With a long weekend and fall approaching, this is an excellent time to wax your car and replenish its protection. But 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. Our Ratings for products that scored lower in this area.
It is important to match the car wax to your car-care needs. Car waxes come in three forms: liquid, paste, and spray. Overall, we found that paste waxes are easier to use than liquid waxes; liquid waxes cleaned the best; and spray waxes were easiest to use and left the fewest stains on plastic parts, but they didn’t last as long as other wax types.
To find the best car wax for your ride, check our latest car wax buying advice and Ratings. We deliver the test results, but you must provide the elbow grease.