Wax On, Wax Off: The Best Car Wax for 2024, Tested

best car wax tested
Tested: Best Car WaxGannon Burgett - Car and Driver

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No true car cleaning sesh is complete without waxing your ride, that special last step to provide extra shine and protection from road-borne nasties. Typically a process that follows the car washing step, waxing your ride can be tedious, but it's rewarding and absolutely worth it. Why? Well, apart from the glossy shine wax provides, the slick stuff also helps protect your freshly washed paint from rain, bird droppings, and other environmental contaminants.

But before you waltz into the store to pick up some new wax, arm yourself with the knowledge we've presented here to ensure the products you choose will give your car, truck, or SUV the suit of waxy armor it deserves.

Looking for more car cleaning and detailing? Check out our tests for the best car vacuums, best pressure washers, and best upholstery cleaners.

Things to Consider about Car Wax

When shopping for the best car wax for you and your vehicle, there are a number of factors to consider. Here are just a few.


Spray Waxes

Spray waxes work best for new cars with excellent finishes. Pluses include convenience, plastic compatibility, ease of use, and spot waxing. They're quick to apply and some can even be wiped off without drying, but they are not good for cleaning and are the worst for durability.

Liquid Waxes

Liquid waxes provide excellent cleaning, gloss, and durability, but they can be more difficult to apply evenly and buff out. Most dry to a haze within about a minute, but this varies with wind, sunlight, and thickness of application.

Paste Waxes

Paste waxes tend to be the easiest to apply, but it can be difficult to remove wax from the container as you near the bottom. Paste waxes usually dry to a haze within 30 seconds. Traditionally, paste waxes were heralded for their durability, but as synthetic polymers improve, many liquid waxes are now on par with paste waxes.

Application Method

Make sure you have the correct tools to apply the wax appropriately. You can apply manually or use a dual-action polisher for a fast, even application. Always be sure to use the correct cleaning cloth or foam applicator. Terry cloth or towels will leave residue behind, so be sure to use a clean microfiber cloth.

How We Evaluated Car Wax

For this test, we applied each wax to a separate panel on a freshly washed Toyota Prius. We felt the only accurate way to compare these products was a side-by-side observation. Once each wax was applied—following the directions of the liquid and paste waxes—dried, and wiped, we called in members of the Car and Driver staff to come get a look for themselves. Here's what we looked for:

  • Ease of Application

  • Dry Feel

  • Visual Shine

  • Smell

  • Drying Speed

  • Package Quality

  • Long-Term Durability (in progress)

Once we gathered the information and opinions from the group, we determined which car waxes were better than others. We'll keep an eye on the car's panels in the upcoming months and adjust this list based on durability and how well each wax ages.

A note on car waxes: While we understand there are many other popular brands of car waxes we didn't test, there's only so much sheetmetal real estate on a Prius—and using a different vehicle to test more waxes would have muddled our comparison. So we worked with what we had. Keep your eyes on this space for future updates to this test. Until then, here's what we learned.

The Best Car Waxes

Meguiar's Quik Wax

Meguiar's Quik Wax is popular with car enthusiasts for good reason—it worked well in our test. Of course, the performance aspect doesn't quite match the liquid or paste waxes, but that's the nature of a spray wax: convenience is key.

Along with ease of use, we were pleasantly surprised how little work was needed to apply. It's "quik" for sure—simply spray and wipe. Done. Shortly after all of our test waxes were dried, the blind "feel test" by the Car and Driver team revealed a striking similarity to the other waxes.

The verdict? Immediately after application, spray wax—particularly Meguiar's—was on par with other types, although that may not be true when it comes to longevity. If you simply want a quick shine, Quik Wax is the stuff to buy.

<p><a href="https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00P9OF00C?tag=syn-yahoo-20&ascsubtag=%5Bartid%7C10048.g.60030525%5Bsrc%7Cyahoo-us" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Shop Now;elm:context_link;itc:0;sec:content-canvas" class="link ">Shop Now</a></p><p>Meguiar's Quik Wax</p><p>amazon.com</p><p>$7.45</p><span class="copyright">Gannon Burgett</span>

Chemical Guys Butter Wet Wax

When it comes to liquid waxes, the Chemical Guys Butter Wet Wax is our pick. It's an interesting consistency, something called "Carnauba Creme," and Chemical Guys says it "melts into the paint like butter." We don't know about that, but it does wax on nicely.

Featuring a scent we could only describe as "childhood," Butter Wax went on smoothly and dried within minutes. After the final buff with a separate microfiber, the shine and finish rivaled any other waxes we tested.

If you're looking to enjoy the car-waxing process rather than rush it, the Butter Wet Wax is our pick.

<p><a href="https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00FALVU8A?tag=syn-yahoo-20&ascsubtag=%5Bartid%7C10048.g.60030525%5Bsrc%7Cyahoo-us" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Shop Now;elm:context_link;itc:0;sec:content-canvas" class="link ">Shop Now</a></p><p>Chemical Guys Butter Wet Wax</p><p>amazon.com</p><p>$19.97</p><span class="copyright">Gannon Burgett</span>

Collinite No. 476s Super DoubleCoat Auto Wax

Straight outta your grandpa's garage, Collinite 476s Paste Wax is a tin of nostalgia. There's something special about waxing your car with the old-school stuff, regardless of how good new wax gets with its fancy polymers and whatnot. Put on a Bob Seger record in the background and enjoy the process.

The container took us two flathead screwdrivers to pry open, but once that lid was off, the classic-car scent made it worthwhile. The wax—like a shoe-polish consistency—requires a bit of friction to warm up, but once it's ready, the wax spreads on paint nicely. Collinite recommends waxing two-by-two-foot sections at a time, letting it dry, and buffing with a clean microfiber for best results, and that's what we did.

Collinite claims seven to 10 months of protection and even calls the 476s its "winter wax" to be used as a protective cover during the cold months. We haven't verified that, but we'll keep an eye on it. If you prefer to do things the old way, this is the most rewarding car wax to buy.

<p><a href="https://www.amazon.com/dp/B002P3ZO2E?tag=syn-yahoo-20&ascsubtag=%5Bartid%7C10048.g.60030525%5Bsrc%7Cyahoo-us" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Shop Now;elm:context_link;itc:0;sec:content-canvas" class="link ">Shop Now</a></p><p>Collinite No. 476s Super DoubleCoat Auto Wax</p><p>amazon.com</p><p>$20.02</p><span class="copyright">Gannon Burgett</span>

Formula 1 High Performance Carnauba Car Wax

The Formula 1 Car Wax Paste is an interesting one. It's defined by the brand as a paste, but what's inside is more akin to a liquid—described by one of our testers as the consistency of hummus. We suppose that's not a bad thing, as you'll avoid needing to warm it up before applying.

The fragrance is reminiscent of a typical garage, but not strongly so. Thanks to its consistency, application is a breeze and the results are great. Immediately after application, we did notice a slight slickness difference between this and the Collinite, and we're curious to see how that translates long-term.

For an easy paste-waxing experience, you can't go wrong with this.

<p><a href="https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0060HVCHW?tag=syn-yahoo-20&ascsubtag=%5Bartid%7C10048.g.60030525%5Bsrc%7Cyahoo-us" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Shop Now;elm:context_link;itc:0;sec:content-canvas" class="link ">Shop Now</a></p><p>Formula 1 High Performance Carnauba Car Wax</p><p>amazon.com</p><p>$10.99</p><span class="copyright">Gannon Burgett</span>

Griot's Garage Best of Show Spray Wax

Griot's Garage Spray Wax is a very solid spray wax, proving again that spray waxes hold up to other waxes in the immediate term. Convenience and performance are just about on par with the Meguiar's, and we didn't feel any difference between the two once dry.

If you're a Griot's fan, this stuff doesn't disappoint. The only reason the Meguiar's wins out is we prefer their bottle ergonomics over the Griot's. Besides that, the two spray waxes are neck and neck; you can't go wrong with either one.

<p><a href="https://www.amazon.com/dp/B078SFMRQ2?tag=syn-yahoo-20&ascsubtag=%5Bartid%7C10048.g.60030525%5Bsrc%7Cyahoo-us" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Shop Now;elm:context_link;itc:0;sec:content-canvas" class="link ">Shop Now</a></p><p>Griot's Garage Best of Show Spray Wax</p><p>amazon.com</p><p>$16.99</p><span class="copyright">Gannon Burgett</span>

Adam's Polishes Buttery Wax

The Adam's Polishes Buttery Wax worked great—it was the aftermath that made us scratch our heads. Like other liquid waxes, you apply it with a clean microfiber, let it dry, and wipe it off. This stuff did that totally fine, leaving behind a slick finish.

However, the wax stained our applicator and hands as if we had washed our hands in popcorn butter. With some scrubbing, the color did eventually come off, but we feel it's an additional step that would be ideal to avoid. This is good stuff, but the need for gloves knocks it down our list.

<p><a href="https://www.amazon.com/dp/B001QVFVZ6?tag=syn-yahoo-20&ascsubtag=%5Bartid%7C10048.g.60030525%5Bsrc%7Cyahoo-us" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Shop Now;elm:context_link;itc:0;sec:content-canvas" class="link ">Shop Now</a></p><p>Adam's Polishes Buttery Wax</p><p>amazon.com</p><p>$18.69</p><span class="copyright">Gannon Burgett</span>

How We Tested Car Wax

To get a proper evaluation of these car waxes, we decided to test them side by side on individual panels of a freshly washed Toyota Prius. We followed each bottle's directions and used clean microfiber cloths. We took notes on the ease of application, whether by cloth, pad, or spray bottle.

We also observed the drying time and dry feel on each panel with our hands. We then looked at the car to see if we could determine any differences in the visual shine.

Other parameters we noted were smell, bottle quality, and other notes like consistency and cloth stain. Finally, we'll keep an eye on the car panels and update this article with any long-term durability observations.

best car wax tested
Gannon Burgett - Car and Driver


What is car wax?

Car wax is a substance applied to the exterior of a vehicle to protect it from dirt, debris, and environmental damage, while also enhancing its shine. Formulas vary from one brand to the next, but the base for nearly any wax you'll find is carnauba, a wax made from the leaves of a palm native to Brazil.

Why do I need car wax?

Waxing provides a protective layer over your car's paint, shielding it from UV rays, salt, and pollutants. It also makes the car easier to clean by making it easier to remove contaminants.

How do I apply car wax?

This varies depending on the wax you use, but generally, you start with a freshly cleaned car, apply the wax with a foam applicator or microfiber towel, and then buff it out after a designated drying time. Conditions for application can vary, so check the product details. In the words of a professional detailer we recently spoke with, default to the initialism R.T.F.L., otherwise known as "Read The [Friendly] Label."

How much does car wax cost?

Prices range from under $10 to over $50, depending on the brand, type, and quantity of the wax.

What are the pros and cons of using car wax?

The primary benefit of using car wax is the protective shine it adds to your vehicle. The downside is that applying wax can be time-consuming, and some waxes may need frequent reapplication.

Why Trust Us

Hearst Autos combines the talent, resources, and expertise of three of the largest, most influential automotive publications in the world. The Gear Team has tested a wide variety of automotive products, parts, accessories, and gear, such as car window/windshield cleaners, pressure washers, and interior cleaners. We get our hands on each and every product we test. Most are purchased; some are supplied by manufacturers.

The Gear Team doesn't need to game algorithms for traffic or promote lousy products for clicks. We're more concerned with our reputation and the trust that our readers have in Autoweek, Car and Driver, and Road & Track to deliver honest opinions and expert evaluations.

Visit our Tested & Trusted page to see the very best in automotive gear. Read more about our product testing and evaluation process here.

best car wax tested
Gannon Burgett - Car and Driver

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