What’s one of the best accessories you can get for your shiny new car that you’ve put a lot of hard earned money into buying?  It’s not a fancy set of rims, ceramic breaks, or a pair of fuzzy dice.  It’s a ceramic coating or paint protection film.  But is it worth the cost?

The most expensive car I’ve ever purchased was my Ford Fusion Energi, which was around $35,000.  You can check out my thoughts on that car from one of my previous videos.  

At the time I thought that was an eye popping amount … until I bought the Tesla Model 3.  I’m still having panic attacks over spending this much money on a car.  I’ll be doing a full review of the Model 3 AWD in my next video, so stay tuned for that.  The $35,000 version of the Model 3 isn’t going to be available until sometime early next year, and I wanted the longer range and all wheel drive version for the New England winters.  And because of that my price edged a lot closer to $60,000 than $35,000.

So I pinched pennies and saved money for a couple of years to be able to afford the down payment and monthly loan amount, and want to get as many years out of this car as I can.  But the roads around me can be … challenging … and every car I’ve had ends up with rock chips and abrasions from the sand, salt, and other crap on the roads.  

I never thought of doing a coating or film on any of my previous cars, partially because I couldn’t justify the cost compared to the cost of the car itself.  With the Model 3, that price comparison started making a lot more sense to protect my investment.

If you don’t know about paint protection films or ceramic coatings and do a search online, what you’ll find will make your head spin.  There’s a lot of different companies that make a variety of coatings all claiming some proprietary formula that makes theirs the best.  Ceramic Pro, CQuartz, Opti-Coat and others.  

The truth is that if you buy a ceramic coating from an established and proven brand, and have a professional and approved installer apply it, you really can’t go wrong.  It’s not going to make your car scratch proof and impervious to the elements, but it is essentially like adding a thin glass layer or teflon to your car.  It will protect the paint from minor abrasions and swirl marks you might get from washing the car, and the hydrophobic qualities mean water, dirt, and chemicals slide right off.  It will be more resistant to bird dirt and bugs that are acidic and can eat through your paints clear coat.  And the best benefit is that it actually makes your car easier to clean.  Dirt has a harder time clinging to the surface, so your car will look cleaner longer and need less elbow grease to get it cleaned.  

If you want to go the extra step and protect your car from more extreme abuse, you can get a paint protection film applied too, like Xpel Ultimate.  That will actually protect your car from more severe scratches from things like rocks and keys.  If the film is scratch or nicked, as long as the film wasn’t punctured fully, it will actually heal itself with the warmth of the sun.  It’s kind of crazy.  

What I had done

Most of the research I did and videos I watched were from very reputable car detailers on the west coast, like Elite Finish in San Diego, CA or OCDetailing in Fremont, CA.  My search in Massachusetts landed me on one of two detailers: Craft Detailing in Dedham, MA and Unique Car Care in Andover, MA.  

I ended up with Craft Detailing due to the brand of products they offered, strong recommendations I found online and in person, as well as the fact that they’re an approved Opti-Coat ceramic coating installer.

Installation experience

If you’re in the New England area, do yourself a favor and take a look at Craft Detailing.  I dealt mostly with Kevin Song, the owner, and Lia, but I did have conversations with some of the other employees while I was there.  Everyone, and I mean everyone, was awesome.  Super friendly and professional.  They really know their stuff and treat your car as if it were their own.  And if you have a Tesla, this is the place to go … they handle an incredible amount of Tesla’s there.  Both Kevin and Lia mentioned that they’re handling 5 or more Model 3’s and other Tesla’s a week, and I can believe it (they just happen to be down the road from the Dedham Tesla delivery center where I picked up my car).  When I dropped my car off there was a white Model S being worked on, and when I picked my car up there was a red Performance Model 3 getting wrapped and coated.  

And no, this isn’t an ad for Craft Detailing … I have the bill to prove it.

They had my car for two days and did the Xpel Ultimate wrap first, which covered the full front bumper, hood, fenders and fronts of the mirrors.  On the second day they applied Opti-Coat Pro Plus with a final layer of a sealant for extra protection and gloss.  

The before and after of how the car looked was shocking to me.  I thought the car looked great before, but after their work the car looks like a show piece.  The paint has a mirror like finish and the color looks deeper, more vibrant, almost a bluish/purple hue is popping out now and looks incredible.

Unlike other ceramic coatings like CQuartz Finest or Ceramic Pro, which is actually baked onto the car under heat lamps, Opti-Coat Pro Plus cures slowly over the first two to three weeks.  Slowly hardening and getting more resistant to chemicals and abrasions over time.  I’m not supposed to wash the car for two weeks, and bring it back to Craft Detailing for a complimentary wash where they will check on the coating to make sure it’s cured properly and then wash it for the first time.  

That does bring up one wrinkle with this type of thing.  You shouldn’t take your car through an automated car wash after having a coating applied … especially with a film applied too.  Hand washing is the best way to ensure you get a lifetime out of the coating.  Craft Detailing even gave me a little “Do not wash” notice to hang on my mirror for when I take my car to get serviced. 

Opti-Coat Pro Plus has a 7 year warranty that is even covered in an accident.  If I need to get a panel repaired or repainted, the reapplication of Opti-Coat will be covered through the warranty and insurance.  

I’ll be getting “trained” on how to wash my car when I go back, but I already know what I’m supposed to do from all of the videos and research I’ve done.  In fact, I already have a rinseless car wash from XXXXX ready.  I’ve also got Elite Finishes Wash Mist product which only requires a couple of spray bottles and clean microfiber clothes.  That’s how I was washing my Ford Fusion in my garage, which works great no matter what the weather is outside … and it saves water.  That ties in nicely with my desire to being more eco friendly and going green.  Less pollution not only running my car, but also cleaning it.

Tesla paint

Both Kevin and Lia at Craft Detailing did confirm some of the horror stories I’ve been reading out online when it comes to Tesla paint.  They see some really, really bad paint jobs like one car that had no paint on the edge of a panel.  They guessed it was probably from the paint sprayer putting to much paint, which would have caused drip marks.  To clean up the drips, they may have wiped the edge of the panel … fixing the drip, but exposing bare metal.

The red Performance Model 3 that was there when I picked up my car has some relatively minor, but stupid issues with it.  There were scratches on the rear bumper near the passenger side, and it looked like someone had pried open the tow hook cover with a screw driver leaving a sizable chip in the paint.  There was also a big glob of dust that was caught in the clear coat on the front bumper.  I was appalled when I saw it and can understand why that owner is very angry.  

As much as I want to cut Tesla some slack because they are getting better, it’s unacceptable to deliver a new car to a customer like that and have them discover those issues.  It’d be far better to deliver the car to the customer and point out those issues and let them know what Tesla will do to make it right.  Being proactive is a better approach to building good will with the customer.  

Thankfully, in my case my paint job was in very good shape and didn’t take a lot of paint correct work before applying the film and ceramic coating.  The only paint defect that I was concerned about was a minor scratch on the trunk lid, which is almost gone after Craft Detailing did their work.  

Final thoughts

All in, a ceramic coating professionally installed will cost you around $1,000 (more depending on the product getting used).  Wrapping a car gets very expensive quickly, which is why I only did a front wrap.  You’d be looking at $1,000 all the way up to $6,000 depending on the product and how much of your car you’re getting wrapped.  For me the final cost of the front wrap and ceramic coating was a little over $3,000 or about 5% of the total cost of the car.  In Massachusetts I’m getting a $2,500 EV rebate and am using that money to pay for the majority of it.

Everyone’s situation is different, but if you’re planning on keeping your brand new car for a long time and want it looking like new, I’d strongly recommend looking into a ceramic coating or paint protection film.  If you look at a car as a means to an end, to get from point a to point b, then you should pass on this.  And if you’ve been thinking about it, but are on the fence, like I was … get off the fence and just do it!  You’ll love the results.

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