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Car wax

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What's behind our car wax Ratings?

Experts at our National Testing and Research Center tested 19 models in car wax to see which ones perform best.
We look for:
  • Overall score
    Overall score Is based primarily on gloss; durability; ease of application & removal; cleaning; resistance to scratching, swirls, and hazing; and plastic compatibility.
  • Gloss improvement
    How well a product improves the shine of the painted finish.
  • Durability
    How long a product protects the painted surface.
  • Ease of removal
    How fast and effortless a product is to remove.
  • Ease of application
    How fast and effortless a product is to apply.
  • Cleaning
    How well a product removes embedded dirt and surface oxidation.
  • Scratching/hazing
    How a products use affects the paint surface, with scratches, swirls, or a loss of transparency.
  • Compatibility with plastic
    How well a product can be used without leaving residue on plastic trim pieces.
  • Price per oz.
    The price of an ounce of product.
  • Ounces per bottle
    The amount of product in the container in ounces.

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Recommended car wax

Recommended car wax are standout choices with high scores. They include CR Best Buys, which offer exceptional value. When narrowing your choices, weigh features, price, and attributes that matter to you.
  • Buying Guide
  • Price & Shop
When buying a car wax, be aware that premium car wax brands don't necessarily hold up any better than lower-priced alternatives. We found that pastes performed no better than liquids overall. Both wax types had similar scores for ease of use. If you're looking for information about car wax, Consumer Reports is your best resource. Consumer Reports’ unbiased car wax reviews will give you honest buying advice that you can trust. Use our car wax buying guide to discover the characteristics that are most important to consider when looking for the best car wax. We also provide unbiased car wax Ratings to help you choose the best car wax for your needs.

Car wax buying guide

Car wax buying guide

With warm weather here, this is an excellent time to wax your car and help protect it from bugs, pollen, sun, and road grime. Before buying a car wax, be aware that premium car wax brands don't necessarily hold up any better than lower-priced alternatives, based on our latest tests. In fact, some moderately priced liquids scored near the top of our Ratings--better than some products costing twice as much.

Still, none of the 19 products tested were good enough to be Rated excellent, with most showing signs of deterioration within a few weeks.

We also found that pastes performed no better than liquids overall, though the two top-scoring pastes were the only waxes to rated excellent for durability. Both wax types had similar scores for ease of use.

We did not evaluate spray-on/wipe-off products this time, because earlier tests have shown them to be less effective for cleaning, to be ineffective against weather, and to rate the worst for durability. They're best only for newer finishes and if you wash and wax frequently.

Thanks to today's clear-coat finishes, our testing shows that even the best wax will probably not improve the shine on a new car. Regular washing is still the most important step to protecting your car's finish. But a coat of wax can add a layer of protection against tree sap, bird droppings, and other contaminants--at least for a while. Most products we tested showed a significant loss of protection within about five weeks. For this reason, we recommend waxing even new cars every two or three months. And if your car is older or the finish has begun to dull, the effects can be even more dramatic. Waxing can fill minute finish imperfections, and waxes that scored highly for gloss improvement removed oxidation and made paint appear darker and more vibrant.

But be aware that the paint finishes on some darker-colored cars can actually be damaged by some of the more abrasive waxes, which can leave swirl marks. Check our Ratings for products that scored lower in this area.

Since this test was performed in 2011, the roll out of government regulations regarding volatile organic compounds (VOCs) has pushed the industry to alter its formulations. At last check, these tested products are still available for sale, but new variations are expected to appear on store shelves. When shopping based on our Ratings, be sure to match the exact product with those tested. We are monitoring the market to determine when it would be best to test a new batch of products.

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