Most people rarely consider car bras and certainly aren’t well versed in car bra pros and cons. Don’t worry. We’ve got all that covered and more.
Car Bra Purpose
Car bras, also sometimes referred to as masks, are designed to protect the front end of your car. Unlike hoods, roofs, trunks or even doors, front ends take a lot of damage from rocks, bugs, and highway debris.
Basically, the rule of thumb is that anything that CAN hit the front end of your car eventually WILL. The result is more scratches, dings, and paint chips than anywhere else on your car. Sports car drivers refer to this phenomenon as “road rash.”
Car bras are protectors that typically cover bumpers, grills and the front part of car hoods. They can be made from a wide range of materials, although UV resistant vinyl is most common. Some brands also come with matching accessories, such as mirror covers.
Many drivers use car bras only when they take long road trips. While you may not encounter too many scary road hazards on your daily commute, long highway trips are a different story. Construction hazards, road debris, and flying objects from passing trucks are all too common on trips.
Car Bra Pros and Cons
Like almost everything in life, car bras have pros and cons as well. While the list of pros is shorter than the list of cons, the main pro, paint protection, is a big one. The main con, i.e., do car bras damage paint, is also a big one, although paint damage can be mitigated by regular washing and waxing.
- Protect front end from chips, dings, and scratches
- Provide a sophisticated look, especially on sports cars (this is obviously subjective)
- Help maintain appearance, and ultimately resale value
- Must be installed on a clean, and preferably waxed, car (any dust underneath will act as an abrasive and scratch paint over time)
- Can cause differential fading on older cars, i.e., the part covered by the bra fades less than the rest of the car (note: this is less of an issue with modern car paint)
- Requires maintenance, must remove and clean when wet or dirty
- Not securing tightly can cause flapping and ultimately damage paint
- Costs money, especially for high-end, custom fit models.
Also, while not a general con, installation time for some models has been reported to be up to 1-2 hours. Here is a good example video of installing a Colgan car bra on a late model Ford Mustang.
Car Bra Categories
Car bras are a relatively straightforward product without a lot of options or complexity. Common categories include:
- Coverage (full front end vs. partial)
- Color (traditional black vs. factory color matched)
- Additional styling features (e.g., stripes)
- Accessories (mirror bras, mirror covers).
Who are Leading Manufacturers?
There are several leading car bra manufacturers, but the most well known are:
Unlike car covers, there are relatively few OEM options available.
Alternatives to Car Bras
Clear Bras. These are basically car bras made out of clear, adhesive film. Costs are much higher than traditional car bras and can range upwards of $2,500. The main reason for the added cost is that these are all custom fit and may require professional installation.
Generally, clear bras provide excellent protection and have a “less intrusive” look than traditional car bras. The downsides are that the film can “yellow” after a few years. Also, they can look cheap if not well maintained.
Bug Deflectors. These are low profile guards that fit where the grill and front of the hood meet. Typically made of acrylic, they prevent scratches and chips from bugs and flying rocks. Usually costing less than $100, they are much more affordable than clear bras and even many car bras.
The downside is that bug deflectors protect less surface area. They do not cover grills, bumpers or mirrors. Bug deflectors are more popular with pickup trucks, but do not look out of place on many car models.
Doing Nothing. This is always an option. Clear bras are sufficiently costly that it may be more affordable simply to have any scratches touched up at your local auto detailer. However, most car bras and deflectors will be cheaper than getting scratches repaired (average out of pocket costs are $650 according to our last survey)
In our view, deciding on whether or not to purchase a car bra comes down to:
- Do you prefer the look?
- Are you willing to do routine maintenance?
- Is a car bra within your budget?
If the answer to all three of these questions is “yes,” a car bra will very likely be a good investment.
Plus, if your car could talk, it would thank you.