How much does it cost to paint a car?

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Painting the bodywork is an opportunity to rejuvenate your car’s original look or even to try out a new look with a different color. However, spray-painting any vehicle is a long process that involves special tools and skills, so it’s a job that may be best left to a professional.

Before you start contacting local auto shops for quotes, it’s a good idea to ask yourself: How much does it cost to paint a car?

Professional 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 end 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 bare metal, removing all of 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 may be to paint the vehicle in a clean, well-ventilated garage.

Doing it yourself? Tips for painting your own car

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

Start by painting the high spots like the roof, the top of the hood and the tops of the doors before working your way downward. You will need to use consistent pressure while applying paint with your foam brush but avoid using too much paint, which will create drips and runs in the finish. If you notice those imperfections after the paint has dried, use sandpaper to remove paint. You will likely want to add multiple 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.

Consider 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, using inferior materials and skipping important steps. Rather than removing trim, the painters may simply mask it off, and they may not paint areas that aren’t visible. Be cautious that cheap paint jobs may also have poor taping technique 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 you are happy with the quality.

Bottom line

When deciding to get your vehicle repainted, always be sure to figure out how much it costs for the various types of paint services.

Then, after finding out the costs, consider your painting needs and your budget carefully. If you try to get the job done as inexpensively as possible, the work may not be to a high standard, leaving you displeased with the result.