Best ways to protect your car from the sun

Your garage is busy storing stuff, but you can still keep your car safe.

Brian Cooley Editor at Large
Brian Cooley is CNET's Editor at large and has been with the brand since 1995. He currently focuses on electrification of vehicles but also follows the big trends in smart home, digital healthcare, 5G, the future of food, and augmented & virtual realities. Cooley is a sought after presenter by brands and their agencies when they want to understand how consumers react to new technologies. He has been a regular featured speaker at CES, Cannes Lions, Advertising Week and The PHM HealthFront™. He was born and raised in Silicon Valley when Apple's campus was mostly apricots.
Expertise Automotive technology, smart home, digital health. Credentials
  • 5G Technician, ETA International
Brian Cooley
3 min read

If your garage is full of stuff, there's a good chance your car sits outside in the sun, fading and cracking its way to a lower residual value. Here are the best ways to protect your car from sun damage while keeping your garage a hoarder's paradise.

Watch this: The best products to protect your car from the sun

Car cover: Approximately $300

This absolves many sins. Your car will be virtually immune to sun, dew, grit, pollen and minor impacts if you buy a good quality, fitted cover made from an advanced fabric such as Kimberly Clark NOAH material. Major custom car cover makers including CoverKing and California Car Cover offer covers made from this or similar materials that breathe while keeping out grime, UV, and moderate moisture. They're essentially a garage you can roll up into a ball.


Like folding a huge bedspread outdoors, car covers are no fun to put on and take off, but a good one is going to protect your car from dust, dirt, pollen, UV and minor impacts.


The downside is that they're about as much effort as rolling up a garage. You need to essentially wrestle a double-sized bedspread made of heavy material on and off of your car every time you drive or park it, and do so with a certain technique that keeps it from throwing dirt and grime onto the vehicle. It's really not hard once you get in the habit, but a lot of people give up before they do.

Window tint: Approximately $500 to $1,500

My next favorite solution is window tint, though it does nothing for the outside of your car and costs a lot more than a cover. But there's nothing to wrestle each time you park or drive. 


You can hardly tell a car has tinted windows with the new nanotechnology tint films, yet they still block almost all UV and IR that fries your car's interior.


You may have seen my recent trip to 3M where we learned how the latest high-tech window tint films block almost all the sun's damaging rays without being dark and gloomy. Make sure you look into these nanotechnology and ceramic tints from 3M, Lluminar and others so that you can protect the inside of your car instead of just making it look like you are. The latest tint films also work without the old-fashioned metallized layer that may reduce cell phone signals in your vehicle. 

Window shade: Approximately $30

The cheapest insurance? A windshield shade. I like the rigid accordion-like shades that are custom ordered to fit your windshield shape exactly, reducing spots where the sun can leak through.

These shades mostly protect your dash and front seats, which is limited coverage for sure, but today's dashboard is really a huge assembly that can be as hard to replace as the engine. It's worth protecting.

Thinking about putting one of those carpet covers on your dash? Don't. Protect your car before it needs such an indignity.

UV protectants: Approximately $15

I recently showed you how to restore faded exterior black trim with various products that also promise to prevent sun damage. I'm skeptical that anything you spray on and wipe off is going to prevent damage from the most powerful orb in our universe. But, hey, people swear by SPF 50 sun block, too.

Ceramic paint coat: Approximately $500 to $2,000

I haven't tried this technology as it's too rich for my blood, on top of the money I spend on window tint and car covers. Several brands of shop applied coatings claim to embed nano particles into the car's exterior and interior surfaces to protect them from wear, dirt, minor abrasions and UV radiation. 


If you drive a million dollar car, a few grand for ceramic paint coating is nothing, but for the rest of us, this is about the most expensive way to protect a car from the elements.

Ceramic Pro

A number of high-end car owners I know make a trip to the ceramic application shop their first stop after buying a new car.