Parking under trees or leaving a lovely clean car where it’s going to get covered in bird lime or dust can be a depressing experience. Garaging the car is the ultimate solution. But sadly that’s not viable for most of us. The answer could be a car cover. But not all car covers are equal. Read on to find out more about covering your car.
Are car covers suitable for outdoors?
Some are cheap, flimsy affairs that will rip in the slightest breath of wind. Others are super sturdy and good for all conditions. In between, there are covers specifically designed to protect cars in garages and those aimed at shielding cars outside.
Why it’s worth considering a car cover
There are several reasons for buying a car cover. Of course it will keep dust, dirt and bird poo off your precious paintwork. But it will also protect your paint from UV damage and the fading that sunlight can prompt outside the car and in. Plus if cats decide to use your car as a climbing frame, it’ll stop their claws damaging the bodywork.
One frequently overlooked asset is that if your car is outside and covered, it’ll be safe from prying eyes. A cover won’t deter the determined thief. But it might be enough to shield your car from the window smasher or other vandals.
Proper car covers are specially designed
Car covers are designed to be breathable. You don’t want to wrap your car in plastic because condensation will build up prompting problems of its own. The best covers have multiple layers. They repel water but during prolonged heavy rain, some moisture might make it through. However, breathability will ensure it starts drying the moment the rain stops.
Consider a universal cover
Broadly speaking there are two types of car cover: those that are designed for the shape of your make and model of car and those that fit a wide range of vehicles.
Universal covers are generally cheaper. The downside is they won’t fit your car as snugly as a purpose-built one. Those made for your car have special pockets exactly where the mirrors are and hug the contours and curves of your motor.
You’ll also be reassured that it’s the right size for your car. If a universal cover fits too tightly it’ll put unnecessary strain on things like door mirrors. If it’s too loose, it could blow around in the wind. This might enable dust and dirt to get beneath it and these will then rub against the paintwork, rather defeating the object of the cover.
But a custom-fit is probably better
Assuming you can’t try the cover before you buy, you may well find that a fitted cover is the safest option. It might be more expensive but at least you can be sure it’ll do what you’re paying for it to do.
Indoor or outdoor cover?
As we’ve seen, covers are suitable for outdoors. But there are also those that are suitable for inside. Buy an indoors cover and use it outside and you might find it blows away or rips in a high wind. On the other hand, if you get a full outdoors cover and use it indoors, you’ll have something that’s heavier and harder to pack up, when really all you need is a glorified dust sheet.
How soft is it?
More expensive multi-layer covers will be lined with a soft material that faces your paintwork. If you’re precious about the finish on your car, you’ll want one that’s as soft as possible.
How much do car covers cost?
This depends how big your car is and what type of cover you buy. A flimsy universal cover will probably cost around £25. One that’s fully waterproof will be about £300.
Straps for outside
If you’re going to be fitting a cover to a car outside, you’ll want straps to ensure it doesn’t blow away. Consider whether these have reinforced grommets around them. And if you’re worried about someone nicking your precious cover you may want to find out whether you can secure it with a cable and lock.
What about storage?
Last but not least, you’ll hopefully be spending some time driving your car so consider how you’re going to store the cover. The best ones come with a handy storage bag for the cover to fold up into.
I’ve been writing about cars and motoring for more than 25 years. My career started on a long-departed classic car weekly magazine called AutoClassic. I’ve since pitched up at Autosport, Auto Express, the News of the World, Sunday Times and most recently the Daily Telegraph. When I’m not writing about cars and motoring, I’m probably doing some kind of sport or working in my garden.