Best Car Polishes: Give Your Car The Shine it Deserves
Detail your car and keep it looking new with these top car polishes
The Review Team
How We Decided
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PUBLISHED ON February 24, 2019
Polishing your car is more than just making it look good. It’s a good way to extend the life of the paintwork, improve the finish, and repel dirt and debris. To give your car that mirror-like showroom finish, start with a good coat of the right car polish. In this piece, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know to turn your car into a showstopper.
- Best OverallHD Speed All in One Polish/WaxSummarySummaryAn all-in-one product designed for protection, shine, and saving time. A great pick if you want something quick and easy.ProsProsPaint-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.ConsConsContains fewer abrasives than other polishes, so the paint-correcting benefits aren’t as noticeable as other options.
- Best ValueNu Finish Liquid Car PolishSummarySummaryA unique formulation known for its durability, shine, protection, and value, this is a great pick if you’re looking for a true car polish.ProsProsEasy application that requires no heavy buffing or rubbing. Made from an ultra-durable zinc polymer emulsion. Can be applied in direct sunlight.ConsConsCan leave small spots on the vehicle’s surface when not applied correctly according to the manufacturer’s directions.
- Honorable MentionMeguiar's G19220 Ultimate PolishSummarySummaryA potent polish that restores your car’s paintwork. Great if you’re looking for something universal and safe to use.ProsProsWorks great on dark-colored cars to create that wet look. The pre-wax formulation removes fine marks and preps the car’s surface for wax or sealant.ConsConsBest for minor defects in the paintwork. It’s also difficult to work in by hand and might leave some cloudiness if not buffed right.
Why Trust Us
All of our reviews are based on market research, expert input, and practical experience with each product we include. This way, we offer genuine, accurate guides to help you find the best picks.
Benefits of Car Polish
- Correct paint defects. Most cars have small defects in the paint job, be it lines, an uneven coating, or swirl marks. The good news is a good car polish can help. A polish’s abrasive properties even up the paint job and make the surface look smooth.
- 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.
- Eliminate scratches. Remove small, shallow scratches with a coat of car polish. The polish can fill in these scratches if they’re small enough, making the overall paint job look much better.
- 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 life of the paint job. Polishes maintain and extend the life of the paint by removing dirt that’s too stubborn for normal washing. It also removes oxidized paint and helps condition the paintwork, making it more resistant to cracking, drying, and peeling.
- 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.
- Improve the resale value. A car with a well-maintained, glossy paint job can fetch a better price than one that wasn’t maintained regularly. The quality of the paint job says a lot about the quality of the car itself.
Top Car Polish Brands
Based in Los Angeles, California, Chemical Guys is a global manufacturer of high-quality car care accessories with several green, eco-friendly options. Their products have been used for years by auto enthusiasts everywhere. Two of their bestsellers are the All-In-One Polish + Shine + Sealant and the Line Polish and Compound Kit.
Founded in 1901, Meguiar’s has been making premium performance products for every vehicle out there. Currently based in Irvine, California, they continue to be a market leader thanks to their high-quality products. Their top sellers include the Ultimate Polish.
An internet-based company, Car Guys makes great car care products, all of which are made in the USA. Everything they make is non-toxic and biodegradable. Some of their most popular products include 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.
Depending on your car’s paint job, a number of formulations may be suitable. Some formulations are just plain car polishes with no silicones, waxes, or other additives. These should be followed by a wax and sealant. Other formulations include both a polish and wax, saving you a step and a sore arm. However, separate polish, wax, and sealant coats look better and protect your car more effectively than all-in-one products.
Modern car polishes use abrasives that break down into smaller particles as they are buffed into the body, getting finer and finer. Most modern formulations are suitable for almost any vehicle, but it’s good to double check since some specialty products have varying grades of abrasiveness.
How you apply the polish is really up to you, but some formulations work better with a mechanical buffer than a soft cloth. Anything that comes as a paste can be difficult to work by hand. Liquids, on the other hand, are easier to work into the paint but don’t fill scratches as well as pastes.
- Bottle/packaging size: Depending on how big your vehicle is and how often you polish it, try not to get a bottle that’s too big. Otherwise, the quality of the polish will deteriorate with storage time. Check for any vehicle recommendations on the bottle for help.
- 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: Lighter-colored cars can take more abrasive formulations and rougher polishing pads. Darker cars need a softer touch. Double check the formulation to avoid causing damage to the paint job.
- 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 2019
Best Overall: HD Speed All-in-One Polish and Wax
The all-in-one formulation of the HD Speed Polish and Wax makes it an easy-to-use, time-saving product. Clear in color, this polish will work with any paint job and can be applied with a soft cloth, an applicator pad, or a buffing machine for a glossy finish. The easy on-and-off formulation also ensures that your car won’t look blotchy after polishing it.
Another great benefit of this combo is it can be used inside or out, giving you a long window to really work the polish into the paint. The formulation is great for restoring color, depth, and gloss, all while adding a durable and long-lasting wax to the surface. It has a mild, non-offensive scent and comes in a cream-like consistency that’s easy to buff with a cloth or an orbital polisher.
Compared to dedicated polishes, this one has fewer abrasives, which makes it less effective for true paint correction. For that, you’re better off using a pure car polish without additives. For a quick way to protect the paint job and add some shine to the surface, however, this is a top choice.
Best Value: Nu Finish Liquid Car Polish
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, like splotching, and goes on smooth in any temperature.
The polish is a true multi-tasker—the formulation is good enough to protect fiberglass boats, airplanes, motorcycles, and a number of household items that have a painted metal body. It’s also one of the few car polishes that contain 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 only once a year.
When not worked 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 out there.
Honorable Mention: Meguiar’s G19220 Ultimate Polish
Made by one of the top brands in auto detailing, this polish lives up to its name. It preps the surface of your car with a pre-waxing glaze that offers a deep reflection and high gloss. Formulated with conditioning oils that add depth to the color and shine, this polish works well on dark-colored vehicles. The abrasiveness of this formulation is mild—it removes fine swirls and towel marks to even out the surface of the paintwork without stripping away too much.
The near-universal formulation is safe to use on all glossy paints. Applying this product can be done in a number of ways, including by hand or using a dual-action polisher. This polish is ideal for getting your paint ready for a wax or sealant and, because of its ultra-fine grit, can be used more frequently than some other polishes.
If you’re looking for something that will give your dark-colored car a high-gloss, wet look, this might just be the product for you. The only downside we’ve found is buffing it in by hand can be a difficult process and might create a cloudy film. For the best finish, we’d definitely recommend using an orbital buffer instead.
Car Polish Tips
- Don’t polish too frequently since this can harm the paint job. Polishing scrapes off a thin layer of paint each time, meaning too much polishing will wear down the paint more quickly.
- Park your car in the shade before polishing. When washing your car, the shade prevents soap residue from drying into the paint. If this happens, it dulls down the paint job and makes polishing much harder.
- It’s a good idea to detail your car on pavement or gravel. Parking it on dirt or grass might get mud onto the car at some point after you wash it.
- Polishing can be a messy job, especially if you’re using a buffer. For that reason, make sure there’s nothing around the vehicle that could get sprayed with polish. Keep pets and kids away while you work as well.
- It’s important to wash your car before you polish it. Use the correct soap or cleaner for each part you wash. Make sure you hose everything off well with warm water before beginning to polish.
- Choose the correct pad and polish formulation for your car. Use a softer pad and a less aggressive polish on dark-colored vehicles—these are more prone to swirling. Using more aggressive pads and compounds on light-colored cars is no problem.
Car Polish FAQs
Q: What’s the difference between waxing and polishing my car?
A: 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.
Q: How do I polish my car by hand?
A: 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.
Q: How often should I polish my car?
A: 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.
Our top recommendation is the HD Speed All-in-One Polish and Wax. It’s a true timesaver that delivers great results.
If you’re looking for the best value out there, 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.