Answer: As you probably suspect, the reason that the chrome is degrading so quickly is because of the salty environment in which you live. Assuming that moving to a dry, salt-free location is not an option, there a few things that you can try. Although $5000 is a lot of money, it’s a bargain considering the amount of chrome on your car. A more realistic figure for a quality job, including labor, should be much closer to $10,000. This leads me to believe that you are not getting a particularly high quality job done, which if cared for correctly can last for decades.
When most people think of high quality chrome plating, they generally think of a finish that has a high luster and is free of imperfections such as sanding scratches. But another important attribute of a high quality chroming job is its durability and resistance to corrosion.
Chrome plating usually begins with a layer of copper, although this is sometimes skipped as a cost saving measure. The next layer is nickel, and finally chrome. It is the nickel that not only gives the chrome its shine, but protects it from corrosion as well. In order to assure a high degree of corrosion resistance, shops apply a very heavy layer of nickel. Shops that offer the highest level of corrosion resistance use two different nickel layers, a semi-bright nickel followed by a bright nickel. When the circumstances are right for corrosion to start forming, a galvanic reaction between these two nickels tends to spread this corrosive activity across the entire surface of the chromed item rather than focusing it in a small area where it can penetrate to the underlying steel. This is the process used by most major new car manufacturers to ensure the longevity of their products. Keep the chrome clean and waxed and it should last for decades.