There are many products to choose from when it comes to automotive clear coats, making it difficult to know where to start. Our buying guide for the best clear coats for cars covers some of the top-rated products in the industry, as well as what separates high-quality clear coats from low-quality ones.
High-quality clear coats typically protect your car’s painted surfaces from abrasion and corrosion, while low-quality clear coats may not be UV-resistant, which may later cause flaking.
The formulation of all paints – whether for the walls in your home or for the exterior of your car – consist of pigments, binders, solvents, and additives. Some clear coats require a paint brush, while some come ready to go in an aerosol can. Regardless of the makeup or application process, our team has formulated a list of our top five clear coats for cars.
Clear Coats For Cars Buyers Guide
Before rushing to buy a clear coat for your car, consider how the factors below may affect the application process or the finished product after application.
Level Of Activator
- Slow: Designed for painting in conditions of 80 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, using this level of activator on too cool of a day can cause imperfections in the paint.
- Medium: Widely considered to be the best all-around activator, this product is designed to be used in the temperature range of 70 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Fast: Designed for temperatures of 70 degrees Fahrenheit or cooler, this level of activator speeds up the flash time to allow for additional coats of paint.
High-Solid Clear Coat
High-solid clear coats have a higher concentration of resin and a smaller amount of solvent compared to lower-solid clear coats. The higher-solid clear coats are thicker and generally have more UV protection with a deeper appearance. Low-solid clear coats flow better than high-solids and offer a thinner clear.
Neither high-solid nor low-solid clear coats are the “right” or “wrong” choice when looking to buy a clear coat for your car. However, the finished product after application drastically varies between the two. We recommend knowing what you want out of your clear coat prior to purchasing.
Purchasing an adhesion promoter is something that you should consider when looking to purchase a clear coat for your car. Adhesion promoters increase adhesive strength between the coating of paint and the substrate. A substrate is the surface of which you are painting on. Adhesion is one of the important properties of decorative and protective coatings alike.
Clear Coat Vs. Ceramic Coatings
Both clear coats and ceramic coatings perform similar functions by protecting a vehicle’s base paint and adding shine. One main difference is that ceramic coatings typically enhance the gloss of a vehicle to the point where waxing is unnecessary. It also creates a hydrophobic surface, which means water will just bead off areas of the car that have been treated with the coating.
By comparison, a clear coat does a better job of absorbing small chips and scratches caused by road debris. Some clear coats also have self-healing properties. This means that over time light scratches will disappear or lessen, depending on the vehicle’s finish.
5 Best Clear Coats For Cars
- Best Sheen: Sherwin Williams Finish 1 FC720
- Best Spray Paint: USC Spray Max 2K High Gloss Clearcoat Aerosol
- Best Acrylic Paint: Speedokote SMR-130
- Most Versatile: KBS Coatings 8304 DiamondFinish Clear Coat
- Best Value: Dupli-Color BCL0125
Best Clear Coats Comparison Chart
Sherwin Williams Finish 1 FC720
1.0 gallon clear coat, 32.0 fluid ounces hardener
USC Spray Max 2K High Gloss Clearcoat Aerosol
1.0 gallon clear coat, 32.0 ounces activator
KBS Coatings 8304 DiamondFinish Clear Coat
16.0 fl. oz.
Our Review Standards
To select the clear coats featured in this buyers guide, we consult our network of experts for their thoughts on clear coats. These experts have over 100 years of combined experience in aftermarket auto fields ranging from detailing to accessories to tires, and everything in-between. These experts helped us identify the qualities that would be most important to someone looking for a clear coat and the standout brands in each category.
Our team then combed through dozens of resources such as DIY mechanic and auto enthusiast forums, manufacturer and clear coat-specific websites, instruction manuals from manufacturers, and reviews from online retailers. We pay particularly close attention to quality reviews and recommendations that highlight the quality of warranties, customer service support, build quality, materials, and overall reliability.
We also factored in the quantity and quality of online retailer reviews from websites such as Amazon, RealTruck, Advance Auto Parts, and more. We looked at factors such as notable customer reviews, prices, meaningful superlatives, and discount shipping eligibility. We did the research so you don’t have to.
Why You Can Trust Us
Since 2020, we have published over 200 auto product reviews in an effort to make shopping for auto products easier. Our team of writers, editors, researchers, and product experts collaborates to thoroughly vet top products. We try to perform in-house testing on real vehicles whenever possible before making our recommendations.
When testing is not feasible, however, our aim is to make your life easier by doing all the online research for you and presenting that research in the form of easy-to-read product comparisons and buyers guides, rather than outright recommendations. For more information on our testing methodology and how we evaluate every product, check out our methodology page here.
#1 Best Sheen: Sherwin Williams Finish 1 FC720
Designed for spot and multi-panel repairs, Sherwin Williams Finish 1 FC720 is a 4.29 VOC high solids, acrylic urethane-based clear coat.
This product separates itself from the competition through its excellent blending and buffing characteristics, as well as the stellar glossy finish it leaves on your vehicle. Finish 1 FC720 is a medium activator, meaning it will work in most climates.
- Cost: About $95
- Effective when applied in various climates
What Customers Are Saying
Amazon Review Score: 4.7 out of 5 based on over 1,000 ratings
A whopping 85 percent of reviewers rate Sherwin Williams Finish 1 FC720 5 out of 5 stars. Reviewers note the ease of application, high gloss finish, and lack of yellowing tint once applied. One reviewer mentioned getting good results from using a spray gun, while another reviewer was impressed with the fast drying of the clear coat paint.
#2 Best Spray Paint: USC Spray Max 2K High Gloss Clearcoat Aerosol
The USC Spray Max 2K High Gloss Clearcoat Aerosol offers professional quality at an affordable price. This is a two-component aerosol spray that’s easy to apply and dries with a long-lasting, high-quality finish, which places it among our picks of best clear coat spray paint for cars.
The 2K High Gloss Clearcoat Aerosol differentiates itself from its competitors through its unique nozzle design. While many clear coats require a paintbrush for application, this clear coat offers spray gun-like results after you activate, shake, and spray the product.
- Cost: About $40
- Unique nozzle design
What Customers Are Saying
Amazon Review Score: 4.7 out of 5 based on over 6,100 ratings
Customers mention user error or not leaving enough drying time to likely be the reason that this clear coat sometimes leaves a matte finish or doesn’t harden fully. Other reviewers specifically mention a learning curve being involved with using an aerosol can, while one reviewer notes that this is the best clear coat for touch-ups that he’s used. A total of 81 percent of reviewers rate the USC Spray Max 2K High Gloss Clearcoat Aerosol a perfect 5 stars.
#3 Best Acrylic Paint: Speedokote SMR-130
The Speedokote SMR-130 is an acrylic urethane-based clear coat with a fast drying time and quick cure time. This clear coat was specifically designed for automotive repairs and is a great product for easy buffing of your car’s paint job. Speedokote SMR-130 is both UV-resistant and chemical-resistant, while the finish is high gloss with a high distinctness of image (DOI).
Our review team recognized the Speedokote SMR-130 as the Best Acrylic Paint out of the myriad of clear coats for cars that we researched. Any acrylic urethane paint will be great to use on a car, especially the Speedokote SMR-130, as this type of paint holds characteristics of both enamel and lacquer paints. This means that it will be easy to apply like lacquer, but will also be long-lasting like enamel.
- Cost: About $110
- Acrylic urethane-based paint
What Customers Are Saying
Amazon Review Score: 4.6 out of 5 based on over 300 ratings
One reviewer mentions how the SMR-130 left their vehicle with a show quality shine, while another asserted that they were an experienced painter and that this clear coat is comparable to the most expensive of products. Over three-quarters of reviewers rate the Speedokote SMR-130 5 out of 5 stars. Overall, reviewers are happy with the Speedokote clear coat and especially pleased with the price.
#4 Most Versatile: KBS Coatings 8304 DiamondFinish Clear Coat
Featuring a single-part formula that’s tougher and harder than two-part clear coats, KBS Coatings 8304 DiamondFinish Clear Coat is an excellent choice of clear coat for cars. This product can be applied directly to metal (or over other coatings) and doesn’t require any additives. It is not only UV-resistant but also non-toxic and chip-resistant.
The DiamondFinish Clear Coat is unique in the automotive clear coat industry, as it can be used on a variety of other surfaces, rather than solely on a vehicle. It is also exceptionally durable and shouldn’t crack, peel, or turn yellow over time.
- Cost: About $45
- Extremely durable
What Customers Are Saying
Amazon Review Score: 4.4 out of 5 based on over 1,700 ratings
The KBS Coatings 8304 DiamondFinish Clear Coat has glowing customer reviews on Amazon. Our team found that 72 percent of reviewers rate the product 5 stars.
Customer reviews highlight the quality of the clear coat and how the product works as advertised. However, it should be noted that negative reviews mention difficulty opening the can. Whether using a screwdriver, can opener, or even vice grips, a surprising amount of customers simply cannot get the paint can to open.
#5 Best Value: Dupli-Color BCL0125
An acrylic lacquer-based paint, Dupli-Color BCL0125 is ideal for large touch-ups and painting vehicle accessories. The product is easy to apply, quick to dry, high-quality, and regarded as a premium automotive paint. Whether you choose to match this clear coat to a Dupli-Color Perfect Match paint or not, Dupli-Color BCL0125 can be used over any factory-applied finish.
This clear coat for cars features an EZ Touch 360-degree nozzle specially designed for smooth and even coats with its wide spray pattern. The spray pattern and unique nozzle design are the most notable differences between Dupli-Color BCL0125 and the competition. It also comes in at a price that simply can’t be beaten by any other competitor on the market.
- Cost: About $15
- EZ Touch 360-degree nozzle
- Wide spray pattern
What Customers Are Saying
Amazon Review Score: 4.3 out of 5 based on over 36,000 ratings
Ranked as the number one bestseller in Amazon’s Automotive Touchup Paint category, the Dupli-Color BCL0125 boasts a total of 67 percent of reviewers rating this clear coat for cars 5 out of 5 stars.
Many customer reviews rave over the clear coat’s showroom-like shine and note the easy application. However, some of the negative reviews describe the Dupli-Color BCL0125 spitting and sputtering paint, leaving an uneven finish on their vehicle.
Bottom Line: Clear Coats For Cars
Clear coats are one of the best ways to maintain auto paint – every automaker applies one to a vehicle before sending it out to dealerships. Restoring or adding one yourself is possible, although the type of clear coat you apply impacts drying time and the durability of the final product.
Clear Coats For Cars: FAQ
*Data accurate at time of publication.