WHAT IS A CERAMIC COATING?
Ceramic Coatings are a fairly new phenomenon within the auto detailing world. To make things simple, ceramic coatings are extremely strong, and protective coatings that bond to car paint so intensely they can last up to 7+ years. I like to call them "wax on steroids." While a wax or a sealant may protect your car's paint mildly for several months, ceramic coatings not only last years longer, but they are extremely tough. To put this into perspective, your car's clear coat measures anywhere from a 2h-4h on the hardness scale, while many ceramic coatings measure a 9h (the highest measurement on the scale).
WHAT MAKES CERAMIC COATINGS DIFFERENT?
There are many things that differentiate between ceramic coatings including life-span, hardness, chemical makeup, and more, but these three are really the most important. The three major brands in the ceramic coating industry are: Ceramic Pro, C. Quartz, and Opti-Coat Pro. While Opti-Coat is made up of "Silicone Carbide" (SiC), most other coatings are made up of "Silicone Dioxide" (SiO2). Coatings that are made up of Silicone Carbide (SiC) are a truly permanent coating, because there chemically bond to the paint, and more or less become one with the paint, as they take on the very properties of the car paint itself. Silicone Dioxide coatings do not become one with the paint as much as they form a very distinct, and separate barrier that sits on top of the paint.
WHICH IS THE BEST?
There is no way we can say one coating is better than the other, simply because in our opinion they are so similar. While some detailers argue that different coatings give different visual appeals, We really cannot tell a huge difference, not to mention, they are both extremely incredible paint protections, that are more or less permanent. Some things to be aware of, specifically with Opti-Coat, is that though these coatings are truly incredible, and represent huge technological advancements in the detailing industry, they are not the ultimate, and complete protection that will keep your car paint perfect under any circumstances. What we mean is this, these protections, by enlarge, do not ALL TOGETHER protect against rock chips, water spots, and scratching/swirling. Yes they do protect against these things, but that does not mean that it is impossible for it to happen. A good way to think about it is this: Your car is manufactured with a clear coat (a protective layer on top of the paint), and while that clear coat is strong, it is not invincible, and it can be damaged. A ceramic coating is simply another layer of protection, that is even stronger than the clear coat that is already on the paint, and this coating, though it is extremely strong, can still be damaged if it is not cared for properly. The upside to this is that if it does get damaged, it acts as a sacrificial layer between the clear coat and the outside world, so when that protective coating is removed, the clear coat remains in perfect condition.
ARE CERAMIC COATINGS EXPENSIVE?
The simple answer to this question is yes, but of course that is extremely subjective. This is a bit of an over simplification, however an easy way to think about this is, we have never seen a ceramic coating applied for less than $800, but have rarely seen them applied (at least on the average car) for more than around $2000. In our area, it is safe to assume that applying a ceramic coating will cost somewhere around the $1000 to $2000 range, but again, that is an over-simplification. Are there some places that charge more like $10,000... probably, but again, they are probably catering to the crowd that drive Lamborghini, and Bugatti.
The reason why ceramic coatings are a more expensive service, other than the fact that they are permanent protection that can last as long as 7 years, is simply because of the work and skill that it takes to apply them. It’s not nearly as simple as just slapping on some protection, and letting it dry for a little while. Before a ceramic coating can ever be applied, the vehicle must be polished, at a minimum one time, but more often than not, because most paint has serious swirls, scratches, etc... the paint requires a 2 or 3 step polish, which on a good day (and done properly), can take 8+ hours. Polishing is required because before the paint is sealed in with the protective ceramic coating, the swirls, scratches, and defects in the paint must be corrected, otherwise we would be permanently sealing in all of those horrible scratches, swirl marks, etc... and who wants that? After that is finished, the coating is finally applied, but even that is not quite as simple as it sounds. Many coatings require certain "prep" products to be used before actually applying the coating itself, then after the coating is applied, there are finishing products that must be applied over it as well. The entire coating application process can take many more hours as well depending on the size of the car itself. It is for this reason that ceramic coatings tend to be more expensive. The 20+ hours of work that some take to apply require a more hefty compensation for obvious reasons.
SHOULD YOU GET A CERAMIC COATING ON YOUR VEHICLE?
Again this is not a question that we can answer for you, however here are some things to consider:
1) The road is a jungle, and scratches, rock chips, swirl marks, water spots, and bug etchings are unavoidable. With no protection on your car's paint, it will inevitable degrade more and more until it really just looks sub par, and in the detailing world, PREVENTION IS BETTER THAN A CURE, because in many cases, the cure is either too expensive, or it just doesn't exist. Many clients say to us, "I want my paint to look show room new condition," to which we respond, "You should have decided that 5 years ago when show room new was possible, because now, at best you are looking at average paint condition." Once again, spend the money now for protection, so you don’t have to spend the MUCH MORE later on the "cure" that may or may not restore it to the condition you are looking for.
2) This is probably obvious, but if a car's paint is maintained, the trade in value is dramatically effected. To many customers we explain it like this: If a ceramic coating on your new 2018 Toyota Camry costs $1500, that may feel like a lot of money, but that protection will keep the paint looking the way it looks right now, and will in turn drastically increase the trade in value when it is time to get another car. So let's say with the paint protection, after 7 years your paint still looks just like the day you bought it, and right off the bat the dealership offers you $6000 to trade it in, whereas the next guy who did not take care of his paint, rolls up in his 7 year old Camry that has weathered many storms on the road with no maintenance... they offer him $4000... if he is lucky. The Ceramic coating has already paid for itself... literally! If you look at it from this perspective, you may find yourself spending a prettier penny than you were previously willing to spend on your paint's protection.
3) Another reason why we consider ceramic coatings worth the investment, is for the ease of maintenance and up-keep. When a ceramic coating has been applied to a vehicle, washing, waxing, and maintaining that vehicle becomes DRAMATICALLY easier. This is because of the advanced technology of these coatings. They resist bonding, so unlike the clear coat of a car that bonds fairly easily with the elements in the outside world, these ceramic coatings resist, at a very high level, bonding with anything outside, and therefore make maintaining the vehicle so easy it's amazing!