With the different options available in automobile paint protection, it may be difficult to determine which type of protection is best for your car. You may be considering paint protection film or a ceramic coating. Both have their advantages and disadvantages. Perhaps the best way to decide is to carefully compare the two and think about your typical driving conditions and the potential damage that you want to prevent. As you’ll see, you may even want to combine the two for additional protection.
Paint Protection Film vs. Ceramic Coatings
Paint protection film (PPF) is a clear film that was originally developed to protect military vehicles. Eventually, the high-end performance car industry began using PPF and now it’s used in the consumer market to protect cars from rock chips, scratches, and contaminants. The self-healing properties of some PPF products make them an attractive option since some scratches will dissipate over time or with heat. Surface defects should be removed prior to application of the film.
Ceramic coatings are the next step in the evolution of paint protection. They bond to the surface of the paint, creating a permanent layer of protection. Ceramic coatings offer substantially more scratch resistance, chemical resistance, UV protection and heat tolerance than wax or polymer sealants. Environmental damage and scratches are unable to penetrate the coating, leaving the paint in pristine condition. A professional ceramic coating typically only needs to be installed once during the average lifetime of vehicle ownership, making it a cost-effective option that offers supreme protection.
To help you understand the differences between PPF and ceramic coatings, we’ve listed their pros and cons below.
Paint Protection Film
- Better resistance to rock chip damage.
- Some have limited self-healing properties (since it is essentially TPU ((thermoplastic polyurethane)), or similar film).
- Prevents most scratches from reaching the paint (though the film will get scratched).
- Slightly minimizes shine.
- Is not very hydrophobic, so little water beading and sheeting.
- Can discolor over time and turn a yellowish hue.
- Major damage cannot be repaired, so the film would need to be removed and replaced.
- Will need to be replaced eventually.
- Can damage paint underneath if removed
- Difficult to install properly.
- More expensive than ceramic coatings.
- 9H hardness, so better resistance to minor scratches.
- Greatly enhanced chemical resistance (professional coatings).
- Super hydrophobic, excellent water beading/sheeting.
- Easier cleaning.
- Increased shine/luster.
- Greater repairability (can be polished to fix minor damage).
- Permanent, no need to remove and reinstall (pro coatings only).
- Will not stop rock chips.
- Can look bad if installed improperly.
- Expensive, though less expensive than PPF.
PPF and Ceramic Coatings Work Together
PPF and ceramic coatings work together for optimal protection. Ideally, you will install PPF on the areas prone to rock chip damage and then install a ceramic coating over the top of the PPF and on the rest of the vehicle. This may seem extreme, but if your average daily drive includes navigating terrain that is going to assault your car with rocks, you will be glad you have the added protection.
We also recommend that if you install PPF on the entire vehicle it would be advantageous to install a ceramic coating over top for the slickness, hydrophobicity, and ease of cleaning.
Details Matter is Melbourne, Florida’s complete automotive protection center. As a certified Ceramic Pro and Paint Protection Film installer, we provide experienced, professional exterior and interior coating installation. Contact us with any questions you have about paint protection for your car.
What is the lifespan of paint protection film?
Typically PPF lasts 7-10 years when your car is properly stored and maintained.
Why should you apply Ceramic Coating to your vehicle?
A ceramic coating adds a protective layer to your car that prevents dirt and grime build-up while creating an added level of protection from elements such as bird droppings.
Which Should I Get First? Paint Protection Film (PPF) Or Ceramic Coating?
The PPF must go before the ceramic coating because the PPF will not stick well, or at all, on top of the ceramic coating. If a vehicle already has a ceramic coating installed, the ceramic coating must be polished off before the PPF is applied.
When possible, most professionals do recommend having both Paint Protection Film (PPF) and Ceramic Coating applied at the same time so that one does not interfere with the optimal bonding of the hydrophobic properties to the car surface.
This article was originally published in March 2017 but has been updated for accuracy and freshness.