Boat Wax vs Car Wax: They’re Not the Same

Can car wax be used to wax a boat and save money? It’s a common question among budget-conscious boat owners. Car wax is not the same as boat wax, but you can use car wax on a boat, However, just because you can, it doesn’t mean you should. 

Boat wax vs. Car wax

Boat Wax vs. Car Wax

Boat wax is specifically formulated to work with gelcoat in tough marine environments. 

Waxing a boat

Waxing a car

It has a chemical composition that is more suited to combating harsh marine conditions such as constant water exposure, direct sunlight, or extreme heat and cold.

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Car wax is designed specifically for road conditions. It’s capable of repelling rainwater, but not robust enough to cope with constant immersion in water and other harsh marine conditions. Car wax doesn’t provide the same level of UV protection either. You can apply car wax to a boat, but it doesn’t last as long nor does it offer as much protection as boat wax, and requires more frequent re-application.

Fun Fact: Because boats and RV’s are often constructed from similar materials, some boat wax is marketed as boat/RV wax.

Gelcoat vs. Clear Coat

Boats and cars are finished with a top layer of protective material: boats with gelcoat and cars with clear coat. 

Fiberglass boat gelcoat

Boat wax vs car wax differences

Gelcoat is a polyester resin layer applied over the boat’s fiberglass structure that provides an attractive glossy finish while protecting the fiberglass from water penetration and UV rays.

Clear coat is a clear layer applied over the car’s paintwork that allows the paint’s color to shine through while protecting the paint from stone chips and the elements.

Although durable, gelcoat becomes porous and oxidizes over time. This oxidation gives the gelcoat a chalky appearance, and makes it rough to the touch. Boats inevitably experience oxidation, which is why many fiberglass boats are painted white to hide it better.

Preventing Gelcoat Oxidation with Boat Wax

A coat of boat wax helps prevent fiberglass gelcoat from oxidizing. 

Fiberglass boat gelcoat

It provides a protective layer that stops water and air from coming into contact with the gelcoat and causing oxidation. The marine wax penetrates the gelcoat’s pores and oils within the wax work to repel water, while UV inhibitors in the wax filter out harmful UV rays. Regular waxing will keep oxidation at a minimum, and prevent a boat from developing that unappealing chalky appearance.

Saving Time and Money with Boat Wax

It's a specially made product that exists for a reason, so if you’re waxing a boat, just stick to boat wax. 

Car wax not for boats

Ultimately you’ll need to apply car wax more often to a boat than boat wax, so in the long run you really won’t be saving any money if you go that route. Factor in the additional time you’ll have to spend re-applying coats of car wax to a boat, and you’re wasting time on top of the money you’re not saving. Your boat represent a major investment, so why risk compromising its resale value for the sake of saving a few bucks?

Boat wax car wax differences

Don’t be cheap. Your boat is too important of an investment to take shortcuts on its maintenance in order to try to save a little cash. Use car wax for your car and boat wax for your boat, period.



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