The bare minimum cost to have your car painted is around $500, but fancier or more complex paint jobs could cost thousands. Sure, a spotless paint job may make your car look extra great, but is it really worth the investment?
It might be worth doing it if you plan to sell your car, as repainting can increase the resale value. Classic car restoration also requires a very high-quality paint job.
Here’s what you need to know about painting your car, the associated costs—and whether or not they’re worth it.
DIY or get it done professionally?
DIY paint job
It’s more than likely that a DIY paint job won’t deliver the improvement you’re looking for.
An exception to this might be older cars or offroading vehicles that will likely accumulate more dents in the near future.
It also isn’t a bad idea to try to DIY repair small dings on your car, as this can be done with a small paint bottle.
These paint bottles are usually available for purchase at a dealership or other auto supply shop that can match your car’s original tint. Sometimes they are even free!
A full paint job is technically possible as a DIY project, but to do it well requires tools and skills that you may not already have, including sanding, taping, painting, finishing, and even removing windows.
Painting a car is not as simple as it looks! A bad DIY job could result in ugly overspray on windows or rubber parts. You could even end up with differences in color if you don’t have a steady hand, and patchy is not a good look.
Professional paint job
If you want to recolor a car, get a classic car painted, or do something wild like paint a mural, then you should definitely hire a professional.
Trained technicians apply as many as 24 coats of paint for a durable and seamless finish.
Another thing to keep in mind is that if you live in a climate prone to inclement weather, you may need specialized paints and finishes to protect your vehicle. Coastal vehicles may need to sand off rust before painting, and desert vehicles may need UV protection.
How much will professional auto painting cost?
A professional paint job can cost anywhere from $300 to $20,000. Most auto shops offer three levels of painting services, depending on your needs and budget.
- Showroom quality ($5,000 - $20,000) - Sand down to bare metal, fix rust spots and dents, and then apply new paint in multiple coats. Can take up to four weeks to allow for drying and the complexity of the process.
- Standard ($1,000 - $4,500) - Sand the body, fix rust, and paint with several coats to get a clean and glossy finish.
- Basic ($300 - $1,000) - Synthetic paint is often used and they won’t paint areas that are not visible, like under the hood. Expect the minimum coats to get the job done.
Key Takeaway You can paint a car yourself, but it might be worth paying for a professional’s services to achieve the best result.
How much will DIY auto painting cost?
If you want to save some money, then you might be willing to attempt a DIY auto paint job.
For about $200, you can buy the necessary supplies from a hardware store or auto shop. Here are the supplies and products you’ll need to gather:
Supplies and Products
Sandpaper or metal grinder
Mineral spirits for cleaning
Foam brushes (or air compressor and paint sprayer)
Eye and hand protection
Respirator and filters
DIY painters have one more thing to consider: Do you have a protected spot to apply auto paint without damaging your own property (or your neighbors’ property)? Auto shops have climate-controlled areas to limit the chance that things like dust or bird poop will damage the fresh paint. If you go the DIY route, you will need to have access to a tidy, well-ventilated garage.
Considering a DIY job? Here are some car-painting tips
Start by painting high up on the vehicle, so you can rest your other hand on the vehicle without damaging the paint. Apply consistent pressure, but don’t allow too much paint to build up, as this will result in unsightly drips which you will have to sand down later.
You should apply multiple coats to get the smoothest finish—but note that each coat will need at least six hours of drying time. Your car may be out of commission for a full week, so plan ahead!
Key Takeaway The cheapest way to paint a car is a DIY paint job—but proceed carefully.
Decision time: Quality vs. price
When it comes to an auto paint job, don’t be tempted to go for the lowest price.
A low price means that the shop might not do a good job. They may not mask off trim areas, which may result in over-spraying onto windows, or they may use inferior paint that won’t last.
Plus, a low cost means they might just paint over problem areas, like rust spots, rather than fixing them.
To be sure, ask the shop for an explanation of how their process works. Check to see if sanding and bodywork are included in the price. Most shops have a portfolio of previous work that you can review if you would like to check out the quality of their paint jobs.
Make a realistic budget for yourself. If you plan to resell the car, a costly new paint job could bump up the sale price—but not by much more than the total price of the paint job. On the other hand, don’t skimp on classic car paint, since a bad paint job could take down the car’s value.
If budget is a top priority, then you might be considering a DIY paint job—but you may not love the results. Paint is not a substitute for fixing up your car and getting bodywork done! But if you do decide to invest in a paint job, going with a professional will likely lead to a better final result.
Keep in mind that if you change the color of your car entirely, you must notify the DMV and your insurance company so they can update their records.
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Frequently asked questions
How much does it cost to paint a car a new color?
It costs between $500 and $20,000 to paint your car a new color, depending on the complexity of the job and the quality of the finish.
Do some colors fade faster than others?
No, although darker colors may show signs of fading faster.
Does a paint job increase the value of a car?
Yes, a good paint job can increase the value of a car, but it is only minimally effective for non-specialized cars. A new paint job is especially helpful for boosting the value of classic vehicles.
What affects the cost of painting a car?
Your fee is impacted by the quality of the finish, the complexity of the car’s design, the size of your vehicle, the repairs needed on the car, and your preference of materials.
How can I make my paint job last longer?
Make your paint job last longer by waxing your car every month. Doing so will protect your vehicle from the elements and extreme weather.
Is there anything I should avoid doing after I get a paint job?
Don’t leave the shop without doing your own quality inspection. Once you get the vehicle home, wait a month before going to a car wash. Finally, try not to drive unnecessarily or park your car in areas where the paint might be damaged, such as under trees and in direct sunlight.
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