We are often asked by customers if they should consider a ceramic coating OR paint protection film. The short answer to that question is that often what they really need is both! Basic Definitions: Ceramic Coatings- A silicon dioxide (SiO2) glass coating that is hand applied with applicator pads to a car's clear coat and exterior plastics. Professional grade coatings form a long lasting bond with the surface and serve as protection from abrasive chemicals and oxidation while also producing a hydrophobic quality that prevents liquids, dirt, and debris from sticking to the clear coat. Ceramic coatings add gloss, shine and color depth to the paint while greatly reducing the effort and time required to wash and maintain the car.
Paint Protection Film- A Polyurethane film that applies to the painted surfaces of a car with adhesive. PPF serves as a physical barrier to protect the cars clear coat/paint from rock chips, scratches, and weather damage. Top quality films also add gloss and clarity to improve the cars appearance.
What are the differences? PPF and ceramic coatings are not interchangeable products. They are much more complimentary than competitive toward each other. So here is what they don't have in common... - Physical Protection: PPF is great at shielding the cars paint from impact damage like rock chips and scratches etc...Ceramic Coatings generally do not serve that purpose. A ceramic coating alone will not protect against significant physical contact.
- Longevity: We exclusively offer and install high quality PPF that is designed to last for 10+ years if well maintained. Ceramic coatings are much more of a mixed bag. We offer coatings that last for as little as 1 year but also an options that last for4-6 or even 6-10 years if properly maintained. Price and necessity will largely dictate which coating option makes sense for your car and how long it should endure....but there is no high quality PPF that should be expected to last for less than several years when installed well. - Price: Luckily the generally shorter lifespan of ceramic coatings typically result in a lower initial cost. The exact prices for both products can range wildly depending on application and various brands but overall, an entire car can be covered in a nice quality ceramic coating for a fraction of the cost of a full body PPF install. Also, the range of pricing for a ceramic coating is dictated by the quality, longevity, and installation process...not the amount of vehicle coverage. - Coverage: Price directly impacts another major difference between these products, which is vehicle coverage. Regarding PPF, customers may choose to have PPF installed on the entire vehicle or as little as a single section like the bumper or only the hood etc. Partial installs like a "full front" or "track pack" are very popular choices as they sit in the sweet spot that provides excellent protection without the sticker shock of a full car install.
On the other hand, ceramic coatings are almost always full car services regardless of price or longevity. A significant portion of a ceramic coating service includes deep cleaning and polishing the paint to prepare the surface for an ideal bond and pleasing result. Meaning that there are not many instances where bypassing sections of the car would pay off either visually or in actual monetary savings enough to justify the sacrifice. - Self Healing: One of the best party tricks for PPF is that not only does it shield the paint against scary scratches. The film itself can magically heal light swirls and surface scratches on its own with nothing but a bit of heat. Ceramic coatings will not. - Exterior Plastics: We've all seen a car or truck with textured exterior plastics that have faded with time. Unfortunately, many plastic surfaces will not adhere well to PPF. Yet, most ceramic coatings can be applied equally to painted surfaces or textured exterior plastics, which can prolong and protect the appearance of those components from natural wear. But PPF can typically install on to smooth high gloss plastics that are super easy to scratch. What do PPF and Ceramic Coatings have in common?
By now you probably have a good idea of why PPF and ceramic coatings are not interchangeable options but they do share a few traits that might help you prioritize the two if your budget doesn't allow for both options right off the bat. - Gloss: Both PPF and Ceramic Coatings will improve the clarity and glossy appearance of the cars paint. That being said...your specific results will vary with difference products and installers. Not all PPF is created equal. We prefer SunTek Films largely because of the overall high quality look and we only use professional grade ceramic coatings that require professional skill to properly install. Cheaper products that are not applied well may not add that value. - Replaceability: One of the best selling points of installing PPF and ceramic on a car is that both can be removed and replaced. If the car is in an accident or experiences minor surface damage. PPF can be peeled off and a new piece can go in it's place. Ceramic coatings can be polished away and re-applied as well. In neither case are you required to blend across multiple panels as you would if the otherwise unshielded paint took the damage or weathering that PPF and ceramic coatings protect against. Which also implies that the car is still in it's original condition underneath. - Chemical/Weathering Protection: As mentioned above, ceramic coatings do not protect the car against forceful impacts and scratches but those are not the only forms of abuse that paint has to endure. All kinds of chemicals and assaults by mother nature take their toll on the clear coat of your car. PPF naturally shields from those things but so does a ceramic coating. Abrasive chemicals and oxidation breakdown the clear coat over time and nature does it's best with bird droppings, dead bugs, and tree sap to etch or stain the surface. Ceramic coatings serve as an additional barrier to take that abuse while also creating a hydrophobic top layer that rejects rain and dirt from sticking to the the car while making it far faster and easier to clean off stubborn contaminants that do damage over time. Bonus Note - Installation: The installation process for each product is a combo of steps that match and differ at the same time. In both cases, cleanliness is holiness. For a proper professional install of PPF or Ceramic, the car must first be thoroughly washed including all edges, seams, and seals. Small amounts of debris and dirt will find their way into the coating or film while they are being applied and ruin the final result if not properly prepared. We typically even go the extra step to clay bar the surface to remove the tiniest bits of debris embedded in the clear coat. So an extensive exterior detail is part of the value for either option. The next step is where things diverge. A detailed and clay barred clear coat is ready for PPF while a ceramic coating still needs at least a light polish if not a full multi-stage paint correction depending on the starting condition and desired final result. People often assume a polish is performed before PPF as well but it is almost always unnecessary. PPF will hide nearly all light surface scratches, plus if the film needs to be removed in the future, a quick polish will be necessary at that time anyway.
On the other hand. With ceramic coatings, the polish and prep work done before the coating is applied is a major part of what you are paying for and is necessary for the ideal result. Plus, ceramic coatings can be installed on top of PPF.
In conclusion...PPF and Ceramic Coatings are like a healthy diet and exercise. Ideally you don't pick between the two, you find the best combination to achieve you personal goals. They have some overlapping qualities but ultimately serve different purposes. But one is better than none, so if you only have the budget or need for one of the two. The choice boils down to whether you care more about damage protection or ease of maintenance and cleaning, but if you can swing it...the best result is some amount of PPF with a Ceramic Coating on top!