June 22, 2023

I Priced Shopped 30 of the highest rated paint protection and detailing shops in OC – I am Appalled

The past month or so I’ve price shopped over 30 of the highest rated ppf and detail shops in Orange County alone (which really goes to show how truly saturated this industry is) and I was both amused and appalled by my findings. This is a long read but offers great insight into what goes on in this industry if you have a few minutes.

I was amused at some of the pricing for front end ppf I found not because it was too low but by how overpriced some of the shops were who were using out dated films. What really amused me about the overpriced ones was then their full car wrap pricing. I cannot believe how low some of these places charged for full car wraps claiming disassembly included on high end cars and all that especially given how expensive some of their front end prices were. Front end uses minimal film compared to the other 2/3 of the car. Why is your front end price $2400 but full car only $4000 – $5000 , and I’m sorry but if you’re selling old formulas with no top coats and tons of orange peel, you should not be charging $2400

For a front end on a tesla, but you must be a good salesmen or slow in the ppf department if you get folks to pay that when there’s tons of great shops who do premium quality with same film or better film for less.

Although generally super high priced front ends means they are subcontracting and their installers whole sale price might be high. Another tell tale sign of subcontractor use is if they’re booked out a month or two on ppf, this means their guy is already booked at every other shop in the area. Nothing wrong with contractors but sometimes it can make warranty work more difficult or non existent. I know someone who offers no manufacturer warranty to work at shops but then the shops still say oh the film has this many years warranty even though you’ll never be able to use it because they aren’t a true authorized dealer. You don’t know if the shop will come out of pocket or not 5 years later on a failed filled claim or if their contractor is even still around. I personally have paid out of pocket for 5+ cars window tint on a film we used to use that had some failures. The guy who did the cars for me vanished so I had to hire someone else to do it. I don’t know how many shops actually do the right thing. We’ve certainly heard plenty of stories over the years.

What I was appalled by though more than anything was how much MISINFORMATION was given about products, warranties, procedure, effectiveness, etc.

Many film manufacturers have changed their warranty to limit it to only warranty issues if the installer finds the issue before the car leaves the shop. Some don’t cover yellowing anymore if you read the fine print. Some don’t cover unless the installer has a temp controlled shop and uses products specifically from that manufacturer to prep, install, maintain, but you’ll only find that if you actually read the warranty and not just listen to the guy on the phone.

A few shops told me that films with built in ceramic coatings like STEK, suntek reaction, ceramic pro etc didn’t exist! Even though they were selling a brand that carried a more expensive better and up to date film with built in coatings, they are not staying up to date with their product knowledge but charging like they are.

Another shop told me they don’t use the ceramic coated film because they think the coating they put on top of the out dated film works better and that the ceramic coated film is too expensive. In reality that ceramic coating won’t last nearly as long and they are just trying to yank higher profit on cheaper film.

We learned a while back from another shop that when you ceramic coat ppf that is not already coated like Xpel ultimate plus or suntek ultra or Hexis bodyfence a lot of the time the self healing for swirls stops working. I noticed when I first started selling ppf that cars would come back looking terrible like 6-12 months later and swirls would not self heal. After learning about this, we stopped doing that and stopped seeing issues. But every installer wants to sell you ceramic coating on top which honestly shouldn’t cost more than $750 on a fresh fully wrapped vehicle but places are trying to charge you $1500 for something that maybe lasts 2-3 years on top in perfect conditions. No one tells you this.

Another thing that people always trash talk is pre cut film, sure 5-10 years ago most of them looked like shit. Now they look very nice most of the time and can be edited by the user. A properly edited pattern will give equal coverage that looks just as good or has seams in the same places a bulk cut would while also maintaining straight edges. With bulk you might get jagged edges as you need surgical precision to cut ppf without cutting into paint underneath. I’m sorry but ppf installers are not heart surgeons, I’ve seen a ton of cut paint even from the “pros”. Bulk cut is good for certain stuff that’s maybe not the best pattern on software as some of them sometimes are not so great or to do certain eccentric panels on exotic cars, hoods, roof, etc but we used to always bulk cut and now that I’m plotting panels we’re seeing better results honestly most of the time. You are going to like your ppf either way though as long as they actually wrap the edges and plot properly. The guy doing custom for $1800 and the guy doing pre cut for $1800 will probably look 95% the same.

Places told me your film will be perfect and invisible everywhere. They left out the part where they tell you it’s protection not perfection and there’s going to actually be seams on panels like bumpers, mirrors, weirdly shaped panels. They told me that the film is always perfectly clear and has no defects when most film has minor defects off the roll, have orange peel or highlight your orange peel more after install.

A few shops said the film has no orange peel when I know those brands do.

A few shops tried to sell me paint correction before ppf which is a huge waste of money because clear bra hides all surface defects, swirls, water spots or anything you can’t feel with a fingernail. During the application process probably 75% of installers will mar up your paint using not very soft lint free towels to prep the panel, wiping with squeegees etc. during removal unless the film is under a year old, you generally swirl the crap out of the paint doing removals. Paint correction does not enhance gloss under the film either. I have tested this many times.

When should I remove my film? That 10 year longevity is gonna cost you 10 years paycheck to remove off your car when the adhesive is that old and the film has taken a beating being your daily driver. In California or hot states you realistically are looking at 5 years before top facing surfaces start to fail and will still likely be difficult to remove on a daily driver exposed to the sun. A garage kept rarely driven car will undoubtedly get more longevity but not a single shop mentioned any this to me.

My favorite thing i heard which I’m guilty of myself though is I’m the number 1 installer of this in Orange County. If 30 shops are number 1, then who is actually number 1? Obviously we tell people we’re the highest rated around too but it is really funny to hear everyone else saying it too even though some of these shops I knew to produce some low quality work despite their online reputation. Somehow some people don’t notice crappier work from other places and still leave a stellar review, almost every customer that comes to me however goes over their car with a fine tooth comb and complain immediately about a tiny bubble that will cure out.

It’s no wonder that so many people have such high expectations for ppf and films now. All these shops and YouTubers are claiming it’s all going to be perfect when in reality it never is.

There is a lot of knowledge to know in this industry. I was really surprised that my high level competitors were selling this stuff the way that they were. I always try to set expectations perfectly because I really hate when people come back and say “why didn’t my film work against this huge rock” or “why is there a seam on the bumper, I thought there were zero seams”.

This is another reason why I always preach to be careful where you shop because you may not be getting what you’re promised or you may be over paying for lesser quality material. Some shops do learn from mistakes though, I certainly have. I had to figure out a lot on my own and try real hard to learn the proper info after just reading the manufacturer brochure. If you choose not to learn or you don’t learn from mistakes, then that sucks for your customer.

This industry is just wild.

I could write another 16 pages about misinformation on ceramic coating but I’ll save that for another day.