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Best car polish 2023: Give your car the ultimate shine

Whether you’re looking to shine or protect, you’ll need the best car polish - here are our picks

It’s not hard to understand the appeal of a highly polished car looking like new and shining in the sun. It’s all the more satisfying after you’ve put some time into making it glint with the best car polish you can buy.

Using car polish used to be a time-consuming process, and it was possible to lose an entire afternoon getting a car polished properly, but the latest in car polish technology has reduced this time considerably (although it’s still mostly true that the more time you take, the better the results).

Car polish differs from car wax in that it has a mild abrasive that buffs out scuffs and minor scratches. As such, it’ll cut through any layers of wax you may already have applied; in an ideal world, you’ll wash, polish and then make waxing your last job.

So regardless of whether you want to polish your car in your lunch break or spend a Saturday morning with a polishing cloth, our selection of the best car polishes – as well as our guide on to how to choose them – is the perfect place to start.

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Best car polish: At a glance

How to choose the best car polish for you

What’s the best car polish to use?

For most driveway detailers, the best polish will be determined by the amount of money and time you’re willing to spend on your car. Some car polish sprays will give good instant results with virtually no effort required, but the effects won’t last as long; others take far longer to apply properly, but you’ll be able to see the impact the product has made for far longer.

Can car polish remove deep scratches?

Car polish works by removing minute scratches in the paintwork to deliver that shine. The effects of a car polish are most pronounced on older cars where the paintwork has gone ‘flat’; the polish cuts through a microscopic top layer of the paint to give it a fresh look. As such, polishes are good for removing light scratches to the car’s lacquer (caused, for example, by brushing against branches) and are useful at taking away the swirl marks left by careless washing. But for deeper scratches, you’ll need something with more cutting power. See our scratch repair kit for the best to use before you start polishing.

What’s the easiest car polish to use?

Some polishes failed to make our list because they spread far too easily – making them too runny as a result. We like polish that can go onto the applicator easily allowing them to be distributed evenly. Those runny polishes, or those which are too thick, tend to be hard to use and can create an uneven finish.

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How do you apply car polish by hand?

You can apply car polish by hand or with a machine. There are electric car polishers, such as this cabled Halfords model or this cordless SPTA car polisher, to which you attach polishing and buffing pads. These can take some of the hard work out of the job, but you can polish a car by hand, too.

  1. Polishing comes before the waxing step. Prepare your applicator pads – we like these from Kent Car Care, as the handle makes it feel like you’re playing air hockey and the pads switch out easily.
  2. After washing the car thoroughly and then claying the car to remove impurities that could scratch the car further, you’re ready to start.
  3. First off, if you’re polishing by hand, you need to bring patience. Prepare to spend all day working on the car.
  4. Daub two or three pea-sized amounts of your car polish onto the surface of the applicator.
  5. Blot the polish onto the chosen panel. Keep it relatively contained. If you try to polish the whole car quickly, not only will you fail to get the desired results, but if it rains, you run the risk of not removing the polish before it gets wet.
  6. In a slow, up-and-down, side-to-side motion, work the car polish into the surface of the panel. You’re lightly “sanding” the swirl marks out.
  7. Once you’ve applied the polish, let it haze for the time specified, as per the instructions on your product’s bottle.
  8. Buff off with a microfibre cloth. Then repeat until you have a flawless finish.

Once you’ve polished the car, you can start waxing it.

Can I damage my car with car polish?

As long as you’re using the right car polish, it’s hard to cause any damage by hand. It’s when you’re using an orbital polisher too fast that you’re more likely to go wrong – too fast a speed can actually burn the paint. The secret is to take your time, use a slower speed and move the polisher around evenly.

You can also get specific polishes for specific areas. For example, Autosol Metal Polish is great for chrome and brightwork. Other polishes say they’re suitable for all surfaces, including metal, plastics and vinyl, but you should always exercise caution and test in an inconspicuous area first.

How much should I spend on car polish?

Car polish can be pricey, but a little tends to go a long way. We’ve selected the best products for a range of budgets.

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The best car polish you can buy in 2023

1. CarPlan Demon Shine: Best car polish under £10

Price when reviewed: £5.99 | Check price at Halfords

CarPlan’s Demon Shine proves you don’t need to spend a fortune for a decent finish. The lowest price for the biggest bottle, it offers great value though it won’t remove scratches and swirl marks. If you’re wanting a “wash-n-go” option, Demon Shine is a good choice. The fine spray pattern mists evenly over the car and then you use a microfibre towel to dry off. While purist detailers will call it cheating, if all you’re looking for is a low-hassle shine after the weekly wash, Demon Shine delivers.

Key details – Size: 1l; Price per 100ml: £0.59

2. Poorboy’s PB-PP16: Best car polish ever

Price when reviewed: £20 | Check price at Amazon

It’s extremely hard to fault Poorboy’s PP16. This versatile car polish can be used on many different surfaces, such as paint, chrome, wheels and plastic. Since there are no wax or silicone ingredients, this is very specifically a car polish. While we wouldn’t use it on black plastic (it can leave white marks), the brilliant finish is unmatched. Used by pros, Poorboy’s doesn’t come cheap but it’s a worthy investment.

Key details – Size: 473ml; Price per 100ml: £4.44

3. Sonax Profiline: Best car polish for dark-coloured cars

Price when reviewed: £24 | Check price at Amazon

Sonax Profiline is the most expensive product on our list, based on price per 100ml. It sets out to produce a hologram-free, high-gloss finish with its aluminium oxide and crystal formula. It works exceptionally well on cars with dark colours and leaves behind a magnificent shine. If you have minor scratches or blemishes in your paintwork, it will reduce or even eliminate them. Top product, but at a top price.

Key details – Size: 250ml; Price per 100ml: £9.60

4. Autobrite Direct Cherry Glaze: Best-value car polish

Price when reviewed: £12 | Check price at Autoglym

If you’re looking for a genuinely effective car polish that isn’t simply a shortcut spray, then Autobrite Direct’s Cherry Glaze offers the best value. Made in the UK, Cherry Glaze is a one-stop shop to a polish, glaze and wax finish with a cherry scent. While it can only be used on paintwork, with a bit of hard work (persistence and patience, not pressure), Autobrite Direct Cherry Glaze leaves a brilliant finish and no residue.

Key details – Size: 500ml; Price per 100ml: £3.40

5. Autoglym Instant Show Shine: Best car polish for versatility

Price when reviewed: £13 | Check price at Amazon

Autoglym’s Instant Show Shine brings gloss, value for money and versatility to the table. This quick fix works both outside and inside the vehicle, providing surfaces of all materials with a new shine. Though it won’t remove minor defects from paintwork, it will offer a post-rinse shine that will help protect your car until the next wash.

Key details – Size: 450ml; Price per 100ml: £2.89

6. Autosol Metal Cleaner: Best for polishing tarnished surfaces

Price when reviewed: £7 | Check price at Halfords

Autosol is one of the longest-established car polish brands, apparently used by manufacturers, museums and restoration experts around the world. Its bargain basement price tag belies its performance, and we found it superb at removing tarnishing from aluminium roof rails and even rust from chrome exhaust trims.

You only get 75ml in a tube, but a little goes a long way. It requires a bit of elbow grease: you rub it in with a soft cloth, then use another to polish before buffing to a shine. The instructions make it very clear what it is and isn’t suitable for, too.

Key details – Size: 75ml; Price per 100ml: £9

7. Armor All Shield Better Than Wax: Best car polish for the time-poor

Price when reviewed: £13 | Check price at Amazon

American brand Armor All has an effective selection of car-care products. Its Armor All Shield Better Than Wax is an all-in-one product, looking to combine the scratch-removal surface preparation of a polish with the dust- and water-repelling protective qualities of a wax. It’s as simple as spray on, wipe off. Since it can smear if it comes into contact with water, ensure you dry the car thoroughly and work it over on a dry day for the best results.

Key details – Size: 500ml; Price per 100ml: £2.40

8. Dodo Juice Need for Speed: Best car polish for use with a machine

Price when reviewed: £18 | Check price at Amazon

Another all-in-one solution, Dodo Juice Need for Speed provides up to three weeks’ protection with its carnauba wax formula. While it can be applied by hand, it’s ideally used with a car polisher for the glossiest finish. In addition to removing light scratches and swirls, Need for Speed smells amazing. Though a little does go a long way, the only dealbreaker for some drivers might be Dodo’s high price.

Key details – Size: 500ml; Price per 100ml: £3.60

9. Autoglym Ultra HD Polishing Compound: Best car polishing kit

Price when reviewed: £63 | Check price at Autoglym

With its reputation for quality car care sealed by a Royal Warrant, Autoglym is a legend on the British detailing scene. Its Ultra HD polishing compound, which has been specially formulated for dark cars, is very effective. This kit, though pricey, comes with all the applicators and cloths you’ll need to attach to your machine. It will leave your paintwork with an exceptional shine.

Key details – Size: 500ml; Price per 100ml: £4.40 (excluding 2 x pads and 1 x cloth of the kit making up the rest of the kit’s price)

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