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I was skeptical of the ceramic stuff for several years for all the reasons listed here. In early 2017, I dipped my toe in the water on our now 20 year old Viper. It was an old muscle car body shop owner in Havasu who swung me over to try it. I asked him if he could get a better shine on our car than I had. He said no, but he recommended a detail shop in town doing ceramic. We went with IGL basic Quartz coating. Our car was in very good condition to start with at 119,000 miles, but the results were amazing IMO. It's still holding the shine. Because it's seldom washed, I may never need to reapply anything other than the yearly check up and IGL Premier once over he does for me for nothing. Dust will blow off of it at freeway speeds. Other than a little buffing to remove my wax, I had no color correction done. The following year we took our new RL out west for the winter and had IGL Kenzo applied to it. I'm no expert on the marketing end of ins and outs of detail work, but one of the selling points I was told was that the clear coat found on all cars is ranked as a 3H coating and the IGL we got is a 10H. I've since had another vehicle coated with the IGL Kenzo. I have the IGL Premier stuff at home now and do the RL and other car myself. It's similar to just putting detailer on. You can do the whole vehicle in 20 minutes.

I completely agree that color correction / prep work is the name of the game for the ceramic to look the best. I had some color correction done on our 2013 car.

As for paint protection film, I have several friends with their entire car done and ceramic on top. It's all good till it gets chipped. Then you still have the same issues. You have to remove the film (not easy) and then repair the paint. I have Xpel on the 3rd car we did. Fascia, front of hood, lower panels F&R, and side sills. I have a couple of very small chips from a track event I did a few years ago. Yes it would have been worse without the clear bra, but to be right, it's still has to come off. What I like best about the clear bra on the fascia is scrubbing bugs off at gas stops with window washer squeegee. I don't worry as much about damaging the paint for the stubborn ones. I also carry hydrogen peroxide to help melt them off a little easier.

Bottom line is I'm now a believer in ceramic coatings. There are many to choose from. I like IGL. For those who pride themselves on doing this stuff and have the time and equipment...yes you can probably do it yourself. I'm not that guy.
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At the end of the day it comes down to what it's worth to you. Paying someone to do all that labor (and it's a LOT of labor) is going to be expensive. I've seen detailers spend DAYS on cars that require a lot of paint correction.
 

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I thought these modern clear-coats were supposed to go several years at least without needing to be polished. Once upon a time I polished & waxed my cars a couple of times a year, but I got busy for awhile, like the entire 11 years I owned my G1, and it still looked good when I sold it, except for the light sagebrush scratches on the sides that I never got around to taking care of, but you had to look carefully even to see those.
 
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