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Some car issues need to be addressed ASAP , bad batteries or alternators, worn-out brake pads and flat tires can be dangerous if they're not fixed right away. But people often put off repairing cosmetic issues, like a few nicks or scratches in the paint, because the car is still safe to drive. But damage to the paint is more than cosmetic , it can also lead to more expensive damage to your car's exterior, like rust.

Whether your car's paint job was dinged up in an accident or faded over time, you may be wondering how much it costs to paint a car. Read on to find out how much you can expect to pay and how to save money doing it.

Average Cost To Paint a Car

The average cost to paint a car ranges from $300 to more than $20,000. What you pay depends on various factors, primarily the level of quality you're looking for.

Basic paint jobs include a single coat of basic paint with minimal prep work and no finish. Oftentimes painters skip over non-visible areas like underneath the hood or inside door frames, leaving them the original color. This averages $300 to $1,000.

A mid-grade job consists of better prep work, better quality paint with more coats than a basic job and a finish depending on how much your paint costs. You can expect to pay an average of $1,000 to $4,500 for this kind of paint job. If you're just repainting the family car, you can expect to pay this much.

High-end paint jobs average between $5,000 and $20,000 and include:

  • Sanding the car to bare metal
  • Multiple coats of premium paint
  • A high-quality finish
  • Custom designs
  • Paint add-ons

Factors That Impact How Much You'll Pay To Paint a Car

How much you'll pay to paint your car depends on several factors.

Quality of Body Shop

When painting a car, you get what you pay for, so the quality of the body shop you select greatly impacts the price tag. While it may cost more, opting for a high-quality shop means the painters are better trained with more experience than those working at a lower-grade shop. They'll also better prepare the car for the paint and use better materials, all of which adds up to a better-quality paint job.

Size of the Paint Job

Another significant factor is the size of the paint job. If you are repainting an area that was damaged in an accident, it will cost significantly less than repainting an entire car. The same is true of the vehicle itself. If you are getting your two-seater convertible repainted, it'll cost less than a Suburban simply because there's less surface area to paint.

Type of Paint

The type of paint you select also influences the amount you'll pay. Synthetic enamels are the cheapest since they only require a single coat of paint. High-quality paints or specialized formulas often require multiple coats, which can add up to several thousand dollars more in cost.

Paint Color

Standard colors like white, gray and black are the cheapest paint colors. You'll pay more for specialized paint colors since they aren't as readily available. You'll also pay extra for so-called €œcandy colors,€ which are translucent and require more coats for better coverage or need to be applied over a white base layer.

Changing the color of your car also costs more than keeping the original color. Because auto paint is thinner than the paint you use on your walls, the original color can bleed through even after multiple coats. That means your body shop will need to spend more time sanding and adding more coats of paint when you change the color, which will cost you more in the long run.

Paint Finishes

To maintain the paint job you just paid for, you'll want to add a finish. Whether you opt for a matte, glossy or semi-gloss finish will impact the price tag since they require different levels of work. You can also add a wax or ceramic coating for additional protection and cost.

Necessary Repairs

While you technically can paint over imperfections in the metal of your car's body, you probably won't like the results. A new shiny coat of paint may actually call attention to the issue rather than hide it.

If your car's frame has any dings, deep scratches or rust, you should pay the auto body shop to repair them before they begin painting.


Add-ons to the paint, like flakes to add sparkle, will increase your bill. Stripes and other custom designs also increase how much you'll pay for your paint job.

Prep Work

Prepping a car for painting includes the following steps:

  • Sanding the existing paint (as minimal as removing the clear coating or as in-depth as going down to the bare metal)
  • Taping off areas you don't want to be painted like windows
  • Wiping the body down with turpentine to remove debris
  • Disassembling parts of the car like the doors, trunk and hood to effectively paint the entire car

The greater level of prep you opt for can increase labor costs. Prep work is often skimped on or skipped altogether on lower-quality paint jobs. If you are looking for a perfect paint job, this isn't an area to save money.

When Should You Paint Your Car?

The paint on your car is more than just for looks , it protects the body of your vehicle from damage like car door dings, scratches from rocks and weather damage.

The official recommendation is to have your car painted every five years to protect the body of your vehicle from corrosion and other damage. However, most car owners don't paint their car that often, instead opting to paint only when:

  • The car is in an accident that damages the paint job
  • The vehicle is older and the paint is faded or peeling
  • Restoring a classic car (in which case it's important to opt for an era-appropriate color to avoid damaging the car's value)

Professional vs. DIY Paint Jobs

If you're looking to save money on a paint job, you may be wondering if it's worth it to DIY. It will save you money , the average DIY paint job costs anywhere from $100 to $1,000 depending on what supplies you already have on hand.

However, painting a car is an art, and experience and quality of materials play a significant role in the quality of the final product. For example, body shops have access to an environmentally controlled space to keep dirt and dust out of the paint as it dries, which you may not have access to. So while you may be able to do a decent job painting the car, dust and dirt may get caught in it before it dries, ruining the final product.

Ultimately, if you're OK with the job not being perfect, painting your car yourself is a viable option. But if you want a professional-looking job, you'll need to pay a professional.

How To Save Money Painting Your Car Without Sacrificing Quality

While finding the right balance between quality and cost can be hard, there are a few ways you can save money on a paint job that won't result in a subpar finished product.

1. Shop Around and Compare Quotes

Just like when getting your car repaired, getting quotes from multiple auto body shops is worth it. However, consider the quality of the shop and the supplies they use when comparing prices. The cheapest quote may not include the same level of prep work as a higher quote. Aim for at least three different quotes before you make your decision.

2. Choose a Well-Respected Shop

Choose a shop that's been around for at least five years and read online reviews from past customers. You can also ask your mechanic for their recommendations or ask friends and family if they've had their cars painted recently. Ask any potential body shop for their certifications and licensing, and ask if they are insured.

3. Ask about Discounts

It never hurts to ask if the body shop offers any discounts or special packages or runs any seasonal sales. The worst they can say is no, and in the best-case scenario you save some cash. If you have a AAA membership, you can save 10 percent on labor at a AAA Approved Auto Repair Facility.

4. Only Ask for What You Need

As long as your paint isn't overly faded, you can get away with just repainting areas that are damaged. Or, if you're just looking for a refresh and not a whole new look, save money by sticking to the car's original color.

If you want to resell your car, protect the resale value by opting for a basic paint color and finish. You may find your custom trim and flames cool, but other buyers may not appreciate it. So avoid custom paint jobs, flakes and other paint features unless you plan on keeping the car long term.

5. Check for Warranties

Before you take your car to an auto shop to get it painted, check your records to see if the paint job is still under warranty. Most manufacturer warranties cover paint for three years or 36,000 miles as long as the damage is the result of defective paint. (Any chips or scratches caused by wear and tear won't be covered.) If you've had the car painted previously, check with the original shop to see if it's still under warranty. Either way, you wouldn't be on the hook to pay for a new paint job.

6. Do Your Own Prep Work

If you have the right tools, you can save money by prepping your car yourself. Ask the body shop what needs to be done to get your car ready for paint, and do what you can before you drop off the vehicle. Be aware that this might impact the paint job's warranty , the body shop may not offer you a warranty on the paint job if they haven't done the entire job themselves.

7. Choose a Basic Paint Color and Finish

Since paint color and finish affect the cost of a paint job, opt for more basic colors and finishes and skip the custom job. When applied correctly, basic colors and finishes look professional and can do wonders to spruce up an older vehicle without the cost of extras.

Use a AAA Approved Auto Repair Facility When Repainting Your Car

Don't leave your paint job to chance , use a AAA Approved Auto Repair Facility with body shop painting services to ensure the best quality at the best price. Technicians at more than 7,000 AAR facilities are factory-trained or Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) certified, so you know you're getting the best service available. Our shops guarantee all their work and you'll save 10 percent on labor costs with your AAA membership.

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