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Having your car painted can be expensive: you can easily spend thousands of dollars for a premium paint job. Just choosing the cheapest advertised car paint job is not always a good idea. Here’s the smart way to get your car painted cheaply.

How much does it cost to paint a car cheaply?

Cost Helper reports that a cheap car paint job runs from $400 to $875. But these entry-level paint jobs fade quickly and will cost you more in the long run. You’ll find the most bang for your buck is in the $1,000 to $3,500 range.

Technician sanding a small blue car in a paint shop.
Sanding a car for painting | PHILIPPE HUGUEN/AFP via Getty Images

If your car needs paint, the best way to save money is not a cheap paint job. This is because you’ll end up with mediocre paint on your car.

You also won’t get additional coats of paint or additional coats of clear coat sealant on top. It’s actually the layers of clear coat that separate poor paint jobs from premium paint jobs, add shine, and protect the paint.

If your car is plagued by peeling paint or scratches in one area, you may be able to have a shop repair paint in just that area. Some people even touch-up car paint themselves as a temporary solution while they save money for a full paint job.

Finally, alternative finishes such as peel coats and vinyl wraps can sometimes be cheaper than a repaint

Can you paint a car yourself to save money?

Some hobbyists paint their cars themselves. But achieving a professional-grade paint job requires thousands of dollars in equipment and supplies. It also takes many hours to learn this craft. Painting your car yourself can be rewarding, but will not save you money.

Technician spraying primer and green paint onto a car door.
Priming a car for painting | Seung-il Ryu/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Why is painting your car yourself a terrible idea? To paint a car yourself you need an expensive air gun and compressor. To do the job properly you also need a sealed space and a respirator for yourself. The paint and clear coat alone will cost nearly as much as a cheap paint job.

Painting a car is also a skill that takes craftspeople time to learn. You can’t practice on your own car, if you mess up you may need to start all over again.

But if you are a dedicated DIYer, bent on saving money, there may be other ways to help your budget. Firstly, if your car has any dents the paint shop will have to fix them to paint your car. Straightening them with a dent-puller or finding replacement panels may reduce your overall bill.

Finally, do not be afraid to call multiple shops and ask for quotes. Keep an eye out for shops running seasonal specials.

Can cheap car paint look good?

You don’t need fancy custom paint to make your car look great. Many eye-grabbing show cars wear common, classic paint colors. What separates mediocre paint jobs from excellent ones is the number of layers of clear coat the car is wearing.

Two technicians painting a car red on a factory floor.
Painting a car | Yuan Jingzhi/VCG via Getty Images

Some premium types of paints, such as metallic paint, matte paint, or even pearlescent are always expensive. Metallic paint is expensive because it includes flakes of shiny metal mixed into the paint. Other types of paint are expensive because they are rare. But often, upgrading your paint job with more clear coat is a better option than a fancier paint.

You can put multiple layers of clear coat on any type of paint. A basic paint, in a standard color, with extra layers of clear coat, will look great. And, if you upgrade to more layers of clear coat, the paint will last longer because of the extra clear coat sealant.

If you want to make your cheap paint look good, also make sure to take care of your car with regular washings and waxings.


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