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PPF is a waste of money

Is Paint Protection Film a waste of money? I think so, and I'll explain why with a few recent used M3 examples.


This week, I may trigger you. The question is about Paint Protection Film (PPF). Do we really need it?

Email me your questions!


bmw 335i
My old 335 had plenty of chips from being highway driven 100 miles each day. It did not affect the resale value of the car.

I just bought an 2019 M5 in black sapphire metallic. This is not my daily driver. I know I need to do paint correction and ceramic coating, but I’m on the fence with the PPF. I have PPF on our other cars but they were done a number of years ago and the cost didn’t seem that out of line. I’m pretty surprised how expensive PPF is today and I’m only considering the front bumper and partial hood.

Does your recommendation change if you’re talking about a black car?  I plan to keep this one for a very long time.

– Rick


To install PPF properly, you must remove badging.

I’ve already sort of answered this question. But let’s approach it from a cost perspective this time.

Each Sunday morning, I get an email from Cars & Bids on what sold for what price the prior week, and Rick’s email came in at the same time.

Here’s a G80 that caught my eye. It sold for $70,196. The seller notes the car has “$4K in tint, PPF and ceramic coating”. The images seem to make it look like a “track pack” or PPF on the impact areas of the car such as the nose, mirrors and A pillars. So call it $3,000 for this PPF install.

Paint Protection Film is expensive

I’ve seen more bad installs than good ones. Phil from Detailer’s Domain makes sure to remove parts to ensure proper PPF fitment.

I’ve been quoted over $5,000 to PPF my entire car, which I feel is the correct way to do it so you don’t have any seams. It’s a labor-intensive job, so I am not questioning the price for an installation. A track pack is around $3,000, which seems to jibe with that purple G80.

With all this information, we can now take a look at that selling price. I know the wheels are 18s, and the red trim is tacky, but it has just under 5,000 miles on it and it is an Individual color. It’s hard to find a direct comparison, but here’s another stick that sold for $78,000, again with Paint Protection Film applied. Thank the CCBs and wheels for the price disparity.

PPF is not easy to install.

Here’s another manual without any PPF, listed for $74,990. Now this one has had four owners and they spelled Brooklyn Gray (sic) wrong, but they don’t list any film applied, usually an additional selling point. Even if it does have PPF, it’s not listed, and they aren’t going to discount the car $5,000 for you. (Deep breath), and even if they did discount it that much, that’s still $70,000, for an M3 with more mileage on it than the purple one.

I could point out a dozen more examples like this.

There is none, zero, nil financial benefit to installing Paint Protection Film on these cars.

If done properly, you won’t even notice it.

What about rock chips?

As sure as the sun rises, rock chips will come for your M5 Rick. I have a few on my car. Ironically, I feel as if they mostly come from Sunday morning drives with all of you – being stuck behind an M car with sticky tires tends to kick up a lot of stuff.

They are a nuisance, and it’s the entire point of applying Paint Protection Film. But what happens when a rock does hit PPF?

A rock mark that’s cut into the Paint Protection Film. Photo: Cars & Bids

You get a mark that looks like a rock chip. This panel will have to be redone, adding more expense.

Meet me at the body shop

M3 nose
If you have a shop you trust, repainting isn’t an issue.

I’ve been going to the same one for years, so I trust them. As part of my research, I asked how much they would charge to respray my bumper and blend the hood. $650 was the response.

Blending means that they “blend” the current color of your car, which fades from the elements over time, so it’s a seamless look. It doesn’t take a genius to see how many resprays it would take to catch up to the cost of a PPF application.

Some people can be turned off if paint isn’t original, but there’s no difference between the factory and the body shop, aside from more depth once it’s painted in a booth. If we’re talking about a Ferrari F40, the rules will be different. But for an M car, one of thousands, your resale shouldn’t be hurt at all.

Are black cars more susceptible?

Black paint is a chore.

Technically, no. Black paint isn’t prone to swirls or chips any more than another car. We tend to see imperfections more in darker cars because the clear coat turns “white” where the mark is.

It’s important to properly wash your car, never take it to an automatic car wash, and apply some sort of protection on it, even if it’s just basic wax.

Speaking of, applying wax will hide many of those imperfections because they fill in all the tiny little grooves left behind from swirl marks. It’s a temporary fix but will work for a car show display.

Finally, it’s okay to correct your paint if needed. You don’t need to do it every time you wash your car, but like medicine, do it on as as-needed basis.

If the rock chips will keep you up at night Rick, then spend the money and get PPF applied – it won’t hurt the car at all. Just don’t expect it to protect your financial investment any more than a car without one.

Want your car reviewed?

If you live in the tri-state area and want me to check it out, send me an email! 

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