Considering a dealership paint sealant / paint protection?
So you're there at the dealership, in the finance department. You're in the final stages of paperwork to close the deal on your new ride, and you're ready to drive it home, BUT the finance manager starts pitching you this "lifetime" sealant. They say it lasts longer than the car itself, and that you will never have to wax your car again. It makes dirt fall off - water can't stick - no more water spots or scratches or headaches.
It sounds too good to be true: At just around a thousand bucks, or a tad extra each month on top of the car note. They say it is warrantied for 5 or so years, and that they'll repair any damage that the car cosmetically collects within those 5 or so years. Any problems that occur, they will be solved (even to the point of replacing panels on the car).
But wait, are these "lifetime" paint sealers really what they claim to be? (good enough to protect aircraft???)
The reality of a dealership-sold sealant
If this thing they sold was about as ethical as the dealership itself (where you get manhandled with slick talking and questionable service bills), then it's likely that these paint sealants are a bit of a sham. Well, to be honest, and from experience, the sealants they put on these new cars, are not that bad - but surely will NOT get the claimed protection. The problem with their whole pitch is that they over-sell the product. What you essentially get installed, is a synthetic paint sealant, that will last for a few months, then need to be reapplied to get the same effects (The effects are not as good as a ceramic coating unfortunately).
Will this paint sealant protect against rock chips, water spots, and scratches? Well... probably not. But you do get a warranty that, after filing a claim, DOES get taken care of. If there is tree sap that gets stuck on the paint, the company usually takes care of it. If water spots end up on your ride, then these too, will usually get taken care of. If you have a discerning eye for swirl marks and micro scratches (that are bound to happen), the sealant companies may also get these "removed." All that to say, that the warranty that covers your car when applying the "lifelong" sealant, is a solid one. (Albeit most of the "repairs" will be taken care of by "detailers" at the dealership, and are usually subject to a regular check up to avoid voiding the warranty.)
Ceramic coating vs Cila Jet, Perma Plate, Xzilon, etc
Is there actual value in these sealants (Cila Jet, Perma Plate, Xzilon, etc.)???
If you are ok with the reality that you are essentially purchasing a warranty, for the dealership to detail your car for free, when you file a claim, then absolutely - this is a perfect solution for you (especially considering that you can just "wrap it up into the financing!") The (small) problem is that these sealants are being sold as something that they simply are not.
They are being masqueraded as what a ceramic coating REALLY is - kind of (Coatings are great, but some of the benefits are also commonly over-hyped). They shed dirt and water, but coatings are better at this. They protect against bird dropping damage and bug damage, but coatings are way better at this. They last a long time, but again, coatings are super way better at this. Scratch protection? That's debatable. But coatings actually do, to some degree, protect against light hand-car-wash-scratches/marring.
Easy qualifiers for bad detailing businesses
Just like anything else in life, there are good auto detail companies and bad ones. We'll help you determine whether you're looking at, and considering a bad detail company.
Bad reviews. Every company, even good ones, get bad reviews from time to time. People have bad days, things get miscommunicated, and sometimes, customers choose a company that is not right for them. However, if a business has MORE bad reviews than good ones, or is trending towards getting bad reviews more frequently, then you may be looking at a bad company. A business with few or no reviews, may not have been in business long enough, or perhaps they are not invested enough, therefore it is hard to determine whether it is worth the risk to try them out.
Bad customer service. You can spot bad customer service over the phone, online or via email, even before using a business to do work for you. If you can sense a bad attitude on the other end of the phone line, or don't get a call or email back, or are not getting the answers to your questions, then it is likely you are experiencing the type of service you would, should you go with that company. If it seems unpleasant, there may be a chance the company is unpleasant to deal with altogether.
Poor online presence. These days, it is very obvious that everybody is online. Businesses that are not online, or have a poor presence online, may not be invested in their business. Getting seen online is very easy, especially for a detailing business - and if said business can't get with the program and continues to operate like in the past, then it is possible that they are also using old or poor techniques or products.
No license and insurance. This is obvious. If a detail company does not have insurance and is not licensed, it is not even legal to be operating. Also, should anything go wrong and your car damaged, then the unlicensed, uninsured business will not likely be able to take care of the problem.
Outdated way of doing things: Rotary polishers and wash brushes
Old equipment, old products, old techniques. It is not necessary to do things the newest way, especially with detailing, as processes and products are seemingly advancing very quickly. However, the reason auto detailing is advancing and moving forward, is the industry is moving away from equipment and products and techniques, that can be more harmful to your car than good. Old equipment, old school products and techniques may be a sign of an outdated business.
Good examples of this include using rotary polishers with wool pads as the main tool to polish paint. Rotary polishers can burn paint in the wrong hands, and are usually used by novices in poor detailing environments, to get the job done quicker. Mostly, rotary polishing work that is not finished down, usually contains ugly buffer marks, commonly called holograms. Now, this is not to say that a rotary polisher has no place in auto detailing, but detailers using a rotary polisher as a main tool are sometimes unqualified to do so.
Another example would be using thin cotton towels that are not soft microfiber. A lot of detailers are no longer using aggressive towels, but they can still easily be found at most full-service, drive through car washes. These towels scratch up paint severely, especially since they are used over and over and supplied by bulk towel services.
Lastly, anyone using a car wash brush to detail your vehicle should know that they are causing a lot of damage to your car's paint. If your detailer uses these in place of a plush wash mitt, in spots on the car that can be reached with a mitt, then it is easy to consider that this detailer is not looking out for your best interest.
The absolutely necessary, bare minimum criteria for choosing a detailer
Here's the thing: we are in America, therefore we all have the freedom to do what we want. We have the freedom of choice, of where we spend our hard-earned cash. Likewise, since we are in America, and more so because we are in California, people have the freedom to start all sorts of businesses - whether they are ethical or legal or legit or not. Many "businesses" can look legit, act legit, and especially have a legit looking presence online (google map listing, yelp listing, facebook, instagram, etc.), but sometimes/many times, looks can be deceiving.
We are proud to say, at Detail Pros, that we are an ethical, legal and legit company. We are licensed and fully insured, and operate within the boundaries set by our insurance (we don't do stuff we can't be covered for). Regardless of how we roll, I believe there are ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY things to consider a detailing company, considerable to buy services from.
Here's a few things to consider:
Is the detail company licensed to do business? While some people could care less about whether their detailer is licensed, it WILL matter when it comes time for that detailer to purchase insurance (more about that in a second), and legally accept payment (to pay taxes).
Is the detail company insured? While again, some people could care less about whether their detailer is insured, it WILL MATTER if and when damage is inflicted on your vehicle. A business that is not licensed nor insured is not likely to be able to pay for major damages to your vehicle, should they occur.
Does the detailer have the right equipment, products, processes, experience, and services? Some companies are not using the right equipment, products and processes, nor do they have experience and offer the right services. Some of the equipment would include: a proper vacuum, a machine polisher and pads, polish and wax, hot water extractors, steamers, etc. The right processes and experience would be hard to discern if you are not a detailer, but you can compare detailers and companies to decipher who is doing things correctly, and who actually has the experience. The right services can be determined by asking your detailer whether what they're offering is necessary or not. The right detailer should be able to explain in detail, what is right for you.
Things that make for a BETTER detailing company
There are things that make for a better detailing company. While not necessary, if a company offers these things, then you may be dealing with a detailer that is doing things right.
Good reviews. If a detail company has many good reviews, testimonials and recommendations, then it is likely that that company has earned that reputation by actually being a good company. While it's possible for a poor detailer to obtain good reviews, eventually, poor detailers pick up more bad reviews than not, and thus posses review ratings closer to 3/5 and less.
Tons of resources to research the company. If a detailer has many detailed images and pictures and videos of their work online, and a website that thoroughly identifies the company and it's good ethics, that company may be a good company. Businesses that have a lot of content to review usually have nothing to hide, and usually have a good understanding of potential customers' needs to do an in-depth analysis, prior to making an actual purchase.
A clean shop or a clean mobile work vehicle. If a detail company has a clean, inviting shop, or a clean mobile detail vehicle, then it is possible that the company is a good company to go with. First impressions are key, so It is practically necessary to maintain a clean appearance.
Good customer service. Now, customer service is experienced after purchasing a service or hiring a company to do work, but most of the time, customer service can be determined as good or bad just by giving the company a call or shooting them an email. If they pick up, is their attitude positive? Can they provide you with all the information you need? If they don't pick up, do they call you back same day, or as soon as possible? Upon emailing, are you getting a quick response? Are you receiving all the information you need?
Good customer service, even prior to making a purchase or hiring a company, is a good sign that you're dealing with a good company that does good work.
Hi! This blog is written by Detail Pros' very own, Ken! I am the owner and detailer at Detail Pros in Yuba City, CA, which is a smallish town between Sacramento, CA and Chico, CA. Thanks for reading!