Projecting PPF’s Present Success

By Mike Burke

Someone recently asked me if I would have predicted 20 years ago how popular paint protection film (PPF) would become. My answer? Absolutely not. In fact, when I first started doing PPF in the late 1990s, I would have bet someone $100—maybe even $1,000—that it would stay a niche product forever. Obviously, I would have lost that bet. But why?

Price Increases

First of all, the price of new cars has increased much more over the past 20 years than the price of PPF, proportionally, but also in absolute terms. I think I was charging around $1,000 to $1,500 for a full front end back then, and now it’s $1,500 to $1,800 for most non-exotics; around a 35% increase.

Compare that to the cost of a Toyota Sienna minivan—the kind of vehicle we never wrapped 20 years ago. You could buy one for $24,000 – $28,000 in 2003 but the 2023 model will set you back $37,000 – $53,000. Not only is that a 90% increase for the top of the line model, it’s $25,000 more in absolute value versus about $300 to $500 more for PPF. It makes a lot more sense financially to spend $1,500 protecting a $50,000 investment versus a $28,000 one.

Repainting Costs

Secondly, the cost to repaint has also increased quite a bit. I sold cars in the mid-1990s before going into tint full time, and back then paint was cheap. Dealers used to fix the chips on used cars as part of the process of cleaning them up to sell. Since then, paint and clear coat have both gotten so much more expensive that now the cost to re-paint a hood or bumper is pretty close to the cost of PPF. In some cases, PPF is the less expensive option.

A Decline in Durability?

The third reason is the durability. I can’t back this up with hard data, but I really feel like the quality of automotive paint has declined a lot over the years. With some makes this is obvious (Tesla paint anyone?). Of course, there are exceptions (German cars seem to have great quality paint that wears really well) but overall it just seems like cars are getting chipped more easily than they used to.

Even if PPF and re-painting cost the same, the fact is PPF just wears better than paint. If you leave your car unprotected, you’re going to be dealing with an ever-accumulating collection of rock chips until it gets bad enough to do something about it. With paint protection film on the car, most of those chips won’t happen at all, or they’ll be minor enough to heal in the sun.

Mike Burke has worked in the window film industry for 33 years. His company, Sun Stoppers, has more than 71 locations in 28 states and offers residential and commercial tint and decorative film services as well as automotive tint, paint protection, and ceramic coatings.

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