Washing your car regularly does more than deliver an appealing gleam: It’s necessary to create a barrier over the paint that prevents fading, discoloration, and other environmental damage.
To evaluate the best car waxes, we examined dozens of products, evaluating them on factors such as shine quality, durability, ease of applying and removal, and value. We also consulted Igor Pomishchyk, owner of EcoStates Elite Car Detail in New York. “I always look for a car wax containing the traditional blend of natural carnauba wax with beeswax to produce a deep shine and glossy result,” Pomishchyk says, adding that other waxes also contain special polymers and resins to enhance the shine.
Here are our choices for the best car wax for every type of vehicle.
CarGuys Premium Series Hybrid Wax
OK for paint, plastic, and glass
Lasts 3 to 6 months
Provides UV protection
Should not be applied in direct sun
Some car wax products protect the paint well; others excel in enhancing the shine. Car Guys Hybrid Wax is our overall pick because it does both, and extremely well. Its carnauba wax satisfies shine enthusiasts, and the polymer additives provide long-lasting protection against UV rays, plus a hydrophobic coating to repel moisture.
Lasting up to six months, this spray-type wax is easy to apply. A little goes a long way, so you can expect the 18-ounce bottle to provide up to six treatments, depending on the size of your vehicle. To apply it best, work in 2-inch sections, spritzing on the wax, wiping it in, using a lint-free cloth, then buffing it with the cloth’s reverse side.
The manufacturer recommends applying this popular car wax only if the car’s exterior is cool enough to comfortably rest your hand on. Many have found that it works most effectively if the paint is not warm at all. Ideally, you should apply it in a garage or other shady spot—never outdoors in hot sun.
Price at time of publish: $20
Type: Spray-on | Size: 18 ounces | Main Ingredients: Full synthetic polymers | Protection Length: 3 to 6 months | Applicator Included: Yes
Nu-Finish NF-76 Liquid Car Polish
Can be applied in sunlight
Takes effort to apply
Not a paint corrector
Available in a 16-ounce bottle for around $10, Nu-Finish Liquid Car Polish is accessible and easy to apply, even in direct sunshine. Just wipe it on using a damp cloth, then let it dry to a light, hazy film before wiping it away with a soft, dry cloth.
The formula is based on zinc cross-linking polymer emulsions. It’s technically a polish, since the formula contains no wax. However, it accomplishes the same goal: provide luster and all-weather protection for your car’s exterior. The manufacturer claims it lasts for up to a year, much longer than conventional car wax formulas that break down when exposed to the elements.
Price at time of publish: $8
Type: Liquid | Size: 16 ounces | Main Ingredients: Zinc cross-linking polymer emulsions | Protection Length: 12 months | Applicator Included: No
Chemical Guys Butter Wet Wax Liquid 16oz
Protects against UVA/UVB rays
Causes moisture to bead up
OK for headlights, glass, and metal
Not recommended for matte finishes
May require frequent reapplication
We recommend Chemical Guys Butter Wet Wax as the best option for a liquid car wax because of its forgiving application—with a pleasing banana scent—and deep, wet shine. The formula is the recommended pure carnauba wax, combined with polymers and resin for a longer-lasting effect. This combination also protects against UVA and UVB rays, so think of it as a sunscreen for your car. Frequently compared to a show wax, this liquid wax delivers a glossy effect and isn’t a good choice for paint with a matte finish.
Banish thoughts of a runny mess when using a liquid car wax: This product’s thin formula spreads easily, by hand or with a polisher, followed by buffing with a soft, microfiber cloth. That’s sufficient to help protect your paint against fading, as well as repel water, and create a slick surface to repel bird droppings, pine tar, and other substances.
Professional detailer Pomishchyk recommends that you use a clay bar to get rid of all contaminants and make the body very smooth before adding wax. "I find that when you do this, the wax will last longer and attach better because the surface is smooth after the clay bar treatment,” he says.
Price at time of publish: $20
Type: Liquid | Size: 16 ounces | Main Ingredients: Carnauba, polymers, resin | Protection Length: Not applicable | Applicator included: No
SHINE ARMOR Fortify Quick Coat
Can be used on body, tires, and glass
Acts as a waterless wash
8-ounce bottle depletes quickly
A car wax spray offers a quicker method to protect vehicle paint. “Spray wax and liquid wax are easier to apply and produce a nice shine that can last on your car for a few weeks,” agrees professional detailer Pomishchyk. Instead of spending time completing a multi-step process, squeeze the trigger of Shine Armor’s Fortify Quick Coat for fast protection. The three-in-one formula is designed to provide a waterless wash, protective coating, and long-lasting shine.
This car wax spray combines surfactants and a ceramic-coating formula to get your car cleaner and shinier. Spritz on Shine Armor’s Fortify Quick Coat and use a soft, lint-free cloth to wipe it off. You needn’t worry about overspray on your tires, trim, or mirrors because the product leaves no film and provides moisture-beading protection to those areas.
Price at time of publish: $23
Type: Spray | Size: 8 ounces | Main Ingredients: Ceramic | Protection Length: Not applicable | Applicator included: No
Best Paste Wax
Meguiar's Gold Class Carnauba Plus Premium Paste Wax
Apply by hand or polisher
Dries faster than liquid wax
Removal requires elbow grease
Not for use on non-painted surfaces
Paste wax, such as Meguair’s Gold Class Carnauba Plus, is a dependable method of restoring shine and luster to cars of all colors. The 11-ounce container contains a foam applicator, making it easier to apply a thin, consistent coat. Unlike quick detailers, you need to let the wax dry to a hazy appearance before buffing it with a microfiber or terry towel. (You need to exert some light effort to thoroughly remove the dried wax.) You should apply this product only to painted surfaces, so be careful to avoid rubber, trim, and mirrors.
Like other carnauba-based wax formulas, this paste wax from Meguiar’s delivers high-shine results and shields your vehicle from bird droppings, tree sap, and precipitation. You can expect a month or more of protection; less in hot, humid locations.
Price at time of publish: $15
Type: Paste | Size: 11 ounces | Main Ingredients: Carnauba wax and polymers | Protection Length: Not applicable | Applicator Included: Yes
Best for Dark-Colored Vehicles
Meguiar's Black Wax Automobile Wax 7 oz.
Enhances gloss and depth
Less noticeable on dark paint
Not for matte, satin, or flat finishes
Easier to remove once totally dry
Without proper car care and maintenance, dark-colored vehicles might begin to take on a faded appearance rather than a shiny, lustrous look. However, white car wax formulas can leave behind obvious, chalky appearances. For this reason, we recommend the Perfect Wax for Black Cars from Meguiar’s. This paste wax is tinted to be dark gray. Any wax left behind in crevices or joints is much less noticeable than the white or yellow appearance of general-purpose car wax formulas.
The tinted formula is this Meguiar’s wax best attribute, but not the only one. Its deep shine makes black, navy, or other dark paint colors glisten. The paste wax is easy to apply from a tube, using the included applicator. For best use, apply it to the entire vehicle, wait for it to dry, then buff it off using a microfiber or terry towel.
Price at time of publish: $7
Type: Paste | Size: 7 ounces | Main Ingredients: Synthetic polymers | Protection Length: Not applicable | Applicator Included: Yes
Best Carnauba Wax
Griot's Garage 11029 Premium Carnauba Paste Wax
5- to 10-minute cure time
Can last up to 9 months
No UV protection
Not for rubber or textured surfaces
One of the most popular types of car waxes for shine is formulated with carnauba, harvested from a palm tree common to Brazil. The wax coats the palm tree fronds, sealing in moisture. When applied to a vehicle, carnauba’s moisture barrier repels precipitation. You can choose from many different carnauba car waxes. But the Premium Carnauba Paste Wax from Griot’s Garage is our pick, for its high-grade formula, renowned for its shine and water-repellent properties.
However, this product doesn’t offer UV protection for paint, as you find in some polymer-carnauba car wax blends. It also lacks an included applicator, but you can apply it by hand using a foam applicator or with a machine.
Price at time of publish: $42
Type: Paste | Size: 12 ounces | Main Ingredients: Carnauba | Protection Length: 6 to 9 months | Applicator Included: No
Best Quick Wax
Turtle Wax Quick & Easy Wax & Dry Spray Wax 26 fl oz
Can apply to wet surfaces
Reduced drying time
OK for trim and tires
May leave a film on unclean surface
We recommend Turtle Wax 1-Step Wax and Dry for a quick wax to streamline your car care routine. Instead of conventional car waxes that require you to allow them to dry before buffing, this product is designed to be sprayed and wiped in quick succession. It’s also advantageous to vehicle owners in hot, humid climates or those who may not have a garage.
Instead of waiting for ideal conditions, you need only apply this quick wax to a freshly, washed wet vehicle to protect the paint while reducing drying time as you towel-dry your vehicle. Expect to reapply this product with some regularity; however, the 26-ounce bottle provides for multiple applications.
Price at time of publish: $13
Type: Spray | Size: 26 ounces | Main Ingredients: Carnauba wax blend | Protection Length: Not applicable | Applicator Included: No
Best to Fix Scratches
3D Speed Car Scratch Remover Polish & Wax
Apply by hand or machine
Removes scratches and water spots
Less shine than other waxes
If light scratches or water spots are keeping your car from looking its best, 3D Speed Car Scratch Remover Polish & Wax is a one-stop solution. It does the work of three products: a compound, polish, and wax. While some polishes require you to use an orbital machine to apply them, you can apply this formula by hand, if you choose.
Using a proprietary formula of abrasives, this product reduces or removes imperfections in vehicle paint, including scratches, swirls, and oxidation. Polishing agents within the formula enhance shine, while a protective coating seals the paint. You also can use this product on glass and plastic. It doesn’t impart the same high-gloss shine as some leading car waxes, but it’s an excellent step in reducing visible imperfections while protecting the exterior from further damage.
Price at time of publish: $24
Type: Liquid | Size: 16 ounces | Main Ingredients: Montan wax | Protection Length: Not applicable | Applicator included: No
Optimum Car Wax
Some people use multiple products to polish and seal their cars, but with Optimum Car Wax, you can do both at once. This smooth, shiny wax has an essential built-in sealant, which protects a vehicle’s exterior paint. With a little buffing, you can polish and evenly coat your car’s exterior with a durable all-weather sealant. It also repels water and protects the paint from sun damage, dirt, and pollutants.
Optimum Car Wax comes in a convenient spray bottle, so applying it is a breeze. Plus, one spritz goes a long way—you can easily coat your hood, trunk, or doors with just a few sprays. And creating a lustrous shine doesn’t require very much elbow grease.
Price at time of publish: $53
Best for Light-Colored Vehicles
Collinite No. 476S Super Double Coat Auto Wax
Useful for winter
Requires elbow grease
Dirt, mud, and dust tend to be much more visible on white cars than on vehicles with darker paint. If you’re annoyed with every tiny speck showing up on your car, consider No. 476S Super Double Coat Auto Wax from Collinite. The thick, pasty, hand-poured wax comes in a round, retro-style container, and you only need a small amount to coat an entire car. While it’s easy to wipe off, this durable, detergent-proof product lasts up to nine months and holds up under frequent car washes.
As a hybrid polish, it contains synthetic ingredients and a high concentration of Brazilian carnauba wax. The smooth, reflective finish makes it ideal for white cars. Aside from white vehicles, non-abrasive Collinite Auto Wax is suitable for buffing virtually any color of exterior paint, as well as bumpers and exhaust shields. If you usually park outside, you can count on the highly protective barrier to defend your car from various outdoor elements.
Price at time of publish: $21
Type: Paste | Size: 10 ounces | Ingredients: Carnauba oil/polymer blend | Applicator included: No
Adam's Polishes Buttery Car Wax
Easy on, easy off
May be hard to remove
When it comes to liquid formulas, Adam’s Polishes Buttery Car Wax outshines the competition. This polish is infused with carnauba wax and advanced synthetic polymers to provide up to three months of environmental protection. It comes in a bottle and squeezes out through a small nozzle, which makes the creamy liquid easy to use. The thick consistency makes for a smooth, buttery application without any residue.
But what really makes this wax stand out is that, unlike many car polishes, you can use it in both hot or cold climates. No matter the season or temperature outside, you're left with a sleek coat that effectively masks any paint imperfections.
Price at time of publish: $22
Type: Liquid | Size: 16 ounces | Ingredients: Carnauba flakes, polymers | Applicator included: No
CarGuys Premium Series Hybrid Wax is our top pick thanks to its ability to both protect paint well and enhance shine. It also provides UV protection and can last 3 to 6 months. Those looking for a more affordable option should try Nu-Finish NF-76 Liquid Car Polish. It offers all-weather protection and can be applied in direct sunlight.
What to Look For in a Car Wax
The best car waxes keep all sorts of gunk from marring your vehicle's finish. But each product may have different ways to apply it. You apply some waxes by hand, with a rag or buffer; others simply spray on; and others may require special tools to get the best results. All applications should begin with a clean surface, however.
Waxes typically consist of synthetic polymers, carnauba wax, or a mixture of the two. Carnauba wax is derived from the fronds of the carnauba palm tree, which grows in Brazil. The oil protects the fronds from drying out. Carnauba oil makes a product easier to apply but may not be as long lasting, Synthetic materials can prolong the product's protection time.
What is the most user-friendly car wax?
Products that contain more carnauba wax are often easier to apply. Consider a quick, one-step product, such as Turtle Wax Quick & East Wax & Dry Spray Wax, which you can apply while the vehicle is still wet.
What is the most affordable car wax?
This is one case where you truly get what you pay for. Products with base ingredients only may not last as long as more expensive formulas.
When is it best to use a car wax?
Car wax performs best in moderate temperatures; apply wax after washing and drying your car when the outside temperature is 60 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. On warmer days, apply wax in the shade. On cooler days, wax the car inside a garage.
Is it cheaper to wax your own car or hire someone to do it at a car wash?
A professional wax job can cost upwards of $100 if it's done by a vehicle detailer. Purchasing your own wax sets you back only about $15 to $30, and the package should be good for several more jobs. Of course, you have to do the work yourself, and some waxes require more elbow grease than others.
Why Trust The Spruce?
This article was written by Erica Puisis, a home and lifestyle writer who has been researching the latest products for indoor and outdoor living for The Spruce since 2017. To find the best car wax options, she considered spray, paste, and liquid formulas. Each product was compared based on its ease of application, length of protection, and overall performance and shine. Her personal experience with car wax products along with customer reviews also factored into the research process.
For additional insight, Puisis spoke with Igor Pomishchyk, owner of EcoStates Elite Car Detail in New York. As a detailer with experience, Pomishchyk spoke about the best ingredients to look for in a car wax, the advantages of various formula types, and whether or not car wax removes scratches.