Best Car Polishes: Give Your Car The Shine it Deserves
Detail your car and keep it looking new with these top car polishes.
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BY Katherine Rother / LAST UPDATED ON March 24, 2021
Polishing your car is more than just making it look good. It’s a great way to extend the life of the paintwork, improve the finish, and repel dirt and debris. To give your car a mirror-like showroom finish, start with a good coat of the right car polish. Below we recommend some options that will turn your car into a showstopper.
An all-in-one product designed for protection, shine, and saving time. A great pick if you want something quick and easy.
- Paint-correcting polish, smoothing wax, and a good sealant in one formulation
- Will work with any paint job in any color
- An easy-on formulation that is simple to work
- Contains fewer abrasives than other polishes, so the paint-correcting benefits aren’t as noticeable as other options
A unique formulation known for its durability, shine, protection, and value, this is a great pick if you’re looking for a true car polish.
- Easy application that requires no heavy buffing or rubbing
- Made from an ultra-durable zinc polymer emulsion
- Can be applied in direct sunlight
- Can leave small spots on the vehicle’s surface when not applied correctly according to the manufacturer’s directions
This pre-wax glaze will eliminate swirl marks and give your car a high gloss finish. It contains rich polishing oils.
- This glaze works especially well on dark-colored vehicles
- Your paint will have a deep, mirror-like finish
- It works to eliminate defects, not temporarily fill them in
- You may need to do multiple coats to get the finish that you’re looking for
- It also doesn’t smell great, which can make it unpleasant to use
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.
Benefits of Car Polish
- Fix paint imperfections. Over time, your vehicle's finish will develop some defects that can be addressed with a high-quality car polish. It's formulated to smooth out the surface area and make the paint look more attractive.
- Hide spots. Sometimes, cars have stubborn spots in the paint job that just don’t seem to go away. Even though a polish won’t remove these spots, a thorough polishing will make them harder to see.
- Remove scratches. Car polish is great for eliminating tiny, shallow scratches. As long as they're not too large, the polish can fill in these spots, so the paint looks a lot nicer.
- Make the finish glossy and smooth. The buffing, filling, and smoothing properties of car polish can help even the paint job on your car. The polishing process also leaves an extra shine and gloss—just like when you first bought the vehicle. Follow up with a coat of wax to keep everything sealed.
- Extend the lifespan of the paint. Polishes eliminate dirt that's difficult to remove when you simply wash your vehicle. This prolongs its life. A good polish also helps to get rid of oxidized paint and conditions it, which makes it more crack and peel-resistant.
- Reduce your car wash frequency. If you polish and wax your car regularly, you can cut down on the number of car washes because less dirt adheres to the vehicle. Most dirt or debris should be removable with a quick wipe down.
- Boost the resale value. Vehicles with worn-out paint simply don't command as much money as those that appear to be better maintained. If the paint looks good, the vehicle as a whole is probably in better shape and more attractive to a potential buyer.
Top Car Polish Brands
Chemical Guys is located in Los Angeles, California, and known for producing excellent car care products, many of which are eco-friendly. Car enthusiasts have been using its polishes, shampoos, and other detailing accessories for years. Two of its bestsellers are the All-In-One Polish + Shine + Sealant and the Line Polish and Compound Kit.
Meguiar's, located in Irvine, Calif., has been in the car care business since 1901. Whether you need polish, hybrid ceramic wax, a surface clay kit, or tire foam, there's a good chance Meguiar's has what you need. One of its top sellers is Ultimate Polish.
The online-based Car Guys commits to making non-toxic and biodegradable car care products. All of its waxes, sealants, wheel cleaners and other products are made in America. One of its most popular products is the Hybrid Wax/Polish Sealant.
Car Polish Pricing
- Under $20: At this price, you can find a variety of high-quality polishes that get the job done. Formulations vary a lot in their abrasiveness, so double check the bottle to ensure you have the right match for your car’s paintwork.
- $20-$40: The mid-range of car polishes is found here. Some polishes come as a set with an applicator, saving you some money on accessories.
- Above $50: Mostly professional products and sets are sold in this price range. The quality of the products doesn’t vary much from the mid-range, but you’ll likely get more polish for the price.
Not all formulas are suitable for all paint jobs. Some products are basic car polishes without any silicones, waxes, and additives. As a result, you need to use wax and sealant in addition to the polish. Other products are a polish and wax in one container, which can save you time and effort. Just keep in mind that separate polish, wax, and sealant steps do a better job of protecting your vehicle than all-in-one items.
Today's car 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.
Ultimately you decide how to apply the polish on your vehicle; however, 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.
- Bottle/packaging size: Do you plan on polishing more than one vehicle? Do you want to polish your car or truck several times a year? It's wise to choose a product that can accommodate the amount of polishing you plan on doing. However, if you choose a bottle that's too large, it may deteriorate in the packaging before you have a chance to use it.
- Car manufacturer: The hardness of your paint, and thereby the strength of polish you’ll need, is dependent on the car’s manufacturer. European cars, especially German models, tend to use harder paints and may require more abrasive formulations; Japanese-made cars commonly use softer paints. In the end, the paint hardness will determine how abrasive the polish needs to be and how hard you need to work it into the body.
- Car color: Consider the color of your vehicle when choosing a polish because light-colored cars are better at accommodating more abrasive formulas and tougher polishing pads. If your vehicle is on the darker side, it's better to choose a less-abrasive product. Always read the specs so you don't inadvertently damage the finish.
- Type of paint: The type of automotive paint your car has will influence how you can safely polish it. Solid color finishes can usually withstand almost any polishing product, so long as it’s not too abrasive. Metallic and pearlescent paints, however, show swirl marks from polishing more readily, so be cautious with your technique and polish selection. Likewise, matte paint can’t be polished with normal abrasives since these cause glossy patches on the surface.
Best Car Polish Reviews & Recommendations 2021
Car Polish Tips
- You can actually harm your car's paint if you polish it too often. That's because polishing removes a thin layer of the finish, and if you polish the car too frequently the paint will wear down much faster.
- We recommend parking in the shade before you start detailing your vehicle. The shade prevents soap residue from drying on the surface, which can dull the finish and make it harder to polish.
- Avoid detailing your vehicle on the dirt or grass because it may accidentally make its way onto your car or truck while you're cleaning it. Instead, park on pavement or gravel.
- Things can get messy when you polish your vehicle, particularly if a buffer is involved. Remove items around your car or truck to prevent residue from the buffer from spraying them. Make sure kids and pets are out of the vicinity when you use a buffer.
- Wash your vehicle before you apply the polish. Make sure to use the proper shampoo and cleaner, and rinse your car or truck thoroughly before adding the polish.
- We've said it before, and we'll say it again: choose the proper pad and polishing product for your particular vehicle. Softer pads and less-aggressive formulas are better for dark-colored vehicles, which are more prone to show swirl marks. Light-colored vehicles can tolerate more aggressive pads and compounds.
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 do I polish my car by hand?
A: Should you choose to clean your car by hand, you need a little patience and you should set aside a good block of time to get it done correctly. First, wash it thoroughly using car shampoo and water. Next, apply polish with a soft cloth using a circular motion. Keep wiping the cloth over the finish until the polish disappears. Complete the job with a wax and sealant.
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: What is better, wax or polish?
A: If possible, use both. Polish removes oxidation, scratches, water spots, and other surface impurities by taking off a thin layer of paint and filling in and smoothing out these areas. Wax also smooths out the paint and provides a nice shine. Auto enthusiasts commonly polish as well as wax their vehicles.
Q: What is the best finishing polish for cars?
A: There are numerous, high-quality polishes available online and in stores that efficiently and effectively repair surface blemishes and defects. Several of these items are featured in this buying guide.
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.
Q: Can I wax my car every week?
A: Yes, but you may produce more swirls on the finish. Polymer formulas are designed to last for a few months, while carnauba waxes are effective for approximately one month. It's a good idea to wax your vehicle two to four times a year depending on whether it's stored in a garage or heavily exposed to the elements.
Our pick for the best car polish is the 3D Speed All-in-One Polish and Wax. It produces a glossy finish and restores color and depth. It's also easy to use with a soft cloth, applicator pad, or buffing machine.
For a more budget-friendly option, check out the Nu Finish Liquid Car Polish. It has been around for years and continues to be a high-quality bestseller that lives up to the hype.