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The Best Car Waxes: Protect Your Car and Keep It Looking New

Find the best car wax and enjoy making your vehicle shine.

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BY Mike Bumbeck / LAST UPDATED ON July 15, 2021

Applying car wax is the finishing touch of a car wash or extensive detail. Regular waxing keeps your car looking good and protects your investment. A coat of wax is the first and last line of defense against paint damage that can reduce your car’s value. Learning how to wax a car begins with figuring out which type of wax to use, and that’s where this comprehensive guide comes in.

 

If you are looking for the best car wax for you and your ride, read on to learn all about some top car waxes and check out our video review for a hands-on test of our car wax contenders.

Best Overall
Meguiar's Ultimate Liquid Wax
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Summary
Summary

Meguiar's Ultimate Liquid Wax is a well-balanced blend of value, ease of use, and shine. The synthetic polymer is an excellent choice for first-time users and experts alike.

Pros
Pros
  • Forgiving enough for beginners 
  • Straightforward application and removal 
  • Long-lasting shine and protection 
  • Polymer formula will not stain trim and can be applied in direct sunlight
Cons
Cons
  • Some traditionalists consider modern synthetic polymer wax blends to be sealants rather than true car waxes
  • Slightly more expensive than other liquid synthetic polymer waxes
Best Overall
Meguiar's Ultimate Liquid Wax
Best Value
P21S Concours Look Carnauba Wax
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Summary
Summary

P21S Concours Look is a premium carnauba wax and beeswax blend. The natural formula is a true car wax with no dyes or perfumes to get in the way of a deep shine.

Pros
Pros
  • Goes on as smooth as liquid wax 
  • Easy to remove, with no white residue 
  • Will not stain trim parts 
  • Peerless shine and protection from the hardest natural wax
Cons
Cons
  • Natural carnauba wax requires more frequent application than synthetic liquids
  • Expensive by volume compared to synthetic polymer liquid blends
  • Paste wax requires more patience
Best Value
P21S Concours Look Carnauba Wax
Honorable Mention
Carfidant Ultimate Liquid Wax
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Summary
Summary

Carfidant Ultimate Liquid wax is a synthetic polymer blend formulated to deliver professional results. The easy-to-use liquid will not leave stains on painted or unpainted rubber trim parts.

Pros
Pros
  • Synthetic polymer blend goes on smooth, dries to a haze in about five minutes, and comes off easy 
  • Shine and protection rival Carnauba wax blends 
  • No chemical dyes or perfumes
Cons
Cons
  • Slightly thicker than other liquid waxes
  • Promises of up to 12 months of protection might be overly optimistic
  • Some users may prefer more pleasantly scented waxes and sealants
Honorable Mention
Carfidant Ultimate Liquid Wax
The Best Car Waxes
Mike Bumbeck

Mike Bumbeck

When he’s not wrestling with one or more first-generation Mitsubishi Monteros and other fine ‘80s-era Japanese cars and motorcycles, Mike Bumbeck evaluates a constant variety of automotive products from The Drive’s clandestine Science Barn testing facility in New England.

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How We Tested Car Waxes

Choosing the best of the best car waxes is no easy task, so The Drive teamed up with professional detailer Ryan Prantil and put six different types of car waxes to the test. For each wax, we looked at how easily it could be applied and removed. We then checked out the finish for smoothness, durability, water-shedding protection, and that all-important new car shine.

TheDrive Best Car Wax Review
Mike Bumbeck

Another look at our test product lineup from liquid synthetics, traditional carnauba paste, spray-on, and hybrid ceramic waxes.

Each of our best car waxes takes a different approach to protection and shine. But whether synthetic polymer, all-natural paste, or hybrid ceramic, all delivered a quality finish. Meguiar's Ultimate Liquid Wax took across-the-board high scores, while the others scored higher in their own way.

Ease of use is as important as the end result; waxes that are difficult to apply and remove do not encourage regular use. Overall, we found the hybrid ceramics more challenging to work with and less forgiving than carnauba or synthetic waxes. You need to pay close attention to application instructions and drying times with hybrid ceramics.  

We couldn’t test every car wax on the market, but we have used a few over the years. Traditional favorites like Turtle Wax Hard Shell Finish and Formula 1 (formerly KIT) carnauba paste waxes deliver great results without breaking the bank. Stepping up to the mid-price bracket brings a broader range of choices like Mothers California Gold Pure Brazilian Carnauba in liquid or paste, and Chemical Guys Butter Wet Wax carnauba creme. 

And since waxing your car should be an enjoyable experience, consider a car care kit or product line formulated to work together for the best results. Custom packages like Chemical Guys Car Care Kit, Mother’s Ultimate Wax System, Meguiars Complete Car Care Kit, or Turtle Wax Ultimate Car Care Kit have everything you need to get the job done right with a minimum of unwelcome surprises. 

Our test brands manufacture a comprehensive line of car care products from windshield cleaners to tire dressings. If you find a brand or product that works for you, visit the Meguiars, Carfidant, Ethos, Formula 1, Chemical Guys, Mothers, or Turtle Wax stores for their full range of car care products that can help keep your ride looking as good as it should. As a bonus, carnauba paste waxes can add shine and protection to everything from countertops to stainless steel.

Benefits of Car Wax

  • Protection against scratches. A properly applied coating of car wax will help keep small pieces of debris, dirt, and sand that cause paint scratches off your paint. Wax acts as a shield that deflects these scratch-causing villains, helping your paint stay pristine.
  • Makes your car easier to wash. Regular waxing adds a protective layer that helps stop tree sap, smashed bugs, bird feces, and other road grime from sticking to your paint. Wax repels standing water that leaves hard to clean spots behind.
  • Shields from damage. Even the smallest of pebbles can cause an imperfection, chip, or ding in your paintwork. Wax itself won’t stop projectiles, but its sealing properties help keep your paint in top condition and fight against damage out on the road. 
  • Maintains that new-car shine. When you wax your car regularly, you can help protect the paint and keep your vehicle looking new. Unprotected car paint can dry out and lose the properties that make it shine. Dull or oxidized paint is usually the result of neglect. 
  • Diminishes the appearance of scratches. Although regular waxing will not hide or repair existing deep scratches, it can make shallow scratches appear much less noticeable. 
  • Increases the resale value. Think of car waxing as regularly scheduled maintenance, like changing your oil or rotating your tires. Investing time in car care now can pay off when it comes time to trade in or resell your well-maintained car. 
  • Water repellent. Wax is hydrophobic and repels water—the world’s best and most abundant solvent. Environmental conditions that make rainwater acidic or alkali causes even more damage. 

Types of Car Wax

Natural

The most popular type of wax is natural wax formulas. These waxes tend to be harder and are made from the Copernicia Cerifera palm tree, also known as carnauba. There are two quality grades of carnauba wax: white and yellow. The yellow kind is pure plant wax and is the most expensive option since it achieves a high shine and is very protective. True car enthusiasts and those who own dark-painted vehicles swear by it. The white kind is a slightly lower grade, making it more affordable. There are also carnauba-based synthetic waxes. These are even more affordable but aren’t purely natural wax and won’t achieve the same high-quality results. The downside of any natural wax is that it only lasts a few months before requiring reapplication.

Synthetic

Thanks to modern science, we have synthetic waxes that are an artificial formulation. They typically contain chemicals that bond with your car’s paint and can last for up to a year. Some synthetic formulas will also contain cleaning agents, which strips away any contaminants or residues that could prevent bonding. Synthetic waxes are good because they are more affordable than all-natural carnauba wax and easier to apply. Their downside is that they simply can’t achieve the same results as the high-quality natural wax.

Paste

Car wax comes in three types of formulas. The oldest type is a paste, with textures that range from very hard to a soft buttery consistency. Typically, paste wax tends to be formulated from natural waxes, which helps it to achieve a higher shine and deep luster. Unfortunately, it tends to require more frequent applications than liquid or spray formulas. Because it’s typically made from natural wax, it also tends to be more expensive than the other formulas. 

Liquid

You’ll like the smoother texture of liquid wax over paste versions. Liquid formulas are typically synthetic or a synthetic and wax formula, which helps them to be longer-lasting. You may also find this style of formula to be harder to apply. Liquid wax tends to dry faster than paste, so you’ll need to work in smaller sections or work faster. You also need to carefully read the labels because some liquid waxes are abrasive. 

Spray

Spray waxes are fast and easy to use, making them popular among car owners. This type of wax is suitable for those who want to spot treat areas on their car. You will find many spray formulas have additives for special treatment needs, such as fixing swirl marks, hiding blemishes, or boosting shine. Unfortunately, spray waxes don’t last as long as the other options. However, it’s easy to get a consistent application, and they are usually non-abrasive. 

Top Brands

Meguiar’s

Founded in 1901, Meguiar’s makes premium performance car care products for every vehicle out there. Currently based in Irvine, Calif., it continues to be a market leader with amateurs and detailing professionals thanks to its high-quality and easy to use products. Top sellers include the Ultra Polishing Wax and the Ultimate Liquid Wax. Check out the Meguiars Store for the comprehensive car care line from clay bars to tire dressing. 

Turtle Wax 

Founded in 1941, Turtle Wax is an American company that is a leader in the automotive appearances industry. Today, the company’s car care products are distributed throughout the world to over 90 countries. The Turtle Wax Quick and Easy One-Step Wax and Dry Spray Waxis a fast and easy wax to apply to your car. 

Armor All 

In 1962 Joe Palcher discovered a “miracle formula” that protected rubber, plastic, and vinyl from UV radiation and ozone. This was the start of a company that care owners turn to when they need to protect and preserve their vehicles. You could try Armor All Ultra Shine Wash & Wax to combine your washing and waxing into one easy step.

Car Wax Pricing

  • Under $15: You can buy a single bottle of synthetic car wax in this price range. Spray wax is also available in this price range. They may lack special additives, but they are quality and will provide plenty of shine and protection. 
  • $15-$40: natural carnauba car waxes tend to be in this price range. This high-quality wax will come in a canister or tin that holds enough wax to perform several applications. 
  • Above $40: High-end waxes with special additives and innovative formulas are in this price range. There are also kits available that come with more than one car detailing product in this price range.

Key Features 

Application Method 

Think about how much time and effort you want to put into the application of wax on your vehicle. If you enjoy spending time working on and detailing your car, then you’ll want to look for a paste wax made of natural carnauba wax. If you’re looking for a quick and easy solution, then a liquid or spray will be a better option. You’ll also want to check for compatibility with a buffing machine since some waxes require you to apply them by hand. 

Longevity 

The longer your wax application lasts, the less often you’ll need to apply the wax. Natural waxes don’t last as long as synthetic formulas. However, this may not be an issue if you prefer the finished look of natural wax. Don’t blindly believe the manufacturer’s claims because these are timeframes in the most favorable of conditions. The more extreme your climate and the more often you wash your car will reduce the longevity of your wax application. 

Container Size 

The larger the container of wax is, the longer it should last. However, this isn’t always true. Some waxes require more product for an even application, which reduces how many applications you can get out of a single container. You should also consider how stable the product is: natural wax formulas could melt and separate in heat, while synthetic formulas may begin to separate in the bottle. You’ll then be stuck buying a new container of wax before you’ve finished the last one.

Other Considerations

  • Formula: The formula you choose will depend on your personal preference and the result you’re trying to achieve. For some, the goal is to achieve the wettest look. For others, they want the deepest luster. Look for a formula that’s designed to give the results you want. You can find cross formulas that combine both natural and synthetic ingredients for a combination of results. 
  • Additives: Some wax formulas have additional additives. These can give your car more protection. A popular additive is UV protection, which prevents the sun from fading and degrading your car’s paint color. Another common additive gives the wax hyperbolic tendencies to prevent water spots and hard water etching. 
  • Compatibility: Some waxes are designed to work with a particular line of products. If this is the case, you’ll want to consider the expense of buying all of the required products. If you already have other car care products you like to use, check to confirm that your chosen car wax will work with your current products.

 

Best Best Car Waxes Reviews & Recommendations 2021

Best Car Wax Overall
Meguiar's Ultimate Liquid Wax

Meguiar's has been in the car care business for a century, and Ultimate Liquid Wax lives up to its name with a combination of value, ease of use, and results like the paint on this nearly 40-year old motorcycle tank. The liquid car wax is formulated to be easy enough for beginners, and it delivers shine and protection that will satisfy long time car care aficionados. 


The liquid wax was easy to apply and remove. A thin coat dried to a haze in five minutes and came off with about five seconds of hand buffing. The synthetic polymer blend can be applied in direct sunlight and won't leave residue behind on non-painted trim pieces. Shine and protection are comparable to traditional carnauba car wax and can hold up longer between applications. 


Some car care purists don't consider synthetic polymer blends real car waxes even if the deep shine and durability are superior. Polymer bonding car wax technology might not be on the cutting edge as ceramic formulations enter the market. Still, Meguiar's Ultimate Liquid Wax is a versatile performer and worthy addition to any car care kit.

Best Traditional Car Wax
P21S Concours Look Carnauba Wax

P21S Concours Look is a premium car wax containing the traditional blend of natural carnauba wax with beeswax as a softening agent. All the Carnauba wax in the entire world is extracted from the leaves of palm trees native to Northern Brazil. P21S selects the highest grade Carnauba wax for its dye and fragrance-free formula. 


The only paste wax in our test went on as smooth as the liquid competition and quickly dried to a visible haze that came off as easily. The premium formula delivered an unparalleled shine that left no powdery white residue behind. Water beaded up and quickly rolled off P21S Concours Look. 


Carnauba is the only car wax for many automotive purists. Traditional blends like P21S require more frequent application than modern synthetic polymer or hybrid ceramic waxes. The premium car wax demands a premium price, but a small quantity delivered impressive shine and protection and even gave our 38-year old Toyota econobox a concours d’elegance look.

Best Synthetic Car Wax
Carfidant Ultimate Liquid Wax

Carfidant Ultimate Liquid wax is a synthetic polymer-based product designed for professional results in an easy to use consumer-friendly package. There are many polymer car waxes on the market, but Carfidant delivered on its promises with shine and protection that rivals premium carnauba paste wax. 


The liquid wax was easier to apply and remove compared to its synthetic polymer competition. A small quantity of liquid wax went a long way. After 20 minutes of drying, Carfidant came off with minimal effort and left paint smooth to the touch with a deep shine and superior water-repelling hydrophobic protection. 


This liquid wax was on the thick side out of the bottle, but it spread thin with predictable consistency. Shine and protection nearly matched traditional carnauba wax with a synthetic polymer durability advantage. Carfidant claims up to 12 months of protection, but longevity will vary by vehicle condition and operating environment.

Best Hybrid Ceramic Car Wax
Meguiar’s Hybrid Ceramic Liquid

Meguiar's Hybrid Ceramic promises cutting-edge ceramic protection in a product that's as easy to use as traditional liquid car waxes. Ceramic coatings offer a durability advantage over synthetic polymer or carnauba car waxes. Silicon dioxide, or silica, acts as a glass-like sealant layer to protect the finish and repel water. 


Meguiar's Hybrid Ceramic smelled faintly of blueberries and was simple to apply and remove after just five minutes of drying time. Shine and protection were on par with the synthetic polymer and carnauba competition. Even with its relatively quick drying time, the liquid formula was easy to use and won't leave residue behind on plastic or unpainted trim.

Best Ceramic Car Wax
Ethos Pro Ceramic

Ethos Pro Ceramic wax promises 3-in-1 performance as a wax, polish, and sealant in one bottle. The liquid blend of proven synthetic polymers and the latest ceramic coating technology was designed to provide shine and protection for up to an entire year from a single application. No water or special tools are required. 


The liquid appeared thin at first glance but left a thicker layer of material compared to our other test waxes. After the recommended 20 minutes of drying time, the dried-over haze was challenging to remove and left some streaking that required additional effort. Shine and water repellency took a respectable spot in the middle of the car wax pack.

More Recommendations:

Honorable Mention
3M Perfect-it Show Car Paste Wax

This paste wax produces a high gloss finish on the surface of your car. It is a professional quality formula that adds shine while protecting your car’s paint. You’ll love the wet look that it creates. A standout feature is how long this “wet look” lasts. You can apply this wax by hand or with a machine. This wax is safe for use with a clear coat. Built into the formula are UV light barriers to protect your car from sunlight damage or fading. This 10.5-ounce can of paste wax contains plenty of wax for multiple applications. 


One drawback of this type of wax is that the lid doesn’t securely seal onto the container. You also have to wipe an applicator onto the hard wax. Both of these factors can result in dirt getting trapped in the wax.

Honorable Mention
Zymol Carbon Wax

If you own a vehicle with a dark painted finish, you need a wax that’s specifically designed for the unique needs of this paint. This carbon wax contains 37% carnauba wax for the deepest shine possible. It stands out because it also has several other oils and ingredients to nourish, shine, and protect your vehicle’s paint. This includes banana, coconut, and montan oil. It comes in an eight-ounce jar with an included applicator. You’ll appreciate how easy this wax is to apply with an application and buff process. 


One drawback of this wax is that the container it comes in is smaller than other waxes on this list. This can result in it not lasting as long. The formula also doesn’t contain any specific UV protectants. Without them, your dark paint can be vulnerable to fading.

Honorable Mention
Armor All Ultra Shine Wax Wipes

Make quick work of waxing your vehicle with these easy-to-use wipes. These wipes are easy to use for even the most novice beginner. There’s no messy paste can, no overspray from liquid waxes, and no keeping track of a separate applicator pad. Each wipe in the package comes pre-treated with plenty of wax. You’ll love the one-stop application process; just wipe on and be done with no buffing required. Each package comes with 12 extra-large wipes. The resulting finish has a long-lasting, high shine. 


Unfortunately, these wax wipes may not be for everyone. They are susceptible to heat, so you may not want to keep them in the garage. Also, if your vehicle is extra-large, then you may need more than one wipe.

Honorable Mention
Chemical Guys Blazin Banana Carnauba Spray Wax

This easy-to-apply spray wax uses a refined Brazilian carnauba wax. You’ll find it simple to spray on and wipe off to reveal a deep shine with a wet look finish. What makes this wax stand out is that you can safely use it on paint, glass, clear plastic, metal, and wheels, making it a one-stop shop for detailing your car. The formula cures fast to prevent dust from getting trapped in the wax and dulling the finish. This wax will protect your car’s paint from spots, contamination stains, and UV rays, keeping your paint looking new for longer. 


A potential issue with this wax is that it does have a banana smell to it, which can be unpleasant or unsettling for some people. However, the scent does go away as the wax cures.

Honorable Mention
WeatherTech TechCare Carnauba Gel Wax

You’ll love the squeeze-style container that this wax comes in, which makes it easy to cleanly dispense the correct amount of wax and preserve the rest for future use. The wax formula is fortified with natural carnauba gel wax. It comes in a large 18-ounce bottle, which is plenty for several applications. You can safely use this wax on all types of finishes, including paint, chrome, and fiberglass. Working this wax in the paint will help to remove minor scratches and blemishes. Once cured, it will protect your paint from UV rays that can fade and damage the paint. 


Unfortunately, you may find the gel harder to work with when trying to get an even application on your car. It also may not achieve the same deep shine that other carnauba waxes can achieve.

A hand holding a sponge while waxing.
Mike Bumbeck

Applying car wax should be an enjoyable, relaxing experience that delivers a rewarding shine. A clean foam applicator sponge helps lay down a consistent layer of wax.

Tips

  • Prepare your paint. Thoroughly wash and polish your car before applying wax for the best and most satisfying results. Car wax is always the finishing touch.  
  • Avoid waxing in direct sunlight. Apply wax in the shade on cool painted surfaces with a dedicated foam applicator or manufacturer's recommendation.
  • Start with a thin coat of wax on a small section and allow it to dry to a haze. Multiple thin layers are better than a single thick coat. 
  • Work in sections. Apply and remove wax on one section of the vehicle at a time. This will help you get a feel for the wax and see the rewarding results as you go. 
  • Wax regularly. A good waxing routine will make it easier to keep a protective coat on your paint all year round.

FAQ

Q: What’s the difference between waxing and polishing a car?

Polishing a car can correct swirl marks, remove oxidation, and smooth out the paint surface. A hand or machine polish prepares the paint for its protective wax coating. Washing and polishing the vehicle before applying wax delivers the best results. 

Q: How long does wax last?

This depends on the specific product, the environment where you live, and how frequently you drive. In general, natural waxes do not last as long as synthetic polymer blends or ceramic hybrids that can endure for up to six months or longer in ideal conditions. 

Q: Is carnauba wax the best wax for a car’s exterior?

Not necessarily. Some prefer natural carnauba wax for its deep, warm shine that intensifies with each additional layer. It has some trade-offs, however; it doesn’t tend to last as long as synthetic waxes. 

Q: Can I wax a new car?

Of course. Check with your dealer or manufacturer first, but as long as the new paint is fully cured, you can wax a new car just like any other vehicle. New cars are detailed before delivery, so developing your own car care routine helps keep your new ride looking showroom fresh.

Q: What kind of wax should I use on a white car?

Do not use wax specifically formulated or dyed for use on dark painted vehicles. Choose a wax that’s safe for all paint types. Most car waxes are safe for single- and two-stage base coat and clear coat paint. 

Q: How do I know when I should wax a car?

At least twice a year is the general recommendation. Check the wax manufacturer's recommendations and take the vehicle's operating environment into account. Harsh environments demand more frequent applications.