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How much does it cost to paint a car?

Painting a car
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Painting the bodywork of your vehicle is a great way to rejuvenate your car’s original look or even make your car feel brand-new with a different color. On average, a new paint job can range in price anywhere from a couple hundred to thousands of dollars.

But the high price tag can be worth it. Getting a fresh coat is a lengthy process that involves special tools and skills, so it’s a job that’s usually best left to a professional. Before you start contacting local auto shops for quotes, understand the extent of the work that may be involved and how much you can expect to pay.

Factors affecting cost

As with most vehicle add-ons, there are many factors that influence the total price of painting your car. Here are the primary ones to be aware of.

  • Size: The size and type of vehicle you drive will greatly impact the cost to paint it. Painting the body of a large SUV will cost more than painting that of a smaller coupe.
  • Paint color: Not all paint is created equal; the color and quality of the paint will range in cost. Painting your car a basic color such as white or black will be cheaper than a less common color. In addition, higher quality paint that lasts longer will be more expensive than standard industry paint.
  • Paint finish: Paint finish refers to the amount of shine that the paint has. Depending on your style, prices vary for matte, gloss or semi-gloss finishes.
  • Caliber of body shop: Through research you may come across very inexpensive paint jobs, but beware: Price and quality of work go hand in hand when it comes to getting your car painted. If you opt for a bargain body shop, the work quality is not likely to include the same level of care and attention.

Should you get professional car painting or DIY?

When deciding between professional or DIY painting, consider your purpose for painting — do you want a quick cosmetic fix before selling the vehicle, or are you working on a restoration passion project? A DIY paint fix may add some value to a dinged-up car, but it won’t ultimately improve it.

While it’s possible to paint your own vehicle, it involves patience, skill and a range of paints and tools you may need to purchase specifically for the job. The result of your own paint job may not provide the high-quality vehicle facelift you are looking for. Do-it-yourself paint jobs are best suited for older vehicles or all-terrain vehicles that frequently pick up knocks and scratches.

For people looking to restore a family vehicle or collector’s car to its original condition, it’s usually a better idea to employ the services of an auto repair shop where professionals apply up to 24 even coats of paint for a high-gloss, durable finish.

Professional auto painting costs

Many body shops offer several levels of service to cater to customers with different budgets and requirements.

The main types of paint service are:

  • Basic: The most inexpensive paint job involves as few coats as possible, using synthetic enamel paint. For the basic job, the painters are unlikely to paint areas that are not normally visible, such as the inside of the hood. Basic costs range from $300 to $900.
  • Standard: The cost of a standard paint job usually includes sanding the body and removing rust before painting to get an attractive finish. Standard costs range from $1,000 to $4,500.
  • Showroom quality: This process involves sanding the bodywork down to the bare metal, removing all the rust and dents and then applying up to 24 coats of high-quality paint. The project may take up to a month, and the showroom-quality costs may be as high as $20,000 in some cases.

DIY auto painting costs

For older vehicles, the cost of a professional paint job may be excessive. In these cases, you may wish to try painting the vehicle yourself. The necessary materials are widely available from hardware and automotive stores for as little as $200. Your only other costs are in time and effort.

The required materials and tools include:

  • Gloss paint.
  • Primer.
  • Foam brushes.
  • Paint trays.
  • Masking tape.
  • Sandpaper.
  • Mineral spirits for cleaning.

One of the biggest concerns with a DIY project is finding a location to paint the vehicle. Many professional painting and body shops have climate-controlled booths designed to limit the amount of dust and dirt that might come into contact with the paint and ruin the finish. For a DIY project, your best option is to paint the vehicle in a clean, well-ventilated garage.

Tips for painting your own car

There are several steps to consider when painting your own car.

  • Work downward. Start by painting the high spots like the roof, the top of the hood and the tops of the doors before working your way down the vehicle.
  • Use consistent pressure. You will need to use consistent pressure while applying paint with your foam brush.
  • Don’t use too much paint. Adding too much paint at once could create drips and runs in the finish. Aim for even coats, keeping in mind that you’ll need to make multiple passes.
  • Be patient. You will likely want to add several coats of paint to achieve a clean finish, but you must allow at least six hours in between each coat.

If these steps seem daunting but you have a small budget, consider a basic paint job done by a professional. 

Considering quality vs. price before painting your car

Everybody wants a cost-effective service, so when you are contacting body shops to get quotes for your auto-painting project, it’s tempting to go for the lowest price offer.

However, you get what you pay for. Lowball quotes may be for a low-quality paint job or inferior materials. Rather than removing trim, the painters may simply mask it off, and they may not paint areas that aren’t visible.

Cheap paint jobs may also have poor taping techniques that will result in overspray on your windows or rubber fixtures. The quote may not include certain services that the auto painters charge as an additional rate, meaning they may choose to paint over problems like rust or dents rather than taking the steps to address those issues first.

Before committing to a service, ask the painters what steps and details their price covers. Check if sanding and preparing the bodywork is part of the cost and ask to look at previous examples of their work to make sure that you are happy with the quality.

The bottom line

A variety of factors affect the cost of painting a car, including the size of your vehicle and the quality of paint and professional services you choose. While it is possible to save money by painting your own car, the result may not provide a high-quality or long-lasting result, so it’s often best to have the work completed by a professional.

But remember when looking for a body shop to do the work that you get what you pay for. A bargain paint job may include lower quality paint and less attention to detail. Before making a final selection, ask plenty of questions about what’s included in the price.

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Written by
Mary Blowers
Insurance Contributor
Mary Blowers is a former contributor to Bankrate and a freelance writer who specializes in education, travel, and money management. Mary is published on sites like Top Management Degrees, Safety.com, Reviews.com, Million Mile Secrets, and My Move.
Edited by
Auto loans editor