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Your car is one of the biggest investments you’ll ever make. After buying a house, a car is the most expensive item that most people will ever buy. Keeping that investment in good shape is important and paint protection film to cover your paint job is a great choice for protecting one of the biggest vulnerabilities to your investment.
A serious scratch or dent in your paint job leaves it vulnerable to rust and allows water, salt, and grime to get in. Over time, this will destroy the value of your car as well as making it unsightly. If you live in a southern climate, the constant UV rays from the sun can be extremely hard on your car’s paint.
Paint protection film is a great product for protecting your paint and your investment and keeping your car looking its best and safe from everything nature, the road, and even you can throw at it. There are a lot of quality protection films out there, so we’ve looked at the best protective films on the market and chosen the top four for your consideration.
1. What is Paint Protection Film?
The protection film is a thin layer of thermoplastic urethane that effectively works to protect your car’s paint job from all the dangers of the road and the weather. It’s particularly effective at protecting from rocks and bits of debris that might hit the car on the highway at high speeds. The film absorbs the hit or scratch instead of your paint job.
2. Where Did This Special Film Come From?
This paint protection film was originally invented to extend the life of the rotary blades on a helicopter. It worked so well that became known as “helicopter tape” and was an integral part of helicopter safety and design.
Over time, the film was adapted for use on ground vehicles. The original protection film was used only on race cars or commercial vehicles because the aesthetics were not good enough for the average car owner. Since then, manufacturers have worked to make it thinner, so that protective film now looks good on any car.
3. Can You Tell the Film Is There?
As stated, early versions of paint protection film were thick and unsightly. The newest versions, fortunately, are so thin it’s almost impossible to tell they are on the car at all. With some types of film, you will be able to see a line on the panel if you don’t have the entire panel covered.
4. Does It Hurt the Paint If I Remove It?
No. If the paint protection film was properly installed initially, it would come off without harming the surface. However, it is important to let the paint film cure completely before taking it off. This process takes approximately 30 days. Some films may leave a residue when they are removed, but that can be cleaned off.
5. How Long Does It Take to Install?
Installing a paint protection film can take anywhere from three hours to a day or two. It depends on how large your vehicle is and exactly how much of the car you want to be covered in the film.
6. Does Having It Mean I Never Have to Wash my Car?
Nothing will make your car bulletproof. If you leave bird droppings or road grit on the film for long enough, it will degrade. It’s important to keep your car washed regularly no matter what protection you put on it.
7. Is It Worth the Cost to Have Car Film Put On My Vehicle?
There area couple of good reasons it’s worth the money. First, it will give you peace of mind. Second, you can be assured of a greater resale value later if you choose to sell. Finally, it means you’re unlikely to have to get a new paint job. A new paint job will cost a lot more than a coating of protective film.
8. Can I Do It by Myself?
Of course. However, you should bear in mind that you’re unlikely to be able to do as good a job as a professional. There’s a chance it may bubble or create unsightly lines, and if you don’t do it very carefully, the film will yellow over time and begin to get “orange peel.” It’s not impossible to do yourself, but be very careful and follow directions exactly.
How we Reviewed
We looked at all these different paint protection films by the following parameters; features, pros & cons, price, availability, and warranty. We looked at which ones provide the most protection, what’s the best price you can find, and exactly what you can expect it to do for you. We looked at how long they last, how good they look, and what the manufacturers have to say about it.
Overall Price Range Of Paint Protection Film
The price range of paint protection film rolls varies a great deal, depending on two factors. First, are you going to be installing it yourself or getting a pro to do it? It is possible to do it yourself, but it is time-consuming, and the end result may not look the way you hope. A professional job will get you a longer warranty, a better end result, and will last longer.
The second factor that affects price is how much of the car you plan to have covered. You can cover the hood, bumper, side mirrors, and front fenders, just some of these things, or the entire car. Doing the whole car yourself will run just over $200. To have a professional installation on the entire vehicle will run closer to $6000. If you’re just interested in protecting the most vulnerable parts of your car, which are the hood, fenders, bumpers, and side mirrors, you could do it yourself for around $100. It will cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $2000 to have professionals do it for you.
What We Reviewed
- 3D Scotchguard
- XPEL Ultimate
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3M Scotchguard paint protection film is the oldest and most revered name in the businesses. They made the first protection film for helicopters during the Vietnam War, and they’ve only improved since then. This is a quality film with a lot of history behind it. It goes on clean, provides good protection, and lasts a decent amount of time.
3M warranties their film for seven years, but only if you have it done professionally. This isn’t the longest warranty on the market, but it’s nothing to sneeze at, either. If you do it yourself, the warranty only lasts five years.
- Long history in the business means you know what you’re getting
- Nearly invisible finish, especially on cars with light paint jobs
- Self-healing with the application of heat
- Possible to see the film on darker cars
- Less durable than some other types over the long haul
- Can be hard to apply in cold weather
XPEL Ultimate definitely has the noisiest fan base, which tells you something about their product. Paint protection film is all they do, too, so they are currently a big and growing name in the business. Their self-healing film is a step above anyone else at the moment, and it tends to look better than the 3M once it’s on.
XPEL is backed by the longest warranty in the business at 10 years; however, like 3M, that’s only if you go through a distributor and have it applied professionally. Do it yourself, and you’re looking at only a five-year warranty.
- Excellent self-healing properties
- Some of the best aesthetics of any brand on any color car
- Long warranty when applied professionally
- Can be difficult to remove if not installed precisely
- Can leave a visible line if an entire panel is not covered
Llumar and SunTek are identical and are both manufactured by companies owned by Eastman Chemicals. These films are particularly renowned for their high gloss and aesthetics. Most notably, they are hydrophobic, meaning that they repel water the same way that a good wax job would do.
The hydrophobic quality means that your car will be easier to clean. It also means that dirt and mud won’t adhere to the vehicle as much as they otherwise would. You can apply a wax over all the films if you want, but why would you with this film?
SunTek warranties their product for just five years, no matter who applies it.
- Hydrophobic film means water beads up and runs off
- Excellent aesthetics on any car color, with a high gloss
- Self-healing when hot water is poured on it
- The adhesive is less strong than 3M or XPEL
- Shorter warranty
- New product without a long history of success
- Begins to show yellowing on white cars within a short time
One of the downsides of this car protection film is that the manufacturer, Rayno film, does not give any details of their warranty anywhere. Contact a local distributor to find out more.
- Excellent aesthetics on any color car
- Good performance in extreme heat
- Excellent protection from stains and road debris
- Hydrophobic and self-healing
- New product with no long history of success
- Difficult to find prices
- The manufacturer does not give a warranty period
There is no good reason not to get a protective film for your car. It will keep your car looking good for years to come, and studies have shown that the vulnerable front end of a car is the most important aesthetic feature when it comes to resale value. Car protection film is a great way to protect that investment.
All of these films will give you a great look if you have them professionally installed. They will all last a minimum of four years with proper usage and maintenance. Most importantly, all of them will protect a vehicle from stains, scratches, rock chips, and whatever else might come at them as you drive.
For our money, the best film right now is XPEL. It offers the longest warranty, good protection, good adhesive, and superior aesthetics. CREED is making a good showing currently but hasn’t been on the market long enough to prove itself like some of the others. Whatever you choose, though, getting paint protection for your car is a smart investment to make and you can’t go wrong with any of these.