Car Wax vs. Polish – Which Is Best?

Are car wax and car polish the same thing? No, they aren't. Here's a guide to help you decide if you need car wax or car polish for your car.

There is something special about driving a freshly polished or waxed car. Even if you don’t share that feeling, at least know that your car will be grateful.

But wait, are car wax and polish the same thing?

No, they are not.

Although many people use these two terms interchangeably, in a sense, they are actually the opposite of each other.

In short, polish removes a thin layer of the paintwork or, more precisely, the top clear coat. On the other hand, wax adds an extra protective layer.

This raises an important question: is it better to wax or polish your car? The answer is both! You should be warned, however, that waxing and polishing a car incorrectly can do more harm than good.

Don’t worry, this guide will teach you everything you need to know about car wax and polish.

By the end of this guide, you will have the necessary knowledge to have the best-looking paintwork in your neighborhood unless your neighbor also reads it.

We will first look at each treatment individually and then discuss which one is best for your car and cleaning habits.

Let’s get started by explaining what car wax is!

Table of ContentsShow

What Is Car Wax?

car wax

A good car wax contains a special wax found in Brazil called Carnauba Wax. It is taken from the leaves of the carnauba palm and gives a characteristic shine to your car’s paintwork.

Other types of wax are also used but to a much lesser extent, particularly in the car industry, where the shine it gives is highly regarded.

The role of car wax is to protect the paintwork by adding an extra layer of protection. It also provides a characteristic high gloss finish.

Depending on how strict your definition of wax is, there is also a fully synthetic type of wax commonly known as car sealant.

Car sealants serve the same purpose as car wax, but they differ when it comes to their finish, longevity, and a few other things.

Take a look at our guide “Car Sealant vs. Wax – Which Is Best?“, to find out more about car sealant and wax.  

What Is Car Polish?

using polishing machine on car

Car polish is an abrasive liquid that smooths the paintwork’s surface, which also removes superficial scratches and debris.

It may sound counterproductive to use an abrasive liquid on your car. While it is true that improper polishing can damage the paintwork, there is no significant risk if you know what you are doing.

To make your car look as good as possible, you will need to polish it, but only when necessary.

In general, it is not recommended to polish the car more than once a year. Polishing should only be done when there is a particular need for it (dull paint, visible swirls, scratches, etc.).

Polishing the car will address previous damage done to the paintwork, usually caused by oxidation, scratches, or debris from the environment.

To properly polish your car, ensure that you use the correct technique to avoid damaging the paintwork and achieve the best possible results.

If you are unsure about the technique, wikiHow offers a great explanation of how to polish your car. If you prefer learning by watching, you can also see how polishing a car should look.

The Best Choice For Your Car

car wax application

Polishing a car is not always necessary, especially if the last polish was less than a year ago. In contrast, you should wax your car every few weeks, depending on the wax used.

The reason why you should wax your car every few weeks is that the layer added by the wax only holds for that period. This does not apply to sealants, as they can last for months.

You should consider polishing your car if your car has visible scratches, debris that is hard to remove, or similar problems.

However, as previously stated, you should not polish it more than once a year.

Should I Wax Or Polish?

Car Sealant vs. Wax – Which Is Best

You should do both!

In truth, the question shouldn’t be, “Is car wax or polish better?” The real question is, “When should you apply car wax and polish?”

Wax and polish are complementary to each other. Waxing your car after a polish will provide a great finish and protection for your car.

Keep in mind that you should never polish after applying wax but should do the opposite. Also, waxing can be done every few weeks, while polishing should not be done more than once a year.

If you polish the car yourself, be sure to practice proper technique and remember that less is more in most cases when it comes to polishing and waxing.

To summarize, just remember that polishing removes bad stuff from your paint job, while waxing protects the good stuff.

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Bajro Muric

Bajro is an ASE-certified master technician and car enthusiast with a love for writing and teaching. He writes about anything regarding cars, from common problems and fixes to racing.