paint protection film/PPF products from today’s topic of discussion, for it is not a liquid-based protectant, and therefore in its own category.
Professional Ceramic Coating Products – Breaking Down the Cost
A professional-grade ceramic coating is specially formulated to be installed by certified detailing experts. It’s typically a 5-day process from start to finish, and includes intense levels of surface prep work, application, and curing. So from a cost perspective, is going the professional install route worth it?
First of all, 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 proper curing
Opting for a professional ceramic coating treatment means that you’re paying a specialist to handle every aspect of the install, which means the only cost that you’ll have to worry about down the line is upkeep. This basically translates to washing the vehicle every other week and spritzing a topper/booster every month or so.
Quick Nerd Note: If the vehicle being professionally ceramic coated requires paint correction, the cost of prep work is going to increase exponentially. So always be sure to get a quote from the shop that includes any necessary paint correction services. That said, we’ll also break down the cost of paint correction supplies in the DIY section below.
Breaking Down the Price for Professional Grade 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 broke down a sample of a “mid-grade” professional ceramic coating, which as you can see in the image above, is offered in four different package options. Pricing increases based upon the number of layers applied, and the years of guaranteed protection covered under warranty.
Another popular professional ceramic coating shop offers similar package options, but prefers to break its services down into packages that can be represented by precious metals.
1. Gold Package
A package that offers “permanent protection with a lifetime warranty.” It includes four layers of top-of-the-line pro ceramic coating, as well as a layer of “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 warranty buyers get one layer of 9H-rated ceramic coating, plus one layer of “light” top coating. The price range for this service package 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 starts at $600 and tops-out at $900.
Upkeep for Professional Ceramic Coatings
Most professional coating dealers suggest you use an aftercare product, which oftentimes is 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. While pricing varies greatly, the price for a pro-grade ceramic coating booster typically ranges anywhere from $50-$75 USD, and one bottle will 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 professional 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 own mark-ups. Regardless as to which package you choose, a reputable ceramic coating shop will almost always deliver the best results, which gives cause to justify the substantial fees associated with said service.
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
Quick Tip: 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 in order to make sure every step of a project is done correctly, opting for the DIY ceramic coating method is going to be the ideal option. The only question though, is what are you willing to spend on a ceramic coating product?
When we broke down the cost of a professional-grade ceramic coating installation, we pretty much covered everything involved in the prep work save for paint correction. With the DIY approach, you’ll be tackling all of this prep work on your own, which can quickly become quite pricy, especially if you don’t have all of the necessary tools and materials on-hand.
Price of DIY Surface Prep Supplies
Before you become completely hellbent on taking the do-it-yourself path, the price of the following supplies should first be taken 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 bar the entire car, or use a clay mitt. Lubrication will always be required here as well, so opting for a clay kit for around $30 will provide you with everything needed to remove any deeply engrained impurities.
- 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 buffing stage. You should be prepared to spend at least $150 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.
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 (enough to coat an average sized coupe or sedan), an applicator sponge, three sheets of suede for application, a microfiber buffing cloth, 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 offers discounts for those in need of more than one kit.
- Small cars and trucks (1 kit) – $70
- Mid-size SUV’s and trucks, and large cars (2 kits) – $105 (includes buy 1 get 2nd 50% OFF discount)
- Full-size trucks, vans, and SUV’s (3 kits)– $140 (includes buy 2 get 1 free discount)
The Cost of a DIY Ceramic Coating Install
Now that we’ve covered the cost of ordering an adequate amount of the world’s highest consumer grade ceramic coating, it’s time to focus on the cost of all the man hours that go into prepping and applying the product. This is actually fairly difficult to calculate, as people tend to value their time differently, and preparation and installation times can vary wildly 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 the 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
So let’s break out that calculator once more, so that we can tally everything up in the DIY ceramic coating bracket.
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 here as well.
Let’s assume that you purchased three kits of Armor Shield IX to coat your full-sized pickup truck, and you plan on keeping the vehicle for at least five years. The average listed below is what you will be looking at spending in that time period, with the ceramic coating lasting the duration of its achievable, 5-year lifespan.
- Ceramic Coating Prep Work and Car Wash Supplies – $300
- 3 Armor Shield IX Kits – $140 (includes buy 2 get 1 free discount)
- 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. We wrote an article regarding the topic of DIY paint correction a while back, which should give you a fairly firm grasp of what this time consuming process entails.
- Electric polisher ($100)
- Polishing compounds (kits run about $50)
- Microfiber polishing pads (5-disc packages typically run around $15)
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 $7,800, which is a hefty chunk of change for some soapy water and 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!
DIY Waxing and Detailing Cost
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 the whole wax and polish approach properly, 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 product selected and bottle size, a typical 16oz bottle will set you back about $20 a pop, and for medium-sized vehicles, will be enough for three applications. However, being that most waxes only last around six weeks or so, the overall annual cost swells to $180. This means that over a five year span you will spend $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 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. 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, this depends upon how often you plan on cleaning your vehicle, which if driven regularly, should be every two weeks or so.
Once added-up, the total for five years of routine DIY car washes, waxes, and polishing comes out to $2,075. However, even when using the highest quality car wash and wax-based paint sealant products, the protection level you will receive from this method will be far less than that of a ceramic coating.
Parting Shots and a Verdict
In the title we posed the 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. You also need to determine whether it is a more cost effective alternative to traditional waxing and polishing methods, both from a professionally installed and DIY viewpoint.
That said, ere are a few closing thoughts on the matter that will help settle this once and for all.
- 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 new car owner keeps their vehicle before trading it in.
- A ceramic coating requires much less routine service and maintenance. No need for wax, polishes, or removal. While some ceramic coatings benefit greatly from a specialized “booster formula,” there are plenty of cases where it is unnecessary.
- A ceramic coating will produce a brilliant shine, enhance the luster of your vehicle, produce superior hydrophobic properties, and make removing bug splatters, bird shit, and other sticky stuff a breeze. Wax may protect a surface, but it also tends to absorb contaminants, especially when they are allowed to dry.
- When comparing a professional grade ceramic coating and a DIY nano ceramic coating like Armor Shield IX, the numbers don’t lie. $600-$2,500 price ranges for a pro installation is a LOT of coin!
- In contrast, comparing a DIY ceramic coating to a undertaking routine, bi-weekly car wash, wax, and polish on one’s own will save you about $1,000.
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… Fucking forget it. Talk about an outdated form of paint protection that will likely be labeled as obsolete by the turn of the decade. The future of coatings is here, and it’s high time we embrace it.
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