- The cost of painting a car varies widely due to factors like your goals, the size and condition of your car and the color of the paint.
- If you’re thinking of reselling your car, a new coat of paint can increase your car’s worth.
- A new paint job can help your car last longer, protecting it from corrosive elements such as sand, road salt, excessive heat or cold and humidity.
- Be aware that if you own a classic car, repainting it could increase its value, which could raise your insurance premiums.
Painting your car could be on your to-do list for a number of reasons. Perhaps your car has scratches or blemishes you’ve been meaning to touch up. Maybe you’re restoring a classic car in your spare time and painting it is the next step. Or maybe you’re just tired of looking at the current color of your ride.
There’s also something else to consider: Cars are in short supply and high demand due to pandemic slowdowns, including a microchip shortage that’s affected the production of practically every major auto brand. So deciding to spruce up your car’s appearance could also be a smart money move–you avoid paying “above sticker” price for a new car and up your car’s resale value in the process.
But first things first: You need to understand the costs associated with getting your car a paint job, which can vary greatly depending on your goals. Here, we break it all down for you.
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Factors that impact the cost of painting a car
The cost of painting a car depends on the extent of the work you want done and the location you choose to complete the work. According to research by CostHelper, you could spend as little as $300 to $900 for a basic paint job, and upward of $20,000 for a specialty paint job. The average cost of painting a car is $1,000 to $3,500, based on research and prices submitted by CostHelper users.
Zach Wimpey, CEO of Craig and Landreth Cars, an auto dealer and repair shop in Louisville, Kentucky, can vouch for the wide price range: “Depending on the condition of your car, you can expect to spend anywhere from $300 to $20,000,” he says.
There are several factors that can impact how much it costs to paint a car. These five are at the top of the list:
Quality of the paint job
You can get a basic paint job for a couple hundred dollars, but expect lower quality. That’s okay if your car is older or has a low value and you’re just trying to make it look less like a junker. But if you’re painting a valuable vehicle, like a classic car, you’ll need to spend more money to get the high-quality paint job it deserves.
While a basic paint job may only involve painting over the car without repairing any rust or blemishes, a quality paint job will take care of any issues in your car’s bodywork before painting. It will also use more layers of paint to get an even finish, most likely ending with a clear coat to help protect the paint from the elements and make it last longer.
Amount of paint needed
If you’re just touching up your existing paint job to cover up a few scratches or chips, it’s probably not going to put a big dent in your wallet. But if you want to repaint the entire car, you’ll need a lot more paint to get the job done, and that means a higher cost.
In the long run, a full repaint is probably a better option since it’s more likely to last. With touch-ups, you might need to redo them to keep your car looking good. This can push up the price over time, which may end up costing you more.
The color of the paint
Going with a common car color like black or white is usually the least expensive option when it comes to painting your car. It also costs less to stick with your car’s original color. Repainting your vehicle in a new hue means a more thorough job that involves covering areas like the door jambs and engine bay. If you choose a unique color, expect to pay more for the paint job.
The size of your car
Painting a small car like a Fiat 500 is going to cost less than painting a larger vehicle like a Ford F-150, simply because of the size. A smaller car requires less paint (and less time) than a larger one. That means the cost of materials and labor will be higher for a larger car or truck.
Where the work is done
It’s a good idea to shop around to get a variety of quotes to paint your car. You may find that the cost varies between body shops. National chains, like Maaco, usually range in price from $300 to $1,000 and focus on a basic paint job, while some dedicated body shops will offer several levels of paint jobs depending on your goals. The higher the level, the more time and money it will cost you. You can save money by doing the job yourself. But unless you are experienced in auto detailing or DIY projects, painting your car might be a task best left to the professionals.
When’s it time for a paint job?
You may want to consider having your car painted if:
There’s visible wear and tear
“If your paint shine is fading or there are signs of peeling, bubbles or discoloration, you might need a new paint job,” says Dorothea Hudson, vehicle paint expert with Autoinsurance.org.
You plan to resell
Sometimes a great paint job can make your car look better than when you originally pulled it out of the lot. “New paint coats can increase the resale value of a car,” says Wimpey, who adds, “Your car might have suffered some scratches in an accident and this could be a quick fix.”
A layer of protection is in order
In addition to making your car look attractive, paint can help protect it from the elements, such as sand, road salt, excessive heat, extreme cold, humidity and rust.
If you notice rust on your car, treating it before painting is essential for a good paint job. Rust not only looks bad but it can also affect the structural integrity of your car, potentially making it unsafe. The process of painting your car helps stop the rust from progressing.
What about your auto insurance premium?
It is possible that painting your car may significantly increase its value, which could in turn increase your auto insurance premium. If your paint job is a simple touch-up, it’s not likely your insurance premiums will be impacted. But if you’re working on an older vehicle, the money you put into the restoration, including the paint, could increase the car’s worth.
If you’re concerned about paying more for insurance, call your agent to determine whether to stick to a basic paint job versus getting too fancy.
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Where to get your car painted
A professional body shop is the best place to go. Body shop technicians are experienced in painting cars. It’s worth asking friends and family for a referral to be sure you’re getting a trusted technician.
You can also search a service like Yelp for businesses in your area. A trusted professional will inspect your car and listen to your wishes before giving you a price for the job. It’s always a good idea to get several quotes from highly rated body shops before committing to one.
Tip: For minor paint jobs and touch-ups, you can perform the work yourself. Along with the paint, you’ll need three key supplies: paint sprayer, paint masker and drop cloths.
Money-saving options for painting your car
If you’re not sure you can afford to get your car painted, there are some things you can do to help save money.
Do the prep work at home
You can save some cash by prepping your car for a paint job before taking it to the shop. (Be sure to discuss how much you can save with your technician.) If there are any chips in your car’s bodywork, sand them down with auto-body sandpaper to smooth them out and apply primer. This effort can cut down on the amount of labor the technician has to perform, helping you save money on the overall job.
Paint it on your own
The easiest way to save money on painting your car is to do the work yourself. This will save you on the labor costs associated with a professional paint job, and can cost anywhere from $100 to $1,000 depending on the materials you use and type of paint. However, as noted above, the quality of the work will be lower, and you may need to retouch it more often.
If you’ve made up your mind to do the work, make sure you have the correct tools and materials. You’ll need to prep the surface for painting by making sure it is free of any debris and by fixing any blemishes or dents. Then, you’ll need to start with a coat of primer, followed by several coats of paint applied with a spray gun. The more coats you apply, the better the finish will be and the longer the paint job will last. The Automotive Training Center can offer some guidance.