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  • Writer's pictureEric Webb

Wax, Sealants, and Ceramic Coatings- What's The Difference

Updated: Oct 17, 2022

With so many options for car coatings, it’s challenging to know which is the best choice for your vehicle. Each option has its benefits depending on your priorities. Consider what is most important to you regarding shine, protection, and budget.

Even experienced automobile specialists have their preferences, so it is often better to do your own research rather than ask their opinion. This article will equip you with enough insight to make an informed decision by breaking down the key differences between wax, sealant, and ceramic coatings.


A wax is going to be your most affordable yet temporary option. Most professional jobs cost anywhere from $50 to $150, though you can do it yourself for approximately $15 to $25 by purchasing a wax kit. Wax will last no longer than 4-12 weeks, and though it provides a satisfactory gloss, it only provides basic paint protection from oxidation, sun, heat, and moisture.

Wax is made from solvents and organic materials, such as carnauba wax and beeswax. This means it breaks down relatively quickly, so the shine isn’t as lasting. It also can stain the plastic trim detailing on your vehicle and is the least water repellant option. Wax comes in spray, liquid, and paste forms. Spray and liquid have an equally easy application process, but liquid wax provides better shine and protection. Though paste requires the most effort during the application process, it offers the most superior shine and protection of the three.

This is your best option if you are looking to simply zhuzh up your shine for a car show or a special occasion. You can even apply it over other waxes and sealants! But if you’re looking to maintain the protection and durability of your paint job, you may want to consider alternatives.


Sealants, or paint sealants, are a great middle ground. A professional sealant job can cost anywhere from $50 to upward of $100. If you do it yourself, a bottle of sealant costs between $30 and $70, depending on the brand. A quality paint sealant boasts 6-12 months of better protection and shine.

Sealant is a combination of both organic and inorganic ingredients, so the breakdown of shine and protection is slowed. This option preserves your vehicle’s durability much better than wax, preventing damage and fading due to elemental exposure. (Waxes would have to be applied every week to maintain the same protection over time!) It also has preferable hydrophobic properties, repelling water and debris from the paint. However, the shine from a sealant is a glass-like finish; it isn’t as warm as wax, so the paint vibrance and depth aren’t enhanced as much. But you can layer wax over the sealant if that shine and color are essential to you. Just don’t apply a sealant over other waxes or sealants; you must apply it to bare paint.

In terms of protection and durability, a sealant is your best bet. It is the most effective option for your money. But nothing beats the quality and long-lasting effects of ceramic coatings.

Ceramic Coatings

If you are searching for something that will ensure the utmost protection, shine, and durability for years to come, ceramic coating is your best option. For most professional services, a ceramic coating costs between $900 and $3,000. It will last up to 7 years. It guarantees protection of every exterior part of your car, as well as some interior ones, like the dashboard and leather seats. You can save some cash and apply the coating yourself for $200 to $700, but please be aware that this coating is not entirely safe. Avoid contact near your skin and eyes, and use gloves and goggles when around it. There are also many chemicals in this coating, so be careful not to inhale these harmful substances.

Ceramic coatings are derived from inorganic materials, allowing their protection and shine to outlive their competition. Its hydrophobic properties are superior, and the shine is clearer and deeper than that of waxes and sealants. But professional installation comes highly recommended for ceramic coating jobs, as they are intense, extensive, and require professional tools. There is also more preparation involved. For example, for a Ceramic Coating to adhere properly you must do paint correction to remove any imperfections from the paint before coating it. These can often add to the cost of this option.

Overall, ceramic coatings are the best option in every category except budget. If the cost isn’t an issue, these provide the best results for both shine and protection.

Making Your Final Decision

Now that you know the differences between waxes, sealants, and ceramic coatings, you can take the next step. Be sure to look into different products and services near you. Also, remember that different brands may vary in results and costs.

No matter which option you choose, you are investing in your car. This kind of care is key to maintaining your vehicle. Once you select a product, continue to reapply promptly to preserve that quality shine and protection!


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