January 19, 2021

How to choose between Paint Protection Film (PPF), Nano Coating (Ceramic/Graphene), or both?

First off, if you are reading this, I want to let you know that I absolutely hate writing. I am an installer and not a writer/content creator. I understand this post is lengthy (trust me, I’ve tried to shorten it) but it contains important information and please do carefully read this through. Hope this helps!

We get asked this question a lot by our client that are looking into protecting their vehicle for the first time as they don’t know which product and service best suits them. In this blog post, I will try to explain this in simple terms and hopefully that can help clients that are protecting their vehicle for the first time to get a better understanding.

When it comes to paint protection and choosing the right product category (film or nano coatings), it comes down to the following points:

  1. Budget allocated towards paint protection
  2. Level of protection and areas you want protected
  3. How is this vehicle used?
  4. How long are you planning to keep the vehicle?
  5. Why both?

Before I start to address the points mentioned above, I’ll provide a brief explanation of the two categories of paint protection – Paint Protection Film and Nano Coating.

Paint Protection Film (PPF) or formerly known as “Clear Bra”

PPF has been around for many years. It was made popular many years ago by 3M and was then referred to as Clear Bra. The problem with the old PPF technology is that they tend to yellow and previously made with material that tends to not last. The PPF that we use at Speed Projects Laboratory are made by XPEL and we carry both their premium line, XPEL Ultimate Plus Self Healing PPF and XPEL 9300 (a slightly thinner film but more economical).

In short, PPF can be explained as

  • The screen protection on your phone, but designed for your vehicle.
  • It can withstand impacts from rock chips, scratches, and scrapes.
    • This is especially important as if you get any of the above and it damages your paint (without PPF), the only way to return it back to original condition is to have the panel repainted. One thing to keep in mind is no matter how good the body shop painter is, any panel that is repainted will not be an exact match as the other panels of your vehicle. Even when the paint code is the same, it will not be a 100% match. This is because the original paint has endured the elements and the colour will change over time. That’s why is important to protect the original paint to avoid mismatched colour panels from repainting.
    • Some may say, “Oh, I can touch up rock chips and scratches with Touch Up Pen.” This is true to some extent, but if anyone has had experience with touch up pens, they can never really get it perfect as the touch up pen is an “All-in-One” colour paint. It will never be the same as getting it repainted by a professional since the repaint process consist of applying many thin layers of base colour, add in any metallic powder (if applicable to your paint colour), and then add clear coat layers. A single drop of paint from the touch up pen cannot simply equal the many paint coats done by professional painters.
  • An added benefit of XPEL Ultimate Plus Self Healing PPF is that scratches on the surface of the film that does not penetrate through the film, will heal, and restore back to its original form under any heat source like the sun.
  • If you want to learn more about PPF and the process, you can read about it in our dedicated PPF post here.

Nano Coatings (Ceramic/Graphene)

Nano coatings have been around for many years now but not as long as PPF. At Speed Projects Lab, we are a multi-coating carrier meaning we have the conventional 9H Hardness coatings by brands like Ceramic Pro, XPEL, CS-II or Gtechniq and also new technology self-healing coatings by brands like Revivify Self Heal Nano Coating. I will not go into the details between brands in this post as this post is meant for explaining PPF and Nano Coatings.

Nano coatings is a more long term solution, replacing the conventional wax and car sealant products with added benefits like surface hardness and self-healing features. Wax or car sealants usually lasts about 1-3 months depending on the type of product and how much the vehicle is driven. Nano coatings come in a liquid form and then it hardens to a solid after it is fully cured.

Wax and car sealants have no hardness protection as it only makes the vehicle shiny, whereas nano coating hardens into a solid given you a nano layer of protection on your paint. This layer will not only keep your car shiny, but it’ll help keep your car cleaner for longer periods of time, easier to maintain, prevent UV damages, adds chemical resistance, and also protect the surface from minor scratches and scuffs. In addition, self-healing coatings like the ones offered by Revivify Self Heal Nano coatings, can actually self-heal like the PPF as long as the scratch and scuffs do not penetrate through the coating. With that said though, nano coatings’ protection level against scratches, scuffs is nowhere near PPF and it cannot be used to replace PPF. Nano coatings cannot prevent rock chips, if anyone is telling you nano coatings can protect rock chips, I would just end the conversation right there and leave as you are being fed false information. Most importantly, that installer does not know enough regarding the fundamentals of the products.

In short, nano coatings replaces waxing to help keep your car shiny all the time, ease of maintenance, and adds a protective layer on the vehicle. If you want to learn more about nano coatings, you can read more about it at our dedicated nano coating post here.

Okay, back to the points.

Budget Allocated Towards Paint Protection

Let’s be honest, everyone has a budget and especially after spending a large amount of money on purchasing a car, some just might not have the funding for paint protection. With that said though, if you do want to keep your vehicle in a brand new state longer, it is worth including the paint protection budget when you consider buying your vehicle. With paint protection, it can make your vehicle stay looking like new for years to come and not completely beat up with rock chips, scratches, swirl marks, and dull paint.

Generally speaking, paint protection is not cheap, and if someone is doing the service for a really low price or significantly lower than what the market price is, I would re-consider. Paint protection is more of a skilled trade than let say, buying an end product. A pair of sneakers at Foot Locker may cost X amount and the same pair may cost less/more at a competitors, essentially they are the same shoes. There is no difference in the shoe itself as they are all manufactured the same way, it’s the experience the retailer that varies. However for PPF, yes, two shops may still be using the same PPF product, but the level of expertise and skills can greatly affect the end result. That’s why there are shoes that cost less than others because it is reflected in their quality of material used and construction. Another analogy would be, you can get a haircut for $20 or a $200 haircut or you can have a burger at a fast food restaurant and a burger at high end dine in restaurant with a higher price.  All in all, you will get what you paid for.

Enough with the analogies and back to budgeting and choosing the right product before I get too side tracked.

PPF can cost anywhere on average from $1000-1500 for a partial front end, $1700-2200 for a full front end, or $5000-9000+ for a full vehicle protection depending on the vehicle size and type of vehicle. The project can take anywhere from 1-5+ days depending what the project entails. PPF can be installed to partial or full vehicle depending on the needs of the client.

Nano coatings have a larger price range as pricing can vary from vehicle size and type of products used. On average, for a 2 year coating, it can range from $699 to $899 and for a 5 year coating, it can average from $999 – $1899 (pricing based on a small/mid-size vehicle). Nano coating is always done for the full vehicle on all the painted surfaces.

Comparing a project for the full vehicle, PPF can be $5000+ and coating can be $699+. Depending on budget allocation, some clients may only have allocated enough for a full front end in PPF, or full front end PPF + nano coating, or even full vehicle PPF + nano coating. Some may choose both? Why? We’ll talk a little bit more about that later.

As the average vehicle cost is higher nowadays, paint protection is only a small percentage of your total vehicle cost so it’s definitely worth looking into protecting your investment. If you like to split up the payments like your vehicle purchase, we also offer consumer financing as an alternative form of payment and you can find more information about that here.

Level of Protection & Areas You Want Protected

This point also comes into consideration because aside from budget allocation, this will help determine what you really need.

Let’s start with level of protection, as mentioned above, PPF offers superior protection compared to nano coatings and if you have high value vehicle and you want the original paint protected and stay in mint condition, you would want to have your whole vehicle PPF’d or at the very least nano coated. If, let say you are not too worried about scratches and rock chips, you can probably get away with just doing nano coating as nano coating will protect your vehicle against minor scratches/scuffs and UV damages.

In terms of areas you want protected, we often get told by clients that all they want to avoid is rock chips on the front end as they do not want their vehicle to look like it has been sand blasted, a full front end PPF would be sufficient (full front end project cost: ~$1700). For vehicle that sits lower and have wider tires like the Porsche Carreras, clients would consider adding PPF on the A-Pillars, partial roof (front portion above the windshield of the roof), and rockers/side skirts (full front end + rockers + partial roof + a-pillars project cost: ~$2500). When the vehicles turn, the front tires actually pick up rocks and throw them at the rockers and rear portion of the vehicle, so it is important to have those areas protected to prevent rock chips caused by your tires.

Another scenario is that a client may say I want full vehicle protection, but I’m only concerned about rock chips on the front end and not the body of the vehicle, then the client can consider is a full front end PPF and nano coat the entire car. This way, the high risk area prone to rock chips (front end) is protected, and the entire vehicle is coated and protected with nano coating against UV damages, chemicals, and minor scratches and scuffs (full front end + nano coating project cost $2500-$3000).

Alternatively, we can customize the areas you want protected with PPF on your vehicle based on your needs. We have our computerized plotter here so we can plot out any vehicle panels that you wish to have protected. For customized areas, feel free to inquire with our team and we can provide you with all the answers for your project.

How Is This Vehicle Used?

If the vehicle is used mostly for city driving and you rarely encounter trucks/semi’s, then the chances of your vehicle getting rock chips is not as high. If you frequent the highway or high speeds (80km/hr+), then you chance of getting rock chips are a lot higher.

If you have a low probability of getting rock chips and scratches, then nano-coating may be sufficient. With that said though, it’s always better to be safe than sorry, that’s why a lot of our clients would choose to protect the full front end with PPF in combination with nano coating.

Lastly, for off-roading enthusiasts, you will definitely want to have your vehicle protected with paint protection film. Although the film is not warrantied for off-road and track use, you would still want to have the protection to avoid unnecessary scratches caused by tree branches. After a day of off-roading fun, the last thing you want is to find a long scratch mark from the front to the rear of your vehicle. PPF is always replaceable and significantly less than repainting, not to mention down time inconvenience and colouring matching problems. Plus, PPF makes cleaning a lot easier afterwards!

How Long Are You Planning To Keep The Vehicle?

The length of ownership would play a factor because if your vehicle is a lease vehicle and you are absolutely sure you will return it after your 4 year term, then maybe nano-coating is all you need. Keep in mind that some dealerships will penalize clients for excessive rock chips, so make sure you fully understand what your lease agreement specifies. If you will get penalized for rock chips, then PPF would be your solution. It will also open up the possibility that if you do decide to buy out the vehicle, then you won’t have to be stuck with a vehicle that has been sand blasted with rock chips.

Some may feel that that because they will return the lease after 4 years, they do not need to worry about protecting it or maintaining it. Well, appearance matters and your vehicle does represent you. A protected vehicle will not only keep your car looking mint, but also help reduce time required for maintenance/cleaning as dirt, grime, and road contaminates will not stick to the surface as easily. Even if it does, it can easily be removed.

Why Both?

Either you choose full/partial vehicle PPF or nano coating, there are actually benefits of doing both. Yes, PPF has its own top layer that keeps the film glossy and carries an extensive warranty against yellowing, adhesive failure, delamination, etc., for 10 years, the film is still constructed with a PU (polyurethane) material, meaning it does have pores. Just like your vehicle’s paint, pores will trap contaminates, carbon deposits, and debris, so by adding a nano coating top coat to the PPF, it will fill those pores and add a protective layer to it. It will add an additional hydrophobic layer on the PPF as well as enhancing the PPF clarity to your vehicle (making it super High Def!).

If you have selected a partial/full front PPF option with nano coating added to your project, your PPF will automatically be coated with nano coating as well. Just because you have PPF on the vehicle and chose to add nano coating, it doesn’t mean we’ll skip those PPF’d panels and not coat them.

Finally, we reached the end and I’ve tried to keep everything very brief without going too in-depth with a lot of technical information that may not be of interest to some people. If you still have questions or would like to learn more about PPF, nano coatings or any other services/products that we offer, feel free to use our Contact Form, Book a Free Consultation, Email us, Call us, or DM us on Facebook or Instagram!

We look forward to hearing from you and I hope you’ve gained some knowledge from reading this post.

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