What is the Best Paint Protection Film for Cars? Reviewing XPEL vs SunTek vs LLumar vs 3M
We’re often asked, “What is the best Paint Protection Film for cars?”
It’s a fair question.
The world of Paint Protection Films can get confusing. Manufacturers are constantly trying to innovate to stay ahead of the curve. They all market their product as the only solution for you and your car. Installers all jump on the band-wagon for whatever film they happen to have in stock.
Here’s the deal.
There is no one, all-around, in-every-case best Paint Protection Film.
There are a lot of great films, and they all have strengths.
To prove it to you, we’ll give you an insiders review of four of the best Paint Protection FIlms: XPEL Ultimate, SunTek Ultra, LLumar Platinum, and 3M Scotchgard.
We’ll end with some tips on how to decide which film is best for you.
“There is no one, all-around, in-ever-case best Paint Protection Film. There are a lot of great films, and they all have strengths.”
Similarities Between the Best Paint Protection Films
Let’s start with the similarities between these films. These four films are similar in three key ways:
First, all four of these films offer high-performance protection
They all perform at a high level to protect your car’s paint from rock chips, chemical stains, small scratches, UV damage, and whatever else nature or the road throws at your car.
None of them offers bullet-proof protection. No film or product ever will. But all four of them will do a very good job and are comparable in terms of the protection they offer. All of these films are about 6 mils thick. And to top it off, all of them have “self-healing” properties, which means that small scratches in the film will disappear after the film is exposed to heat.
Second, all four of these films are crystal-clear after application
All of these films are invisible to the naked eye after a quality installation, and they will all retain their transparency very well. Previous generations of films had problems with yellowing over time, especially after extended UV exposure. None of these films are susceptible to that process.
Third, all four of these films are long-lasting
All of these films are warrantied for 10 years after installation. What’s more, they all have a reputation for maintaining a high level of performance over the life of their warranties.
Of course, if you abuse the film or don’t maintain it well, it will deteriorate at a quicker pace. But on the other hand, if you do maintain the film well you may see it continue to perform well beyond the life of the warranty.
What you need in a Paint Protection Film: XPEL, SunTek, LLumar, and 3M all have it
Before we get into the differences between these films, we should stop and say that those three items are really the most important factors in a Paint Protection Film.
You want a film that is going to protect at a high level, look great, and last a long time. If you get a film that does all three of those things, you have a winner. XPEL, SunTek, LLumar, and 3M do all three of those things.
In other words, if you choose any of these films (as long as they are properly installed), you will be a happy customer.
Nonetheless, there are some differences between these films, which may make one better for you than the others.
“You want a film that is going to protect at a high level, look great, and last a long time. If you get a film that does all three of those things, you have a winner. XPEL, SunTek, LLumar, and 3M do all three of those things.”
The Differences Between XPEL, SunTek, LLumar, and 3M
It is hard to beat XPEL’s reputation in the Paint Protection Film industry. XPEL is a relatively small company compared to some of these other manufacturers; and, unlike 3M, Paint Protection Film is their main focus as a company. As such, they have been leading the way in a lot of the innovations to Paint Protection Film. XPEL Ultimate was introduced as “The World’s First Self-Healing Film” because XPEL is the company that first developed and perfected that technology. That’s part of why they have such a good reputation in the industry. If you’ve done any reading about Paint Protection Film on car forums, you’ve probably come across a lot of people who are crazy excited about their XPEL wraps, and rightfully so.
SunTek Ultra / LLumar Platinum
One thing you may not know is that SunTek Ultra and LLumar Platinum are actually the same film in composition, just sold under two different brands. Both companies are owned by Eastman Chemicals.
SunTek and LLumar are both also known for their automotive window tint, but in recent years Eastman has been relentlessly pursuing a superior Paint Protection Film product.
To do that, they went back to the drawing board and created a film that is thicker than most (11.5 mils) and is equipped with a proprietary top coat called HydroResist™, the first hydrophobic surface that is actually built into a PPF.
The benefit of having a hydrophobic film is that it makes the vehicle easier to clean and mud or grime has a more difficult time bonding with the vehicle’s surface. But the hydrophobic properties of a film typically do not perform as well as a Ceramic Coating, which is why you should always apply a Ceramic Coating on top of your Paint Protection Film, no matter which brand you choose.
One thing that we love about SunTek / LLumar is that they re-engineered their film before offering a 10-year warranty. When the industry started offering 10-year warranties, several companies simply slapped a new warranty on old film. SunTek / LLumar, on the other hand, felt that it was important to increase the longevity of a product before changing an established warranty. They did just that when they introduced SunTek Ultra / LLumar Platinum.
3M Scotchgard Pro
3M is really the grandfather company to the entire automotive Paint Protection Film industry. The whole technology for automotive Paint Protection Film was actually developed by 3M in partnership with the US military during the Vietnam War, because the military needed a lightweight way to protect helicopter blades from getting damaged. So 3M has been in this game the longest, and they have a good track record.
Currently, they do not offer a film that has hydrophobic properties, like the LLumar and SunTek film, and they don’t quite have a raving fan-base like XPEL. However, 3M Scotchgard Pro, along with these other films, has what you need in a quality Paint Protection Film: high-performance protection, invisible finish, and longevity. If you go with Scotchgard, you will still be getting a quality film.
Which Paint Protection Film is Best for You?
When it comes to PPF brands, you can’t go wrong if you’re deciding between XPEL, SunTek, LLumar, or 3M. You can go wrong with other films. But you are safe with one of these brands. With any of them you will get stalwart protection you’ll never see for years to come, and that’s what’s important.
Nonetheless, here are two questions you can ask yourself to arrive at a decision.
First, what’s important to you in a manufacturer?
Do you want the biggest company that has been in the industry the longest? That would be 3M.
Do you want a company that has a more exclusive focus on Paint Protection Film and has gained an impeccable reputation in the industry? That would be XPEL.
Do you want a company with some of the most recent innovations in the field? Then you may be interested in SunTek / LLumar, who both have solid reputations in the whole automotive films industry and have developed some of the most recent technological advances.
Second, what does your reputable installer use or recommend?
A Paint Protection Film is only as good as its installer.
Period, end of story.
You could have the best film in the world, but if it is installed poorly such that it blisters, bubbles, and peels, it won’t do you any good.
No install is 100% flawless, but there is a big difference between a professional, quality install and one that’s done quickly and carelessly. So make sure you find a reputable installer, consider how invested they are in the industry, take a look at the work that they’ve done and the reviews they’ve received, and once you’ve found someone you can trust, ask them what film they enjoy installing the most.
All of these films act differently during the install process in terms of their flexibility and tack. So an installer who works almost exclusively with XPEL may not accomplish as good of an install with LLumar. Consequently, if you find a reputable installer who works exclusively with SunTek, go with SunTek. And we would say the same for XPEL, LLumar, and 3M.
Again, the important thing is that you get a high quality film (as all of these films are) and that you get the best install possible. If you get those two things, then you will get what we’re really after here, which is the peace of mind that comes from knowing your car has the best protection you’ll never see.
“A Paint Protection Film is only as good as its installer.”
Here at Exclusive Paint Protection in Charlotte, NC, we have received factory training and certification in all of the films mentioned above.
Right now we currently stock XPEL and SunTek films, and we’re thrilled with how both of them perform.
If you’re looking for premium paint protection in Charlotte, NC, let’s talk.