Abstract Two experimental fretting programmes which investigated aspects of fretting wear of sprayed cermet coatings are reviewed. These programmes were conducted in support of components used in the advanced gas-cooled reactor. It is speculated that the results from these programmes are compatible with a simple two-stage wear model. This model assumes that an initial wear process occurs which is dominated by an interlocking and removal of asperities. Such a phase will be dependent on the superficial contact areas and possibly the interfacial load, but the latter aspect is not considered. This initial wear is of very short duration and is followed by a mild, oxidative, wear mode. Coatings data are also compared with those for structural steels. In short-term low temperature tests it appears that structural steels have comparable performance with the cermet coatings but it is argued that this is an artefact of the wear process. However, at high temperatures (600 °C) wear of stainless steel could not be determined, the specimens showing a net weight gain. It is concluded that for in-reactor fretting applications cermet coatings will have advantages over structural steels at low temperatures. Even in high temperature regions some operation at low temperatures is experienced and consequently cermet coatings may be useful here also.