Why are ceramic coatings so expensive?

Why are ceramic coatings so expensive?
Dec
13
2021

Is it because they are magical, high-tech potions, made with unicorn ingredients and created by highly paid boffins in long-drawn-out chemical processes?

Actually no. Many of the coatings and other products we use in our business can be founding other industries, used in bulk, and costing them a fraction of the price. They may be formulated a little differently, but they contain essentially the same ingredients. 

For example, we have used polymer coatings on cars for decades, and they are still quite expensive for us to buy. They use similar coatings on concrete and glass in skyscrapers, and we assume they are not paying £60 for 80ml.

So why are ceramic coatings expensive?

There are a combination of factors, but remember, when you buy a ceramic coating from us or another detailing company, you are not buying the bottle of juice, you are buying the service.

Ceramic coatings can look amazing if applied right, but as the saying goes, you can't make a silk purse out of a pig's ear. Any kind of coating seals in the underlying condition of the car, so we work hard to polish your car to perfection, ensuring it will look incredible even before we apply the coating. This takes a lot of work and a lot of man-hours. To touch on a subject we will come back to, it also involves an element of risk. Polishing machines can damage your car if used incorrectly.  Everybody makes mistakes sometimes and if things go wrong, we have to pay to correct the problem.

Some companies list a low price for the coating on their website, and quote for the preparation work separately. We package it up, so our prices include the cost of polishing and preparation  

The margin of error is small

I'm not going to pretend they are difficult to apply, but they do need to be applied, and removed correctly, within a time window which will vary depending on temperature and humidity.  We apply the coating, we wait for it to 'flash off', and then, and then if the environments conditions are right,  we have about 10-15 mins to remove it. 

On a hot day, that window can close considerably. On a damp day, the coating can dry unevenly, and this is why we need to do it inside, in a controlled environment. 

If we take it off too soon, the coating can be patchy, leave it on too long, and it can go hazy. And if we do get a difficulty, ceramic coatings are permanent. We can't just wash it off and start again, correcting any problem could take hours of polishing or even a re-spray.

So anyone undertaking to apply a ceramic coating to your car, assumes that risk. 

Reputation

Ceramic coatings come from a host of new companies, and they have learned the lesson of the older companies that supplied acrylic and polymer sealants for decades. 

Those products were good, they are still good, but they got an undeserved poor reputation from some people that they didn't work and that they were a rip-off. The reason being that they were sold through dealerships, and between reaching the customer from the store room, lots of these products would fall off the back of a lorry.  It would end up on eBay for a fraction of its trade value, and then it would be bought and applied by people who had no idea how to apply it. Compounding the problem is that the dealerships themselves would often hire low-paid 'sponge monkeys' who didn't apply it properly, or didn't bother to apply it at all. As a result, the reputation of these products suffered.

The internet can be a wonderful place, but there are also thousands of car enthusiasts who will insist that the latest snake-oil they just paid through the nose for, is the best thing in the world and everything else that went before is crap. Therefore, when people went to websites like moneysavingexperts.com to say that the dealership had offered them a paint sealant and ask if it was worth it, you would have a dozen people telling them to get themselves down to Halford's to buy the latest product from Meguiars or Swissvax instead.

What this means to you, as a customer, is that the price is higher because there is a limited market. The coating companies vet and approve who is allowed to apply it. They ensure they have premises and can utilize a controlled environment, have the required skill and equipment, and even then, most insist you attend a training course which you have to pass. What they want to avoid is 'sponge monkeys' working out of the back of a van, applying it in the rain, and messing up somebody's new Porsche and blaming the product. They will not hesitate to withdraw the franchise from a detailer who cannot deliver quality and customer service. This is good news for the customer because it does mean that if you are buying a reputable brand of ceramic coating, you can only get it from a reputable dealer.

For what it's worth, we also guard our reputation jealously, and we're very discerning about our suppliers. 

It has a long guarantee

The ceramic coating companies take their guarantees seriously, and so do we. Some top-of-the-range products are guaranteed for 10-years. We have no doubt that in ideal conditions, your coating will last 10-years, but who keeps their car in ideal conditions?

To lay our cards on the table, we know most people only keep their cars 3-5 years, and although the guarantees are often transferable, people highly unlikely to come back after that. Even so, the fact remains that in 30 years of applying sealants, we have never had a car of ours come back on warranty. We put this down to our procedures, diligence and attention to detail.

Because we have had a close relationship with sealant companies, we have acted for them as their troubleshooters, and have fixed warranties on cars the other people have done, so we know it happens, not as an issue with the products, but with application.

It should also be mentioned that we do lots of testing. We test new products, on real cars in real situations, and so we have confidence that we have done our due-diligence before a coating is ever offered to the customer.

If you would like to know more, you may be interested in our Definitive Guide to Ceramic Coatings.

Danny Argent

by
technical writer and customer education.

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