Why Do Two-Tone Car Colors Cost More Than Single-Tone Paint Jobs?

Over the last few years, we’ve seen a revival of ways to customize vehicles, including various accessories and two-tone paint jobs. A few models have showcased dual colors in Europe and the United States. These vehicles mostly have roofs and bodies in different colors within the compact hatchback and crossover SUV classes.

Automakers say the feature offers more choices to buyers. However, it’s hard not to notice that the two-tone paint jobs most commonly appear on higher trim levels. But why do they cost more?

What’s in a paint job?

A light blue and black two tone paint job on a 1955 Alfa Romeo.
Two-tone 1955 Alfa Romeo | Getty Images

According to MotorTrend, all paint has three elements: binder, a carrier agent, and pigment, which gives it color. The binder, also called resin, makes the paint stick and hardens as it dries. The carrier agent keeps the binder liquefied until the paint is applied.

The consensus is that enamels are the softer resin available and dries to a more excellent shiny finish. It’s also more affordable than urethanes. However, Urethanes are more durable and harder to apply. Many new vehicles are painted with some form of urethane. It’s also commonly used by repair shops to repair any damage.  

Two-tone paint jobs cost more

It costs more for a two-tone paint job because it requires more product and takes longer to paint. It takes time to mask one part of the vehicle to paint the other, resulting in a more labor-intensive process and a greater chance for errors.

The process usually involves painting the entire body one color and then applying a clear coat. Foil is then used to mask off any portion of the car to remain the first color before applying a second color. Afterward, it’s flashed off, and a clear coat is applied. The foil can then be removed.

It costs more because the additional color is applied in either a second line or a second run in the mainline at the factory. However, the extra investment seems to be a gamble automakers are willing to make. The dual-tone paint is typically offered with a higher-priced trim level to help offset the additional cost.

Vehicles available today with two-tone color schemes

Motor1 points out several cars available with two-tone paint jobs available today or will be soon. 

The Nissan Kicks isn’t available just yet, so it’s not known how you can get a model with a contrasting roof color. But two-tone models were on display for the auto show launch, so we know the option will be available for this affordable crossover.

The Toyota C-HR will also offer two colors with white roofs and three-body colors to choose from, one of which is a bright shade of aqua. The option which adds $500 to the total also gives you white mirror caps.

The Kia Soul had been available for a few years before it got a two-tone option. It’s available now with the Soul EV and the mid-trim, gas-powered Soul+ with the $400 Designer Collection package. The option gives the buyer a choice of a black, red, or white roof. 

There are limitations because you can only get the red roof with the black body on the EV or a Soul+ with a white body. You can only get the white roof with a blue EV and a black roof with a red Soul+.

The Jeep Compass with two-tone paint is a smart match with its stylish exterior. You can get a black roof on the Latitude as a cost option but standard on a Trailhawk model. You can get it as an option at no additional cost with a Limited model. 

The latest Toyota RAV4 also has two-tone options with several contrasting body and roof colors. There are as many as nine different color combinations available. Other colors are available depending on the trim level, but so much depends on the model selected and what color options are available.

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