Cost to Paint a Car


Ballpark estimate: $1,000 to $3,500+

A fresh paint job can really spruce up your car and make it look new again. Perhaps you have collision damage and you need your car painted as part of the repair to make everything uniform, or maybe you want to fix aging paint that hasn’t stood up well to the weather conditions. Or you could just want to try a new color and/or add some distinctive design elements to your vehicle because you need a change of pace. Whatever the reason, it’s worth exploring the cost to paint a car to find out what to expect for this project.

The Preparation

Most car paint jobs can be divided up into two distinct processes. The first process involved getting the car to get it ready for painting. This prep work includes sanding the existing paint, and repairing any damage (such as scratches, dings, and rust) to ensure the final product will be smooth. It also involves removing as much of the trim as possible for the neatest job, and masking any auxiliary parts of your car that remain to protect them from the paint, such as the windows.

Since the work to prep the car for a paint job can be labor-intensive, sometimes you can find a discount auto body shop that will give you a lower price on a paint job but in exchange, you may get less perfect results because they may skimp on the preparation. Therefore, when collecting estimates on the job make sure to find out exactly what the shop will do to get your vehicle ready. If you skip on the prep, the results will likely suffer.

The Paint Process

The second part of a paint job is the actual painting itself. It’s important to know that not all paint jobs will give you the same type of results so you’ll want to go for a good quality paint. Most people opt for urethane-based acrylic paint, which is the most common type of paint that has good durability and also goes on well, making it cost effective. If money is especially tight, you could save money going with acrylic lacquer paint instead, but this is prone to chipping so the results are very short-term and therefore, won’t be worth it in the end. Another alternative is enamel acrylic paint, which is durable but can be more time-intensive to use, so it will cost more, too. In addition, if you’re touching up an existing paint job, you might opt for water-based auto paint, which is also more expensive but gives satisfying results. No matter which paint finish you select, if you choose one that’s high quality, you can expect it to last longer than less expensive choices.

The cost to paint a car also involves the expense of using multiple coats of primer and sealer. These are important steps to ensure your paint will last over the long term.

Warrantee Length

When you invest in a quality paint job, it should come with a reasonable warrantee. You’ll need to ask about the warrantee length (five years to lifetime warrantees can be common with a high-quality paint job, while a budget paint job may have no warrantee, or may guarantee the job for a limited amount of time, such as up to a year). Regardless of the warrantee length, you’ll need to get writing what the warrantee covers, since they are not all created equal.

Shopping Around

You can do a search online to find shops that offer paint jobs in your area. You can also look in your local newspaper or in local coupon or ad books for special offers. Or, you can look for local auto body shops, regional chains specific to your area, or national chains like Maaco.

When shopping around for a shop to paint your car, it’s important to get an estimate up front. If the estimate isn’t detailed, be sure to ask lots of questions to understand what you’re getting to make sure you’ll be satisfied with the results. Also ask for references and photos of finished jobs, and always check with the Better Business Bureau to make sure the paint shop is reputable.

Cost to Paint a Car

With so many to consider, the cost to paint a car can span a wide range. If you have very limited funds to spend on this endeavor, you might opt for a budget paint job, which can be from $300 to $900. At this price range, you’ll probably not be getting thorough prepping, nor high-quality paint. Any warrantee may also be short-term, as well. If you’re willing to spend a little more for a higher quality paint job, you should budget for around $1,000 to $3,500. In this range, you can expect more thorough prepping and higher-quality paint, as well as a reasonable guarantee that the paint will last. For a showroom quality paint job, this can run anywhere from $2,500 to $10,000 for a professional job with a generous warrantee.

A Splurge

If you have unlimited funds at your disposal and you want to paint a luxury car, or a sports car, or you desire custom detailing and extras, you can splurge on an extravagant paint job that can cost as much as $50,000 or even more. Such a custom paint job can also take a lot longer than a standard quality paint job.

A Budget Option

If you need your car painted but can’t swing the expense, you might decide to paint your vehicle yourself. Auto paint can cost anywhere from $100 to $1,000, depending on what you select. Just keep in mind that you’ll still need to invest in auto paint, a paint sprayer, and a sander if you don’t already own these tools. This can cost another $500 or more.