Which is better: paint protection film or ceramic coating?

Evaldas Zabitis

Evaldas Zabitis

Paying thousands to prevent rock chips and other minor paint damages may seem ridiculous to some, but if you want to maintain your vehicle’s pristine looks, it’s a necessity.

Both paint protection film and ceramic coating are effective paint protection methods, each with unique advantages and disadvantages.

Let’s dig into these options and find out which one is better for your car.

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What is PPF?

Paint protection film, also known as PPF, is a 0,2-0,3 mm thick elastic film applied to the surface of a vehicle’s paint. It consists of 3 layers: adhesive, polyurethane, and clear coat.

PPF creates a hydrophobic surface and protects the paint from scratches, rock chips, acid rain, and other damage, also boasting a few additional features.

Benefits of paint protection film

One of the main benefits of PPF is its self-healing ability.

The thickest and most important layer of the paint protection film is polyurethane. It’s flexible and has a high load bearing capacity, therefore, it can return to its original shape even after receiving a heavy load. The self-healing process occurs in higher temperatures, so you can use a heat gun or just park your car in direct sunlight during the summer.

PPF also protects the paint from fading, reduces the need for washing, and maintains your car’s resale value. Unfortunately, PPF is one of the most expensive car paint protection methods, therefore, many vehicles aren’t worth it.

Cost of PPF

Full PPF coverage usually costs $2,000-7,000, meaning that many used cars are cheaper than PPF protection. The cost of PPF is steep because the film itself is expensive, and the installation can take up to a week. It also depends on the quality of the PPF and its installation – cheaper alternatives usually don't last long and have other flaws.

You can save money by choosing partial coverage. For instance, since the front of the car suffers from road debris and bug splatter the most, you can apply PPF only to the front bumper, bonnet, and fenders – this option is known as a clear bra. This shouldn’t cost you more than $2,000.

You can also include the sideview mirrors, door handles, or cover the body panels only partially.

Longevity of PPF

High-quality PPF can last over 10 years, therefore, it’s one of the most expensive and desirable car paint protection methods. However, not all PPF features are equally durable: self-healing properties usually disappear after 2-3 years, the PPF starts yellowing after 5-7 years, and then it may start cracking and reveal other signs of aging.

Also, how long PPF lasts depends on the film itself. Uncertified film is often cheaper, but uses dated production technology and low-quality materials.


You probably couldn’t tell whether a car has PPF or not just by looking at it. Properly installed PPF sticks to the paint perfectly, but you must know how to apply PPF to achieve seamless results.

You can even choose PPFs in different colors and finishes if you want to change the aesthetics of your car, while also providing the same protection as transparent paint protection film.

What is ceramic coating?

Application of ceramic coating
Source: BruSlick / Flickr

Ceramic coating is a ceramic layer of protection applied to a car's paint to create a hydrophobic barrier that repels water, dirt, and contaminants. It provides durable protection against scratches, UV rays, and chemical damage, while enhancing the surface's gloss and clarity.

Benefits of ceramic coating

Ceramic coating is similar to wax protection, but much more effective and durable. It forms a thin glass-like layer that protects the paint from scratches, swirl marks, and UV rays. Even though its application is fairly simple, the protection lasts a few years.


A full ceramic coating can cost anywhere between $300 and $3,000. The price depends on the quality of application and the materials.

For instance, you can apply it only on some body panels, or you can protect the entire exterior and even wax the surface afterwards to protect the ceramic coating that protects the paint.


Ceramic coating lasts around 2-5 years or up to 60,000 miles (100,000 km).

The longevity depends on various factors: it will last much longer if you’re driving only a few thousand miles a year and in good weather. However, ceramic coating on vehicles that regularly face snow, mud, and thick forests may not last even 2 years.

You can also choose from several types of ceramic coating, each providing different benefits. For example, the cheapest option is ceramic coating from a spray can, but it only lasts up to 6 months. You can also apply a special coating on the wheels, which lasts around 2 years.


Since ceramic coating covers the paint in a smooth and shiny glass-like layer, the final result is very appealing. It creates a deep, glossy finish, enhancing the color and clarity of the paint.

Ceramic coating fills in microscopic imperfections on the surface, resulting in a smoother appearance. It also creates a self-cleaning effect, which helps to maintain the shine and gloss of the surface over time.

They both help retain a car’s resale value

Whether you’re buying a used car or selling it, there are multiple signs that can reveal its actual condition.

For instance, evenly worn tires can indicate that the suspension is in good condition, and paint protection film or ceramic coating shows that the owner spent a bunch of money to preserve the car’s paint.

Combine these facts with a full vehicle history report, and you can also learn about car accidents, mileage records, and title changes.

Damages section in carVertical vehicle history report

Both paint protection methods preserve the paint, but choosing the better option is important because of their different properties.

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What is the difference between paint protection film and ceramic coating?

Ceramic coating and PPF are very popular paint protection methods, but each of them has unique features that you have to consider before picking one option.

Here are the main differences you must know before deciding which protection method fits your needs best.


The main difference is that PPF is a polyurethane film, while ceramic coating is chemical coating. Because of that, car paint protection film application is more complicated and requires more skill. Moreover, the surface of the paint must be perfect, otherwise, paint chips and scratches can create air bubbles underneath the film.

The ceramic coating layer is thinner than PPF, but it perfectly fills minor surface imperfections, creating a smooth and strong protective layer. PPF can remove light scratches thanks to its self-healing feature, while ceramic coating doesn’t scratch because it’s much harder than PPF and even clearcoat.

Different aesthetics

Hydrophobic car surface
Source: Pexels

A properly applied ceramic coating may look better than paint protection film because it’s in liquid form during application, forming a nice and smooth surface. PPF is a polyurethane film that isn’t perfectly smooth, but the difference is smaller than you may think.

Ceramic coating will make your vehicle look glossier, whereas PPF shouldn't change the original appearance much (if at all). However, unlike ceramic coating, PPF is also available in different colors.

How long do they last?

While PPF usually lasts longer, both options are long-term. If installed and maintained properly, PPF should serve you 2-3 years without losing self-healing properties, and 5-7 years without fading or cracking.

Ceramic coating lasts 2-3 years, but it provides more shine and is cheaper. Just remember that only professional ceramic coating lasts this long – cheaper products often deteriorate after 4-6 months.

How much do they cost?

A full ceramic coating starts at around $300, while the cheapest full PPF coverage costs around $2,000. Prices vary a lot depending on the quality of a product and the condition of your vehicle.

Is PPF worth it? Yes, especially if you need a durable physical protection for years to come. It isn’t the shiniest product on the market, but its healing properties should last as long as ceramic coating.

Which is better for you?

Not all the properties of these paint protection methods may be relevant to you. For instance, bird droppings are a big problem for those living near the sea or the ocean. If left longer, acidic droppings can damage both the PPF and ceramic coating, but while you’d need to replace the damaged PPF, ceramic coating can be buffed out and reapplied where needed.

On the other hand, PPF is perfect for those traveling on highways because it’s very effective against rock chips and other damages.

Ceramic coating is more forgiving for your paint quality, and overall easier to install. As a result, you'll probably make more out of PPF with a new car that's worth the bigger investment.

Frequently Asked Questions

Evaldas Zabitis

Article by

Evaldas Zabitis

Evaldas has been writing since middle school and has had a passion for cars for as long as he can remember. Right after getting his driver’s license, he spent all of his savings on shoddy cars so he could spend time fixing, driving, and selling them. Evaldas is always interested in automotive technical innovations and is an active participant in automotive community discussions.