Car Painting Tips

Car Painting Tips

Tips on repainting your car

Remember that old refrain about being "Young enough to repaint, but old enough to sell"? If your vehicle falls into the former category-or even the latter-applying a fresh coat of paint can truly transform that faded finish into a good-as-new look. The decision isn't so much IF you should paint, but HOW. Should go the custom route or just take your vehicle to one of those production paint shops?

Do It Yourself?

Before you start comparison-shopping for a paint-and-body job, though, see if you can avoid a repaint entirely. A number of car-finish products on the market can remove oxidation (that chalky appearance) and even light scratches or surface contaminants. For a few bucks, it's worth a try.

Applying a fresh coat of paint can truly transform that faded finish into a good-as-new look.

In other cases, you may be able to get by with a do-it-yourself spot repair. All you need is some sandpaper and some spray cans of primer, color and clear coat from your local auto parts store, and a couple hours of your time. We don't recommend this approach on a late-model luxury car, but it might suffice for an older car with a low resale value.

Spot Repair

If it's a situation of minor collision damage-the type that's often not covered by insurance because the repair cost doesn't exceed the deductible-some of the national car-painting chains will quote a price for a patch job starting as low as $150. However, if the vehicle needs some minor body repair, figure on an average of $300 to $400. You'll probably find that these figures for spot jobs are about the same as the minimum for a total repaint of a car, so how do you decide between the two? If it's a late-model car with a high-quality, two-stage clear-coated paint, it's better to pay extra for a patch that matches that color exactly. As Chris Bement, CEO of Earl Scheib, points out, "If the rest of the car looks good, don't repaint. If it's perfect, why mess with it-"

Custom or Quick?

What if a total repaint is needed, though? How do you decide whether to get a custom or production paint job? Again, the value and age of the car are important factors. It obviously doesn't make sense to spend thousands of dollars repainting an old beater, nor should you apply production paint to a luxury vehicle. It's not so much the quality of the paint used as the fact that custom painters remove every emblem and piece of trim, while production shops usually just mask off those areas. (That's why production shops take much less time, which is another point to consider.) With masking around trim items, the final finish may not be as good, with possible overspray or ridges at the edges of the paint (which may tend to lift or peel over time). Custom painters also clear-coat, color-sand and buff the paint for a much smoother surface. Some production paint shops now offer a two-stage, clear-coat system, but for an upcharge.

Another way to decide on the type of paint job is the length of time you plan to own the car. If you expect to hang on to it for only a year or two, then get a paint job that's guaranteed for that duration (longer warrantees are available as you go up in price).

Custom painters will often guarantee the paint job for as long as you own the car, but you obviously have to pay a lot more for that long-term coverage. Considering the price differential between production and custom painting of a few hundred versus several thousand dollars, it's not surprising that a company such as Scheib has painted more than 10 million cars over the last 62 years.

What about leased vehicles? Scheib's Bement says he's seeing more customers who are about to return their leased cars. To preserve the car's residual value and save money, customers are repainting the car rather than accepting a higher charge-back from the leaseholder.

So, how do you decide which specific shop to use? "Look at what they have on the lot," advises Rudy Uribe, Jr. of 1-Day Paint and Body Centers (found in the western U.S.). "If you like-or don't like-what you see, that's what you can expect your car to look like."

Once the job is done, Uribe points out, the paint usually takes about a month or so to fully cure. During that time, solvents are still emanating from the surface, so it's important not to wax or even cover the car so the surface doesn't get dull. Gentle washing is okay, and after 30 to 60 days, a couple of wax jobs per year should be sufficient for protection from the elements.

Find out what vehicles qualify for the government stimulus, Cash for Clunkers program.


Earl Scheib Paint & Body,


1-Day Paint & Body,

Afraid of paying too much?
Get price quotes from dealers
near you... get ready to SAVE!

Get Internet Price