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Buyer Beware: The Dealership Protection Plan


“Is there any industry standard of what is and is not a coating?!” I asked this question to a key representative of detailing industry.  His response was candidly, “no”.


Waxes, sealants, and coatings are the 3 primary categories of paint protection that enthusiasts and professionals use.  (Carnauba) wax is a natural product, from the earth, with a very short protection life cycle.  The other two categories of products are more of a complex synthetic (chemist creation) formulation.  When it comes to what is a sealant and what is a coating, the lines are blurred considerably and often unethically.  There are no true set guidelines of what defines one or the other.  Unfortunately, that is only the tip of the iceberg of the problem, as the attributes of a ‘coating’ have often been greatly exaggerated at times dishonestly portrayed.

How Is A (TRUE) Coating Different Yet Similar To A Sealant?

I will provide a generic and intuitive (from my perspective) basic distinction between the two (sealant vs. coating).  A true coating is going to offer a significantly thicker layer of protection on your car than a sealant or wax.  But this thicker layer of protection is still microscopic.  It will last significantly longer than a sealant or wax, but will degrade over time like any other form of protection.  This degradation is accelerated with car care neglect.  Although a good quality sealant offers some chemical resistance, this is another category where coatings really stand out.  True ceramic coatings offer relatively superior level of chemical resistance.  They create a RELATIVELY harder barrier, which contributes to your painted surface being easier to clean.  That does not mean your car does not need to be regularly washed properly!  Your car will water spot if you neglect your car; i.e. leaving those cool beads on your car too long.  If you do the SAME things on your coated car that you have done before to get swirls, scratches, and water-spots than you will continue to accumulate the same defects on your paint.  A ceramic coating rewards honest effort and affords us time to be human.  Also a easier to clean car, due to debris NOT STICKING, is the real meaning behind the term (commonly thrown around) ‘scratch resistance’.

This Is Often Not How A Dealership Protection Plan Is Sold To A Consumer

I very recently took a phone call from a nice lady who recently purchased a new car from a dealership.  She informed me about an issue with the dealership protection package that she received as part of her extended warranty deal.  Only within a week of her purchase, the deceitful promises given to her by management had become more obvious to her.  “I have this coating and I was told it was supposed to resist rock chips, paint peeling, bird crap, scratches, scuffs, water spots, and dirt for 7 years.”  She further explained the reason for reaching out to me.  For the second time in a week owning this car there were new hard water spots that she could not get off the vehicle herself.  This was a $1,350 protection plan.  She told me the first time she went back to the dealership to have them removed, a staff member removed the water spots and reapplied the product (that is supposed to last 7 years), all in a few hours.  I told her frankly 90% of what you were told is not true.  I told her this as I was staring at her car that had swirls and deep scratches on every panel of her car.  For the record (like a majority of people), her definition (criteria) of a scratch is not the same as mine.  But I hope at this point you realize that this product is not going to prevent a ‘key scratch’ or rock chips, even if it was a coating.

From my experience; taking an educated guess from the clues left behind:  the car was run through the automatic car wash, dried.  Some very caustic acid was probably sprayed on the car to remove the water spots.  The product, that I will not mention by name, was then reapplied.  Even the company that sells this product, to their credit at least on their website, refers to it as a sealant.


“But I saw a video!  They set the car on fire and it cleaned right up!”  Magicians prefer not to sell their products to true car care professionals.


Ask Yourself These Questions:

  • If the product is really a 5- or 7-year coating why, in the fine print, do I have to come back every SIX months to have it REAPPLIED?
    • Sealants typically have a shelf life of 3 to 6 months depending on how the car is maintained.
    • Even when a professional is applying a product every 6 months or year to a coating, it is either a compatible (silica) spray sealant or topcoat to the existing base coating.
  • Preventing paint flaking off a new car is their biggest selling point for a five year warranty agreement?
    • New cars that have been reasonably neglected, will often experience signs of clear coat failure around the 5-year mark.  I am not encouraging you to neglect your car for the record.  But I want to make you aware that these companies likely know how long a car can hold up with below average UV protection.
  • If these products are so great and allegedly for skilled professional use only, then why are they not sold to PROFESSIONAL DETAILERS or serious enthusiasts?
    • I could not get access to these products, directly from the manufacturer.  I have ‘Do Not Wash’ signs by in my car to make sure staff members who do have access to these products do not touch my car.

    I have conversed with many professional detailers about this problem and how it ultimately affects not only consumers but the reputation of detailing professionals due to the ‘bad apples’.  Some of these professionals have recalled horror stories of dishonest practices at a dealership, while also struggling to sell a quality service to potential customers who have had bad experiences prior.  Discussing among ourselves, we often wonder once these customers sign on the dotted line; how often do they even put the product on the car or anything at all?  and how often does the management find a loophole in the agreement to not honor a warranty claim?  One of our biggest takeaways has been, like many services that fall short on quality, this overall is often a numbers game!  A majority of people will often be apathetic to this experience.  But that also leaves a significant minority of people who will really feel the disappointment of signing off on a bad deal.

    I Do Not Want This To Be Blind Attack On Dealerships:  This Is Merely An Education For You

    Being aware and just being open to educating yourself solves many problems before saying ‘yes’ or ‘no’!

    Not every business that sells cars has dishonest salespeople.  There are many people in dealerships that communicate honestly and ethically with respect to their car care protection offerings.  For the sake of gathering more information for this article, I inquired about a protection plan at another dealership.  The person who I spoke to made it very clear that the product I was referring to was a sealant.  This person was also completely ethical (not taking the bait) in informing me that it will not prevent scratches.  Also, there are many professional detailers who sell their coating services (even some accredited) unethically.  For many of you reading this, there may be some value in the protection plan offered at your local dealership.

    There are also some dealerships that are hiring professional detailers or outsourcing new car prep to reputable businesses and empowering them to use high-quality products and perform detailing at a very high level.  There are some detailers who I greatly admire have partnered with dealership companies in that capacity.

    Detailing your own car is also an option.

    Alternatives For New Car Protection That Should Not Feel Intimidating:



    More Information On This Issue:



Rodney Tatum
Mirror Reflections Auto Spa
Gainesville, Florida
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9 comments on Buyer Beware: The Dealership Protection Plan

  1. Dave says:

    Great article. It has always been amazing to me how many people get sucked into these ridiculous “protection packages” and other overpriced products that the finance and insurance guy sells. Buyers get all excited about “saving” $200 on the price of a car, and spend $2,000 on this crap. I guess there’s one born every day. And mostly people who can’t afford it in the first place.

  2. Ron Ayotte says:

    I looked at a 5 year old Mercedes C-class that already had severe clear coat failure. It was “coated” with Simoiz Gloss Coat at an out of state dealership. The vehicle owner moved to Masschusetts a coprk of years ago and tried to get the local Mercedes dealership to adress the issues with the paint. Since they didn’t do the installation, they refused to help. She called the dealership where she bought the car, they no longer sold the Simoniz “coating” and referred her to her local Mercedes dealership. She is looking at a total repaint to repair the dmages to the paintwork. The kicker was, the “salesman” pointed out that the “coating” would protect the car for 5 years and all she had to do was “wash it”…

    Caveat Emptor.

  3. rlmccarty2000 says:

    I love it when the salesman tries to give you a discount on the already applied paint protection package. I told one salesman to “take the package off” and he moaned and grumbled and then said he would give it to me “free”. If you have teenagers it’s time to give them the “talk” about car dealers and their shenanigans. Get bank financing and shop at multiple dealers, including out of state. If a dealer won’t give you a quote on a car buy from someone who will.

  4. Buffman Detailing says:

    Many years ago, my mom bought a new Saturn for my sister and she got a warranty package thing that primarily included GAP insurance. But buried in the package was a “protection” package which basically included a sealant and fabric coating. I was young, so I never detailed the car. But just before this “protection” warranty expired, the car got an enormous helping of bird crap on a panel. It quickly etched into the paint and damaged it. I managed to find the paperwork for the package and made a warranty claim. Shockingly the underwriting company agreed to send the car to a body shop to have the panel repainted, as stated under the terms of the warranty. While I had a positive experience, I can almost assure these underwriting companies rarely if ever paying out a claim like mine. They’re making bank selling these things to customers who never file a claim under the warranty period.

  5. How can I tell that a dealership actually applied the protection package (ext. coating, interior, and undercoating), and not just charging me for it and not doing anything. I don’t trust car dealers!

    • Reece @ DI says:

      Depends on what they state was being applied. PPF or vinyl wraps can be seen pretty easily. With anything like a coating, sealant, or wax it will help bead up water and sheet it from the surface. If water pools on the surface then there is not a layer of protection present. However, even if the protection is applied it is hard to say it is the exact protection they state. Overall if it is not a ppf or vinyl wrap, I would recommend applying a wax, sealant, or coating yourself or going to a high end detailer who will do much better work with better products.

    • rlmccarty2000 says:

      I hate to say never do something but in this case I will. NEVER buy the “protection” plan from the dealer. It’s usually something like Scotch guard sprayed on the fabric and a poly type product applied to the paint. Dealers make it impossible to follow all the instructions in order to get warranty coverage.

      You can tell if something has be applied by checking for water beading. Although new, clean paint May bead without any protection applied. Just check for water beading around 30 days of ownership. I would just chalk it up to “learning” about the world and dealership shenanigans. Never buy the protection package. Take your car to a well known detailed and pay them to install a ceramic coating, forget the warranty, you’ve been had.

      • Reece @ DI says:

        As much as I agree, I do know some dealers have great detailing centers, however, those are VERY few and far between. Overall, I would not recommend dealer detail packages unless they are using well known products or have a good reputation in terms of detailing. I will however always recommend going to a professional detailer in the area over a dealer. Or even applying protection yourself. With both of these options you are ensuring a much better experience and can choose much better products than what the dealer is promising.

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