My Car Quest

July 17, 2024

Matte Finish Paint- Is It Worth It?

Wherein our correspondent ponders embracing the trend…

by Wallace Wyss –

As a guy who looks at a whole lotta cars in my travels, I have seen about every type of paint available. Having recently piloted a Mercedes E53 AMG Cabriolet with flat blue paint, I realize this is the current trend.

And I wonder why–as up ’til very recently folks wanted glossy paint. They would hire detailers and search for that most elusive wax. And then flat paint comes along, looking like the unfinished hot rods from the Fifties where the guys ran their rods in primer because, after getting the engine right, there was no money left for a paint job.

Matte Finish Paint Rolls Royce

When I drove that 2021 Mercedes E53 test car it got dusty but I didn’t know how to maintain it–wiping it would or could rub particles against unprotected paint (like do you wax matte paint?)

I have heard the factory matte finishes have clear coat but if a bird poops on it and you can’t clean it within 15 minutes, it would eat the thin clear coat and leave a stain. Maybe that’s an old wive’s tale by now, and durability has improved to match that of regular paint.

So if matte finish cars have clear coats, it dries to a rough texture, giving it the dull, sheen. The matte finish seems to have penetrated to the highest reaches of the car world, like Mansory, a British customizer, offers it on their their custom Bentleys and you can order the finish from Mercedes, BMW and Porsche to name three automakers.

Now why, I ask you, would a guy or gal shelling out $300,000 or more for a Rolls or Bentley want flat grey or black paint? I think it is a “leveling out” ploy, and takes the sting out of the price differential between yer lordly car and regular cars, sort of like when m’lord pulls up in a Rolls Royce but gets out wearing a denim jacket and denim jeans. “Why, he’s just one of us commoners,” you think.

There’s precedent and wouldn’t cha know, it involves a Royal. Queen Elizabeth’s uncle Prince Henry, the Duke of Gloucester, ordered up his James Young-bodied Rolls Phantom V in two tone, gloss on the fenders, matte on the main body, back in 1960. Except he would never wear denims. So his Lordship started the trend over 60 years ago!

Matte Finish Paint

A second reason it is popular, in my humble opinion, is that it is like a serious weightlifter entering a gym. He can’t be bothered with products that make him look good, hair gel and all that–he just wants to pack on that muscle. So if you give your car a matte finish, you’re saying you are a serious car guy. “Don’t bother me with your waxes and all that, because all I care about is the performance,”

One example is when I met a stunt man at a Cars & Coffee in Malibu driving either either an ’05 or’06 Ford GT that had been repainted a flat black. It looked way more macho than the stock paint jobs, as if to say “Forget those fops with the glossy paint jobs–I’m a serious driver.”

Well, la de da. (Though I mock it, I secretly like this philosophy because my favorite military plane is the SR71 Blackbird which is, you guessed it, flat black).

Mercedes calls their matte finish line Magno. “They started it only for the top of the line originally but every day are extending it to more models. Mercedes charges extra for a matte-finished paint job–$2,500,” and only offers it on coupes and convertibles. The availability of flat matte from automakers is spreading to lower-priced cars like Hyundai’s sporty Veloster Turbo. A Hyundai Canada spokesman said. “In 2014, it represented just over 20 per cent of sales. In 2015, that rose to 21 per cent. So far, this year, matte-painted models represent 34 per cent of all Veloster Turbo sales.”

Ironically the more downmarket the model that these paint jobs will be available on, the less prestige matte will have. No Rolls owner wants his paint job to look like one you can order on a $20,000 car. One problem with a matte finish is that it accumulates swirls, scratches and other imperfections over time, like any other paint. But the imperfections are hard to correct. You can’t remove these like you can on a gloss finish and repainting may be required, and be expensive to cover any expensive additive required to create the matte texture. You might think “Well, I need only paint the damaged panel,” but guess what, it’s also harder to replicate the exact texture and color from one panel to the next.

Matte Finish Paint

According to Matt Kelly of a firm called Ceramic Pro: “The matte paint job finish also includes a clear coating. However, instead of filling and leveling the imperfect paint, it creates small dimples in the final coating. This prevents the paint from reflecting light and thus, creates a dull or matte finish.”

Kelly says there’s several levels of Matte finish including the Satin Matte Finish which he says gives you the best of both worlds. “It provides the sheen of a gloss finish without the reflective properties that matte is known to produce.” He describes it as “less ‘stealthy’ than the flat matte finish, the satin look really pops – especially in sunlight or under LED lights.”

One car maintenance tool you might have to drop if you go matte is the automated car wash. Those places always use a wax-enhanced car soap – which may not react well to your matte finish. Even washing a car with a metallic paint job in an automated wash could spell trouble.

A site called DetailXperts says “Paint care for matte finish is very different from the requirements of a gloss finish. You should not polish or wax the paint because it will lead to an unwanted shine. Because a clay bar cannot be used on this finish to remove surface contaminants, you need to use a matte paint cleanser. Regular microfiber towels are not suitable for this finish. Instead, the recommendation is that you use sheepskin mitts and cloths. To give the paint additional protection, use a matte paint sealant like Permanon Super Matte Finish Protection. To top it off, use matte paint protection film.”

In sum…I’m just in the beginning stages of learning about matte finishes but I’ve already dispelled my initial wrong impression that they’re less trouble than gloss paint. They could be more trouble. And I don’t think I need to do it to add to my macho score. Still, I’d like to hear arguments pro and con…..

Let us know what you think in the Comments.

Wallace Wyss

THE AUTHOR: Wallace Wyss is the author of 18 car histories A fine artist as well, he will be presenting his motoring fine art at Concorso Italiano in Monterey this August.



Matte Finish Paint AMG

Matte Finish Paint- Is It Worth It?
Article Name
Matte Finish Paint- Is It Worth It?
I'm just in the beginning stages of learning about matte paint finishes but I've already dispelled my initial wrong impression that they're less trouble than gloss paint.


  1. Chris Lackner says

    Well, call me old-fashioned, but I just think matte paint looks ‘orrible! To me, it looks like they’ve left it in primer.

  2. Agree. Looks like they primed it and couldn’t afford the finish, glossy coat. I think this is a fad. Guess I’m old school too.

  3. Rob Krantz says

    Agree with the other comments….I’m old fashioned I guess and love the look of a glossy paint job. I think matt finishes are unattractive.

  4. I have never considered matte paint and after reading how difficult they are to maintain I definitely do not want one.

  5. I have always wondered about the matt finishes on the Ferrari Formula 1 cars. Seems to me that the finish would have more “drag” than a shiny one. Aerodynamically, though, it COULD break up the boundary layer and influence that drag and actually slick things up…

  6. Byron H LaMotte says

    Looks unanimous, Though it may have a purpose on a race car to minimize glare.

  7. Wayne Watkins says

    Don’t know if you guys have matt wraps in the US , but we have had them in Australia for at least 10 years . I almost bought an MX5 ( Miata ) quite a few years ago , however did not coz I found that auto car washes are a no no . Mainly drug dealers drive matt blue Mercedes coupes here with yellow go fast stripes and they look dreadful .

  8. Glenn Krasner says

    The matte finish is disgusting looking, and the fact that Mercedes charges $2500 extra for a finish that is most probably cheaper to apply than conventional gloss paints is just another highly profitable billable gimmick. Hopefully, this trend will disappear incredibly quickly, and we can start enjoy looking at the finishes of cars again. Glenn in Brooklyn, NY.

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