The 8 Best Automotive Clear Coats
This wiki has been updated 12 times since it was first published in March of 2018. Whether you're completing a frame-off restoration of a vintage car or just removing evidence of a shopping cart accident, every paint job needs a good clear coat. There's a wide selection of highly effective second-stage automotive finishes that will add depth and shine to colors, emphasize metallic inclusions, and keep your car looking pristine for a long time to come. When users buy our independently chosen editorial recommendations, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
February 05, 2021:
We didn't really make any changes to our recommendations this time around, not because there aren't any other acceptable clear coats out there - in fact, there are a ton to try and wade through - but because the ones we've recommended have, for the most part, been around for a long while and are still very much appreciated by both economical, DIY users and enthusiast gearheads. What we did do was remove a couple ceramic coating products, because clear coats and ceramic coatings serve different purposes (generally speaking, ceramic coating is the final layer, meant to go on top of the actual clear coat).
With that said, if you're okay with mixing it yourself, SpeedoKote SMR-130 is immensely popular, long-lasting, and good-looking, and commonly cited as the favorite of enthusiasts. Alternatively, KBS Coatings Diamond doesn't need mixing and offers excellent hardness and UV protection, although it is somewhat pricey. If you're only working on a single body panel and want to make it easy on yourself, USC Spray Max is probably the way to go. and for scratches and repaired dents that just need a little help, the Toyota Touch-Up Pen is a worthwhile investment, and works with far, far more than just Toyotas.
May 12, 2019:
There's a wide range of different products you can use to give your car (truck, bus, RV, tractor) a shiny protective coat that will last a while. Some of them are easier to apply and some last longer than others. Rust-Oleum, for example, is incredibly easy to apply, but it's not the shiniest and doesn't hold up to the more advanced options. KBS Coatings Diamond is an extremely popular option that's also a simple one-step application, though be aware that it doesn't last very long in the carton, and once it's opened, it will demonstrate its strength by promptly sealing itself shut after several hours. So make sure you get most of the job done at once.
We included a couple excellent spray-on options. USC's Spray Max is a self-mixing two-part mix, and it's ideal for those who want the quality of a 2K process but don't want to mix the chemicals themselves. POR15 is a little bit different choice; it's a one-part option that's more akin to high-thickness protective lacquer than it is to a show-quality wax replacement, and is therefore suitable to heavy-duty use cases.
As far as traditional, multi-step products go, SpeedoKote is immensely popular for both their standard clear line and their high-gloss Glamour selection. Between those two, it mostly depends on what kind of look you're going for. In a similar vein, House of Kolor is the one to choose if you're looking for a deep, candy-like shine on your hot rod.
We also included a handy touch-up pen that you can use to repair blemishes in any of these products. And, finally, we highlighted two of the most popular and effective ceramic coatings. These are a little different than traditional clear coats. Color N Drive has been around for a while and it's relatively easy to apply, and as long as you're not looking for an ultra-bright shine, it's a great choice. Gyeon's Q2 Synchro is one of the most difficult to apply, but its dual-layer formulation repels water, grease, and dirt like nobody's business. In the right conditions it will keep your car looking like it was waxed just last week for many months at a time.