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How Much Does a Car Paint Job Really Cost?

September 21, 2021 5 min read

How Much Does a Car Paint Job Really Cost?

Pricing out how much you’ll pay to paint a car? Expect to pay somewhere in the neighborhood of $1,000 to $2,000 for an average-quality paint job. But car paint job costs can vary much higher or lower depending on quality. But a good quality paint job is worth the expense if you’re concerned with maintaining your vehicle.

Why a Good Paint Job is Important

Car paint isn’t as essential as an engine, but good paint is important to maintaining a smooth running vehicle for years to come. Your vehicle's paint protects it from rust and other exterior damage that can eventually reach the frame. Plus, a good paint finish just looks good, keeping your vehicle looking new even if it's several years down the road. But often, good paint doesn't come cheap.

The Average Cost of a Car Paint Job

Not all car paint jobs offer the same quality. And not all paint jobs will have the same cost. 

How much is a car paint job? Expect a car paint job cost to range from$300 to $7,500 or more. Here's what you get for the average price of a car paint job:

  • Basic quality paint job: $300 to $750
  • Medium quality paint job: $1,000 to $2,000
  • High quality paint job: $2,500 to $7,500 or more

Which option should you go with? Typically, vehicle owners are happy with the finished product of a medium-quality paint job. You can estimate the cost of a professional paint job to beat least $1,000 for this level of service, though you can pay less with a basic paint job.

Can You Just Touch it Up Instead?

If the cost of a full high-quality paint job is more than you’re ready to pay, atouch-up paint job might do the trick. Touching up paint is a good idea if you have a few minor spots to take care of. Using touch-up paint can help you preserve most of the factory finish from your vehicle's original paint job, which you can’t replicate except with the highest quality paint jobs.

If you're having a body shop take care of the work, you can expect to pay about $300 for minor repairs. Do it at home, and touch up paint typically costs about $50, plus supplies for sanding, filling in scratches and dents, priming, and clear coat.

Is a Cheap Car Paint Job Bad?

Bargain paint jobs usually look just like that: a bargain. A bargain vehicle paint job will paint your vehicle but typically cut corners to make supplies and labor more inexpensive. Most will use synthetic enamel paint instead of brand-name paint, and the areas where technicians paint and mark off will be significantly different with this type of paint job than a higher-quality paint job. 

For example, the shop may not paint inside the door jams or the hood. The shop may also not remove your trim and other parts, instead masking them off, which can cause edges to develop, or worse, have you end up with paint overspray from spray painting.

Asking the Right Questions for a Quality Paint Job

Shopping around for an auto paint service? Ensure you're getting an adequate paint job by asking these questions:

  • What types of paint do you use? Lower-quality shops will often use inexpensive synthetic enamel paint. Look for shops that offer brand-name paint that is of higher quality.
  • Do you remove trim and parts before painting? Shops that offer a higher quality paint job will remove your trim and other parts rather than simply masking over them.
  • How do you prep the exterior? Prep at a low-quality paint shop may not be more than a quick wash and basic sanding before spraying it down. But a higher quality shop will completely sand your vehicle and remove rust spots and dents to ensure a smooth finish. You’ll be advised of any critical repairs you should make before painting.
  • How many coats of paint do you apply? Low-quality shops may only apply a few coats of paint, but better shops will have at least three, including a clear coat for a smooth, glossy look. For comparison's sake: the highest quality shops will often apply 20 or more layers of paint, including up to eight clear coat applications.
  • What is your warranty policy? Warranties can vary from six months to a lifetime, depending on the quality of the paint shop. Typically, medium-quality paint jobs will warranty their work for five years and repaint your car if needed.
  • Can I see recently completed vehicles? The answer should always be yes. Take a look at freshly painted cars and see what you think about the quality of work. Ask which service level they selected, and note any imperfections that you'd be unhappy with.

In addition to asking these questions, it's a good idea to seek out recommendations from family and friends. Be sure to read reviews online before committing to an auto paint shop.

How to Save Money on Your Next Paint Job

A good paint job of $1,000 or more may be out of your budget,, especially if your vehicle isn't worth that much. There are ways to cut down on costs without sacrificing quality.

Before you head in, it's a shop for discounts online. Large chains may offer discounts on social media, websites, or even daily deal websites. You may see discounts of $50 or even $150 or more.

Ask if you can do your prep work. DIY prep work saves time on labor, but it's not difficult for you to do on your own. You'll need to remove the parts that aren't going to be painted, mask areas that can't be removed, and wash and sand down the vehicle. If your shop offers this option, you can save hundreds.

Do it Yourself Automotive Paint Jobs

Do-it-yourself auto repair often saves money, and painting is no exception. But it's important to note that painting isn't exactly your average auto repair. This job requires specialized tools and supplies that can be expensive to buy or rent. 

Painting your vehicle can be very time-consuming, requiring lots of attention to detail and patience. Additionally, professional shops have access to tools that the average vehicle owner just can't use, such as a paint booth that minimizes dust and other debris that can cause problems with the finish.

Whether you choose a body shop paint job or one in your garage, painting your vehicle protects it from the elements and can add years to the life of your vehicle -- not to mention a better look.