I tested eight of the best polishes you can buy to find the one paint correction champion. Here are the best car polish results.
People casually use the terms waxing and polishing interchangeably, but the two are very different. Waxing is applying a protective, hydrophobic and gloss-enhancing layer to your car’s paintwork. Polishing is using an abrasive compound, either by hand or machine, to remove swirls and scratches on the surface.
There are a lot of different polishes out there, and picking one is hard. So, as Fast Car’s Detailing Product Tester, I gathered eight of the best and tested them head-to-head to find the best car polish.
Every product here will get you results, but some are better than others. And some are more forgiving and more user-friendly, too. My group test includes a mix of polishes, compounds, and all-in-ones. You can read about the differences between these at the end of the test. Make sure you also check out my testing methods, because I used a gloss meter and a professional inspection light to deliver accurate, scientific results. The final results are based on a combination of the gloss increase, as well as how effectively the product removed surface imperfections.
Without further ado, here are the results of my car polish group test.
Best car polish: at a glance
- Best Overall And Editor’s Choice: 3D Speed All-In-One Correction Glaze. RRP: $21.99, buy now. £22.89, buy now.
- Approved: Chemical Guys VSS. RRP: $19.97, buy now / £24.99, buy now.
- Best Value: Auto Finesse Tripple. RRP: $23.95, buy now / £13.95, buy now.
And all-in-one (AIO) is designed to make your life easier. The perfect AIO can be applied on its own and doesn’t need refining or waxing afterwards. Some AIOs will combine a polish with a glaze, to fill leftover imperfections and a wax for protection. Others will do things slightly differently, as you can see in our test. Never assume that any AIO will be the same as another. Check carefully to make sure it’s right for you, depending on what you’re looking to achieve.
How I tested each car polish
I used a sunroof panel for all my testing. First, it was washed with a pure shampoo that won’t leave behind any wax or gloss enhancers. Then I used a clay mitt to remove any remaining dirt. This would also ensure any wax or sealant that may have been left behind was removed.
After checking the water behavior to make sure there was no wax or sealant left, I dried the panel and divided it up into sections. Next, I used a gloss meter to measure the gloss of each section. A gloss meter works by projecting a beam of light at a fixed intensity and angle onto a surface and measuring the amount of reflected light at an equal but opposite angle. It gives a reading in Gloss Units (GU) and gives you a scientific means of measuring how shiny a surface is.
The gloss meter was calibrated before each measuring session using a calibration board with a known gloss level. Three readings were taken in each test section before polishing, and the average gloss reading was calculated.
Each polish was applied to a coarse foam pad spritzed with water. The same amount of polish was applied for each product, as close as possible when measuring by eye. The polish was then applied across the test section using a dual-action polisher and spread quickly with three passes. I then carried out four sets of four passes, two horizontal, and two vertical. The remaining product was then wiped away.
Finally, I used a Meguiar’s MT103 Sunlight 3+ Detailer Inspection Light to observe correction effectiveness and clarity in each section. Then, the gloss level in each section was once again measured. Three readings were taken, the average was calculated, and I worked out the gloss increase from that.
Best car polish results
3D Speed All-In-One Correction Glaze – Best Overall And Editor’s Choice
- Pros: Very good cut, impressive gloss increase, very easy to use, lovely finish
- Cons: Nothing
- Gloss reading before: 80.1
- Gloss reading after: 86.4
- Gloss increase: 6.3
Hailing from America, 3D Speed is claimed to be the most popular AIO product in the world, and I can see why. From start to finish, this product was great to work with and delivered great results. 3D speed initially acts like a compound, to get rid of the worst of the swirls and scratches. As you work it, polishing agents kick in to refine the finish. Finally, it leaves behind a layer of synthetic paint sealant blended with Montan Wax, for gloss and protection.
According to the gloss meter, 3D Speed delivered the third-biggest increase in gloss. And the inspection light revealed that it delivered a very impressive cut, with a lovely finish. If you want maximum results with minimum effort, 3D Speed is the clear winner here. Its combination of gloss and cut makes it the perfect choice, and it’s the best car polish here.
Chemical Guys VSS – Approved
- Pros: Good level of correction, good gloss increase
- Cons: A little expensive
- Gloss reading before: 79.7
- Gloss reading after: 85.5
- Gloss increase: 5.8
Chemical Guys VSS (very shiny surface, maybe…?!) has been designed to deliver both a good cut, and a fine finish. It does this with an advanced polish that’s formulated with diminishing abrasive technology. What this means is that it starts off cutting like a compound. Then as you work it, the abrasives become finer, and now act like a polish. This means it should remove surface marks and leave a high-gloss finish.
And that’s exactly what it did. It did a great job of removing all those swirls and marks and delivered a lovely finish. The increase in gloss was very good, and the clarity of the test section was also very impressive.
Chemical Guys VSS is a great choice of polish if you don’t want an AIO and are looking to add your own protection afterwards. A very strong second-place finish and an excellent car polish.
Auto Finesse Tripple – Best Value
- Pros: Cuts well, very nice gloss increase, good results with minimal effort, good value
- Cons: Not quite as good as the very best products here
- Gloss reading before: 81.7
- Gloss reading after: 88.3
- Gloss increase: 6.6
Where 3D Speed calls itself an all-in-one because it compounds, polishes and waxes, Auto Finesse is different. It polishes, glazes, and waxes, which is why it delivered the second-highest gloss increase in this test. A glaze temporarily fills surface swirls, so even when applying by hand, you’ll get great-looking results. But they’ll only be as good as the polish is because once the glaze is gone, you’re left with the pure paintwork.
Auto Finesse Tripple doesn’t scrimp on spec, that’s for sure. Like Chemical Guys VSS, it uses diminishing abrasive technology. Then you’ve got the glaze agents, while T1-grade Brazilian carnauba adds up to a month of protection.
The gloss meter was very happy sitting on Tripple’s panel, and the cut was surprisingly good. It couldn’t match VSS, though, but the results were still very good. I’m personally not a huge fan of glazes, but Auto Finesse Tripple is a great overall product. It’s great value, too.
Autoglym Super Resin Polish
- Pros: Massive gloss increase, delivers impressive instant results
- Cons: Only average correction, does a lot of filling
- Gloss reading before: 78.7
- Gloss reading after: 87.8
- Gloss increase: 9.1
Super Resin Polish is one of Autoglym’s oldest and most popular products. However, Autoglym doesn’t give much away about it. The website says that it will restore gloss to dull surfaces, as well as remove small scuffs and scratches. It also contains wax, meaning you don’t need to apply any protection afterwards.
So Super Resin Polish is an AIO, and it also fills swirls. In terms of instant results with not much effort, it’s good. You can see just how much of a difference it made to the test section’s gloss readings. Even eliminating what might have been an anomalous reading, it still delivered the best gloss in the test.
However, it didn’t do much correcting at all, and the test section still had a fair amount of blemishes showing. Also, most of what it does well is mainly filling imperfections. It’s not going to fully improve your paintwork. But for instant results on good paint without trying too hard, it’s a good choice.
Meguiar’s Ultimate Compound
- Pros: The best pure correction compound here, fantastic cut and correction
- Cons: A little wet and dusty, poor gloss increase, needs refining for the perfect finish
- Gloss reading before: 83.5
- Gloss reading after: 87.7
- Gloss increase: 4.2
As its name suggests, Meguiar’s Ultimate Compound is all about dedicated paint correction. It features advanced abrasive technology that quickly deals with oxidation, stains, bird-dropping blemishes, and other sub-surface defects. Its micro-abrasives produce a clear finish, free from hazing and swirls. Meguiar’s also says it will polish the surface of your paint to a mirror finish.
In terms of pure cutting performance, this is far and away the best polish I tested here. It delivered a stunningly clear finish. So much so that my camera wanted to focus on the reflection of the sky, not anything my inspection light was trying to show. The test section looked nearly flawless afterwards, and I was so impressed.
However, it delivered the smallest increase in measurable gloss. That was to be expected, as it’s not a fine polish. That, ultimately, knocks it down the rankings. However, if your paintwork is really bad and you need something serious to bring it back to its best, this is it. Meguiar’s Ultimate Compound would be my choice if you’re looking for pure paint correction.
Meguiar’s Ultimate Polish
- Pros: Decent cut, nice finish
- Cons: Not designed for heavy paint correction, gloss could have been better
- Gloss reading before: 83.9
- Gloss reading after: 88.5
- Gloss increase: 4.6
Meguiar’s Ultimate Polish is a polish in the truest sense of the word. Meguiar’s describes it as the final step before waxing for maximum gloss and reflectivity. It uses rich polishing oils to add a deep, rich, wet look to paint, especially on dark-colored cars. Ultimate Polish is what you use to perfect your car’s paint before applying a wax.
It might seem a little unfair including it here, but it is still a polish. And the bottle says it will quickly eliminate fine swirls. I wanted to see how well it would perform in terms of paint correction. I also wanted to see how much gloss it would add. In the end, it tried its best and did okay.
It cut well enough and delivered a good finish, as well as slightly more gloss than Ultimate Compound. Ultimate Polish would be a good choice if your paintwork is decent and just needs refining. Or if you’ve used Ultimate Compound or something else, and want to refine the finish.
Turtle Wax Hybrid Solutions Ceramic Polish & Wax
- Pros: Decent cut, wax and ceramic coating should give long-lasting protection
- Cons: Poor finish, not user-friendly
- Gloss reading before: 80.5
- Gloss reading after: 85.7
- Gloss increase: 5.2
As its name implies, Turtle Wax Hybrid Solutions Ceramic Polish & Wax is an AIO. However, other AIOs include a glaze and a wax, or a compound and polish. This one includes wax and ceramic coating. One of those seems a little redundant here. You don’t need to wax your car before applying a ceramic coating. The coating replaces the wax. So I’m not entirely sure what that’s about. But you can never have too much protection for your paint.
Turtle Wax says that Hybrid Solutions Ceramic Polish & Wax features precision platelet technology. This removes light swirls, scratches and paint transfer, for easy surface restoration. Its hydrophobic SiO2 ceramic coating delivers water beading, is chemical-resistant, and leaves you with a wet-look shine.
It cut reasonably well, and the gloss increase was not bad. However, I didn’t like the finish. It was hazy, with some marring after polishing. That could be down to me, but I was consistent with my technique. I only had this problem with one other polish, the last-place finisher. Maybe it needs to be worked longer. However, I set parameters for this test, and within those, Hybrid Solutions Ceramic Polish & Wax is disappointing.
Sonax Profiline Perfect Finish
- Pros: Good cut, good gloss increase
- Cons: Very wet, poor finish, unforgiving to use, expensive
- Gloss reading before: 81.9
- Gloss reading after: 87.9
- Gloss increase: 6
Sonax Profiline Perfect Finish Perfect Finish has been designed to offer a one-step polishing solution. It uses special nano-sized abrasives that Sonax says allow good removal of scratches and produce an optimal gloss without holograms.
The bottle says it delivers a 4/6 cut and 6/6 for gloss, which is funnily enough the gloss increase that it delivered. I had high hopes for it, however, in this test, it proved disappointing.
The cut was good, better than expected based on the bottle. And that 6 puts it in 4th place for gloss increase. But it wasn’t nice to use and felt very wet to work with. And it didn’t deliver a good finish. There was quite a lot of visible marring, so this feels like a polish that’s not that forgiving. It’s also very expensive, and others just perform better. Unfortunately, Sonax Profiline Perfect Finish finishes in last place.
Car polish FAQs
Car polish, compound, all-in-one – what’s the difference?
All three products will correct paintwork, but to varying degrees, in different ways, and will deliver different results.
The term polish is used interchangeably among a lot of the products here. A polish is usually something that polishes the paintwork, that is it gives you a very fine, high-gloss finish. This implies it’s more for refining paintwork, than removing swirls and marks. If a product calls itself a polish, you probably shouldn’t expect too much cut from it.
A compound will be more aggressive. It will be perfect for removing heavier swirls and imperfections. It probably won’t leave behind the glossiest finish, though. A compound is great if you have a car with bad paintwork and you want to get some serious results. Ideally, you would follow up with a polish for the perfect finish.
How to know which car polish to buy
It’s important to remember that car polish contains abrasives. The abrasives are measured in grits, so the higher the number of grits, the more abrasive it is. As a result, the higher grit level products are reserved for more severe paint damage, such as deep scratches and other defects. Lower grit level products, like the products I’ve recommended above, are perfect for small, light scratches, like swirl marks.
Do I need a machine buffer to polish?
Yes and no. A machine buffer will certainly make the job easier, and because it can rotate much faster than your hand, you should get better results. That’s only if you’re using the correct method. But, that is another expense and we can appreciate those who want to detail their cars correctly without spending a fortune. With the products recommended above, you can get away with a bit of elbow grease. However, if you’re able to get your hands on a machine buffer, and know how to use it, opt for this method. It requires less effort and you’ll get better results.
- What Is The Difference Between Car Polish & Wax?
- How To Use a Clay Bar On Your Car
- Car Paint Correction Guide: Touch Up Paint Explained