Polishing your car is more than just making it look good. It’s a good way to extend the life of the paintwork, improve the finish, and repel dirt and debris. To give your car that mirror-like showroom finish, start with a good coat of the right car polish. In this piece, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know to turn your car into a showstopper.
An all-in-one product designed for protection, shine, and saving time. A great pick if you want something quick and easy.
- Paint-correcting polish, smoothing wax, and a good sealant in one formulation
- Will work with any paint job in any color
- An easy-on formulation that is simple to work
- Contains fewer abrasives than other polishes, so the paint-correcting benefits aren’t as noticeable as other options
A unique formulation known for its durability, shine, protection, and value, this is a great pick if you’re looking for a true car polish.
- Easy application that requires no heavy buffing or rubbing
- Made from an ultra-durable zinc polymer emulsion
- Can be applied in direct sunlight
- Can leave small spots on the vehicle’s surface when not applied correctly according to the manufacturer’s directions
This pre-wax glaze will eliminate swirl marks and give your car a high gloss finish. It contains rich polishing oils.
- This glaze works especially well on dark-colored vehicles
- Your paint will have a deep, mirror-like finish
- It works to eliminate defects, not temporarily fill them in
- You may need to do multiple coats to get the finish that you’re looking for
- It also doesn’t smell great, which can make it unpleasant to use
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Benefits of Car Polish
- Fix paint imperfections. Over time, your vehicle’s finish will develop some defects that can be addressed with a high-quality car polish. It’s formulated to smooth out the surface area and make the paint look more attractive.
- Hide spots. Sometimes, cars have stubborn spots in the paint job that just don’t seem to go away. Even though a polish won’t remove these spots, a thorough polishing will make them harder to see.
- Remove scratches. Car polish is great for eliminating tiny, shallow scratches. As long as they’re not too large, the polish can fill in these spots, so the paint looks a lot nicer.
- Make the finish glossy and smooth. The buffing, filling, and smoothing properties of car polish can help even the paint job on your car. The polishing process also leaves an extra shine and gloss—just like when you first bought the vehicle. Follow up with a coat of wax to keep everything sealed.
- Extend the lifespan of the paint. Polishes eliminate dirt that’s difficult to remove when you simply wash your vehicle. This prolongs its life. A good polish also helps to get rid of oxidized paint and conditions it, which makes it more crack and peel-resistant.
- Reduce your car wash frequency. If you polish and wax your car regularly, you can cut down on the number of car washes because less dirt adheres to the vehicle. Most dirt or debris should be removable with a quick wipe down.
- Boost the resale value. Vehicles with worn-out paint simply don’t command as much money as those that appear to be better maintained. If the paint looks good, the vehicle as a whole is probably in better shape and more attractive to a potential buyer.
Top Car Polish Brands
Chemical Guys is located in Los Angeles, California, and known for producing excellent car care products, many of which are eco-friendly. Car enthusiasts have been using its polishes, shampoos, and other detailing accessories for years. Two of its bestsellers are the All-In-One Polish + Shine + Sealant and the Line Polish and Compound Kit.
Meguiar’s, located in Irvine, Calif., has been in the car care business since 1901. Whether you need polish, hybrid ceramic wax, a surface clay kit, or tire foam, there’s a good chance Meguiar’s has what you need. One of its top sellers is Ultimate Polish.
The online-based Car Guys commits to making non-toxic and biodegradable car care products. All of its waxes, sealants, wheel cleaners and other products are made in America. One of its most popular products is the Hybrid Wax/Polish Sealant.
Car Polish Pricing
- Under $20: At this price, you can find a variety of high-quality polishes that get the job done. Formulations vary a lot in their abrasiveness, so double check the bottle to ensure you have the right match for your car’s paintwork.
- $20-$40: The mid-range of car polishes is found here. Some polishes come as a set with an applicator, saving you some money on accessories.
- Above $50: Mostly professional products and sets are sold in this price range. The quality of the products doesn’t vary much from the mid-range, but you’ll likely get more polish for the price.
Not all formulas are suitable for all paint jobs. Some products are basic car polishes without any silicones, waxes, and additives. As a result, you need to use wax and sealant in addition to the polish. Other products are a polish and wax in one container, which can save you time and effort. Just keep in mind that separate polish, wax, and sealant steps do a better job of protecting your vehicle than all-in-one items.
Today’s car polishing formulas contain abrasives that break down into tiny particles when you buff the product into the paint. The abrasive elements get finer and finer the more you work the polish into the finish. While most polishes are suitable for most vehicles, it’s smart to check the level of abrasiveness to make sure it’s safe for your needs.
Ultimately you decide how to apply the polish on your vehicle; however, some products are more effective when used with a mechanical buffer versus a microfiber cloth. Paste products, for example, are more challenging to apply by hand. Liquids are much easier to work with, but they are less effective when it comes to filling scratches.
- Bottle/packaging size: Do you plan on polishing more than one vehicle? Do you want to polish your car or truck several times a year? It’s wise to choose a product that can accommodate the amount of polishing you plan on doing. However, if you choose a bottle that’s too large, it may deteriorate in the packaging before you have a chance to use it.
- Car manufacturer: The hardness of your paint, and thereby the strength of polish you’ll need, is dependent on the car’s manufacturer. European cars, especially German models, tend to use harder paints and may require more abrasive formulations; Japanese-made cars commonly use softer paints. In the end, the paint hardness will determine how abrasive the polish needs to be and how hard you need to work it into the body.
- Car color: Consider the color of your vehicle when choosing a polish because light-colored cars are better at accommodating more abrasive formulas and tougher polishing pads. If your vehicle is on the darker side, it’s better to choose a less-abrasive product. Always read the specs so you don’t inadvertently damage the finish.
- Type of paint: The type of automotive paint your car has will influence how you can safely polish it. Solid color finishes can usually withstand almost any polishing product, so long as it’s not too abrasive. Metallic and pearlescent paints, however, show swirl marks from polishing more readily, so be cautious with your technique and polish selection. Likewise, matte paint can’t be polished with normal abrasives since these cause glossy patches on the surface.
Best Car Polish Reviews & Recommendations 2021
The all-in-one formulation of the HD Speed Polish and Wax makes it an easy-to-use, time-saving product. Clear in color, this polish will work with any paint job and can be applied with a soft cloth, an applicator pad, or a buffing machine for a glossy finish. The easy on-and-off formulation also ensures that your car won’t look blotchy after polishing it.
Another great benefit of this combo is it can be used inside or out, giving you a long window to really work the polish into the paint. The formulation is great for restoring color, depth, and gloss, all while adding a durable and long-lasting wax to the surface. It has a mild, non-offensive scent and comes in a cream-like consistency that’s easy to buff with a cloth or an orbital polisher.
Compared to dedicated polishes, this one has fewer abrasives, which makes it less effective for true paint correction. For that, you’re better off using a pure car polish without additives. For a quick way to protect the paint job and add some shine to the surface, however, this is a top choice.
A number-one-rated car polish for its durability, protection, shine improvement, and value, this car polish might just be what you need in a pinch. This one requires no heavy rubbing or buffing. Unlike other options, this can also be applied in direct sunlight without adverse effects, like splotching, and goes on smooth in any temperature.
The polish is a true multi-tasker—the formulation is good enough to protect fiberglass boats, airplanes, motorcycles, and a number of household items that have a painted metal body. It’s also one of the few car polishes that contain no wax, allowing you to give your vehicle a true polish coat. The finished layer is durable, making it so you can get away with polishing your car only once a year.
When not worked properly, the polish tends to leave small spots along the surface. These spots are particularly noticeable on white finishes. If you apply the polish in a garage, you may also start to notice an unpleasant odor as you work. Otherwise, it has many great properties that work well with most cars out there.
Made by one of the top brands in auto detailing, this polish lives up to its name. It preps the surface of your car with a pre-waxing glaze that offers a deep reflection and high gloss. Formulated with conditioning oils that add depth to the color and shine, this polish works well on dark-colored vehicles. The abrasiveness of this formulation is mild—it removes fine swirls and towel marks to even out the surface of the paintwork without stripping away too much.
The near-universal formulation is safe to use on all glossy paints. Applying this product can be done in a number of ways, including by hand or using a dual-action polisher. This polish is ideal for getting your paint ready for a wax or sealant and, because of its ultra-fine grit, can be used more frequently than some other polishes.
If you’re looking for something that will give your dark-colored car a high-gloss, wet look, this might just be the product for you. The only downside we’ve found is buffing it in by hand can be a difficult process and might create a cloudy film. For the best finish, we’d definitely recommend using an orbital buffer instead.
Chemical Guys’ all-in-one product combines polish and sealant to give your vehicle a mirror shine and protect your paintwork. It’s a water-based formula with synthetic sealant technology that offers long-lasting protection from UV rays, insect stains, bird droppings, and any other harsh environment it’s exposed to. It can be used to mask light imperfections such as swirl marks, chips, and scratches to leave a glossy, scratch-free finish.
The sealant locks in the formulation and can last up to six months, even with frequent washing. It’s designed to work on all colors including clear coat paints, and the formula is body-shop safe and OEM-approved.
However, it doesn’t work well on cars with heavy scratches and swirls. It’s also thick, which makes it a bit challenging to load it on a sponge. In addition, it makes the surface sticky and the application can be messy. Moreover, it has no hydrophobic properties, meaning that water doesn’t bead up and roll off the surface.
Epic Elements Protect Ceramic Coating Wax Spray is a three-in-one car polish that’ll do so much more than give your car’s exterior a crisp, clean shine. It’s formulated to protect with ceramic coating, coat your paint with wax sealant, and clean with waterless wash.
This car polish sprays on effortlessly, and you can wipe it clean with ease. It’ll leave behind a glossy shine that’s perfect for any paint color, as well as your windows, trim, and headlights. The spray features SiO2 in its formula, which helps create a hydrophobic coating on your car that’ll shield it from rain, sprinkler water, and other outdoor woes.
With just a single application of this spray-on polish, you’ll achieve a mirror-like shine that reflects beautifully on any color of paint. It’s also backed by an “epic guarantee,” so if you aren’t satisfied, Epic Elements will make it right.
The Carfidant Waterless Car Wash Wax & Polish is a car polish that’s very versatile and capable of delivering the shine you’ve been searching for. This all-in-one product works as an easy, effective ceramic coating spray, a waterless car wash, and a maintenance and detail spray.
With each use, you’ll remove dirt and debris from your car, apply a light polish, and receive the same benefits as a traditional wax. When applied, the specially formulated SiO2 sealant creates a hydrophobic coating on your car’s exterior, locking in shine on the paint, chrome, and even the windows. Wipe the spray with a microfiber towel, and you’ll achieve a polished shine that makes your car sparkle like new.
This car polish is professional grade, but it doesn’t include unnecessary odors or dyes. Use it to keep your vehicle shining and perfectly polished — it’ll prevent dirt, grime, and grease from getting caked into your paint and keep your exterior looking smooth and reflective.
This car care kit comes with a 16-ounce spray bottle of a multi-surface polish and water-based sealer, a two-ounce topcoat polish and sealer, and two microfiber towels. The polish cures to a brilliant, long-lasting shine, which rejuvenates the look of older or faded car finishes. The sealant then hides minor scratches and swirl marks. It also gently removes dirt and grime.
The combined formulation acts to repel water, grime, insect stains, and other impurities to make it easier to clean them off. The product is an eco-safe, non-stick formula with no solvents or abrasives. It’s also non-flammable, which makes it great for applying on engine parts.
However, it’s been noted that the formula leaves streak marks on glass, so you should avoid using it on the windshield. It also doesn’t work well on dark vehicles and may make the paint look faded.
This car polish is from a highly regarded brand and is formulated with a rich blend of polishes and dyes that work to deepen the dark color of your vehicle. It uses black-tinted technology to keep black vehicles looking their best. It rejuvenates the faded finish by removing oxidation from the paint and when fully cured, leaves a long-lasting lustrous finish.
When it dries, it will have a hazy finish but you can gently buff it with a microfibre cloth to get the mirror shine. It also contains pigments that seal light scratches and swirl marks. The polish is safe to use on all vehicles.
Unfortunately, adding an extra layer of the polish won’t make it any shinier. It’s also hard to rub off and you may strain when trying to buff it. In addition, it won’t mask deeper scratches or marks and may make them stand out once it’s fully cured.
This professional-grade polish is designed to produce a show car shine that looks glossy-wet. It dries clear instead of white and is safe for all types of paint finishes, including single-stage finishes and clear coat finishes. You can use this product by hand or with a DA polisher or rotary buffer.
The polish is simple, easy, and fast to apply. One of its best features is that it dries clear so it doesn’t leave behind any annoying or visible residue in areas such as the body joints. It produces that sought-after wet look and buffs out easily. It repels rainwater without spotting, and the paint shines like it’s new.
However, it can be difficult to wipe off using a microfiber cloth because it dries quickly. There have also been some complaints that the company is using a new formula that does not leave behind the same slick surface. Also, you may need to reapply it frequently to keep your vehicle looking nice.
The Last Coat Premium Car Polish provides a nice and smooth look without any streaks. It creates a beautiful, glossy shine that enhances your vehicle’s paint. Simply spray the gentle, water-based formula on a microfiber towel, wipe it on your vehicle, and then use a separate towel to buff it and make it shine. It’s designed to provide protection against UV rays, dirt, salt, water, and more. It covers up spiderweb swirls and other small surface imperfections.
One of the best things about this product is its versatility. In addition to your car’s finish, you can also use it on leather seats, the dashboard, glass surfaces, and even kitchen appliances. A typical vehicle will require one to two ounces for full coverage, and each bottle contains up to 16 applications. Users report that it’s very easy to apply and easy to buff to a high shine. Plus, there’s no residue or dust, which a traditional wax leaves behind.
Unfortunately, it’s a little on the pricey side. Also, it’s not a cleaner wax, so you may need to use a clay bar to get an extra smooth surface. Plus, it can streak if you don’t buff the surface really well.
Car Polish Tips
- You can actually harm your car’s paint if you polish it too often. That’s because polishing removes a thin layer of the finish, and if you polish the car too frequently the paint will wear down much faster.
- We recommend parking in the shade before you start detailing your vehicle. The shade prevents soap residue from drying on the surface, which can dull the finish and make it harder to polish.
- Avoid detailing your vehicle on the dirt or grass because it may accidentally make its way onto your car or truck while you’re cleaning it. Instead, park on pavement or gravel.
- Things can get messy when you polish your vehicle, particularly if a buffer is involved. Remove items around your car or truck to prevent residue from the buffer from spraying them. Make sure kids and pets are out of the vicinity when you use a buffer.
- Wash your vehicle before you apply the polish. Make sure to use the proper shampoo and cleaner, and rinse your car or truck thoroughly before adding the polish.
- We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: choose the proper pad and polishing product for your particular vehicle. Softer pads and less-aggressive formulas are better for dark-colored vehicles, which are more prone to show swirl marks. Light-colored vehicles can tolerate more aggressive pads and compounds.
Q: What’s the difference between waxing and polishing my car?
A: When your vehicle’s finish starts to wear down and show minor imperfections such as marks, lines, and scratches, it’s time to polish it. Polish products are designed to fill in and smooth these spots so they’re less visible. After you polish the paint, you can top it off with wax, which protects the finish and improves its luster.
Q: How do I polish my car by hand?
A: Should you choose to clean your car by hand, you need a little patience and you should set aside a good block of time to get it done correctly. First, wash it thoroughly using car shampoo and water. Next, apply polish with a soft cloth using a circular motion. Keep wiping the cloth over the finish until the polish disappears. Complete the job with a wax and sealant.
Q: How often should I polish my car?
A: Ideally, you should polish your vehicle every six months. This will protect the paint and keep it shiny as long as you wax it as well. If you polish it more often, you can wear down the paint.
Q: What is better, wax or polish?
A: If possible, use both. Polish removes oxidation, scratches, water spots, and other surface impurities by taking off a thin layer of paint and filling in and smoothing out these areas. Wax also smooths out the paint and provides a nice shine. Auto enthusiasts commonly polish as well as wax their vehicles.
Q: What is the best finishing polish for cars?
A: There are numerous, high-quality polishes available online and in stores that efficiently and effectively repair surface blemishes and defects. Several of these items are featured in this buying guide.
Q: Does polish damage car paint?
A: It’s critical to be careful when applying a polish to your car’s paint because it contains abrasives in its formula. Use polish sparingly because it thins out the paint and can potentially damage the clear coat.
Q: Can I wax my car every week?
A: Yes, but you may produce more swirls on the finish. Polymer formulas are designed to last for a few months, while carnauba waxes are effective for approximately one month. It’s a good idea to wax your vehicle two to four times a year depending on whether it’s stored in a garage or heavily exposed to the elements.
Our pick for the best car polish is the 3D Speed All-in-One Polish and Wax. It produces a glossy finish and restores color and depth. It’s also easy to use with a soft cloth, applicator pad, or buffing machine.
For a more budget-friendly option, check out the Nu Finish Liquid Car Polish. It has been around for years and continues to be a high-quality bestseller that lives up to the hype.