There’s something eye-catching about a perfectly polished car or truck at a car show. The way the light hits the vehicle’s curves, the reflection in the glass, and the look of a beautiful leather interior are all breathtaking. Here’s the secret: Those car owners aren’t paying professionals. They’re polishing their cars themselves.
To get that level of finish, nothing can replace the best car wax. These quality products leave a shiny finish that protects the clear coat and the paint underneath. They help shed water and even rejuvenate an old finish. Keep reading to learn more about choosing and using these products at home.
- BEST OVERALL: CAR GUYS Hybrid Wax – Advanced Car Wax
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Turtle Wax T-223 Super Hard Shell Paste Wax
- BEST NATURAL: Mothers 05701 California Gold Brazilian Carnauba Wax
- BEST CERAMIC: Ethos Ceramic Wax PRO – Aerospace Coating Protection
- BEST LIQUID: Meguiar’s G18220 Ultimate Liquid Wax
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Car Wax
Whether it’s to protect a car’s finish for resale value or longevity, or to simply add a great-looking finish to your pride and joy, the best car wax can help. But there are quite a few points to keep in mind when considering which one to purchase. The following section will highlight those important considerations in the name of smart shopping.
Car waxes continue to protect the vehicle after application, unlike a product like an upholstery cleaner that simply removes dirt and grime. Just like the variety of vehicles on the market, there are many types of car wax available. Each has its strengths, so familiarize yourself with each type.
- Carnauba wax comes from the leaves of a palm tree native to Brazil. During processing, manufacturers mix it with beeswax and turpentine to create the high-quality product that so many car show participants rely on. Carnauba wax seems to soak into the surface of the paint, protecting from within. Although the finish doesn’t last incredibly long (6 to 8 weeks, usually), the shine and water-repellency are top-notch.
- Synthetic waxes (or paint sealants) are a less natural approach to car wax. These waxes use tens of thousands of polymers to create a hard, protective shell on the outside of the paint. Because they don’t need to soak into the surface of the car, they’re easier to apply. Each application can last between 4 and 6 months.
- Ceramic wax is a type of synthetic wax with a ceramic polymer that comes in a liquid form. It creates an even harder shell over the vehicle than synthetic wax and has a longer lifespan.
- Specialty waxes exist as well. Cleaner waxes can help remove imperfections in the paint and restore the color of a faded surface. There are also waxes made specifically for certain colors, though they’re no more effective than a typical wax as all modern vehicles have clear coats over the paint.
Would-be detailers can also buy wax in different forms, with varying styles of application.
- Paste wax is a solid form of wax that users apply with a buffing pad. These waxes usually come in shallow jars, and while they’re the least messy option, they’re also the most difficult to apply.
- Liquid wax comes out of a squeeze bottle and has the consistency of hand lotion. These waxes are typically synthetic-based, even if they contain carnauba. They’re straightforward to apply but can get a bit messy.
- Spray wax is a thin liquid that users can apply to a vehicle with a spray bottle. This is by far the easiest way to wax a vehicle, but due to its diluted nature, a spray wax finish doesn’t last as long as paste or liquid wax.
Keep in mind that no matter the form of wax, it will need buffing after it cures, so no one product is better for hard-to-reach places than another.
When choosing the best car wax, keeping the desired finish in mind is key to a job well done. All waxes offer some form of shine and protection, but some offer a shinier look than others.
If you’d prefer a shinier, perpetually wet look, there are products available that can deliver the goods. These car waxes typically come in a carnauba paste wax or a liquid bottle, and they leave behind a glossier, shinier finish.
Just beware that glossier finishes don’t necessarily indicate better protection, and frequent reapplication might be necessary to maintain that level of shine.
The reason why car waxes wear off or lose their protective qualities is most often due to environmental factors. For one, the sun’s UV rays can do a number on a painted surface; it makes sense that they’ll wear down the protective coating as well. Salt from roads and acid rain can also shorten the lifespan of a wax coating.
High-quality synthetic car waxes account for these environmental factors and use formulas specifically designed to minimize their effects. Manufacturers will use specific combinations of polymers, ceramic coatings, and more to offer as long-lasting a coat as possible. Carnauba, as a natural product, doesn’t provide as much protection, though mixing it with these polymers to create a hybrid formula can be effective.
As previously mentioned, certain waxes and formulas last longer than others, which could be the most important factor when choosing a product.
If you’re shopping for the best car wax based on longevity, a synthetic liquid wax is probably the best bet. These waxes can protect a vehicle’s surface for 6 months or longer. The quality of the finish might not be as high or as shiny as a carnauba wax, but the level of protection against rain, sun, salt, and other enemies of paint is unmatched.
Carnauba waxes offer the beautiful, show-stopping, glossy finishes that come to mind when most think of a car wax, but their protective coat doesn’t last quite as long as a synthetic.
Application is an entirely different consideration that needs some thought. For those who don’t want to devote an afternoon to waxing a car, a spray wax is by far the fastest way to protect the vehicle’s surface. With the help of a microfiber cloth, users can quickly spray and wipe a surface, allowing them to finish an entire vehicle in just a few minutes.
Liquid wax is also very convenient, as users can put a dab on a microfiber cloth or foam buffing pad and apply it over a large surface quickly. This wax also has to set on the surface until it hazes before it’s buffed with a clean cloth, a buffing pad, or a buffer. That setup time takes around 5 minutes, depending on the conditions. The liquid can be runny and messy, however, so be sure to keep that in mind while applying.
Paste wax is the least messy to deal with, but the process of applying it does take a bit longer. Users will need to rub an application pad or a microfiber cloth on the wax, creating a bit of friction and heat, and then apply it to the surface of the vehicle. Like liquid wax, paste wax has to set up to a haze before buffing it off with a clean buffing pad, a microfiber cloth, or an electric buffer. On colder days, it can be difficult to get paste wax to soak into the paint, but this wax is still preferred by many car enthusiasts.
Our Top Picks
With that bit of background on choosing the best car wax, putting a shiny, protective coat on that special ride just got a little easier. To help streamline the shopping process even more, check out the following list of products. It consists of some of the best car waxes on the market, and there’s an option for just about any vehicle.
Car Guys Hybrid Wax Advanced Car Wax formula offers the deep, smooth shine of a carnauba wax with the durable, long-lasting protection of a synthetic wax, offering the best of both worlds. This spray wax product applies easily and leaves behind a show-car shine that protects the paint against the sun’s UV rays while offering a water repellent barrier.
When spraying, don’t worry about accidentally splashing the car’s windows or windshield: This wax is safe for any paint on cars, motorcycles, boats, and RVs, as well as plastic, glass, and anywhere else a detailer might accidentally hit. Once applied, it leaves a streak-free shine and a layer of protection that lasts for 3 to 6 months.
Home detailers with a few waxings to their name will recognize Turtle Wax’s Super Hard Shell Paste Wax. A favorite among vehicle owners, this inexpensive product offers a high water repellency and protects a vehicle’s finish for up to 12 months.
This blend of carnauba wax and silicone is easy to apply and creates a protective shell over the vehicle. Since it’s carnauba and silicone-based, it will work on any vehicle, RV, trailer, boat, and lots of other surfaces. Purchase includes an applicator pad for spreading the wax.
When it comes to finding a product based on natural ingredients, Mothers California Gold Brazilian Carnauba Wax might tick the box. This liquid product uses pure carnauba wax mixed with polymers that allow the user to apply it easily. The heat-resistant formula gives it a longer lifespan than most carnauba waxes in direct sunlight.
Made using a special formula, this liquid wax also cleans the surface, removing impurities as it polishes. It can even help restore some paint fade on older vehicles. Keep in mind that this squeeze bottle doesn’t come with an applicator, so be sure to purchase one separately.
Vehicle owners looking to apply a mirror-like shine that they can see themselves in should look into this ceramic wax from Ethos Handcrafted Car Care. This synthetic product allows users to wax, polish, and seal their vehicle’s paint with just one product. It prevents paint fade, fills minor scratches, and leaves an ultra-slick shine.
In addition to protecting vehicles against sun, rain, and salt for up to 12 months, this product is easy to apply with a foam application pad, and it buffs easily with a microfiber cloth.
For those looking for a convenient, high-quality liquid wax, Meguiar’s Ultimate Liquid Wax is worth some serious consideration. This liquid formula squeezes onto a foam applicator, spreads across a glossy paint or clear coat, and buffs off easily. The fully synthetic formula increases the surface tension of the paint, creating a highly water-repellent surface.
Although this synthetic wax is safe on all glossy paints and clear coats, it isn’t ideal for flat or matte surfaces. Users can apply it by hand or use an electric buffer to speed up the process. The finish and protectant will last for up to 6 months.
FAQs About Car Waxes
Even with that extensive primer on the best car wax, there might be some new questions popping up that need to be answered. This section aims to help, as it’s a collection of some of the most frequently asked questions about car waxes.
Q. What is the difference between car polish and wax?
Car polishes use small abrasives in the formula to remove scratches and swirl marks. Car waxes seal that surface and protect it against rain, snow, salt, sun, and other environmental hazards.
Q. What should be done first—polishing or waxing?
If the vehicle needs both polishing and waxing, start with the polishing step first. This allows the surface to be corrected before sealing it with wax.
Q. Is liquid or paste car wax better?
Liquid wax is easy to apply, but it can be messy. Paste wax can be difficult to apply, but it’s far less messy with which to work. For pros used to working with liquid waxes regularly, liquid wax is fine. Vehicle owners waxing their vehicles for the first time should consider starting out with a paste wax.
Q. How often should a car be waxed?
Most car waxes can last up to about 6 months, which means a car should be waxed twice a year. It’s best to wax the vehicle before winter, so salt and road brine don’t stick as well to the vehicle, and again in the spring when the winter grime is washed off the surface.
Q. How long do car waxes last?
Liquid and paste waxes can last up to 1 year, with 6 months being about the average. Spray waxes can usually protect a surface for up to 3 months.