Written By Andra DelMonico
Updated Nov 10, 2021 12:27 PM
Your car’s paint finish can make or break the impression your vehicle makes when driving down the road. You don’t have to be in a luxury or sports car to turn heads when you take care of your vehicle’s paint. So, give your Toyota Camry or Hyundai Elantra some love with high-quality car wax. Bring out the depth and luster of the color and finish with a high shine. Protect the clear coat and color to keep your car’s paint looking like new for longer. Our guide to the best car waxes can help you care for your car’s exterior.
Best Car Waxes Reviews & Recommendations
Meguiar’s Ultimate Paste Wax
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Give your vehicle’s paint a gloss and slickness that lasts with this hydrophobic polymer paste wax. Unlike natural paste waxes, this advanced synthetic formula is easy to work with for a smooth application and quick buff off. The formula hydrophobic polymer technology helps to keep your vehicle’s finish water spot-free. When applied correctly, it gives your paint a deep shine and high gloss finish.
The manufacturer claims that you can apply it in full sun; however, you won’t get the full results as you would if applied in the shade. This paste also has a low dry time of 10 minutes, making your entire application process longer. This paste wax is susceptible to heat, so it may not hold up in hotter climates.
- Brand Meguiar's
- Model G210608
- Volume 8 ounces
Easy to wipe on and off
Can use in full sun
Hydrophobic polymer technology
Needs a shady application location for best results
Up to a 10-minute cure time
Doesn’t hold up well in the heat
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This super-smooth pure carnauba wax paste is non-abrasive, making it safe for use on all surfaces. If your vehicle needs extra protection, you can perform multiple applications to create several protective layers. When applied correctly, you’ll enjoy long-lasting protection and a deep, rich shine. The wax in this formula is a pure concentration, which means it is high-quality carnauba wax. This wax is best used on older vehicles that may have some blemishes or aging that this wax can improve upon.
Keep in mind that this is step three of a three-step car care process from Mothers. You may not get the results you want if you don’t also buy and use the products from steps one and two. Because this paste has a high concentration of carnauba wax, it is very hard and sometimes crumbly, which requires a lot of work to apply and buff out.
- Brand Mothers
- Model 25550
- Volume 12 ounces
Can layer applications
Non-abrasive carnauba wax
Deep and rich shine
Third step of a three-step process
Requires a lot of work to buff out
Turtle Wax Hybrid Solutions Pro-Flex Wax
Best Sprayable Wax
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Spray this graphene-infused wax on your vehicle and create a durable layer that protects your car from water spots, UV rays, environmental damage, and chemical contaminants. Graphene is a layer of carbon that creates a hexagonal honeycomb lattice that bonds with your car’s surface. There are various application methods, one of which lets you apply the wax to a wet or dry car. When applied correctly, it lasts up to 12 months.
One problem with this wax is that it requires a 24-hour cure time; this is a ridiculously long time. It can also be difficult to apply correctly for the desired finish. Don’t get it right, and it’s obvious on dark vehicles, creating streaking and water spots.
- Brand Turtle Wax
- Model 53477
- Weight 23 ounces
Use on wet or dry paint
Lasts up to 12 months
Curing takes 24 hours
Challenging application processes
Streaking and spots visible on darker car colors
Griot’s Garage Premium Carnauba Paste Wax
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Protect your car with this classic carnauba paste wax. It uses the highest quality wax and the greatest concentration possible while still being easy to work with. This helps the applied wax to be durable and long-lasting. The hydrophobic quality of this wax helps protect your car from water spots and makes it perfect for wet environments. You can apply this wax by hand or with a random orbital polisher.
Be careful when using this wax because a little goes a long way, and it’s easy to overuse. Use too much, and it won’t last the 14 waxes that the manufacturer claims it will. You’ll also need to be careful during application because you could end up with white residue on the plastic parts and swirl marks when viewed in the sun.
- Brand Griot's Garage
- Model 11029
- Volume 12 ounces
Hand or machine application
Swirl marks in sunlight
White marks on plastic
Easy to overuse
Chemical Guys Banana Spray
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Turn your car’s surface into a slippery shine with the Chemical guys Banana Spray. It’s designed to have no cure time with a spray and wipe application process. This spray wax stands out because it contains grade A carnauba wax and optical brighteners. This gives you a protective and durable finish that also creates a mirror-like shine.
One drawback of this wax is that you’ll need to be careful where and how you spray it. The carnauba wax can cause it to leave a white residue on darker surfaces. With careful application, you can buff these marks out. The slick surface can be a bit sticky, allowing for fingerprints to show and contaminants to stick. There’s also the small matter of the banana smell; you’ll either love or hate it.
- Brand Chemical Guys
- Model WAC21516
- Volume 16 ounces
No cure time
Water beading properties
Grade A carnauba
Contains optical brighteners
White residue on black surfaces
Smells like bananas
Contaminants stick to it
How We Selected The Products
Our product selections, rankings, and awards for this story are based on research. While we haven’t conducted real-world testing on all of these products yet, we’ve looked at consumer testimonials and data, tutorials, and general discussions on social media and in forums. We also consider price and specification in the context of the segment. And, of course, we rely on our institutional knowledge of the automotive landscape to weed out weak products.
The best wax is subjective because it depends on what your goal is. The first step is deciding if you are going for luster and shine, longevity and protection, or a combination of these qualities. We looked for a wax that would satisfy each of these goals to ensure we had a complete list to address everyone’s needs. We considered the formula, ease of application, longevity, and price per volume for each category of waxes. For the natural waxes, we looked at the amount of carnauba wax and final luster achieved. The synthetic waxes compared their protective qualities and longevity. With the combination waxes, we considered how well it achieved the looks and longevity goals.
Buying Guide/What to Look For
Choose the best wax for your vehicle based on its paint condition, your goals, application method, and longevity. With the right wax, you will improve the look of your vehicle’s paint while protecting it from future damage. You’ll need to balance application time and effort with finished results and protection longevity
What to Consider When Buying Car Waxes
Types of Car Waxes
This is the traditional form of wax that comes in a metal can or plastic jar. Depending on the manufacturer and formula, it can have a soft to very hard consistency. The more carnauba wax in the formula, the harder it is and the harder it is to work with. If your goal is to achieve the deepest luster and high shine possible, then you’ll want to use a carnauba paste wax. If your goal is a protective layer on your paint, then look for a synthetic paste formula. Spend the time necessary working the wax over your car’s surface to create an even and thin layer. If you have an older vehicle, it will benefit more from paste wax to restore its original luster and look.
Applying liquid wax is much easier than paste. You can also typically use liquid wax with a buffing machine, making the application even easier and faster. This method also helps you achieve a smooth and even application for a uniform finished look. Liquid wax is less abrasive and gentler on your paint’s finish, making it a better option for new vehicles that just need a touch-up. Look for a synthetic formula that has additives for UV protection to prevent fading and oxidation. These modern formulations can protect your car better than natural paste. You can also find some formulas with water-repelling qualities to protect your vehicle in wet or humid climates.
This is the easiest and fastest wax to apply. It eliminates the two-step process of applying and buffing. This makes it perfect for those with limited time or looking for a touch-up when their current wax layer starts to fade. The downside of spray waxes is that they do not last and are not a substitute for paste or liquid wax. However, it’s the most affordable, so it’s great for having around. Be careful when using spray wax; it’s easy to end up with an uneven application. Some people find it easier to spray their applicator and wipe down their car instead of spraying their vehicle directly.
Car Waxes Key Features
The first choice is natural or synthetic wax. The best natural wax is carnauba, which is a palm wax from the Brazilian Copernicia Prunifera plant. Beeswax gets mixed in to help make the hard carnauba wax more workable. The quality of natural waxes is judged by the ratio of carnauba wax to other ingredients. You’ll find beeswax, linseed oil, miscible oil, and petroleum distillates added to help the wax adhere, condition, and shine better.
Your other option is a synthetic formula that uses manufactured ingredients to protect and create shine. These formulas use a combination of silicones, plastics, resins, and polymers. These formulas can be designed for a specific goal, such as longevity, deep luster, or black car care. Carnauba is considered the gold standard for car care to add luster and shine. Synthetic formulas are better at protection and can last longer.
How much work and time are you willing to put into a wax application? Some waxes require you to apply them by hand, which can be tiring and time-consuming. It also requires you to be more careful because it is easier to get an uneven application. Other waxes can be applied with a machine. This speeds up the process and can make it easier to achieve an even application across the surface of your car. Beyond putting the wax on the car, some waxes take longer to dry than others. This extends the time of application. Finally, consider how difficult it is to buff the wax off. You don’t want a sore arm the next day from buffing.
The wax you apply should be resistant to the environmental elements and provide lasting protection and shine. If it doesn’t last, then you’ll be spending all of your time applying wax to your car. Look for a wax that’s designed to resist the type of driving conditions your car would face. Some have better water repellent abilities, making them perfect for places with high humidity and rain. Other waxes have UV additives, making them perfect for sunny climates. Choose the wrong wax for your environment, and you risk the wax not lasting as long as it should. Be wary of low-quality waxes that won’t last no matter what the environment. They come in a large container, but you’ll go through them faster than higher-quality waxes in smaller containers.
Car Waxes Tips and Tricks
As with something you do for decades upon decades, you pick up a few tips and tricks along the way in terms of selecting the right product, and/or using it. That’s the case with us and car waxes. To help you bridge the information gap, here’s a selection of what we’ve learned along the way.
- Always test a new wax on an inconspicuous area of your car, such as the door jam. This ensures it won’t have an unintended and adverse reaction to your vehicle’s paint.
- Microfiber cloths are the best for removing wax residue and buffing your car’s surface to a deep luster and shine. The soft fibers are also less likely to damage your vehicle than terry clothes or old T-shirts.
- Never wash and wax your vehicle in direct sunlight. The sun heats the car’s surface and can make the paint soft, which means it can scratch easier. The hot surface can melt the wax and affect your application process.
- Start at the top of your vehicle and work down. The bottom of your car is the grimiest and more likely to contaminate your applicator.
Q: Is polish or wax better for a car?
One isn’t necessarily better than another. The two products work together to improve and protect the look of your car. People use polish to remove contaminants and reveal the clean and undamaged paint underneath. Wax reduces the frequency that you need to polish by creating a protective layer over the paint.
Q: How often should you wax a car?
Apply wax a minimum of twice a year. However, for the best protection, you should plan on applying wax around four times a year. You may find that lower-quality waxes don’t last and require monthly applications.
Q: Can I wax without polishing?
You can wax your car without polishing it. If your vehicle is newer and the paint is in excellent condition, you don’t need to polish it first. Look for signs of scratches, fading, and swirl marks to know if you should polish first.
Q: Can you over wax a car?
Yes, you can over wax a car. The wax builds up and creates a thick layer on the car’s surface. Eventually, your car’s surface looks cloudy. This happens faster with natural carnauba wax than with synthetic wax.
Our top pick for the best car wax is Meguiar’s Ultimate Paste Wax because it’s easy to apply, long-lasting, and gives your car a deep shine.