Best Car Polish: Smooth and Glossy Is a Good Way To Get Through Life

These products prep your vehicle for a good wax and make the paint shinier and glossier.

byNoelle Talmon| UPDATED Feb 16, 2022 6:57 AM
Best Car Polish: Smooth and Glossy Is a Good Way To Get Through Life
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If you are serious about keeping your vehicle's finish in good condition, high-quality polish just might be your best friend. Polishes prepare the painted surface by filling in minor imperfections before you apply wax. While you can use a car polish by hand, they're designed for use with random orbital or dual-action polishers for the best results. Polishes protect your vehicle's paint from road grime, UV rays, and other elements. They make small scratches and other surface damage less noticeable. They can also produce glossy, mirror-like results and smooth out the finish. We researched the best car polishes available in a handy buying guide.

Best Overall

Meguiar's Ultimate Polish

Summary

This pre-wax glaze can be applied by hand or with a dual-action polisher. It's safe to use on all paints as well as clear coats.

Pros
  • Produces high-gloss results
  • Removes swirl marks
  • Deepens paint color
Cons
  • Unpleasant aroma
  • More than one coat may be required
Best Value

Nu Finish Liquid Car Polish

Summary

This liquid polish is made of zinc cross-linking polymer emulsions designed for long-lasting results. It's suitable to use on a variety of surfaces.

Pros
  • Inexpensive
  • Can be applied in direct sunlight
  • No heavy buffing required
Cons
  • Strong odor
  • May leave some spots behind
Honorable Mention

Turtle Wax Color Magic Jet Black Wax

Summary

This polish produces long-lasting results and features Dynamic Color Boost to bring out the best in black vehicles.

Pros
  • Easy to use
  • Corrects faded finishes
  • Safe for all vehicles
  • Great for black vehicles
Cons
  • Can be tough to rub off
  • Won’t mask deep scratches

Our Methodology

Why Trust Us

Our reviews are driven by a combination of hands-on testing, expert input, “wisdom of the crowd” assessments from actual buyers, and our own expertise. We always aim to offer genuine, accurate guides to help you find the best picks.

Learn more

I took several factors into consideration when compiling our list of the best car polishes. I sought out items from well-known brands with a reputation for producing high-quality car-care products. I also looked at car polishes in a wide range of prices to suit a variety of budgets. In addition, I made sure to choose products that are easy to use. I avoided products that are particularly difficult to buff out or that leave a hazy finish behind. While I didn't have a chance to test each and every one of these products, I made sure to research their effectiveness in order to produce our guide of the best products on the market. For more information on our methodology, go here

Best Car Polish Reviews & Recommendations

Specs

  • Brand: Meguiar’s
  • Size: 16 ounces
  • Type: Pre-wax glaze

Pros

  • Repairs paint
  • Provides a high gloss
  • Good for dark-colored vehicles

Cons

  • Strong odor
  • Ventilation recommended
  • May require multiple coats


This pre-wax glaze works to repair your paint and breathe new life into it. It will give your dull paint a high-gloss finish that looks wet. If you have a dark-colored vehicle, you’ll especially benefit from the repairing effects of this glaze. With careful application, it will permanently remove defects. This glaze can also deepen the color of your paint with polishing oils. 


Unfortunately, this glaze doesn’t smell good. This can make it unpleasant to use, so be sure to apply it in a well-ventilated area. You may also need to apply more than one coat to get the deep mirror-like shine that Meguiar’s promises.

Specs

  • Brand: Nu Finish
  • Size: 16 ounces
  • Type: Liquid polish

Pros

  • Affordable
  • Provides protective coating
  • No heavy buffing required
  • Can be applied in sunlight
  • Versatile application

Cons

  • May leave small spots
  • Can produce strong odor

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 such as splotching and goes on smoothly in any temperature. The polish is a true multitasker; the formulation is good enough to protect fiberglass boats, airplanes, motorcycles, and a number of household items that have painted metal bodies. It’s also one of the few car polishes that contains 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 once a year.


When not worked in 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.

Specs

  • Brand: Turtle Wax
  • Size: 500 ml
  • Type: Jet black wax

Pros

  • Reputable brand
  • Designed for black vehicles
  • Brightens up faded finishes
  • Removes oxidation

Cons

  • Can be tough to rub off
  • Won’t correct deep scratches


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. In addition, it won’t mask deeper scratches or marks and may make them stand out once it’s fully cured.

Specs

  • Brand: Chemical Guys
  • Size: 16 ounces
  • Type: Polish and sealant

Pros

  • Produces mirror-like shine
  • Protects paintwork
  • UV ray protection
  • Masks small imperfections

Cons

  • Not great for large scratches or swirls
  • Application can be messy

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. It makes the surface sticky, and application can be messy. Moreover, it has no hydrophobic properties, meaning that water doesn’t bead up and roll off the surface.

Specs

  • Brand: TopCoat
  • Size: 2 or 16 ounces
  • Type: Polish and sealer

Pros

  • Long-lasting shine
  • Masks minor scratches
  • Eco-friendly
  • Can be used on engine parts

Cons

  • May leave streaks on glass
  • Not for darker vehicles

This car care kit comes with a 16-ounce spray bottle of a 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 formula 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 nonflammable, which makes it great for applying on engine parts. 


The formula can leave 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.

Specs

  • Brand: Meguiar’s
  • Size: 16 ounces
  • Type: Polish

Pros

  • Professional grade
  • Glossy-wet shine
  • Safe for all finishes
  • Easy to apply
  • Dries clear

Cons

  • Tough to wipe off
  • Requires frequent reapplication 

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 and clear-coat finishes. You can use this product by hand or with a polisher or rotary buffer. The polish is simple, easy, and quick 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 new.


This polish 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.

Our Verdict

Our pick for the best car polish is Meguiar's Ultimate Polish. It acts as a pre-wax glaze and helps produce a glossy, wet look, particularly on dark vehicles. It also removes minor defects. For a more budget-friendly option, consider Nu Finish Liquid Car Polish

What to Consider When Buying Car Polish

There are several factors to consider before investing in a car polish. First, decide whether you want just a polish or one with wax and/or sealer properties. Examine the abrasiveness of the formula and whether it's compatible with your vehicle and how easy it is to apply the product to the surface area. 

Types of Car Polish

Polish and Wax

This type of polish is a glaze and a car wax combined. These products typically include a mild abrasive to remove minor defects and have fillers to mask imperfections. The wax element will then protect the finish. The downside is that this type of polish will not last as long as some other types. It may work for around a month before you have to reapply it, which can be a hassle.

Polish and Sealer

 A polish and sealer is designed to eliminate light scratches, swirl marks, and other surface imperfections. It cleans the finish and also provides a protective coating against the elements, insect debris, road grime. Some people use this type of product in place of wax. It also does a good job of restoring the color and shine of your paint job. 

Polish Only

If you're a purist, you might want to stick with pure polish. These products are designed solely to remove minor imperfections on your vehicle's paintwork. They fill in small scratches and swirl marks. They don't contain wax or sealant, so you will need to apply separate products on top of the polish for the best results. 

Car Polish Key Features

Abrasiveness

Today's 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.

Application

Ultimately, you decide how to apply the polish on your vehicle, but 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.

               Car Polish Pricing 

Some car polishes are fairly affordable and cost less than $20. They have varying degrees of abrasiveness, and it's important to make sure the formula is compatible with your vehicle's finish. Other brands can cost upwards of $40, and many of them include an applicator, which can save you some money. More premium options can cost more than $50. These products are typically professional grade or part of a kit. They're not necessarily better than slightly less expensive options, but they may include more volume, so they will last a little bit longer than those in smaller bottles.

FAQs 

You’ve got questions. The Drive has answers

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 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: 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.

What’s the difference between waxing and polishing my car?

A car polish is needed when the surface of a vehicle starts to show signs of wear—typical imperfections include small scratches, marks, or lines. With a car polish, these little imperfections get filled in, smoothing the surface and making the marks almost invisible. Waxing helps protect the paint and enhances the overall luster of the vehicle.

How do I polish my car by hand?

You’ll need some time and patience to polish a car by hand. To start out, wash your car thoroughly. Then, apply a high-quality car polish to a soft cloth and rub it over the car in a circular motion. Continue this motion until the polish disappears completely. Repeat until every inch of your car has been polished. Finish off with a wax and sealant for a complete detailing.

How often should I polish my car?

In general, it’s important to polish your car twice a year. This will keep the paint shiny and protected (with the proper wax) as the weather changes. You can polish it more frequently, but the more you do it, the faster the paint will wear down.