Paint Protection Film: XPEL vs. 3M

Paint Protection Film: XPEL vs. 3M

People always want to protect the paint of their vehicles as much as possible. They also want it to be looking like a new car for as long as possible. However, rocks, debris, bugs, and other unwanted materials can cause scratches and scrapes on any vehicle. These elements are hard to avoid, especially if you are parked outside.

One of the solutions available to car owners is getting a paint protection film. It is also popularly known to the car industry as a clear bra. Although some may find this car paint coating a bit pricey, it is still one of the best protection you can give to your beloved vehicle. Below are some of the things you might want to know about this material that can help solve your car problems.

What is Paint Protection Film?

A paint protection film or PPF is a thermoplastic urethane material, which can be applied to the painted exterior of a car. This self-healing transparent film can protect your vehicle from minor scratches caused by stones and sticky bug grimes. It can also protect your vehicle from acid rain, the extreme heat of the sun, and other chemicals. You can also use these protective films on motorcycles, airplanes, cellphones, and other electronic devices. A professional detailer or installer can set-up the PPF on your car to ensure its proper installation.

A paint protection film is like a clear plastic cover to keep the top coat of your car looking brand new for a longer time. It is an industry-accepted OEM (original equipment manufacturer) approved by car manufacturers.

Short History of Paint Protection Film

Today’s PPF, as we know it, was first used by the United States military during the Vietnam War. The government used it to protect the helicopter rotor blades and other equipment from flying shrapnel and debris. It was in the 1960s when the US military used the first customized 3M paint protection film.

Learn more about the history here:

What is the Difference Between a Paint Protection Film and a Vinyl Wrap?

A lot of people often confuse paint protection films with vinyl vehicle wraps. Here are three primary differences between the two materials.

1. A transparent film is thinner and lighter than vinyl. The vinyl is more substantial, thus providing extra coverage, and making it easier to install.

2. The paint protection film is transparent and crystal clear with self-healing properties, while a vinyl comes in various colors.

3. The paint protection film is used as a clear coat to protect your vehicle, while vinyl is used more for car customization and appearance.

Why Use a Paint Protection Film?

There are many advantages to using a clear coat for your car, including the following:

1. The paint protection film can give the ultimate protection of your car’s paint.

2. Transparent films can extend the lifespan of the surface of any vehicle.

3. Transparent films can give your ride excellent protection against debris and rock chips.

4. The paint protection film can remove light scratches and swirl marks with its self-healing property.

5. Clear coats can prevent the development of orange peel on your pick-up truck or car.

6. If properly installed, the paint protection film can give a 10-year warranty to your vehicle paint.

XPEL vs. 3M

The two leading brands, when it comes to car paint protection film, will be XPEL vs. 3M. To be able to determine which between XPEL and 3M Pro will you be getting, let us take a closer look at their similarities and differences.


Self-Healing Properties

The 3M is the first company ever to produce a paint protection film, while XPEL is known to be the first to manufacture the self-healing PPF. However, 3M has remained in the self-healing property competition with its Pro Series and VentureShield product lines.


Both 3M Scotchgard and XPEL Ultimate offer a 10-year warranty against yellowing and cracking. However, you only get a five-year warranty from 3M Ventureshield from the date of the original purchase.


3M transparent film costs range from as low as $2 to $16 per linear foot depending on the width size. XPEL also offers the film by foot. However, they also have pre-cut materials that can cost $10 for a luggage area kit to as much as $1100 for a car’s full hood. You can check for their available product pricing.


Pros and Cons


XPEL Advantages

  • Has more product line (XPEL Ultimate, XPEL Stealth, XPEL Xtreme, and XPEL Armor)
  • Clearer than 3M


3M Advantages

  • Cheaper than XPEL
  • Very sticky


XPEL Disadvantages

  • Pricier
  • Not as thick as 3M


3M Disadvantages

  • Has less product line (3M VentureShield and 3M Scotchgard Pro Series)
  • Can be hard to apply


You will never go wrong if you get either one of these two brands. Both XPEL and 3M are trusted brands when it comes to clear protection film. They also both offer quality, durable, and dependable, transparent film that can protect your car for a very long time. The key to having a long-lasting PPF is having it installed by professionals. You can search for the best clear bra installers nearest you using the internet locator.


Frequently Asked Questions


How Do You Install a Paint Protection Film?

It is still prudent to have professional detailers and installers put the paint protection film onto your car. PPF installation is an intricate job that needs specialized skills and proper equipment.  Whoever may be working on your vehicle, below are the steps to follow in installing the paint protection film:

1. Clean the Surface of the Car

Use a degreasing agent to remove dust, dirt, and debris. A good polishing can also help smoothen the paint and easily install the film on to your car. It is just like what you would do before applying a window film.


2. Cut the Clear Film

Cut the film depending on the shape of your full hood, front bumper, front end, fenders, or rocker panels. A professional installer might have the right machine to cut the film for you. Or, you can get pre-cut kits to ensure the film’s perfect fit on your car. You can search on google if there is already an available pre-cut kit for your car model.


3. Use Fitting Solution

An activator or fitting solution is needed for a clear bra to stick to the car paint properly. You can also use water with soap as an activator.


4. Fit and Put the Transparent Coat

Properly putting the film on any vehicle part like the front bumper, full hood, or entire front end is not easy. It might be wise to get experts to do this for you. This process requires a series of spraying and squeegeeing to lock down the film in place. Ensure that there are no bubbles and creases when putting a SunTek, XPEL film, or 3M film.


5. Let It Dry

When the film is applied, and there are no more bubbles and creases to be seen, the final step is drying it. You can use an industrial heat gun to dry the film coat and make the fit tighter. If you don’t own a heat gun, you can leave your car under the sun to dry.



How Does the Paint Protection Film Work?

A thermoplastic urethane is a transparent film that is exceptionally resistant to corrosion and acidic chemicals. This characteristic makes it ideal for protecting surfaces against mineral deposits, bird droppings, acid rain, debris, rock chips, or bug splatters.

Due to the component of the urethane material, it reduces oxidation when exposed to UV light and the sun. Its top layer is composed of an elastomeric polymer that helps the PPF retain a natural shape when applied and stretched. These characteristics enable the transparent film to minimize swirl marks and to self-heal when light scratches occur. Moreover, the clear coat can fit seamlessly onto the vehicle that it goes almost unnoticeable.

How Long Can the Paint Protection Film Last?

An adequately installed PPF usually lasts from five to ten years. But, no need to worry because this product often comes along with a warranty. However, to ensure that your 3M Scotchgard, SunTek, or XPEL Ultimate will last, you can follow the tips below:

  • Prepare the Car Surface

Prepping the surface of your car is as crucial as to the type of paint protection film you will put. Make sure that surfaces of the parts of your vehicle are adequately cleaned and polished before installing the PPF.

  • Ensure Proper Installation of the clear bra

Improper installation of the paint protection film can cause bubbles and creases. Remember that a smoother and tighter fit can make the film last longer.

  • Avoid Over-Exposure of Your Vehicle to Sun and Damaging Materials

Although PPF can withstand heat, debris, and bugs, too much exposure to damaging elements can make the film thinner faster.

  • Apply a Ceramic Coating

Some car owners opt to apply a high-quality ceramic coating on top of the transparent film for added protection. Plus, it can help prevent the yellowing of your car paint. Consequently, your vehicle will need fewer car washes and waxing.

What is the Best Paint Protection Film Brand?

When it comes to clear protection films, it has always been XPEL vs. 3M. These two leading brands include a variety of products like 3M Scotchgard, Pro-Series, Ventureshield, and XPEL Ultimate. They are known to be the leading PPF brands that are tested by car owners to be durable. However, there are also other quality products that you may choose from the following brands:

  • SunTek Paint Protection Film
  • ClearMask
  • Invisible Shield


What are the Disadvantages of the Paint Protection Film?

Just like any other product, the paint protection film has its advantages and disadvantages. The ultimate goal of any PPF is to protect your car from light scratches and chips. However, you may encounter some of the cons with your transparent film as follows:

  • The paint protection film can reduce the shine of your car’s paint.
  • Paint protection films are naturally not hydrophobic or water repellant. To solve this, most car owners apply a ceramic coating on top of the clear bra for better paint protection and preservation.
  • When a part of the clear coat is damaged, you need to replace the entire film.
  • Installation of the transparent film is not easy to do and cannot be a DIY method.
  • The paint protection film installation is more expensive than other coating solutions, like car wax and ceramic coating.
  • If not correctly installed, the transparent film can damage the paint of the vehicle when not immediately replace.
  • Using inferior paint protection film products can cause the yellowing of your car.

Some of the disadvantages mentioned above can be avoided if you know how to choose the right paint protection film. Also, seeking professional help in its installation can make a significant difference in the outcome of the product your use for your car.


Whether you have a sports car, Porsche, Benz, or an everyday vehicle, protecting your ride is necessary. A PPF, whether XPEL or 3M Pro, with its self-healing property, can protect your vehicle from rock chips and scratches. Though it cannot protect any car from dents and collisions, it is a good shield against rocks and debris. Subsequently, it keeps the paint coat of your vehicle looking brand new for a more extended period.

The most critical thing to remember when installing a paint protection film to your vehicle is choosing a high-grade brand. Durability, price, and quality are some of the features you would like to see in your chosen PPF. Also, you have to ensure that the transparent coat is installed correctly to get the most value out of your paint protection film. All of these factors considered, your clear bra will sure to last long and protect your car as it should be.

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