If you’re the kind of person who loves a clean and shiny car, you should consider adding a high-quality car wax to your car’s wash routine. Car wax is capable of smoothing your paint surface, hiding light scratches and making your car pop after a wash. Even the best car wax won’t protect your car from deep scratches or dents, but it can help protect and maintain your vehicle’s finish over a long period of time. If you wash your own car, you probably already know all about the benefits of waxing. But which wax performs and protects your vehicle the best?
Because there’s such a wide variety of car wax products available online and in stores, here at CNET Cars we sorted through many of the most popular options on sale today. Though we considered many different car waxes of all kinds, only 10 make this list to earn a best car wax accolade in our eyes. A handful of factors factored into our judgment, including price and final results, which is based on our own experience.
We included paste wax, liquid wax, carnauba wax and even a spray car wax, so if you have a texture preference, we’ve got you covered. You also won’t find any car polish or car wax here that costs hundreds of dollars. They exist, but they don’t turn your vehicle’s paint into gold or anything and are just not worth it.
5 waxing tips before you get started
Read the labels: Some waxes require time to let the product haze, others do not. Make sure to read instructions to achieve the best results. Your car’s paint job will thank you.
Make sure you use it correctly: Always make sure there’s plenty of shade in the area before waxing a car’s paint. Direct sunlight and these products don’t mix well.
Circles are a no-no: It may feel right to apply wax in a circular motion, but the best car waxing method is to apply the product to a clear coat in a back-and-forth motion. This is true whether you use a machine, or a good ol’ fashioned hand applicator or microfiber cloth.
Look into a clay bar kit: Modern cars feature a clear coat for a variety of reasons. Though it’s a personal preference, skip a cleaner wax and look into a clay bar or clay mitt kit to remove contaminants from paint before waxing. The results will speak for themselves.
Don’t expect wax to fix every scratch: Yes, a clear coat of wax will certainly fill in light scratches and help protect the paintwork, but don’t have high expectations that it will fix every scratch visible. We’ll get into something that will help tougher paint job problems below.
Read on to see our picks for the best car waxes to keep your car’s paintwork looking sharp and shiny, which we’ll update periodically.
Affordable and provides wonderful final results. Chemical Guys sells a wide assortment of waxes, but the Butter Wet Wax is a tried-and-true performer every time. The formula applies easily and wipes off with little effort — and it’s totally OK to wax a freshly washed car with Butter Wet Wax while it’s wet. Then, you can check two things off at once as you dry the car and buff the wax off at the same time. For beginners or experienced car detailers, Butter Wet Wax won’t let you down.
Best overall car wax details
|Butter Wet Wax
|4 ounces to 1 gallon
A staple in auto parts stores and really any place that sells car wax, Meguiar’s Deep Crystal Carnauba Wax is a solid all-rounder that’s easy to use, just like our best overall wax pick. Application and removal with a microfiber towel is simple and the final result leaves your car finish with depth and a slick paint job. It’s not as versatile as Butter Wet Wax, but this Meguiar’s wax won’t let you down, either.
For those who want to make their detailing more old-school, nothing beats a tin of carnauba paste car wax, a hand applicator and elbow grease. Sure, machine application makes things quicker, but waxing can be a time to bond with your car and appreciate it. For the price and overall quality, Griot’s Garage Premium Carnauba Paste Wax hits all the high notes with a simple application and a rich carnauba formula. Just be sure to have a clean foam applicator handy and Griot’s will do its job. Seriously, Griot’s will make a car’s paint job look like glass when you’re done.
For those who want to splurge a little more, Chemical Guys’ Lava Luminous Glow Infusion paste wax is a downright tremendous formula. It’s still a carnauba wax and comes in a paste form like our top carnauba pick and it applies as if you’re greasing a baking sheet. After hazing, Lava comes off paint really easily with a microfiber cloth, too, and a little goes a long way here. While it doesn’t last as long as our top pick, it’s a perfect car wax for those who like to spend more time with their car and have the budget to do so.
OK, this isn’t technically a car wax. It’s a car polish. But for those who want probably the easiest product to apply in liquid form, Liquid Glass Ultimate Auto Polish is a hands-down home run. Don’t let its outdated tin look fool you, Liquid Glass is the real deal with a single coat providing super long-lasting paint protection and a finish that will have neighbors envious. This car polish is perfectly fine for clear coats and protects against the elements, too. Though the price is a tad high, a tin of this stuff will last a very, very long time.
For those that want to stick with a proper liquid wax, and spend a little less in the process, it’s tough to beat Meguiar’s Ultimate Liquid Wax. The synthetic car wax blend bonds well with paint, it’s safe to use on clear coats and it produces a healthy depth. Like its carnauba wax option, Meguiar’s Ultimate Liquid Wax is an excellent all-around option.
Car-cleaning aficionados used to largely give spray wax the cold shoulder, but in recent years, companies have made extraordinary advances to turn them into serious products. Often, spray wax can provide a lot of the protection with less of the hassle. Turtle Wax’s Ice Synthetic Spray Wax does it best when it comes to affordability, ease of use and final results. It will even clean exterior windows and leave them looking quite nice, too, and it’s not the end of the world if applied in the sunlight.
The word wax isn’t in the name, but trust us, this is a spray detailer that’s worth it. No fancy name, no nonsense. Adam’s Detail Spray creates an incredibly slick surface and boosts a car’s paint sheen. Though it’s a couple dollars more than our top pick, it’s incredibly versatile and can be used to prime buffer pads, applied as a drying agent or even to boost a traditional wax job.
Best spray car wax runner-up details
|Synthetic spray wax
|16 ounces to 5 gallons
Remember how we said earlier we’d talk more about how waxes aren’t meant to fix the worst scratches in a paint finish? We decided to include a product that will fix scratches for this category, and it doesn’t get better than 3D One Professional Cutting, Polishing and Finishing Compound. In short, this miracle worker does three big steps in one, but it is not a wax. After using this, then apply a wax to finish things off.
This product isn’t the best for those looking for a quick fix to paintwork because it will require patience (and a dual-action polisher) if you plan to do an entire car. But for those in it to win it, 3D’s incredibly flexible product can’t be beat.
The secret behind Meguiar’s Black Wax is the fact its formula is supposed to actually polish and wax at the same time, and it shows when applied to a black car or other dark-colored vehicle. The cream consistency of this colored wax is a little strange to use at first, but the product covers very well and helps fill in swirl marks and other blemishes. Oh, and if you don’t have a dark-colored car, it does make one specifically for white or other light-colored paint finishes, too. No matter which, it’s a top-notch wax.
Best car wax for black cars details
|Synthetic cream wax
How about something for after the wax is off the car, for some added protection and shine? P&S Bead Maker Paint Protectant is just the thing. Bead Maker is effortlessly easy to apply and wipe off and it leaves a wildly satisfying soft finish after use. As the name implies, it’ll sheet water off a clear coat like it’s no one’s business and make a freshly waxed car look even better after curing for a few hours.
For a CNET Cars-approved shine
It’s worth keeping in mind that these are simply our picks for the best car waxes. Everyone may have a different opinion and find another car wax product works best for them and their car. Yet after having a lot of products in and out of the CNET garage, we think these will help keep your car’s exterior shiny for years to come. Happy car cleaning!
Car wax FAQs
Which is better, car wax or polish?
Car wax and polish are separate products. Polish is something to use after using a corrective compound on your car. Wax is a final-step product to protect the car paint. If you’re just looking to protect and shine your car, wax is the way to go. If you want to get more in-depth, check out our lists of the best car polishes and best car scratch removers.
Is liquid or paste car wax better?
It comes down to personal preference on liquid versus paste car wax. Neither is necessarily better, because each can feature different formulas. If you like applying your wax by hand, however, paste is the best choice since it’s not possible to use a machine effectively with it.
What car wax do professional detailers use?
Professionals, like everyone, have their own preferences. There’s no go-to product for the pros. Instead, take the time to find what wax works best for you and your car!
More car recommendations