September 04, 2019

XPEL Ultimate - Long Term Review

10 MIN READ

reviews , wrx

It’s easy to overlook the benefits of a paint protection film on your vehicle, especially if you’ve never had one installed. In my case, I had experienced massive regret and frustration after daily driving my Fiesta ST for several years without any sort of front-end protection whatsoever. Every time I’d go to wash the car, I’d be forced to confront that dozens of tiny chips, scratches, and pits in the front bumper and hood. Spending several hours a week detailing my car became a much less gratifying experience because I knew the damage was there and was irreversible.

With this in mind, when I picked up my WRX almost two years ago, I had set aside the money to have XPEL Ultimate paint protection film installed almost immediately. A few short weeks after driving the car off the lot, I drove it (gingerly) up to Bravo Protection in Wayzata, MN for the XPEL installation. Not only was the experience with Bravo’s staff and services second to none, the quality of the XPEL film itself left me very happy with decision to drop the extra $2,000. You can read more about the details of that day in my earlier XPEL Ultimate Review post!

Bravo Protection Products

In this post I want to share my thoughts on how my investment has held up over the last 24 months, as well as share a few of the pros/cons of going with a paint protection film in the first place. I’ve had a bunch of folks reach out to me with questions about my experience, so I’ll do my best to summarize everything below.

TL;DR: Would I spend the money on the XPEL film again? Yes, in a heartbeat. And here’s a few reasons why:

Subaru Paint

As I mentioned in my initial impressions post back in 2017, I was well aware of the “issues” with Subaru paint before I purchased the car. Chalk it up to modern, eco-friendly, water-based paints, or blame Subaru for just not putting enough on in the first place; the short of it is that Subaru paint is notorious for chipping and wearing much easier than competitor’s paint. In the last few years, I’ve taken a touch up pen to at least three separate body panels to repair some decent sized chips. While none of these have been on the hood or front bumper (thanks to the XPEL), they have been noticeable and located in a variety of strange places - the gas cap, the driver’s side roof pillar, the driver’s side a-pillar, and an area of the rear bumper underneath the trunk lid.

Gas cap paint chipping

Roof paint chipping

Door paint chipping

Due to the lack of consistency or frequency of these types of damage, I’m fairly confident they’ve all been random occurrences - whether it be careless loading of the trunk, a rogue rock on the highway, or a particularly aggressive piece of hail during a rainstorm. What I mean is there doesn’t seem to be a particular panel or area of the vehicle that is more susceptible to issues than another. While this is good news, it doesn’t mean they haven’t been a sore sight!

Thankfully, the most heavily worn part of the WRX - the front bumper and hood - have remained almost entirely chip and scratch free! There are a couple of areas of the film that have taken a particularly harsh beating and chipped or damaged the XPEL film beyond the ability for it to self-heal, but overall the largest and most noticeable areas of the hood and bumper look almost brand new!

Hood paint is nearly perfect!

WRX hood protected by XPEL

WRX hood protected by XPEL

I’m Lazy

I used to be a stickler for detailing and would obsess over my car’s paint for hours on end. While advances in detailing products have made the process much easier and less time consuming, overall my attitude towards a clean car has changed towards the lazier side of things. I’ll still give the car a full rinse and wash at least once a week during the spring/summer, but I don’t find myself losing sleep over a slightly dirty car anymore. Water spots? Inevitable when you park your car outside for 8+ hours a day at work. The XPEL film has afforded me a much greater amount of leeway in detailing as well.

I noted in my original post that the XPEL did an excellent job of shielding the paint from bugs, road debris, and other nastiness accumulated on longer road trips. I’m happy to say it’s still up to the job, and bugs, tar, and other contaminants simply wash away with ease. I did have one instance of bug guts etching into the film itself, but I’ll cover that in more detail in a minute…

Bugs built up on the WRX door mirror

Frost buildup on XPEL film

Even though there are areas of the WRX that aren’t protected with the film, those larger panels that ARE wrapped take a hell of a beating every day, but remain MUCH easier to clean and maintain than those that aren’t. Spending less time finessing a clay bar and products in an effort to loosen grime and dirt has paid huge dividends over the last few years. I can’t come up with a realistic number, but I’d venture a guess that the ease of maintenance afforded by the XPEL film has saved me DOZENS of hours in sweat, tears, and hundreds of dollars in detailing products I didn’t have to use.

My Passengers Are Lazy

When I picked up the WRX from the dealership, I had mentioned to the salesman that I was planning to wrap the front of the car in XPEL. As we walked around the car for the final inspection before handing me the keys, he gave me some advice - urging me to get the rocker panels/side skirts wrapped in XPEL too. He took me out to his car and showed me the scuff marks and scratches left in his side skirts from people getting in and out of the car. It’s easy to forget just how wide the body kit on these cars sticks out when you drive it every day, but my passengers sometimes don’t. I’ve even had a few people use the side skirts to knock their shoes off in the winter…

XPEL protecting the rocker panels

Needless to say, I did opt to have the side skirts wrapped in XPEL. Those two pieces alone added several hundred dollars to the total bill, but I’d argue they were some of the best dollars I’ve spent on the car to this day. There are a few deeper scuffs and scratches in the film, but overall they remain remarkably pristine and take a ton of worry off my mind when it comes to having new passengers in the car.

XPEL protecting the rocker panels

The Birds and Bees (Well Any Bugs Really)

Everybody knows that bird crap and bug guts are some of the worst things for a car’s paint. Especially when left un-washed, the acidity of both materials is enough to etch into a vehicle’s clear coat in a matter of hours. Combine that with the fragility of Subaru paint and you’ve got a recipe for disaster.

Bug staining on XPEL film on hood

Most of my experiences with the aforementioned have been fairly uneventful, as the XPEL lets me simply wash them away without incident. However, in one particular situation where I was forced to leave bug guts on my car in the sun for a day, I did notice some more “permanent” etching into the XPEL film itself. It wasn’t noticeable unless you were REALLY looking, but it was enough to bother me. After trying a number of different techniques to encourage the film to self-heal (including warm water, polishing, heat gun, etc.) I wasn’t able to get the stains completely out. Thankfully, XPEL’s support team was extremely helpful and got me set up with a warranty claim to have the film replaced at no cost to me.

Unfortunately for my ego, after dropping the car off at the warranty-authorized detailer, the owner took one look at the stains, grabbed his cordless Rupes polisher and buffed them out in a matter of seconds. While I felt pretty stupid, he was quick to point out that most consumer-grade dual action polishers just don’t have the oomph necessary to really buff stains like those out. However, since there were a few areas of the front bumper film that were somewhat worn and had some more aggressive staining, the shop was kind enough to replace those pieces as agreed. It was an important learning experience for me personally, as it showed me how big of a difference the right tool can make!

XPEL after detailing

My Sanity

As I mentioned before, I have become less obsessive about keeping my car clean as I’ve gotten older. While part of that shift in attitude is due to having less time for detailing overall, the XPEL film has afforded the opportunity to not worry so much. Whereas before if my car was sitting idle and full of dirt/dust, I’d sometimes lose sleep worrying about the next opportunity I’d have to wash the car down. Thanks to the protection film however, I really don’t worry much anymore.

The WRX mid-winter, covered in road salt

During the crazier winter storms we get here in the Midwest, there’s a huge amount of snow, slush, salt, gravel, etc. being flung up by cars on the road. While it’s still not comfortable to drive in those types of conditions, I don’t find myself cringing when stuff is flying into the front end of the car. After two particularly long winters in both Minnesota and now Wisconsin, I’ve been amazed every year by how well the film has protected the car’s paint. Even during those particularly cold spells where all the manual washes are closed, I can rest easy knowing the XPEL is doing it’s job.

Summary

In summary, I can confidently say the investment in the XPEL Ultimate film has been worth every penny. While it was an expensive initial investment, having the film applied so early in the life of the vehicle has helped protect against countless costly and/or irreversible chips and scratches, saved me hours and hours of detailing time, and helped preserve the overall appearance and value of the WRX.

WRX bumper looking brand new thanks to XPEL

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