10 Best Car Polish 2018?
A look at which car polish you should be using and ruling out all of the unnecessary trials and errors
Updated November 21, 2018
I’ve always said that marketing is eventually going to destroy any consumer trust that remains today. It’s amazing just how many brands of car polish you can find on the shelves when you go to your local department store or automotive supply store. On Amazon, there are literally thousands of different kinds of car polish to choose from. However, the majority of these products are bottled crap with good packaging. The key to choosing the right car polish for your needs is to educate yourself on how these compounds work and become familiar with the contents of the polish. It is also wise to buy from the most reputable brands, as there are many small and newer brands out there that aren’t even fully aware of how their products work.
What does car polish do?
This is an extremely important question that you should ask yourself before you even begin to start shopping for a good car wax or polish. It’s truly amazing how many auto professionals don’t really know the full functions of car polishing. I’ve even talked to people that specialize in auto detailing that just think it’s a way to make a car’s exterior look better.
For most of my life, when I heard the term “car polish”, the image of a red bright and shiny car at an antique show is what came to mind. However, my mental image was really the result of a multi-stage exterior cleaning and finishing process. Polishing is simply one of the steps to this process, but it certainly is one of the most important steps.
Car polishing sometimes applies to a broad spectrum of meanings, but true automotive exterior polish is a compound or solution made to correct or mask defects to the vehicle’s paint job, while also enhancing the gloss on the surface of the paint job.
As I mentioned earlier, polishing is just one of the steps and one of the solutions used to fully restore a beautiful car paint job. There are many other steps and chemical compounds that can aid in the process of achieving an amazing finish such as chemical paint cleaners, glazes, waxes and more! I’ll talk a little bit about some of these other compounds throughout the article, but for the most part, I’ll be focusing on polish alone. That said, there are many products available that offer some of these other solutions with the polish combined.
Why should you use car polish?
The most common reason to use car polish is ultimately to preserve the appearance of a brand new vehicle. Nobody buys a nice ride just to trash it and have it look unappealing to drive. Sure, this does happen quite a bit, considering that people don’t always have a ton of time and money to spend keeping their vehicle perfectly spotless and well-conditioned, but it’s generally nobody’s intentions. In most situations where the vehicle’s paint job becomes flawed, I think it’s the impression of the average vehicle owner that they’re going to have to spend a fortune to correct the issue, so they dismiss the possibility of ever correcting it.
It is true, though; many times it literally will cost a fortune to pay a professional to correct the finish of the vehicle – mainly because there are times that they will have to repaint a portion of the surface, if not the entire exterior, which is a lot of work. Sometimes, it isn’t really economically justified to do so. However, correcting the vehicle’s finish personally is, more often than not, affordable to almost anybody and is totally worth the investment! It should be a regular part of your car maintenance routine.
If you’re still debating doing the car polishing and finishing yourself, just think about resale value! This reason alone should be great motivation to get out and start polishing. I recently read an article about things that can be done to instantly increase the value of a car. The writers of the article conducted a study and found that by correctly cleaning and restoring the vehicle’s finish, the averaged used car increased in value by almost $2,000. Now during this study, they simply did one good finish before listing the vehicle for sale. They did not polish and wax the vehicles in the past. Just think how much more you could get for a car that had a finish that had properly been maintained throughout past ownership.
Besides resale value, one of the other reasons people polish a car is to keep a great appearance of their vehicle. There are tons of older model vehicles out there that truly look like brand new cars. My friend has a BMW that he keeps in perfect condition, inside and out. The BMW is actually a 2011 model. I had attended my friend’s child’s birthday party several months ago. While we were out there, one of his family friends came up to him and said “I see you bought a brand new BMW. When did you get that?” My friend stated that he bought it almost 7 years ago and they were truly shocked. I had always thought that my friend probably spent his entire Saturday cleaning his car, but after talking one night, he told me that he really only cleaned the interior for about 1 hour each week and then did about an hour or two of work on the exterior once a month. He also said that he has all of his own cleaning products and car detailing equipment, so he still spends less than he would taking his BMW to an ordinary car wash.
So it’s obvious that polishing your ride occasionally is entirely worth the investment of your time and dollars. But, there are other occasions where car polish can come in handy. Think of all the times you’ve gone driving down the highway and a truck in front of you is hauling rocks, which you don’t notice until boom! You hear and see one of those rocks fly out of the bed of his truck and nail your car, leaving a huge gash in your paint. This is another perfect scenario where car polish can help.
There are cases of sub-surface car paint defects where a quality car polish should be used. One of the most common types of sub-surface car paint defects is “Spider Webbing”. When most paint finishers refer to spider webbing, they’re generally referring to a defect where the paint displays what almost looks like scratches that look like they’re interconnected almost like a very dense spider web. These swirl marks are generally caused by incorrect or inconsistent washing techniques or by using the wrong types of cleaning brushes and materials. Traditional washing sponges are also said to be a big contributor to spider webbing because they do not provide an efficient way of lifting dirt particles/contaminants up and away from the paint. They simply spread it around which can cause micro scratches and may eventually lead to spider webbing. Don’t worry – almost all of us are guilty of this or ignorant of the correct washing techniques to use. It may be worth giving it a little research, though!
Another common form of sub-surface paint damage is water spots. For those that live in areas with a hard water tap source, it is always suggested that you use some type of spot-free rinse at the end of the wash. This is because there are many evaporating salts and calcium carbonate particles in hard water. When the water evaporates, these substances remain on the surface of the car’s paint, which causes water spots. If these water spots are left on the paint for very long, they can begin to destroy the paint below.
Other common paint defects include industrial fallout, oxidation, etc. Unfortunately, car polish alone cannot correct all sub-surface paint defects, but there are many cases where it does a great job masking the defects, which quickly takes years off of the vehicle’s exterior. A vehicle’s paint job typically consists of three different layers. At the bottom is a layer of primer. The middle layer consists of a layer of color paint. The outer layer of the vehicle’s finish is the clear coat, which is the thickest layer of all. Clear coats are made thicker than the other coats because it acts to be a buffer layer of protection. In most instances, the vehicle’s clear coat allows up to 25% to safely be removed throughout the lifetime of the vehicle.
There are different types of car polish available on the market. Some car care polishes are meant to correct the defects in the clear coat (and typically aren’t very abrasive at all). These types of polish are often referred to as “enthusiast grade”. On the other hand, some are actually meant to be used on the paint, which is often called “Professional grade”. Most of the time, you’ll probably be looking for the standard enthusiast grade polishes that are used on the clearcoat and not as abrasive as the other types that go lower towards the paint layer.
If you’re not a professional or if the defect isn’t very severe, I would recommend just using an enthusiast grade polish. Start out with this type of polish and go to a professional grade to go deeper if you need to. However, if you get to the point where you do not feel comfortable, it may be best to take the car to a body shop to at least get their quick opinion on if it should be done professionally or not. Of course, take into consideration that they’re going to want your business, so if they seem like there’s no way you should be doing that work you may want to give it some thought. However, if they say something along the lines of “Well, you could probably do it yourself, but you’ll have to watch out for this, this, and this…”, they’re probably just using tactics to intimidate you into hiring them for the work.
Often times, the enthusiast grade polishes are combined with a glaze or specialist car wax to offer an all-in-one solution. These types of car polishes are best for those without any serious paint defects that are simply looking to make their car shine and really stand out after a good car wash/cleaning. Car polish itself does not make a vehicle shine, but many of these all-in-one solutions that combine a wax or glaze are made to bring out the color more and give it a good glisten at the same time.
When should you use car polish?
Car polish isn’t typically meant to be used on a regular basis for maintenance procedures. Considering this, I would not recommend using a serious polish unless there is some type of serious paint defect. However, some enthusiasts will use a polish/wax combination a couple of times a year to give their car a little facelift. If the all-in-one solution offers a protective layer, they may use it 3 or 4 times per year. However, if the paint does not have any defects, it may be best just to skip the polishing step and go straight to a sealant, gloss, wax, or other protecting coat depending on your needs. Learning when and how to polish a car is quite a rewarding journey!
The Best Car Polishes on the Market
Below are some of the best-rated car polish products available for sale today. As you’ll see, most of these are meant more for enthusiasts and are non-abrasive. However, we also included some of the professional grade products as well. In the product details, I have stated what types of polish and scenarios that would be appropriate to use each.
I factored several things in while developing this list of the best car polish products. Some of these factors include reputable branding, contents and the quality of those contents, positive customer reviews, safety of use/safety of materials, cost and amount of value provided.
8. Nu Finish Liquid Car Polish
Nu Finish’s liquid car polish is one of the most used car polishes today. It is more of a general tonic for your vehicle’s exterior than a real polish and is not by any means abrasive, either. Many enthusiasts use Nu Finish car polish as a protectant instead of actual paint defect repair.
Nu Finish liquid car polish has been around for years. This polish has tons of great reviews by enthusiasts and is also rated #1 by the best consumer testing magazine in the US because of its durability, protection, and gloss capabilities.
Nu Finish does not require any heaving, rubbing, or buffing, and simply needs to be applied lightly with a cloth or buffer. It is even safe to apply this polish in direct sunlight.
7. CarGuys Premium Hybrid Top Coat Polish and Sealer
This product falls under the car wax category but is definitely more of an all-in-one solution for enthusiasts looking for a great shine before a show. So even though this isn’t technically much of a polish, it will provide the results that many of you are probably looking for! However, it does have polish properties in the sense that it’s capable of correcting defects towards the surface of the top coat like many other polishes do.
CarGuys boasts the ability of their Premium Hybrid to be very quickly applied (“finished in 15 minutes”, they say) without streaking or leaving your exterior white or cloudy looking. These are common problems for all-in-one polishes and waxes. The wax typically needs to be buffed out and can sometimes take quite a bit of time to do. However, with this product, you’re able to do it in a jiffy.
The technology of the Hybrid is supposed to get to work down at the molecular level to create a great shine and smooth surface for anybody needing a quick facelift for their vehicle that lasts surprisingly longer than most similar products. It’s also safe to use on any type of surface. This is one of the best-selling products in this category and if you order from Amazon and are not totally happy, they’ll refund your money! This makes it completely risk-free to give it a whirl. There’s no excuse not to wax your car now!
6. Meguiar’s Ultimate Polish
This is another great all-in-one polish for enthusiasts looking for a safe and quick way to make their vehicle look amazing. Meguiar’s is one of the most well-known brands for car cleaning and exterior detailing. I haven’t heard of a single one of their products that the vast majority of purchasers haven’t absolutely loved the results.
This pre-waxing polish gives a car’s exterior deep reflection and creates an amazing glossy look. It’s loaded with oils that add color depth and condition the exterior of your ride easily and safely. It’s a quick way to remove towel marks, watermarks, as well as swirls to make your car shine so bright you’ll see your own reflection clear as day. It’s safe to use on all type of surfaces and colors (this product is super great for cars with dark-colored paint jobs). It can be applied by hand or a dual action polisher. If you’re new to the car care game, you can polish your car with this without being too worried about making a mistake.
5. HD High Definition Speed All-in-One Polish & Wax
Similar to the last few products, this is another great all-in-one combo that is suitable for the average person’s needs. HD Speed All-in-One has the absolute best customer ratings that I could find (and tons of them, at that). On Amazon, this product has 4.8 out of 5 stars which is somewhat rare to see. I personally have not yet used this product, but it’s definitely one that I’ll be giving a try after reading all of the positive results and seeing videos of what this product is capable of. It’s a little pricier than similar brands/products, but only a few dollars more and well worth it from what I’ve seen.
Surprisingly, High Definition’s Speed polish and wax is made of all natural contents that are safe to use on all colors and surfaces of vehicles. It’s rare to find a product this effective that does not contain some kind of harsh or toxic chemicals. This product is designed to be applied and taken off as quickly and easily as possible. Many of the reviewers say that this is the quickest, easiest, and most effective polish they’ve ever used.
The Speed All-in-One formula is made to repair minor paint defects via corrections of the top coat. It is extremely well-known for being used on vehicles with bad swirls and drastically reduces or eliminates these visual defects. Not only does it correct some defects, it also contains a glaze and special car wax that intensifies color and creates a smooth shine. To top it all off, it also applies a sealant to protect your vehicle’s paint job from UV rays, oxidation, and to extend the life of your face lift overall. It is an excellent car maintenance product.
4. Meguiar’s PlastX Clear Plastic Cleaner and Polish
Here is another great product by Meguiar’s and although it isn’t your traditional type of exterior polish, it’s definitely worth mentioning since you’re going to want the entire outside of your vehicle glistening versus only part of it. Meguiar’s PlastX is a high-quality cleaner and polisher for clear plastic surfaces such as headlights, tail lights, brake lights, fog lights, etc. These types of surfaces (especially on the front end of the vehicle) are constantly exposed to heavy contaminants such as dirt, grime, rough objects that cause light scratching, and those pesky juices from bugs smacking into your vehicle. Over time and long-term exposure to these contaminants, these plastic surfaces are likely to develop a yellowish tint, while also appearing cloudy/foggy. Since plastic is more permeable than metallic surfaces, these objects will most likely start to show signs of surface defects before your car’s paint job will. However, PlastX Cleaner and Polish is the perfect solution to this problem.
As I mentioned earlier, Meguiar’s is one of the top brands in the auto cleaning supply industry, employing some of the best chemists and engineers in the world that develop solutions like this one all day, every day. PlastX uses microscopic diminishing abrasive technology to remove contamination to the surface of clear plastics, while also removing light scratches, signs of chemical degradation, and oxidation. Because the degradation of plastic surfaces is typically very gradual, most drivers don’t even realize how bad the defects are until using Meguiar’s PlastX, but as soon as they’re finished applying, the results are beyond obvious.
PlastX is a gel-like cleaning and polishing solution that is extremely quick and easy to apply in a one-step process. PlastX also contains vital conditioning oils that restore optical visibility and will allow your car to output as much light as it did before the defects. It also contains water-resistant properties that make the results last for months.
Meguiar’s PlastX does not contain any harsh solvents and is safe to use on almost any type of clear polymer-like surface. Many reviewers have even said that they use this product for other plastic surfaces than their automobile’s, such as Plexiglas, acrylic surfaces, and some even say that it’s capable of removing scratches on their iPhones. This product is available for less than $10, providing multiple applications to all of your vehicle’s plastic surfaces, making it a no-brainer addition to your car cleaning and car care arsenal of supplies.
3. Griot’s Garage Complete Polish
For those of you that are looking for a simple but effective polish without the need to buy any fancy polishing equipment, I highly recommend Griot’s Garage Complete polish. Griot’s Complete polish uses advanced sub-micron abrasives to remove mild imperfections to your vehicle’s finish. On top of its corrective properties, it is able to deliver paint refinement and depth of color while also enhancing the vehicle’s gloss. It also creates a very smooth surface that’s ready for wax or a sealant of your choosing.
Griot’s Garage Complete Polish was made to be applied by hand versus a rotary polisher. For most of you out there that aren’t super experienced with car detailing, car cleaning, and general car care, this is probably a great polish for you! Applying the polish manually ensures that you do not take off too much of the car’s finish. This offers total control for the one applying the polish. To apply, simply squirt a little polish onto a yo-yo pad and apply to a 2’ x 2’ section of the car externally. Make a pass and a half, wipe off the excess polish with a finishing towel and you’re done and ready to seal or wax! And that is how to polish a car – it’s as easy as that.
2. Turtle Wax Color Magic Jet Black
Turtle Wax’s Color Magic Jet Black polish is hands down the best easy-applying polish available. While this polish certainly isn’t the best for everybody, I would recommend anybody that drives a vehicle with a black finish have a bottle of this is their garage. Jet Black was formulated to enhance all types of black automotive finishes, whether they are faded, neglected, or just plain old while also filling in scratches, rock chips, or other defects. This is also a great polish to remove light swirl marks as well.
This is one of the most affordable and effective polishes you can polish your car with, and consists of a blend of advanced polishes, dyes, and pigments that will keep your ride looking slick for the duration. This product is also very easy to use. Simply add to a rag or sponge and apply to the vehicle’s exterior. Let the polish dry into a haze, then buff lightly.
1. Superior Products Clear Coat Polish and Sealant
Superior Products is another awesome automotive cleaning and detailing supply brand that has been around for years. When it comes to oxidation on your vehicle’s finish, there’s nothing better than this stuff! Oxidation is a natural process and a curse of the environment. However, with today’s technology, that can all be repaired with this product.
Specifically meant for clear coat repair and regeneration, this polish can be used on just about any type of vehicle exterior surface. It’s extremely quick and easy to apply and will leave your ride shining like a reflective mirror.
So there you have it! A list of the most useful car polishes on the market for 2018. Almost any vehicle owner can benefit from a good car polishing occasionally, and it should become a regular part of your car maintenance routine. With all of the new brands popping up (some good, some bad), and with the wide variety of situations where a polish is necessary, it can be extremely difficult to weed out the jewels from all of the bunks. Hopefully this list will prevent you from a bunch of trial and error that that can end up costing a fortune. The bottom line? If you’re going to polish a car, polish a car with one of these products!