Updated: Jul 29
There’s nothing like a new car, with its glossy finish and new car smell. Aside from buying a house, a car is the biggest-ticket item you’ll likely buy in your lifetime.
You might have saved for years to buy your new vehicle. The average new car costs $45,000, but a new SUV can easily run you $60,000 to $100,000 or more. Or you might have signed on for 72 months of car payments. According to Edmunds sales data, the average car payment for new vehicles hit a new high of $569, and the average loan term also hit a record high of 70.6 months in March 2020.
No doubt, investing so much of your hard-earned money in a car makes you want to protect your vehicle. The best way to do that is to apply Paint Protection Film (PPF). If you want to avoid paint chips and drive with confidence that your vehicle will look new for years to come, definitely consider PPF.
When you apply PPF, there are two important factors to consider: the current state of your vehicle and your expectations.
The Current State of Your Vehicle
• PPF protects a new-car finish. But the key is: You can only protect a new-car finish if you have a new-car finish! PPF essentially “freezes” the condition of your car. If you drove your car from the dealership to Immaculate Paint Protection and the finish is pristine, we can protect that. On the other hand, if you’ve had your car for weeks, months, or even years, your finish is no longer pristine. Your car shows its age with scratches, chips, and scrapes. But imagine your car with 10,000, 20,000, or even 30,000 miles looking like it has a few hundred miles on it—that’s the value of PPF.
• PPF protects against further damage. If you wait too long to apply PPF, it won’t look great. But at least PPF will protect your finish from degrading any further. If you apply PPF when your car has 20,000 miles, your car will still look like it has 20,000 miles at 40,000 miles, 60,000 miles, even 80,000 miles.
• PPF won’t improve the look of your vehicle. PPF is not an enhancement service. We don’t do paint work; we don’t do touch-ups. PPF won’t restore the factory finish. It can only protect the current finish that you have.
• PPF isn’t perfect. Before we apply the film, we do an exhaustive, complete cleaning of the vehicle. Yet even with that, having one or two pieces of debris in a panel is acceptable by our industry standard. We’re not performing surgery here in a sterile environment. But I can promise our shop is immaculately clean to minimize debris.
• If your car already has some dings and scratches, ironically, PPF can magnify defects. That’s because you will see slight air pockets around those defects, making them more visible. Again, that’s why it’s best to apply PPF to a brand-new car.
Remember: It’s paint protection, not paint perfection. The second important factor to consider before buying PPF is your expectations—for now and for the future. If you’re considering PPF, you’re in an elite group of committed, savvy car owners. But you might also be a part of a group of people with high expectations. I help my customers to manage that.
• No car’s paint is perfect. The paint on your car is not perfect—not even from the factory. Dealers are masters at hiding things with fillers and waxes that will wash off within a week.
• Don’t expect perfection. Quality installers do their best—even losing sleep worrying about making each job perfect. But installers aren’t perfect, and no install is perfect.
• Sometimes family and friends, who can’t afford to apply PPF to their vehicles, will even point out imperfections. We see posts all of the time from people inventing silly reasons why they don’t need PPF.
• Balance your investment with realistic results. At Immaculate Paint Protection, our top-quality installers use top-quality PPF. However, you could pay more—much, much more in fact. Other installers charge two, three, even four times what I do. If you want absolute perfection, expect to pay at least four times my rates for that luxury. Those shops are catering to people driving million-dollar cars.
I think it’s wisest to get a great job at a reasonable price, and do two cars, than to pay two, three, or even four times as much for very incremental improvement for protecting only one car.
But on the flip side, if you skimp on PPF or fall for a pushy sales job, you will sacrifice quality. Some clients come to me after having bad installs done by other shops. They might have paid less initially, but in the end, they paid more with time, aggravation, and then money to have the PPF removed and new film installed.
• Understand why we do what we do. An important part of my job is educating my customers. For example, the decision whether or not to wrap the edges of a car is up to the installer. If they elect to wrap one edge but not the other, there’s a good reason for it. Wrapping every edge requires you to disassemble the car. We don’t do that in our shop. If someone really wants that, it’s best for them to go someplace else. Why would you want to take a new car apart? I’m not going to take a $400,000 Porsche apart and create rattles and squeaks that weren’t there before.
• Keep the purpose of PPF in mind: What’s important to remember is that your car will look good, without rock chips and benefiting from the self-healing PPF, even though you have to drive it every day and subject it to harsh weather and road conditions. PPF is an investment in peace of mind.
Education and expectation management are both important parts of my job. With the hundreds of customers I’ve worked with over the years, I’ve learned the value of both. In the rare event a customer isn’t happy, I do my best to resolve that.
At the end of the day, it’s my hope that my customers are putting PPF on at the optimal time when their cars are new and that their expectations are met by reality. For me, the best reward is when a customer says, “My car looks better than when I dropped it off!” That’s the satisfaction of a job well done.
Here are some questions to ask your shop before applying PPF to help manage expectations:
• How do you resolve issues such as a panel lifting? The shop should have a plan in place in the event of any problems.
• How “perfect” is your PPF application? The shop should be honest about their capabilities, helping you to set realistic expectations. Any reputable shop will tell you about PPF’s limitations. If a shop claims absolute perfection, they are delusional.
About the author: Bill Fetter’s passion for cars started at an early age, as he loved anything with wheels. Through his childhood, Bill observed his dad’s work as a mechanical engineer turned marketing manager and proud lifelong employee of General Motors. During high school, Bill honed his passion for cars by hand-washing and detailing his neighbors’ vehicles. Knowing he wanted to be in the automotive industry, Bill earned a degree in Industrial Engineering from Kettering University in Flint, Michigan. He’s worked as an engineer in the automotive manufacturing, medical device, steel industry, and pharmaceutical manufacturing fields.