When you buy a car from a dealer, they’ll try to sell you a variety of extra products. Paint protection is one of these. Here we explain what it is, what it does, whether you need it and possible alternatives
What is paint protection?
Every car has several coats of paint. The top coat is then sealed in by what’s known as a clear coat: a transparent coat that protects the colour. The paint protection dealers offer goes on top of this and can come in one of two forms. It might be a clear film that’s applied to the whole car or it could be simply a spray applied a bit like a polish.
What paint protection does
Car paintwork takes a beating. Whether it’s from sun, rain or road grime, all conspire to take the sheen off a car’s bodywork. What paint protection should do is enhance your car’s colour and ensure it retains its lustrous appearance for longer than it ordinarily might with just the clear coat to protect it. It’ll also shield it from the acidic effects of rain and bird poo.
Do you need it?
That largely depends on where you keep your car and the kind of mileage you do. For many of us it’s a nice-to-have rather than a must-have. But if you park your car outside and beneath trees or other things that birds roost in, it’s probably a good idea.
It’s all in the application
Before paint protection is applied, the car should be carefully and properly washed. It should then have its paintwork decontaminated. This should be followed by a machine polish to remove any swirls or scratches in the paintwork that have happened during transit. Finally, the paint protection should be applied.
How will a dealer apply it?
This is the million-dollar question. Dealers either have their own car cleaners (they’ll call them valeters) or employ a car cleaning company. Whichever it is, it’s highly likely they’ll be judged on the number of cars they can get through in a day rather than the quality of their work. And that means you may not get the best possible job done for the money.
You can DIY it
The first alternative to a dealer is to do it yourself. Research the products you need online and/or nip down to your nearest motor retailer. Buy a product from a reputable manufacturer such as Autoglym or Meguiars. To get the best value for money, you should follow the cleaner’s instructions. This means you’re likely to have to rinse, wash and dry the car, use a clay bar to decontaminate the paintwork, then apply the protector.
Or pay a valeter…
This has some definite advantages. For a start professional valeters have the know-how plus all the equipment such as electric polishers. Some of the products such as Autoglym Lifeshine are only available to the pros. As they’re being paid direct by you and not on the minimum wage at a dealership, there’s every chance they’ll take more care and do a better job. And of course you can keep an eye on them. Just make sure the valeter you choose uses a ‘name’ product you’re happy with.
The best way to proceed with your dealer
In any negotiation it’s always good to have different options. Before you talk to your dealer about paint protection, find out how much an independent valeter will charge for applying paint protection. It’s likely they’ll cost less and probably do a job that’s as good if not better than the dealer. If you’re hands-on and fancy doing the job yourself, again find out how much the products are going to cost. That way you know if your dealer’s having a laugh.
It’s a new car. Why should it need paint protection?
Think for a moment about your car’s journey from the production line. Chances are your new motor has spent some time sitting in a pound wherever it was built waiting to be transported to a dock. There it’ll be loaded onto a ship for its journey to the UK. On arrival it’ll sit in a pound again before being put on a car transporter and delivered to the dealership. Along the way it’ll have picked up plenty of dust and dirt. Paint protection won’t just bring its colour back to its brilliant best; it’ll ensure it stays there for a period too.
Why do car dealers offer paint protection?
The profit a dealer makes on each car it sells these days is usually very slim. As a result, they resort to selling accompanying products to boost the money they make. Paint protection is one of these, GAP insurance another.
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.