There are so many different types of car covers on the market right now, it can be totally overwhelming to try and figure out which one you should buy. There are a lot of reasons to have a car cover and we’ll dive into those, but there are a ton of different environmental hazards that can cause all sorts of issues for your car.

Some of the benefits of having a car cover are the following (though this list is not all inclusive):

  • Helps protect your car from theft
  • Protects it from hail, sleet, snow and rain
  • Keeps the cat claws off your paint job (huge plus)
  • Protects from pollen, dirt and dust
  • Tree sap and bird poop (need we say more)
  • Tree branches break and cause dents and scratches if your car is not covered
  • UV rays can damage your paint job and dashboard if not covered
  • Excessive heat or cold and also be harmful for your vehicle
  • Dings and scratches from kids, bikes, garage clutter, and car doors

Now that we have a list of some of the reasons you want to protect your car from these things, let’s dive in a little deeper and explain in more detail why these are hazards that should be avoided.

First of all, there are things like industrial fallout that include things like rail dust from nearby railroads, jet fuel particles from jets flying overheard or at the airport, acid rain is even a consideration and all of these will ruin the clear coat on your car and eat away at your paint job. You don’t want that. Things like tree sap and bird poop will totally cause etching into your paint job and even with a lot of chemicals and some serious work, it can be very hard to get off without leaving parts of your clear coat that have been rubbed off.

Cat claws and fallen tree branches are total destruction for your paint coat. These scratches can be avoided if you use a car cover and that darn cat might actually live to see another day. It’s near impossible to keep a cat off of whatever that cat wants to be on. Hopefully it’s not your car with the pretty paint job. Dust, pollen and dirt also cause issues for your car. Pollen is notorious for turning your paint job an eerie shade of yellow and so if you use a car cover, especially in spring you can save your paint job and help keep dust, dirt and pollen out of all the little nooks and crannies and smaller parts of your car where you don’t want build up to occur.

If you leave your car out in the sun a lot, especially in the UV rays you are going to see that it warps your paint job and pretty soon that pretty cherry red color is a little less pretty cherry red. The interior of your car will also take a hit. Leather and cloth seats will fade and the dashboard fades and becomes warped as well. Heat is the number one destroyer of plastic, leather and vinyl and if you’ve ever been left in a hot car for an extended period of time, you know just how hot that car can become. Overtime, your car will just look less like the car you bought and more worn and faded. You may have clear coat on your car, but not much of it. Overtime the clear coat will be faded too and your car will not be so reflective and vibrant.

Keep it mind, it’s harder to steal a car that’s covered. Not only will there be less eyes peeping in your windows to see what you’ve left in your car to steal, but most people who are looking to break into a car or steal a car want an easy target where they can make their move quickly and get away quickly. A car that’s got a cover on it does not make for an easy target. If a thief has to put more time and energy into taking a cover off a car before they can start their business of breaking in or stealing it, chances are they are just going to move on. Good car covers even come with a lock that will really deter someone from messing with it.

We’ve all had a kid or two that raced their bike into the garage and let the handlebars ding the car. Replace bike with shooter, or any other clutter in the garage, if you’d had a cover on your car you could have avoided the problem all together.

The weather and elements will also do a number on your paint job and car if it’s not covered. Have you ever see the paintjob and hood of a car after it’s been pelted with golf-ball size hail? Yeah, it’s not pretty. Not only it is terrible looking, but also the amount of money you will shell out to get it fixed is enormous. If you have a quality outdoor car cover then it will be water repellant and will help keep the rain, sleet, snow and hail off it. This way you are much less likely to ever have to deal with rust problems on your car. They say it’s also easier to remove snow from a cover vs. the windshield of your car, which is something else to take into consideration.

There are a couple of drawbacks to having a car cover. Caring for the cover is annoying sometimes, and there is the possibility of small scratches. Because of the possibility of small scratches, it’s been a hotly debated topic on whether or not to get a car cover. We still say, car covers are totally worth it. We’d prefer a couple of tiny scratches to what we might end up with if we didn’t have a car cover. But anytime you touch your paint for any reason, you risk scratching it. You can always remove the small ones with a polish if you need to, so even a tiny scratch here or there is not the end of the world. Assuming you know how to properly install your car cover, you should be able to avoid any scratches at all. You are going to want to install a car cover on a clean car and you’ll want to use a quality custom-fit cover. We’ll discuss that more in a minute.

Ok, so assuming we’ve convinced you to get a car cover, how do you care for it? Good question. If you get a really nice high quality indoor cover, then you may need to dry clean it occasionally. Even with a little bit of hassle, it’s still worth having a car cover, the benefits totally out weight any of the hassles of having to take care of it. The kind of car cover you purchase matters. If you get a cheap cover that’s poorly made then it probably won’t breathe very well and that’s going to make dew or condensation build up under the cover, which can hurt your paint job. It can also start growing mildew or mold and both of those things can leave stains on your paint job that are unsightly and very hard to remove. Also, if there is too much condensation left for two long and it start to cause rust issues which no one wants either.

You will also have to decide if you need an indoor cover or an outdoor cover. Indoor covers are used for cars that are kept indoors in a garage, covered parking or a shop. You’ll probably have other hazards in your garage though like lawn equipment, bikes, tools, kids etc. An indoor cover is great to help keep the car clean from dust, dirt and pollen and is great indoors, but at the same time, it may be just as well to buy a heavy duty outdoor cover to better protect your car from the hazards of the garage or shot and you’ll also have the option of parking the car outdoors as well. An indoor cover is light and stretchable but just can’t get the job done when you are parking the car outside. Outdoor covers are much heavier and sturdier. Outdoor covers are generally called weatherproof or all-weather covers and they are pretty resistant to UV rays, dirt, water, dust, the elements and other hazards. They weight a lot more than an indoor cover and they cost more, but they are worth it. They are designed to be water resistant but not waterproof, they will breathe and allow moisture from rain or other contaminants that would degrade your car and paint job to evaporate instead of getting trapped underneath the cover and destroying your paint. The theory is that as soon as the rain stops, then your car and the cover will dry out. They do a pretty good job of doing that.

A good outdoor cover will have several layers to it and not just one that will help keep debris, dirt, dust and pollen out. They’ll catch all the tree sap and bird poop and any other fall out from tress above it or falling leaves. This should also help keep your drain tubes and air intakes unclogged and not full of debris, which is a lifesaver if you are used to parking out under trees on the street or driveway. Another benefit of the outdoor covers is the UV protection you’ll get so that the sun won’t beat down on your car and fade the paint and destroy the interior of your vehicle. UV light also reflects of the pavement and other vehicles so using a cover will help with this as well. Always use a good cover if you plan to leave your car for an extended period of time. You’ll save the paint, protect it from the elements, and keep it covered so people can’t see what is or isn’t stored in your car and make it a more unlikely target for thieves.

There are also custom fit covers, ready fit covers and universal fit covers that you’ll have to decide if you want to use. Obviously, the better the fit to your car the better, but not everyone feels as strongly about that as we do. So let’s discuss some of the features and benefits of each of them.

  • Universal fit covers are going to be the least expensive. They are what they imply; they fit any type of vehicle. They are designed for large, medium and small cars. They aren’t going to fit as closely and may leave gaps between the vehicle and the cover, but they’ll get the job done. These are the kids of covers you can find at any big box store because they can be made in bulk and marketed to the masses. They are definitely cheaper than custom made covers, but keep in mind, sometimes you get what you pay for. Because they are so loose, sometimes the wind can pick them up pretty quickly and not give you as much protection as you were expecting. If you’re going to use a loose universal fitted cover, you may want to also get some tie downs or other means to secure it. If you don’t secure the bottom you may still get dirt and dust blown up and under the cover and it can still hurt your paint job if the dirt particles and the cover start rubbing together. It will act like a fine sand paper on your paint job. The other thing about universal covers is that they are not custom made for your car so they may not have places for spoiler, side mirrors, scoops, canards, splitters, louvers, or other after market or specialty features that extend from your vehicle. They can also cause some small scratches to your paint job if you have to pull them across your vehicle to install them.
  • Ready- fit covers are a definitely a step up from a universal cover in the sense that they are cut to fit a certain type of vehicle, like a truck, van, car, etc. These are also pretty easy to find at most big box stores. They have some of the same drawbacks that the universal car covers have so see above for a detailed explanation of those.
  • In our opinion, custom-fit car covers are the way to go hands down. They are custom made to fit your vehicle with as close precision as possible. Granted, you’ll have to special order them usually and they will be more expensive, but it is worth it. Also, you’ll probably have to wait to get the cover, which is a draw back; you can’t just walk into a big box store and find a custom fit cover for your car. But that’s a pretty menial downside if you ask us. These covers are made for your specific car and include measurements for the model and all included items like accessories, splitters, antennas, spoilers etc. They are also a close enough fit that you shouldn’t have the gap or wind issues as described above. These covers should fit your car like a glove and will not allow any type of dust, debris or pollen or any other hazard we’ve mentioned get close to your paint job and cause you issues. 

Car covers come in different type of materials. Usually they are either made out of cotton or synthetic microfiber. The kind of material you choose will be based on the factors above and what you plan to use the cover for (outdoor vs. indoor). Usually the cotton based covers and used for indoor car covers only. They aren’t made for water-repellent purposes or UV protection. They are meant to be a thin cover to provide you the basis for protecting the cars but aren’t to be used out in the elements. They come in light cotton, laminated cotton, or napped flannel or thicker woven cotton. It’ll get the job done assuming you are using it for indoor use only.

The heavier outdoor use covers are going to be the synthetic fabrics. These fabrics are usually acrylic microfibers; solution-dyed polyester, or sometimes heavy canvas materials. They will give you the mildew, water repellant and UV protection you are looking for and they’ve come a long way in the last several years in the way that they protect and the way they are manufactured. You don’t have to worry so much about which outdoor fabric the cover is made out of, you should be more concerned with how many layers the cover has and if it has a soft lining included. The soft lining will help prevent any scratches to your paint, which is ideal.

Obviously, if you know where you plan to use the cover (location) and what the intended use will be for, then it will be much easier. You’re not going to buy the same car cover to park your car out in the middle of rainy Seattle that you would to park your car out in the middle of the Mojave Desert heat. There is not best car cover for every situation, but hopefully this gives you more clarify for the possibilities that are out there and which type of cover may be best for you.