If you want to give your car's paint that extra protective coat, you need a wax. This hardy substance adds a protective layer to repel rain and keep it looking smarter for longer. There are hundreds of products on the market, so we’ve put together a guide to help you pick out some of the best for you and how to use them.
Car wax and polish, what's the difference?
Car wax and polish are not the same. They complement each other but are in fact polar opposites. Other than hardcore car enthusiasts, most of us use the two interchangeably. And that's fair enough because even some product labels get it wrong.
Wax acts as a protectant to your paint. It's hardy, doesn't wear off easily and is quite heat-resistant. It doesn't create the glossy shine one gets from a polish. Carnauba, for example, the most common car wax, has a melting point of over 80°C. There are synthetic alternatives and ceramic coatings too for you to consider.
Polish on the other hand is abrasive, and therefore the complete opposite to wax. It works to create a shine on your car's paint by gently removing the top layer of paint protectant in order to get rid of scratches and gloss up dulled colours. Good polishing products do not have to be used frequently.
Which car wax is best?
Enthusiasts can take the subject of car wax extremely seriously. Mention it to a group of petrolheads and you’ll receive numerous detailed suggestions and advice. These can frequently be eye-wateringly expensive and therefore, quite off-putting. But don’t worry, we know of effective car wax that doesn't cost you an arm or a leg.
We haven’t included ultra-expensive products here. They’re for the professionals and nerds only, and it’s arguable whether most of us will actually see the benefits. We’ve included an array of solutions, from quick-hit wax to products you’ll need to commit some dedicated 'me time' to use.
Here, we strip away the intimidating mystery of the world of car wax and point you to some of the best products available. There’s also a guide on how best to polish your car at the end.
The best car waxes:
Meguiar's Ultimate Paste Wax
Meguiar's is a famous name in the world of car cleaning. This storied American brand has been around since 1901 and this is our pick of car waxes. Ultimate Paste Wax uses patented Thin Film Technology, which makes it easy to apply and wipe off, even in direct sunlight, though we recommend you still apply it under cover.
It also has hydrophobic polymer technology that increases the surface tension and causes water to bead and roll right off. This makes it harder for dust and dirt to adhere to the bodywork too. You even get an applicator pad and removal towel in the box.
Autoglym Ultra High Definition Wax kit
Best premium wax kit
Certainly a pricier option for waxing your car, this wax paste kit from Autoglym is hardy, being able to protect your car for several months from a single application, though we suggest increasing that frequency for best protection. The Ultra High Definition Wax blends refined carnauba wax with other ingredients to create a better shine than you would get otherwise.
Also included in this kit are an ergonomically designed applicator and a Hi-tech finishing cloth to ensure you get the best finish possible. You don't need much to cover the car and having a thinner layer makes buffing easier. It also means the 120g provided should last a long time.
Bilt Hamber Double Speed-Wax
This is a bona fide wax that is popular amongst enthusiasts but doesn't demand an enthusiast's price. It's a paste that will simply provide a durable, no-nonsense carnauba wax coating to protect your paint. It has hydrophobic polymers, too, to help with water beading. Superb to add over a polish.
It applies a slightly thicker, more durable coating than the Meguiar's wax. The minor trade-off is that the 250ml won't last as long and takes a little longer to apply. But you get a applicator pad and microfibre cloth included.
303 Products Graphene Nano Spray Coating
Best spray wax
303's graphene spray is a really clever product. You wash your car as normal, rinse off the shampoo and then dry it off as you normally would. Then spray on the 303 and let it cure to a haze before buffing it. Sounds like a standard wax, yes? Only there is no carnauba here. This 303 spray is one of a few car care products to use graphene oxide. It's one of the latest developments in the world of car care and provides a hardy and versatile protective coating for your car.
By hardy we mean a coating lasting about a year and protecting against light scratches, water spots, and UV. By versatile we mean you can use it on paintwork, glass, plastic, and wheels. It's superb and keeps your car gleaming too.
Simoniz Original Carnauba Wax
Best pure wax
Like the Bilt Hamber and Meguiar's waxes, this is a paste but it differs in that it is pure wax. You apply it in the same way - add it over polish and buff to a shine without letting it dry. Being a 150ml tin, it won't last as long as long as the others here, but you should still get at least ten coatings, depending on your car's size. It will last up to a year, but for best performance we suggest reapplying two or three times a year.
One of the benefits of a natural wax over a synthetic or hybrid product is its ability to maintain the deep gloss you got when applying the polish. Synthetic sealants and ceramic coatings can be more durable, but a natural wax gives better shine.
Turtle Wax Carnauba Car Wax
Best budget liquid wax
Turtle Wax is a famous car cleaning brand: everyone recognises the green bottle and little tortoise. This is its no-nonsense liquid wax, which is easy on, easy off. For 500ml it is wonderful value too.
Nick says it's brilliant and so do we. For your basic, easy to apply wax, look no further.
Greased Lightning Showroom Shine Waterless Car Wash & Wax
Best cheat wax
If you don't have time for a proper clean nevermind a wax, this may appeal. If you're a clean freak away from home with a grubby car, this may appeal to you too. Enter this waterless wash and wax. Spray it on and wipe it down: it doesn't scratch the surface but does leave behind a remarkably deep, rich shine.
Its one-litre volume lasts a reasonable time (you can get a big refill). A genuine two-in-one that takes the hard work out of cleaning and waxing. Don't expect the same results as the waxes, but it's a time-saving shortcut.
Meguiar's Hybrid Ceramic Liquid Car Wax
Best ceramic wax
Long-lasting protection is simpler to apply than you think with this clever liquid ceramic wax from Meguair's. This contains a regular synthetic wax and silicon-dioxide to create a protective layer that can last up to six months. Simply apply with an applicator and use a microfibre towel afterwards for excellent results. It's also safe to use on rubber and non-painted surfaces.
What you need to know about car wax:
What are they different types of wax?
Carnauba wax is the only properly organic wax you can get for your car. This wax is extracted from the carnauba palm tree and chosen for its water-resistance properties and it's hardness - it's the hardest natural wax in the world.
There are two types of carnauba wax you can get; pure and a blend. Pure carnauba wax is yellow in colour and will give a really nice deep shine to your paintwork as well as protecting it. It's also the more expensive and can be quite hard to apply. Blended carnauba wax makes use of additives including beeswax to make it easier to apply but it won't give the same deep shine. It's white in colour and cheaper to buy.
All natural wax will need reapplying every six weeks or so and will protect your paintwork from UV rays, water and other contaminants.
Synthetic wax, (also known as paint sealant) makes use of synthetic polymers that bond to your car's paintwork to offer a layer of protection. It will not offer the same shine that natural options but one application can last as long as 12 months.
Ceramic wax is one of the latest arrival in car wax technology. Professionally applied ceramic coating can last for years but is expensive. Hybrid ceramic waxes combine elements of ceramic waxes with regular synthetic wax for great results done much quicker and easier.
The state they come in can differ too:
Paste wax is the old fashioned form of car wax. It comes in a tin and can be stubborn to use. Still, it'll give you the best shine and the best protective finish but it can take hours to apply to your car.
Liquid wax is the most popular wax choice because it's easy to apply but you can still get a nice deep shine and excellent coverage. Most synthetic waxes come in liquid form.
Spray wax should only be considered a top up for regular wax. You don't get the same coverage or depth but they're the quickest and easiest to apply. A great choice if you're in a rush.
Naturally, each product will come with its own instructions, and they are generally the same:
On freshly cleaned but dry paint, add a few drops of wax to a microfibre cloth or pad.
Apply it by working your way over the body panels in small, overlapping circular motions. That way, you'll get an even and full coating on your car.
Let it dry to a haze (don't apply it in full sunlight), then wipe off with a clean microfibre. Then stand back and admire.