It’s time to bust out the calculators – because we’re about to get all mathematical. It’s well understood that ceramic coatings are exceptional products for protecting a cars paint surface. But what is the true cost involved in the prep, apply, and care for these products designed to provide superior paint protection?
Well, that’s a hard question to answer. There are different types of ceramic coating products, ranging from professional ceramic coating products installed by expert detailers to DIY-Nano ceramic coatings kits. Some cars require a lot of prep work including paint correction to the clear coat in some cases, which also impacts the overall cost.
So, in order to simplify things, we’re going to approach this article with a broad stroke. We’ll take time to break down the costs (including the amount of time involved) for the following – just click the menu below to access each section.
The Difference Between Price and Cost
Determining whether or not something is ‘worth the investment’ really depends on your comfort level, income, and other personal preferences. Some people will be completely comfortable dropping $3,000 on a ceramic pro installation -- and another $1,000 to remove swirl marks professionally.
Others will spend hours removing water spots and the smallest imperfections on their paint, but would never spend money on having somebody else help.
Now that we’ve clarified that, let’s explain the difference between price vs. cost.
The price of something is the financial amount of money you spend on a particular product or service. For example, the “price” of Armor Shield IX Nano-Ceramic coating kit is $69 (USD).
Cost is linked to the amount of money (or time/sweat equity) that is associated with using a particular product.
For example, the cost of installing Armor Shield IX will include:
- The price of detailing supplies (including car washing, clay bar treatment, polishing, and final wipe down).
- The sweat equity involved in completing the prep work (which is based on how much money your time is worth – or the price you will pay to have someone else complete the service).
- The time for applying the product.
- The cost of any upkeep (including car washes)
We’ll do our best to provide as much detail as possible with each of the items we break down below. This table shows the ‘cost’ of the three most popular methods of protecting vehicle paint over a two year period.
|Pro Ceramic Coating||DIY Ceramic Coating||Washing/Wax/Polish|
|$5,240 (Install + 2 years)||$620 (product + 2 years)||$740 (supplies 2-years)|
Professional Ceramic Coating Products – Breaking Down the Cost
A professional-grade ceramic coating is specially formulated to be installed by certified installation experts. It’s typically a 5-day process from start (which involves a bit more prep work than a DIY ceramic coating) to application and curing.
So – what financial cost is associated with choosing the professional-grade stuff? Here is what we’ve discovered. First, most professional coatings are sold in packages – which will include:
- The basic prep work (including washing the vehicle, stripping old wax, polish treatment, and final IPA wipe down).
- The product supplies (include the ceramic coating, materials to install such as application equipment – which varies based on the type of professional coating)
- Labor for applying the ceramic coating (this is arguably the largest ‘cost’ associated with professional coatings).
- Storage of vehicle for curing and prep work
When you opt for the professional treatment, you’re basically paying for them to handle everything. The only additional ‘cost’ you’ll ‘pay’ will be upkeep and care. For a professional and DIY ceramic coating, basic upkeep means washing the vehicle every two weeks.
*NOTE – some professional ceramic coatings suggest having paint correction completed. Since this is a variable based on specific manufacturers, the level of paint correction required, and the cost of having professionals complete the service for you -- we’ll skip this – but make sure to complete due diligence to determine the price and time required for specific brands. We’ll break down the cost of supplies for paint correction in the DIY section below.
Breaking Down the Price for Professional Grade Coating Packages
We wrote a bitchin article last week comparing DIY ceramic coatings vs Professional Grade Ceramic Coatings. In that article, we broke down a sample of a ‘mid-grade’ professional coating (which we’ve included the image above for you to review).
As you can see, this location offers (4) different package options. The price increases based on the amounts of layers applied, and years covered under a warranty.
Another popular professional coating brand offers similar package options, but they break it down as such:
1. Gold Package:
This package offers “permanent protection with a lifetime warranty.” It includes (4) layers of their top-of-the-line coating – and a layer of a ‘top-coat’ product. The pricing for this premium package will vary based on the size of the vehicle, and prep work required – but usually ranges from $1,500 to $2,500.
2. Silver Package:
The next level is a 5-year warranty plan. With this warranty, only (1) layer of their Premium 9H product is needed plus (1) layer of their “light” product as a top coating. The price range for this package is $900 to $1,400
3. Bronze Package:
This is the basic package that includes (1) layer of their “light” formulation. It is guaranteed for up to 24-months. The price range for this is $600 to $900.
The price variance is based on the individual location or ‘authorized dealer’ (as they are permitted to have their own mark-ups. Regardless of the package you choose, a professional ceramic coating or a DIY coating will not make your car resistant against rock chips, bullets, or other seriously hard products.
Upkeep for Professional Ceramic Coatings
Spray wax prices:
Most professional coating dealers promote an aftercare product, which is essentially a spray wax. It’s usually sold from the installation center and marked up to ensure the dealer receives a good profit margin. The price for this type of product will range from $50 to $75 and will last for about one year.
Price for car washing by a professional:
Beyond using this product, the only upkeep required by many is car washing every two weeks. If you prefer to let a professional handle your car maintenance, then you’ll likely be ok paying for a professional car wash and detailing job every two weeks. The average price for washing and interior care by a professional mobile detailer will run about $60.
Total cost for professional ceramic coating
So – let’s break out that calculator.
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:
- $2,000 for the installation
- $60 (average price a year) x 5 years for protective spray = $300
- $60 for a car wash every 2 weeks x 5 years = 130 weeks or $7,800
Total “cost” for the professional ceramic coating = $10,100. Of course, you can cut quite a bit of that cost by washing your car every two weeks, but again – you need to commit to this every two weeks.
DIY Ceramic Coatings – Breaking Down the Cost
You’re a DIY’er and prefer to handle the prep work and installation of a high-quality ceramic coating on your own. What are you looking at spending?
When we broke down the professional-grade stuff, we pretty much covered everything involved in the prep work, except for paint correction. We’ll address that later.
With the DIY ceramic coating, you’ll have to complete the prep work on your own (or pay a professional to have it done).
Price for supplies needed:
Assuming you want the whole do-it-yourself experience, we’ll break down the price for supplies needed.
- Car Wash Supplies: (two bucket method, a high-quality automotive shampoo, microfiber wash mitt, a chamois, and microfiber towels. Most car owners will purchase a ‘kit’ with all of these items, at a price range from $70 to $100. Since you’ll use this same kit for the aftercare, consider it a good investment).
- Clay Bar Kit: After washing you need to clay bar the entire car. This includes using a clay bar and lubrication. Most kits can be purchased for about $30.
- Polishing Supplies: You’ll want to use a variable speed electric polisher, polishing compound, and microfiber cloths. Based on the info above, budget at least $150 for these supplies).
- IPA or Prep Spray: The final step in the DIY prep work includes spraying a prep or IPA (isopropyl alcohol concentrate) and wiping with microfiber towels. You can find the spray for about $10 and a good plush microfiber towel for about $10 each.
Breaking out our calculator – this brings the total for prep work (assuming you’re not doing paint correction) to about $280.
DIY Ceramic Coating Price
There are a lot of DIY ceramic coating products out there these days. Some are great, some – not so great. It’s always best to purchase a DIY product that is highly reviewed by independent parties and direct consumers.
We just happen to manufacture and sell a product like that – Armor Shield IX. So – for the sake of honest comparison, we’ll assume you’re choosing to purchase Armor Shield IX.
Our product is sold in a kit that includes a 30ml bottle (which is good for a small car like a two-door coupe) the applicator sponge, (3) applicator suedes, a microfiber buffing towel, and professional nitrile gloves.
The size of your vehicle will determine how much product and supplies you’ll need. For example:
- Big sedans and small SUV’s will use (2) kits – sold for $105 (which includes a buy 1 get 2nd 50 percent off discount)
- Big trucks an SUV’s will require (3) kits – sold for $140 (which includes a buy 2 get 1 free discount).
The “Cost” for Installing Yourself
Again, depending on the size of your vehicle, installing a DIY Ceramic coating kit like Armor Shield IX will take anywhere from 4 to 8 hours to complete correctly. You’ll also have to factor the time for prep work, which again – can range from 4 to 8 hours. This introduces that “what’s your time worth” concept we addressed earlier – so you’ll have to figure that out.
The “Cost” of Routine Maintenance and Care
Sticking with the DIY concept, washing your car every two weeks is likely going to be an ‘in-house’ project. That being said, if you prepped your car correctly, you likely already purchased the correct car washing supplies. At Avalon King, we don’t recommend using a protective spray, so we can cut that out of the budget as well.
Total cost of DIY ceramic coating
So – let’s break out that calculator once again.
Assuming that you choose to purchase Armor Shield IX, you have a full-sized pick-up, and you keep your car for 5 years before trading in, this is what you’re looking at spending:
- $280 for the prep work
- $140 for (3) kits – including all you need to apply it.
- $100 for the car washing kit x 5 years (as you should replace it every year) = $500
Total ‘cost’ of a DIY Ceramic Coating = $920
Comparing the average ‘cost’ for the professional package option vs. the DIY choice – by opting for the DIY ceramic coating concept, you’ll likely save more than $8,000 over a 5-year period.
The Cost of Completing Paint Correction
So, let’s break down what you’ll need to complete basic paint correction – however, we wrote an awesome article on DIY paint correction, which we’d recommend reading.
- Apply the cutting compound with an electric polisher and microfiber cutting pad (cost for the variable speed electric polisher is around $100)
- Cutting compound & polishing compound (usually sold in kits about $90)
- Microfiber polishing pads (you’ll need at least 15 to 20 per car – and can purchase packages of 5 sleeves for about $15 per package)
If you want a professional to complete this prior to doing the ceramic coating, you’ll likely spend anywhere from $400 to $800 (based on the amount of work needed and the company you choose). Again, there are just too many variables to consider to accurately dictate an estimated cost for this service.
The Cost of No Ceramic Coatings Used
Now comes the fun part. Let’s assume that you’re old-school, and you want to protect your paint through the wash/wax/polish treatment. You’ve got several options to consider.
Professional Detailing Cost:
We addressed this item above, but it is important to revisit it here. Let’s assume that you want a detailing company to wash/wax/polish your car. While you’ll likely spend $60 for a car wash every 2 weeks x 5 years = 130 weeks or $7,800 – adding the wax and polish services to this package will add an extra $100 per month.
So, take that $7,800 5-year car wash and interior care cost, add the $6,000 extra for waxing & polishing the car for 5-years, that’s roughly $13,800 in professional car care.
DIY Detailing Cost:
If that number above scared you – I don’t blame you. If you want to take this project on yourself, consider investing in the following:
1. Car Wax/polish Supplies:
Most consumers will use a combined wax and polish product (like a 3-in-1 product). A 16 oz bottle will cost about $20 each and will last for 3 applications. This should be used every 6 weeks, or roughly 9 times per year – for an annual cost of $180 – or $900 total.
2. Application Supplies:
To correctly apply this product, you’ll need a good variable speed electric polisher ($100) – and (5) microfiber pads per application ($10 for a set of 5) – or an annual cost of $90 or $550 for everything at 5-years.
3. Car Washing Supplies:
Assuming you want to do it yourself, we’ll use the same car washing figures from the DIY ceramic coating -- $100 for the car washing kit x 5 years (as you should replace it every year) = $500
The total for the DIY car wash, wax, polish method = $1,950. It should be noted that even using the highest quality car wash or paint sealant products, the protection level is far less than a ceramic coating.
What’s the Verdict?
In the title we posed the question, is ceramic coating worth it? Well, consider the facts.
- A ceramic coating can last up to 5 years if correctly prepped and applied. This happens to coincide with the average length of time the typical new car owner keeps their vehicle before trading in.
- A ceramic coating requires much less routine service and maintenance. No need for wax, polishes, or treatment products. While some ceramic coatings are enhanced with special treatment formulas, the verdict is not 100% sold on them yet.
- 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.
- When comparing a professional grade ceramic coating vs a DIY nano-ceramic coating like Armor Shield IX, the numbers don’t lie -- $1,000 is a LOT of coin. $7,000 by washing your own car every two-weeks is even more cheddar.
- Comparing a DIY Ceramic Coating vs. DIY car wash/wax/polish will also save you about $1,000 – and you’ll get better results.
So – yeah, if you’re willing to put in the prep work, have the basic automotive detailing skills and patience to install it yourself, and are willing to wash your own car every two weeks, then YES – buying a DIY Ceramic Coating is most definitely worth it.