People are understandably protective of their car’s paintwork. We agonize over every blemish, every scratch and every chip. When you consider the facts, it’s easy to see why. Any paint that truly stands out and “pops” has cost a lot of money to put in place.
Most OEM dealerships are fairly limited on standard colors --- white, red, grey/silver, and black are the most common standard offerings --- and you have to pay hundreds or even thousands of dollars for the specialty metallic, pearlescent and other paints.
In today’s blog, we’re looking at the subject of paint correction and paint protection in the form of ceramic coating. We dive into the costs and benefits of these options and why people opt to get them.
What is Paint Correction?
Car paint correction is the natural and proper response to the above-mentioned agony that comes when your car has its paint blemished, scratched, chipped or otherwise damaged. It is a process by which affected areas on your paint are cleaned, touched up with new paint and then buffed to restore the smooth, unblemished surface that everyone loves to see on a car.
Car paint correction comes either as a single-step or multi-step process, depending on the exact problem and how serious it is. The more steps there are in the process, the more it ultimately costs. It can range from a relatively simple action of just cleaning up the affected area, applying primer, paint coating and then clear coat in layers, and allowing about 20 minutes of drying time between the layers. If you have a physical dent in the body, you should look into paintless dent removal as well.
At the more serious end of the spectrum where there are deep scratches and large areas of orange peel, the work involves many more steps, including sanding the affected area down to the original surface metal, treating it, then priming, coating and the rest. It’s much more time and labor intensive, and therefore the final bill is usually somewhat inflated.
Besides serious acute damage like scratches and orange peel, there is also longer-term damage such as swirl marks, which accumulate over time often through bad car washing and detailing practices by the owner.
If your paint correction job involves removing this kind of damage, then once again it involves multiple steps of compounding, polishing and buffing to bring the original color tone back. This normally has to happen over large areas like the entire hood, or an entire side panel, making it all the more costly and time consuming.
What does Paint Correction Cost?
For very minor paint correction jobs carried out by a professional paint corrector, you should be ready to pay $200 to $300. Some drivers feel bold enough to try and repair such damage themselves to save money, and there are certainly easy-to-use DIY paint correction kits that you can use, with clear instructions and lots of “how to” guides on platforms like YouTube.
Since many paint correction jobs that come to professionals are somewhat more serious, however, then it is not unusual for the price to range from $500 to $1,000 or more. If you need to remove large areas of orange peel, swirl marks or similar damage, this is where it can get up even close to $2,000 to get paint correction done.
Do I Need Car Paint Correction?
If the damage to your car’s paint is acceptable to you and you have no wish to sell the car anytime soon, then there’s no technical reason that you “need” paint correction. One problem that can occur, however, is that moisture can get embedded in the paint and cause rust and corrosion at the damaged points. Since chipping and scratching will invariably also breach the protective clear coat, then odds are that the base coat is exposed and vulnerable to that kind of damage. To avoid it, you should correct the paint as soon as possible.
One situation that arises in which you definitely will need paint correction to be carried out is when you are planning to apply a ceramic coating to the paint as a layer of protection and unbeatable shine. Why is this? Put simply, the ceramic coating will not bond properly with your car’s surface if there are the types of damage like scratches, abrasions and similar.
For the coating to be truly effective --- and given the cost, you want it to be effective --- the bonding has to be strong, and the bonding won’t happen without a clean, even surface. The same is true when you try to perform paint correction without sanding and priming the surface properly. If you skip that stage, then your paint coat will not bond, and even run and create an even bigger mess.
What is Ceramic Coating?
Ceramic coating is a special polymer that is carefully applied to the painted surface of a car for added protection and shine. First, the polymer binds tightly with the clear coat to form a thin but potent and hydrophobic coating on the surface that is able to slough off water, dirt and other contaminants in what to the untrained eye seems like magic.
It is often demonstrated by coating half of a car hood in the ceramic polymer, and leaving half uncoated and then throwing a bucket of dirty water over the hood and watching how the two halves react. On the coated half, the water beads and flees the surface as if it’s just received the fright of its life.
One thing to note is the frequent confusion between ceramic coating and car wraps. Car wraps cost can often be similar and they also involve covering the vehicle, but it's with a very different material for a very different reason. The reasons range from advertising to personal color preferences. 3M, though, does offer one of their high end wraps for a PPF which is a paint protection film.
When applied, the ceramic coating doesn’t provide much of a physical protection against things like rock chips and physical road debris --- for that you might seek paint protection film --- but it does provide exceptional protection from UV rays, mud, water and other chemicals found in nature such as bird droppings, tree sap, etc.
What does Ceramic Coating Cost?
It should be noted that while you can now go on Amazon and find DIY ceramic coating products that offer protection far superior than that of regular carnauba waxes and other products, these kinds of ceramic coating are not in the order of those used by the professionals.
If you want the lasting protection that can maintain a protective coating around your paint for as long as 2 or 3 years (no DIY product can match this), then you have to get it professionally applied.
A professional application is not cheap, nor is it quick. It can take 2-5 days in total to finish the job. Four main factors will directly impact the cost of your ceramic coating job:
- The size of your car --- a larger surface area means a more costly job
- The condition of your paint --- pre-coating paint correction will add to the cost
- Paint color --- darker colors take longer to polish up in preparation than lighter ones
- Clear coat hardness --- a harder clear coat is harder to polish up and prepare
Labor is also going to be the next big factor. The labor costs will include all the time for preparation and paint correction, and then the labor of applying the ceramic coating. As a ballpark figure, you should expect to pay in the region of $2,500 to $4,000 depending on the different factors that we mentioned above.
Conclusion: Car Paint Correction and Ceramic Coating - Not Cheap but Worth the Investment
Whether you just get paint correction, or a paint correction followed by a ceramic coating, the costs are not going to be low. Doing the job yourself can save a lot of money but the results will simply not be to the same professional level. The benefits, however, are long-lasting protection and irresistible shine and good looks on the car.
If you’re planning to sell this car at some point, this kind of paint correction and protection is an investment that will help the car “pop” in the eyes of the buyer, and thus help you maintain a high reselling price. You may also be able to get protection at a discount if you are buying a used vehicle that has already had the coating applied.