As we have all seen, the appearance of your car can lose some of its initial appeal over the years. Although your car can never be new again, you can revive it and make it feel like new with a fresh paint job. Whether you’re thinking about re-coating or trying out a new color on your car, a brand new paint job can provide a lot of satisfaction. This sounds all well and good, but now you might find yourself asking the question, how much does it cost to paint a car?

The paint on your car is not just there for appearance alone, although it does give your car its sleek, unique look. The primary purpose of the paint is to help protect the body of the vehicle against rust, debris, and constant exposure to the elements.

Over time, the layer of paint can slowly become dulled or chipped due to longtime wear and tear. Painting your vehicle will significantly enhance its exterior durability and revitalize its overall look. So, is it even worth it to find out how much does it cost to paint a car? Read on!

So, How Much Does It Cost to Paint a Car?

Choosing to have your vehicle repainted will require an investment of money, time, and patience. It’s important to remember to have a realistic expectation when deciding to get your car painted. Painting a car is much more complicated than painting a house. And it will cost you more than a couple of rollers and a bucket of paint. The cost can be as little as $300 to as much as $20,000.

Clearly, there’s a lot of wiggle room here and for a good reason.

To figure out the actual price depends on the size of your car and many other variables. So to help calculate a rough estimate of how much does it cost to paint a car, let us go over all the considerations in a little more detail.

Important factors to consider when you paint your car

2 men is inspecting the car before painting it

Photo by Michael Mroczek on Unsplash

The first thing you need to decide on is who will be doing the job. Are you going to attempt the painting of the car yourself? Or are you planning to take it to a garage for a more professional touch? Obviously, this will have an enormous impact on determining how much does it cost to paint a car.

Take it to the shop or do it yourself

While it is possible to paint your own car and save on the cost, it’s not a good idea in most circumstances. How much does it cost to paint a car if you know what you’re doing? A lot less than taking it to a shop, that’s for sure! But if you’re winging it, your inexperience could end up costing you much more in the long run.

However, if you do know about painting cars, doing it yourself can be an excellent way to save some money in labor cost. Just keep in mind that you should never attempt painting an entire car yourself unless you have had prior experience with auto body work. It can be dangerous and could cause irreparable damage to your vehicle.

Time is another major factor that you must consider when painting a car on your own. A full paint job can take you anywhere from several days to a couple of weeks or even months to complete. So you need to make sure that you keep your car sheltered in a safe enclosure in order to protect it from the elements.

If you include your time as part of the cost, doing it yourself can make the answer to “how much does it cost to paint a car?” far more expensive than you’re willing to pay.

Take it to the shop or do it yourself

Having a professional paint job done for you in an automotive body shop is less risky than doing it yourself. But It is still important to shop around to make sure you choose a reliable shop. If possible, it’s a good idea to check out the body shop customer reviews and ratings. You can usually find this information out online.

Body shop professionals have the knowledge and materials that they need to get the job done right. However, you should expect to pay what they decide the job is worth. They base the price on the hours of invested labor, the quality of the paint, the materials, and the equipment used.

The upshot is that every shop will be able to tell you how much does it cost to paint a car before you commit to the job. That way, you can look for the best deal.

Materials and equipment

Another significant advantage of taking your car to a body shop means that you don’t need to buy anything extra. Although, if you want to paint a car yourself, you will need to look into the materials and equipment that it requires. And yes, you’ll need a lot more than just the paint.

If you plan to paint the car on your own, it will require time and a few particular tools. These tools include sandpaper, masking tape, an electric sander, paint thinner, and a spray gun or air compressor. It’s also essential to use safety goggles and a face mask for added protection. You can get most of these tools for under $30 except for the air compressor and electric sander, which will usually range over $100.

You should expect to get enough paint for approximately three different coats of color.

The size of your car also makes a significant difference in just how much paint you will need. On average, small or medium cars will require at least one gallon of primer or base coat. Then, you will need to have three gallons of acrylic for the topcoat and another two or three gallons of clear lacquer coat. The larger your vehicle is, the more paint will be required. A larger vehicle will take almost double the amount of color as a smaller car.

Certain body shops now use a method known as a “two-pack” paint job. This style mixes the base acrylic paint with an isocyanate hardening agent. It creates a colored substance similar to superglue, which removes the need for an additional clear coating.

A new paint job can’t fix everything

You must take note that new paint will not fix everything. If your car has any damage, you can’t skip out on repair costs by getting it painted over. Damages to the vehicle such as deep scratches, dents, rust spots, and holes must get repaired before any paint job.

Sometimes new paint can even have an opposite effect and highlight these problem areas if not repaired beforehand. So, to get the best results, the auto body shop should remove the old paint and fix any present damages before they begin.

Different types of paint

Whether you’re attempting a paint job alone or having it done by professionals, you should learn about the paint. Although the body shop will likely suggest particular paints, it’s smart to know all the many paint options that are available to you. Certain types of paint can have diverse results and vary in a range of prices.

Enamel Paint: Starting at $50 per gallonWater-based Paint: Starting at $120 per gallonUrethane-based Paint: Starting at $80 per gallonAcrylic Lacquer Paint: Starting at $40 per gallon

Paint jobs and price ranges

Man a suit and a mask and behind him

Photo by from Pexels

How you choose to get the paint applied will also significantly affect the cost of the job. A machine application will usually always cost less than actual manual labor. However, regardless of the method, the more applied coats to your car will raise the total price. The number of layers you need will vary on the style of paint job that you want.

Question: How much does it cost to paint a car? Answer: That depends on how thorough a job you want done.

Lower range

  • The amount you should expect to pay for an average-sized car on the lower end of the paint scale will come anywhere between $300 to $900. However, larger vehicles can range a little higher in price due to the requirement of more paint. This type of job includes a necessary surface cleaning of dirt and old paint on your car and sometimes minor chip repair. It also adds the masking of chrome and windows to prevent from getting over-sprayed. The lower end service usually offers a one year warranty that covers any paint flaking that may occur.


The cost of a midrange service job varies based on the quality of paint used and the size of the vehicle. It can end up costing you as little as $1,000 for a smaller, average-sized car and as much as $3,500 for a larger one. This service usually provides the same surface cleaning and masking options as the lower range. However, a midrange paint job uses a much higher quality and more durable paint. Some midrange services also offer interior painting as well as the exterior. Warranties of a midrange paint job can last one to two years or more, depending on if you want to add them to your package.

High range

When choosing a high-end job, you must expect to pay a high-end price. High-end jobs are best to use when you want a specialized, custom application paint job done to your vehicle. They can end up costing you anywhere between $2,500 to $8,000. Some estimates have even gone as high as $10,000 to even $20,000 in price. More top-end services do a lot more detailing when it comes to painting the car. The body shop takes extra care to completely remove the parts of the vehicle that a low-end painter would just tape over by masking.

High-end jobs require only the top quality of paint, and the entire vehicle will undergo a sanding down before any of that paint is put on. Even after the paint is applied, the shop will then go back over it with another wet sanding and buffing on the surface. Since a high-end job requires such attention to detail at such a high cost, the shop might offer a lifetime warranty for the service.

The Process of P​ainting a Car

When it comes to painting a car, it’s all about the process and preparation. It is always good to know what you should expect when deciding to get a professional paint job done. Below, we have summarized the necessary steps you should consider when getting your vehicle painted.

Step one: Getting an estimate

The first step is getting an estimate of the cost. You can simply ask how much does it cost to paint a car, and body shops will offer this for free. They will go over all the details of the inspection with you. The shop will determine if any additional services, such as any repairs, are needed before the job. This is where you are open to negotiating a price that fits the service you want. After accepting the estimate, you’ll be asked to sign a work order that details the process, cost, and the completion date.

Step two: Body shop repair

If any bodywork repairs are necessary, a body shop technician will handle them during this step. Before the painting process, the body shop will proceed to replace and remove any damaged parts. They will take care of the repairs and sand out all the damaged areas. This sometimes requires heavy work by adding primers and sealing to the imperfections. Your work order should already include the cost and time of this service. If your car is in excellent shape, this step won’t make finding out how much does it cost to paint a car a painful experience. If your car is full of dents and scratches and rust, this is where a good deal of your money is going to go.

Step three: Sanding and masking

This step is pretty straightforward. A sander will remove any special parts such as emblems and thoroughly sand out the body of your vehicle. Sanding is done to prep your car for the clean application of paint. Prepping is just as important as applying the paint. Prep work can make all the difference in the quality of the resulting job. Depending on the type of paint job you pay for, most body shops will use tape to mask over the windows, trim, and chrome to prevent it from an accidental spray. On higher-end paint jobs, they drop masking with the complete removal of these parts before applying paint.

Step four: Auto painting and detailing

This is the step where all the magic begins. Painters will verify the type of paint, the color, and if required, any specialized paint mixes of the desired job. The body shop applies the paint in a series of coats. These layers include the base coat, the top coat, and the clear coat. This last one will seal and better protect the paint from scratches and chips. After the paint is applied and completed, it’s the detailer’s job to remove the masking or reinstall any previously removed parts of a vehicle.

Step five: Quality assurance and customer pickup

The last and final step to getting your car professionally painted deals with the overall satisfaction of the customer. The body shop manager will perform the end inspections to guarantee that they completed the job correctly. The customer will then come in to inspect the overall quality of the work. If satisfied, the customer will proceed to fill out the final paperwork. After that, they can pick up their vehicle and take it out of the shop.

Don’t be shy about voicing any concerns you have. You wanted to know how much does it cost to paint a car and then coughed up the cash. You should get exactly what you paid for.

Additional Thoughts and Costs

Different amount of US Dollar

Image via flickr

So in conclusion, how much does it cost to paint a car? As you can see, there is a lot more to consider than paint when asking yourself this question. Not only will the price vary from shop to shop but also in the labor, the time it takes, and quality of paint that you use.

Whether you’re planning to give your car a fresh coat or an entirely new look, you might not have to fork out thousands of dollars. Depending on the type of paint job you desire, you may only end up spending a few hundred. However, if you want showroom quality, you must expect to pay the showroom price.

Featured Image by munhozmarcelo0 from Pixabay