How Much Does It Cost To Paint A Car?

How Much Does It Cost To Paint A Car? And Is It Worth It?

You might have one of a few reasons to paint your car. Has it been involved in an accident? Perhaps the paint has begun to peel off? Or maybe you feel it’s quite simply just time for a new color. Either way, you might be curious about the title of this article – how much does it cost to paint a car?

In this article, I hope to address this. Hopefully, provide you with some of the answers you’re looking for. We will also explore other options available to you, such as wrapping and the related prices.

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What Is The Process Involved With Painting A Car?

The first thing we’ll look at as we investigate this question is the process of painting a car. Doing this will help you to understand why the cost is somewhat high.

Not every auto shop will have a painting workshop. That’s the first thing to be fully aware of. You can’t just rock up (in most cases) and say, “Paint my car.”

If they do have one, you’ll probably need to give at least a couple of weeks’ notice. This is so they can get all the right materials together, assess your car, and prepare the workshop.

Step By Step Process

When your car comes into the workshop, the following process begins.

What Is The Workshop Like?

In a professional workshop, the painting area is a completely enclosed space. This space must be as dust-free as possible.

It’s enclosed because this helps prevent any debris, dust, insects, foliage, or anything else coming into contact with the lacquer. It takes time for it to harden. If anything even touches the paint in this period – no matter how lightly – it could permanently affect the vehicle’s appearance.

In short, it all comes down to clean, clean, clean.

The cleaner a workshop area is, the lower the risk of anything contaminating the car’s finish.

Although this video is a little grainy, this is what a painting workshop looks like.

What PPE Do The Painters Wear?

Paint is toxic and can cause severe respiratory problems if inhaled in large enough doses.

Some people are quite allergic to paint (myself included). These people would probably not be the people doing the actual painting.

They’ll wear full-body coveralls, gloves, and clean boots. Goggles might be slightly more optional but are certainly highly recommended.

Most importantly, they’ll be wearing, as a bare minimum, a mask covering both the nose and mouth. Realistically, something akin to a fully-ventilated SAS-style gas mask is the painter’s best option for minimizing the quantities of paint particulates ingested.

1. Getting The Car Ready For Sanding

Preparation is the first – and most important – part. Without proper preparation, everything will get messed up. The technicians will never rush this part.

Firstly, they will wash the car. Thoroughly.

This may involve a machine wash, a hand wash, or both. The technician will not use any wax on the car, as this would cause difficulties when sanding.

Next, they’ll take most of the removable parts off the vehicle. These parts might include anything such as:

  • the headlights
  • the fenders
  • the door handles
  • any decorative trim
  • the door handles
  • etc

These are removed for the following reasons.

  1. They can paint every nook and cranny, around corners, and down the sides of panels, etc.
  2. To make sure that these panels don’t get any paint on them (if that’s what needs doing).

After this, they’ll work on smoothening out any dents or other damage to the bodywork panels. Usually, this involves hammering the dent out and then, if necessary, using a small amount of filler.

Any damage will look much worse after they repaint the car, so they must make the surface as smooth as possible.

Finally, the mechanics may tape the car at this point. Alternatively, they might wait until later, taping the car being the final step before the painting commences.

Taping involves the technicians covering all surfaces that they aren’t going to paint with high-grade crepe tape. These surfaces include the windows and the rubber around them or any hollow spaces. It could also include and the inside of any crevices or areas that aren’t going to be painted.

2. Sanding Down the Old Paint

Contrary to popular opinion, the technicians don’t altogether remove the old layer of paint. Instead, it gets “roughened”.

At this point, the workers begin to roughen the surface of the old paint. This roughening is almost always done by hand to avoid any damage.

To do this, the technicians will use 600- and/or 400-grit sandpaper. They use the sandpaper to leave the surface of the old paint feeling gritty. This job is essential. Without doing this, the new paint won’t adhere to the old paint properly.

In the car’s corners, the paint layers tend to be thinner. When they’re working on this task, the technicians have to be more careful in these areas not to damage the panels.

Once they’ve finished sanding, the workers will begin cleaning the particulates off and degreasing the surface. They’ll use some silicon cleaner for this.

After they finish doing this (thoroughly), the car will then be ready for painting.

3. Applying The New Paint

At this point, it’s time to paint the car.

To do this, they’ll need a compressor and a complete pneumatic system. All workshops – especially those dedicated to painting – will have this, without a doubt.

Compressors are commonplace in most garages, although battery-power is fast outpacing this more traditional way of running tools.

The technicians will use a spray-paint gun and a mixing bucket to combine the paint with thinners and hardeners.

They’ll usually apply several even coats. The more coats, the richer the color will appear.

The painting process alone can take a day or two, depending on how many layers get applied.

4. Finishing

Once the paint has dried, it’s time to finish everything off.

To do this, the workers will use high-quality polishing materials and very fine-grain sandpaper. After they apply these products, the bodywork should appear smooth and shiny.

Finally, they will reassemble the car. The fenders and headlights, and so on, will get reinstalled. It’s then all good to go!

How Much Does It Cost To Paint A Car? – Things To Know

When someone paints your car for you, there are a few things you should know, right from the get-go.

  1. Painting a car is a very costly job. For the vast majority of cars, it offers very little in terms of return on your investment. In almost every case, you will lose money in the long run when painting a car.
  2. Also, in the same vein, quotes for this kind of work are likely to be very similar across the board. You probably won’t find much variation in quotes from a range of workshops. If someone offers to do it for an exceptionally low price, make sure to check their credentials and any reviews of their previous work.
  3. It costs more to paint bigger luxury cars than smaller daily-runners. Why? Well… they’re bigger, so more paint is needed. Luxury cars also usually have higher quality, more expensive paints – thus it costs you more.
  4. Wrapping may be a viable alternative to painting for you. It can cost you up to twice as much to paint your car as it does to wrap it. Keep on scrolling to read some further thoughts on this.

What Are All Those Different Types Of Paint and costs?

You’ll have heard all of these and more before. In this little section of this article, we’ll briefly go through some of the most common types of car paints.

  • Solid – most cars come with a solid paint job. “Solid” is the bog-standard basic if you like. There’s nothing wrong with a solid finish to your paint. It still looks pretty good and, when properly maintained, should still glisten and gleam in the sunshine. Most of the time, there are either two or three layers of this paint: primer, paint, and lacquer. Many manufacturers now mix the lacquer and paint into one layer instead. Solid paints are the easiest to maintain and the cheapest to buy.
  • Metallic – for smaller cars, metallic finishes add about $600 to $800 to the buying price. Aluminum powder gets mixed in with the paint, and multiple layers need to be applied. This accounts for the extra cost. In exchange for being “needier” than solid paint (you’ll need to spend more time looking after and cleaning it), you get a glamorous, sparkling finish – even on gray days.
  • Matte – ah, working upwards in terms of price, we come to the infamous matte finish. There are a few different ways that manufacturers can achieve a matte finish, such as having paint with a high amount of PVC or a high-epoxy primer. As a result, the paint coat absorbs more light rays than it reflects, leaving a finish that’s dull yet desirable. The downside? You have to take extra care of them. For example, you must clean bird droppings off straight away because they can damage the paint irreparably.
  • Pearlescent paints are basically a step up from metallic paints, with colored ceramic crystals rather than aluminum powder. They can even appear as different colors from different angles. Looks great. Costs a lot. Up to you.

There are other types of paint finishes you may have heard of. Individual manufacturers run wild with thousands of different options – far too many to list here.

Are they worth it? Well, that’s entirely up to you.

How Much Does It Cost To Paint A Car?

Now that we’ve looked into the gruelling process involved, it should provide you with a little more context as to why it costs so much to paint a car.

To give you a ballpark estimate, you should expect to pay between $3,000 and $5,000 for your average day-to-day car.

That figure is based on a lot of assumptions. The following things will all influence the cost.

  • What’s the surface area of the car? Or what’s the surface area that needs painting? The larger this is, the more you’ll have to pay.
  • How many layers of paint do you need?
  • What kind of quality of paint do you need?
  • Are there any special requests or things that need to be done uniquely?
  • Does the car’s build or shape make it particularly difficult to paint?
  • What is your local shop’s hourly labor rate?
  • Is it a luxury car?
  • etc

The cost of getting a professional workshop to paint your car is made up of materials and labor.

Of these costs, labor is going to be the bigger one. It takes a long time to paint a car, and, depending on the labor rates, these costs can quickly start adding up.

Materials aren’t likely to be cheap either, though, and paints alone can cost you several hundred dollars.

There are ways to bring the cost down. For example, you don’t necessarily have to have the whole car painted (although it might look funny if you don’t). You could also do some of the preparation work yourself. Overall, though, it’s going to be expensive.

That’s just the way it is.

If you’re considering painting your own car, it’s not something I’d recommend, but it is possible. Expect to pay up to $1,000 to get a hold of some decent quality paints.

Keep on scrolling to read why painting your own car is seldom recommended.

How Much Does It Cost To Wrap A Car?

This article, entitled “How Much Does It Cost To Wrap A Car? The True Cost Of Wrapping,” conveniently answers this question. Feel free to click on the link and head over for a more in-depth read.

To summarize that article, the cost of wrapping a car is likely to be about half of the cost to paint it. It’s, undoubtedly, cheaper.

Suppose it’s actual numbers you’re after. In that case, wrapping costs approximately $500-$1,000 to do yourself. It would cost you about $2,000-$4,000 for a professional job, although probably somewhere near the lower end of that range.

In the next section, we’ll briefly compare painting and wrapping.

How Much Does It Cost To Wrap A Car

Is It Better To Paint Or To Wrap?

This is perhaps the main question on everyone’s mind.

There are advantages and disadvantages to both methods.

To cut a very long and very complicated debate short, I’d suggest that wrapping is better for those of you who like to change your car’s aesthetics relatively often. It’s cheaper, much easier to do by yourself, and can come in a vast range of decors and designs – compared to painting.

However, painting is more likely to be for those who want a high-quality, shining finish and aren’t looking to swap colors regularly. Wrapping usually can’t quite compare with painting in terms of the finished look. The method of painting certainly edges out comfortably in this department.

So, which of these do you fall into? Or do you disagree with me? Let me know down below in the comments section.

You can read more about my opinions and where they came from in this previously-mentioned article, considering how much it costs to wrap a car (rather than paint it).

Can I Paint My Own Car?

Theoretically, yes. But this is the real world, so don’t.

There might be a couple of exceptions to this. You might know your way around a spray-gun and have adequate experience levels painting vehicles. If that’s you, then I’m sure you have the necessary skills to pull this off.

For the vast majority of us, these aren’t specialist skills that we have tucked away on our resume. As a result, the average attempts of an ordinary person to do a complete car respray usually turn out… worse than it was before. That means wasted time, wasted money, and the final result is a car that looks like it was drawn on by a three-year-old.

No-one wants that.

If you’re determined to have a go – or perhaps you have a project car or something along those lines – then it might be worth it.

I can safely say, though, for most people, attempting to paint our own cars is like pouring money down the drain. It will probably need redoing by a professional after we mess it up, making all of our initial efforts utterly useless.

If, after all that, I haven’t persuaded you that it’s a bad idea, then you could use the steps detailed at the start of this article as a rough guide. I’d strongly recommend getting some specialist help for this one, though.

Expect to pay up to $1,000 for the paints, plus up to another $1,000 for the necessary equipment.

Is It Worth It To Paint A Car?

In my brutally honest opinion – usually not.

If you’ve got the cash to splash and want to? Absolutely. But it only makes financial sense now and then. These occasions are few and far between. For that reason, most people won’t ever even think about repainting their car.

For example, you might be desperate to sell the car. If its paintwork is so old and nasty that it puts all potential buyers off it, you may want to invest in having the car painted. Although this may help get the car shifted and off your property, it usually makes very little financial sense.

The other occasion that springs to my mind is if you quite simply want a brand new coat of paint. A labor of love, if you will. Or perhaps even a brand new color. If you’ve got bored of your old, gray sedan and feel it’s time to paint it hot pink… well, don’t let me stop you!

Cars And Financial Value

Here’s the truth of it. Cars are very rarely good investments. 99% of cars depreciate in value over time at staggeringly high rates. New cars depreciate at rates between 15% and 35%! For this reason, to get a car painted usually doesn’t make sense financially.

Even if a new paint job were to add value to your car, it probably wouldn’t be anything like as much as what the job cost in the first place.

Therefore, I hope you can see, painting isn’t usually about financial sense. Instead, it’s about loving your car. More than that, it’s about knowing that you’re pouring money into your car that you probably won’t see again.

There’s nothing wrong with loving your car. Indeed, that’s probably a passion of most of you reading this. And if you love your car and you’ve decided it needs a new coat – why not?

Paint Costs In Summary Then…

In summary, we’ve considered the question, ‘How much does it cost to paint a car?’

The (rather unhelpful) answer is – quite a lot, depending on a wide range of factors. As a general estimate, I would expect somewhere between $3,000 and $5,000 for most cars, although it could be more (or less).

Finally, we thought about whether or not it’s worth it. And is it? Only for those of you who genuinely love your cars and their appearances.

Good on you.

Thanks for reading!

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