Commonly abbreviated as PPF, this product has become the best option when it comes to keeping your car’s body paint shiny even after years of exposure to the environment
Body paint is one of the most noticeable parts of a car. Not only because it covers an extensive region of its exterior, but also because of the variety in which it comes. After all, there are many shades and textures to choose even in the generalist market. It is natural, therefore, that we want to keep it in top shape.
Automakers do their best in terms of quality, but that only goes as far as the dealer showroom. Once the keys trade hands, we become responsible for keeping our car bright and shiny. Fortunately, this task has become much easier in the past years. The main reason for that is a product named Paint Protective Film.
Protective paint film in a nutshell
This product is a thin, transparent adhesive film which you apply directly on the car’s paint surface you want to protect. While the name refers to its paint, it can also be used on the lights, for example. PPF has become famous for its great balance of cost and utility, but it is easy to imagine that there is much more to learn.
First of all, the film is perfectly transparent, so it causes no visual impact. You will also notice how thin it is: 3M’s Scotchgard, for example, measures 8 thousandths of an inch. PPF has its own adhesive material, so it can be applied to the surface on its own. You can buy it in rolls and cut it to the exact shape you need.
The polymer shields sheetmetal and lights from the effects of prolonged exposure to sunlight. It also acts as physical protection against road debris, bug grime, and weather effects. PPF films obviously cannot do much against heavy impact, of course, but work well with a surprising number of issues besides that one.
PPF films in everyday use
The market offers countless car paint protection products, some of them even cheaper. PPF stands out for being simple to apply and remove, and noticeable only if you know where to look. In practice, your car will be ready on the same day and will not demand a complex skincare-like routine to keep looking good.
Now, while you can apply it yourself, we highly recommend you use a detailing shop. The surface must be entirely clean beforehand, otherwise the paint protection film may form lumps or not adhere well. Another key advantage is that the shop will have what it takes to cut the film exactly in the best shape for each part to protect.
In general, products like the PPF Xpel have a lifespan of a few years. Once the film becomes old, you have to replace it: the detailing shop will remove the old layer, wash the surfaces, and apply the new one if that is what you want. You can cover lights, side mirrors, door handles, larger surfaces, or even the entire car.
Clear protective film for cars
Over time, direct exposure to sunlight reduces the paint’s shine and may even alter its tone. Polymers that appear on head and taillights may also be affect by turning yellow or simply dark. Paint protection films are excellent because they protect your car without needing one of those “car bras” which were common in the 1990s.
These materials are flexible to some extent, so they also help with the impact of small objects. Bugs, small rocks, and road debris no longer hit the sheetmetal directly, which is great to preserve the paint. The film will deform as a result of that, but usually comes back to its normal shape without tearing or stretching.
Another advantage is less obvious, but important nonetheless. Coating procedures only work on the paint and must cover its entirety. The paint protection film, in turn, can be applied pretty much everywhere, and only where you need it. That gives you the opportunity to select regions in a way that fits your budget.
Best paint protection film
Now that you know everything about the protective paint film, it is time to dive into details. Here, we are going to show you the best options in terms of PPF films available online. As usual, we start by compiling essential information about them on the table below, then we move on to individual reviews after that.
|Paint Protection Film||Size||Thickness||Buy now!|
|Armordillo Auto Transport||36 in x 100 ft||3 mil||Check price|
|CloudBuyer Edge||2.7 in x 33 ft||N/A||Check price|
|Install Proz Self-Healing||5/8 in x 150 in||8 mil||Check price|
|jdmBestBoy Clear Paint Protection Film||1 ft x 5 ft||N/A||Check price|
|Road Warrior Paint Film||15 sq ft||N/A||Check price|
|Sedeta Clear Protective Film||N/A||N/A||Check price|
|Track Armour Temporary Track Day Paint Protection||3 in x 100 ft||4 mil||Check price|
|VViViD 3M Scotchgard||4 in x 108 in||6 mil||Check price|
|Xotic Tech Clear Paint Protection||12 in x 48 in||8 mil||Check price|
|XPEL Clear Paint Protection Film||6 in x 84 in||8 mil||Check price|
Armordillo Auto Transport
Yes, this is a white paint protective film like those we see in new cars heading to the dealer. But no, we are not expecting your car to use them permanently. The goal here is temporary use, like when the car will be parked for a long time, or when you are going to use the car at a construction site with dust everywhere.
You might have already figured that this paint protection film is best used in situations like that one, where the brand-new car must reach the dealer unscathed. Once you end your special task, all you have to do is carefully peel off the film. It is not better nor worse than the others, only different; suitable for those specific situations.
- Your car looks as just arrived from the dealer
- Six months of protection against UV rays
- Excellent for situations of temporary use
- One of the highest prices in this list
- Even less affordable considering its use
- White color is not discreet at all
The “Edge” surname anticipates that this is another niche option featured in this list. This paint protection film comes as a narrow strip because it is indicated for door sills, bumpers, and edges of all kinds. In other words, car owners should not employ it to wrap an entire component because it would demand too much work.
Now, it does excel in its field of application. You can expect the same level of protection of any other paint protection film, not to mention similar a standard of resistance. It is also easy to remove, by the time you need to replace it. Just keep in mind that the instructions you will find on the package are rather difficult to understand.
- Appropriate for edges of metallic parts
- Does not leave residue when removed
- Adequate level of protection for a PPF
- Instructions of use could be much clearer
- All fingerprints will be apparent in the end
- Very narrow field of application
Install Proz Self-Healing
Some regions of your car are more prone to damage than others. Door edges, side mirrors, and bumpers are only some examples. This car protection film is focused on them: the transparent film is not adequate for covering larger ones like an entire door. In this field of use, it is one of the toughest ones available in the market.
The main point worthy of attention is that professional installation is mandatory. This protection film requires heat to properly adhere to the surface and cannot be stretched too much. Besides all that, it is permanent: we do not recommend DIY here because of that. If you respect all that, you are going to get a great final result.
- High resistance against typical hazards
- Invisible finish with a slight additional shine
- Can heal itself after taking small impacts
- Must be installed with professional expertise
- Permanent – cannot be perfectly removed
- Cannot be stretched too much when applied
jdmBestBoy Clear Paint Protection Film
If we had to define one car paint protection film in this list as neutral, this one would be it. You can either install it yourself or take it to a body shop; there are no surprises in terms of pricing; the overall resistance falls within what we would expect; there are many size options available… even the online reviews are sort of a mixed bag.
An interesting touch is that it comes with a utility knife and a felt squegee for free, which encourages DIY. Following that path implies reading its instructions carefully, but that should be easy – the transparent film comes with plenty of them. All in all, we really do not expect you to have problems when applying this car paint protection film.
- Free utility knife and felt squegee
- Many options of dimensions available
- Everything encourages the user to DIY
- Not many great reviews of other users
- Few technical specifications available
- Offers only one set of tools per buyer
Road Warrior Paint Film
Two items are important here. One is the fact that this film comes in a bottle: it is actually a liquid that you pour over the car’s surface you want to protect. It eventually forms a protection film after drying, and that is what protects your car. While it has the texture of an orange peel, the seller says it has quick and residue-free removal.
The other is that “Temporary” on the label. This product is meant for same-day use, like going on a road trip or enjoying a track day. You have to apply the product, wait for it to dry, use your car, and remove it right away. The seller also recommends you to avoid humidity or rain because it will soften the film layer.
- You can easily apply and remove it yourself
- Both processes are easy and leave no residue
- Large coverage area considering its price
- Orange-peel texture is easily noticeable
- You must apply it every time you use the car
- Humidity and/or rain can harm its protection
Sedeta Clear Protective Film
When it comes to technical specifications, this item is pretty simple. It will protect the base surface against road debris, smashed bugs, and sunlight exposure just like any other PPF films. It also enables you to use and remove it all by yourself, so you will have minimal expenditures both when buying it and installing it.
An interesting feature is that you can use this product on indoor surfaces as well. That makes it interesting for vehicles of professional use, since most passengers are careless about where they step. However, the online reviews are quite mixed, so you will have to accept a certain level of risk when buying this product.
- Can be applied both indoors and outdoors
- One of the most affordable options here
- Users say it leaves no residue when removed
- Online reviews available are a mixed bag
- Limited availability for online purchasing
- Offers no special features whatsoever
Track Armour – Temporary Track Day Paint Protection
You may have already noticed that the manufacturers of these products do not bother to invent creative names for themselves. Track Armour, for example, provides surface protection meant for the day. That is, you apply it early in the morning, use your car with no worries, and remove it once you are headed home.
Once the base surface is clean, it is easy to apply especially when you use the provided felt squeege. This film is clear and provides an invisible look, which is what we want here. By the time you need to remove it, all you have to do is slowly peel it off – it is claimed to come off easily and leave no glue residue behind.
- Easy and simple protection for track days
- Quick application on any clean surface
- Affordable considering its occasional use
- Only suitable for temporary, same-day use
- It would be too expensive for daily use
- Other PPF films are thicker than 4 mil
VViViD 3M Scotchgard
The 3M brand anticipates a high level of quality and yes, that is exactly what you get. The dimensions are planned to cover most door edges and similar surfaces with one or two rolls of product. The appearance is clear and only leaves a fine line on the border. And it is easy to apply and remove leaving no residue.
Most product reviews like this one rave about the 3M PPF because it truly offers more qualities than flaws and we support that. It is definitely worth the investment, even though it is more expensive than some of the models here. The biggest flaw would be that its dimensions are not suitable for covering the entire vehicle.
- Near-invisible appearance once it is applied
- The very best manufacturer in the segment
- Easy to apply and remove with no residue
- Definitely not the cheapest protection film in this list
- Available length demands at least two rolls
- Available width is more suitable to edges
Xotic Tech Clear Paint Protection
Another great option, although it lacks the name of the previous one. The wider roll makes it easy for you to cover the entire vehicle: one protective layer covers edges perfectly and few ones cover a whole part. You have to apply it on clean vehicle’s surface, smoothen it with a felt squegee, and cut the excess once finished. Then, just let it dry.
The 8-mil thickness reaches a good balance between flexibility and resistance: you can stretch it without any difficulty, yet it stays resistant against most sources of impact and against cracking. The only big flaw we can mention is the fact that the roll does not come with the necessary extra tools for its installation.
- Excellent rating according to user reviews
- Easy and simple to install and remove
- Thick enough to be protective and flexible
- Does not bring necessary installation tools
- Expensive, yet lacks the 3M’s reputation
- Its post-application shine is easy to notice
XPEL Clear Paint Protection Film
While 3M enjoys a strong reputation in the market, it does not monopolize it. XPEL is another big name in this segment, and it offers a long line of products focused on automotive protection. For example, there is a specific film for rocker panels because of their heavy wear. Here, we are going to focus on the general film.
This type of PPF film is made of polyurethane and is 8-mil thick. Compared to the 3M, it is clearer but less durable, so you may need to replace it more often. Then again, it still has great quality – better than most products here – and can even be used on door sills, although with worse results than its dedicated sibling.
- Strong enough to be used on rocker panels
- XPEL is another big name in this segment
- Nearly invisible finish once it is applied
- More expensive than the 3M Scotchgard
- Less durable than the 3M Scotchgard
- You will probably need at least two rolls
What is the best car paint protection film?
We will follow the herd and declare the VViViD 3M Scotchgard the very best PPF. It bundles an excellent reputation with high effectiveness, easy application and removal, and great appearance when in use. It is expensive, sure, but it is definitely a worthy investment to make if you are looking to get the best results.
Track Armourwill be our top pick in terms of temporary use because everything in it is optimized for that application. Yes, it is expensive, but each roll will last a long time if you only use it on the weekend. This is one of the easiest products both to apply and remove, which makes it great for repeated temporary use.
This time, our honorable mention is the Road Warrior Paint Film. It may not offer the best finish, but that is not a problem considering that it is meant for temporary use. The fact that it is actually liquid turns out to be awesome because it is easier to transport and you do not need surgical precision when applying it.