Bored of your current car’s color? Thinking of repainting your car to a different color? But how much does it cost to paint a car a different color? Well, that depends on several factors. You may spend anywhere between $500 to $3,500 for a car repaint. In some cases, you may need to pay a lot more. We’ll be discussing all the different factors and the process your car will have to go through for a repaint. As well as other options and everything else you might need to know. Hopefully, by the end of this post, you’ll be able to make an informed decision regarding repainting your car to a different color.
Factors that Affects the Cost to Paint a Car a Different Color
As mentioned, the cost to paint a car a different color can range anywhere between $500 to $3,500 on average. It may be a lot more than that if you’re looking to get a really high-quality paint job. Here are the things that will affect the cost:
Paint Job Color and Quality
First and foremost is obviously the quality and color of the paint job itself. A common color like black, grey, white, and some shades of silver is usually around $300 – $1,000 for an entire car. Rarer colors such as red, blue, and other manufacturer-specific colors will easily cost more than that.
Then there’s the quality of the paint job itself. You can find some national chains that can do repaint work for a few hundred dollars, but chances are the quality of the job isn’t that great. Cheap repaint jobs will usually only give you one coat of paint and that’s it. Meaning there’s no rust work, and no extra layers of paint to prolong the paint’s lifespan. Additionally, the prep work with cheap repaint jobs is usually minimal. They will cover up your car’s glass area and non-painted exterior trim like the headlights, and that’s about it. Afterward, they’ll immediately slap the new paint.
Meanwhile, more expensive paint jobs usually mean the shop does more prep. They will cover up the glass area, remove exterior trims, and in some cases, they will remove entire panels to do a thorough paint job. All this prep will result in better repaint work. Additionally, they will paint your car with more than just one coat of paint. This extra layer of paint will protect the layers beneath it and gives your paint job a longer lifespan.
Size of the Car
The next factor is the size of the car itself. Larger cars have more surface area and that obviously needs more paint. Repainting a hatchback and other compact vehicles will certainly be cheaper than repainting large sedans and SUVs. If you have a larger car, then be prepared to shell out more money to purchase the paint.
Repairs Before Painting the Car
Do not ignore body or structural damage before repainting your car. Small dings are no big deal and likely won’t affect the structural integrity of your car, but your repaint job will look bad if you don’t repair it first. As for bigger bodywork dents, we advise that you sort that out first before repainting. Not only your paint job will look terrible, but larger dents may also compromise the structural integrity of your car.
And of course, if you have rust on your car, you will need to fix that first. Painting over rust won’t fix the problem and it will only get worse in the future. Needless to say, repairing these bodywork issues will cost you more money. But really, you will need to do them first. There’s no point in painting your car a different color only to have rust problems that keep showing up in the future.
How Much Does It Cost to Paint a Car a Different Color? Professional vs DIY
If you choose to have a professional autobody shop to repaint your car, then the cost to paint a car a different color will vary between $500 – $3,500. A basic paint job will cost less than $1,000, but the shop will likely not pay too much attention to detail. Possibly leaving your car with imperfections in the new paint job. A higher-level paint job will cost between $1,000 – $3,500 on average. The process usually involves sanding down the car’s body to ensure a smooth surface, avoiding impurities in the final paint job. It will look much better and likely last longer as well.
Finally, some shops will offer high-quality, showroom-level paint jobs. This can cost anywhere between $2,500 to $10,000 depending on the car size and paint color. This process usually involves removing all of the current paint from the metal paint, then carefully adding layers of paint. Sometimes dozens of coats are added, ensuring a long-lasting paint job.
When it comes to choosing which autobody shop to get the job done, it really comes down to reviews and recommendations. Ask your friends and families who have had a car repaint in the past, see if they recommend a certain shop. You should also look for reviews online, as well as ask around car forums for recommendations. Finally, ask if the shop offers a warranty for their paint job.
How Long Does It Take?
A professional autobody shop will require anywhere between three days to a week to repaint your car. Needless to say, this depends on the quality of the paint job as well. A single coat repaint with no bodywork should take no more than three days to finish. But a higher-quality paint job with multiple layers of paint can take at least a week to finish.
If you choose to do it yourself, it’s usually a three to five-day project. Depending on how many layers of paint you want to put on your car, and how fast you can actually do the job. It will definitely take some time if you choose to do the job yourself, but we recommend not rushing the job to get the best possible result.
Should You Do It Yourself?
If the cost is just too high, should you do the job yourself? While doing it yourself means you won’t have to pay for labor, you will need to pay with your time. And you will still need to procure the necessary equipment. Before proceeding to repaint your car yourself, we recommend calculating how much the supplies and equipment would cost to purchase or rent. For example, you will need at least two gallons of paint for two coats of paint. A gallon of automotive paint usually costs between $70 – $100, but this will vary depending on the color and brand you choose.
Additionally, you will need to get a hold of a spray gun, air compressor, a respirator and safety glasses, clear-coat lacquer, and a buffer amongst other things. A decent home improvement retailer might be able to rent you some of these items. If the cost is a lot less than getting a professional paint job, the next question is: is it more important for you to save time or money? If you have a busy schedule and you value your time (and energy), then you should just get a professional paint job.
However, if you want to do it yourself to save money, or you just want to do it for the fun of it, we’ll give you a guide on what you need to do as well as some tips.
Repainting Your Car to a Different Color
As mentioned, repainting your car is a lengthy process. So bear with us since this guide will be quite long. First and foremost, you will need to get the right equipment before you can start:
We’ve mentioned some of the equipment necessary, here’s a quick list and the cost of the more expensive equipment:
- Spray gun (around $500 to purchase, or $40/day to rent depending on model)
- Air compressor (around $600 to purchase, or $90/day to rent depending on model)
- Painting respirators (around $30, we recommend using these since N95 masks aren’t enough to protect you from chemicals, gases, or vapors.)
- Powered sanders (around $200 to purchase, or about $50/day to rent)
- Safety glasses.
- 1200-grit and 2000-grit wet and dry sandpaper.
- Masking tape and masking paper.
- Paint thinners.
- Automotive paint. As mentioned, you will need at least two gallons for two coats of paint.
We might have missed a few, but those are the things you will definitely need to do a repaint job yourself. Next, you’re going to need to do some preparation and follow safety measures.
Before proceeding, make sure that you’ve repaired any dents on your bodywork. First, make sure you have the working space. A repaint job should be done indoors, so your garage should do the trick. Ideally, your garage should have good ventilation so the paint fumes have somewhere to escape. If not, you can open the garage door a bit so you’ll have better ventilation. You should also hang up plastic to block the fumes from entering your home.
Next, remember that the ideal temperature for painting your car is around 65 – 90 degrees Fahrenheit. If it’s too hot, bubbles and blisters may appear in the paint. If it’s too cold, the paint takes longer to dry and may attract dirt and debris into it, compromising the result. Having a heated garage would be ideal if you live in colder areas.
Once that’s sorted out, you can start sanding your car. Sanding will help remove imperfections on the surface and creates small rough ridges on the surface to help the paint stick. You can sand to the bare metal if you like, but this is not necessary. Just make sure you spend at least about 2 hours on each panel and finish with wet-to-dry sandpaper to help ensure a smooth surface. Also, remember to sand in a circular motion, this is where an orbital sander will help make your job easier. However, you may still need to sand corners and other hard-to-reach areas by hand.
After you finish sanding your car, remember to wipe your car with paint thinners by using a clean rag. This will help remove any dust and residue. Afterward, start covering areas you don’t want to be painted with masking tape and paper. Better yet, remove exterior trims like the emblem and lights if possible.
You’ll be working with a lot of chemicals in this project, such as paint and primer. We want to avoid accidents and expensive medical bills, so be sure to follow these safety measures:
- Cover yourself. Wear gloves and long sleeves to protect your hands and arms. Wearing a hat or a hood is also a good idea so you can protect your head. And of course, wear safety glasses or goggles to protect your eyes so that particles won’t get into them.
- Wear respirators. N95 isn’t enough to filter out the nasty chemical fumes. While effects may not be immediate, they can harm you in the long term. Respirators are recommended for this project.
- Ventilation. We can’t stress how important this is, even if you wear a respirator. If you don’t have a ventilation system in your garage, slightly open your garage door so fresh air can circulate.
- Remove open flames. Some of the chemicals you’ll be working with are flammable. Make sure to remove any open flame to avoid combustion. You should also remove any other flammable liquids in the garage that isn’t necessary for the project.
Priming Your Car
Once you finish sanding your car and follow all safety measures, the next step is to prime your car. Priming will ensure better adhesion between the paint and the car surface. It also helps to improve durability and protects the surface of the painted area. Here’s how to do it:
- You’ll want to practice first. Find a piece of scrap metal to practice on, or cardboard will also do the trick. Next, hold the spray gun around 6 inches from the surface, and then spray side-to-side in a continuous motion. Only press the trigger when you are moving the spray gun, or it will result in uneven and blobby paint. Once you’re confident, you can start working on your car.
- Mix the primer with thinners according to paint can direction as the amount will vary depending on the paint you’ve bought.
- Once done, begin priming your car from the roof down. It’s recommended that you apply 2-3 coats, and then let the primer cure. It will take anywhere between 20 minutes to an hour, check the primer directions to see how long it will take.
- Next, resand your car before painting. This is to reduce the powdery effect and regain a smooth and even surface. We recommend using 2000-grit sandpaper and then wipe the car down with paint thinners and a clean rag. Remember not to use too much thinner.
Now that you’ve applied the primer, you can start painting your car.
Painting Your Car
- You’ll want to prepare the topcoat first, this is the final layer of paint you’ll apply to your car. Mix the paint with thinner just like the primer, you can find the recommended ratio on the paint can directions.
- Next, apply the coats of paint. We recommend at least about 3-4 coats of paint, so make sure you have enough paint to do this. Remember, it takes about two gallons for two coats of paint, but a bigger car will require more.
- Before adding the topcoat to finish, wipe down the car with 2000-grit sandpaper to remove any powdery residue. Finally, wipe down the car with a clean rag before adding the topcoat.
Lacquering Your Car
Once you finish painting your car, you’ll want to add a couple of layers of lacquer to help protect the paint. Here are the steps:
- Spray your car with lacquer, one or two coats are enough.
- Remove masking tape and paper from covered areas while the lacquer is still wet.
- Allow the lacquer to cure, the recommended time will be available in the lacquer’s instructions.
- Check for blemishes on the car. If there are any, sand them down lightly and respray.
- Buff your car’s body with a buffer. Be sure not to buff on one spot for too long as this could burn the paint.
Here’s a guide from Eastwood Company on how to paint your car at home:
Extra Tips to Painting a Car to a Different Color
- Even after the paint has cured, your car’s new paint may not have fully settled yet. Because of this, you shouldn’t wash your car for at least a month. If it does get dirty, use only cold water and a high-quality wash mitt to wash the car and wash it in the shade. It’s generally a bad idea to wash your car under direct sunlight.
- Because your paint hasn’t fully settled, it’s a good idea to just rest your car in the garage. Only drive it when necessary within the first month.
- Stay away from trees. Parking under trees can allow sap and other debris to fall on them and stick to your new paint job, effectively ruining your hard work.
- You may find blemishes like orange peel, bleeding, and paint bubbles. It’s important you find this immediately after you paint your car, so it’s a good idea to do a thorough inspection. Don’t worry, there’s always to fix these paint problems. As long as you find them early, you should have no problem fixing them.
Alternative to Repaint: Wrapping Your Car
Repainting your car to a different color is a pricey and time-consuming endeavor. However, there is an alternative: wrapping your car with vinyl. This is essentially wrapping your car in stickers, and you can choose whether you want to wrap the entire car, or just wrap a few panels to give your car a two-tone and fresh look. The cost will obviously vary depending on the quality of the wrap and the size of your car but expect a decent wrap job to cost anywhere between $500 to $1,000. If you choose higher-quality vinyl and some sort of intricate design, it will cost more.
Wrapping your car costs about the same as an entry-level paint job, but the upside of this is of course is that it’s not permanent. Once you’re bored with the new color or want to go back to your car’s original color, then you can remove the wrap or wrap it with a new color. Of course, if your original paint job is already fading, then we recommend repainting your car anyway. Additionally, you should first repair any dents and rust on your bodywork whether you’re repainting or wrapping your car.
Here’s a video showing what the wrapping process entails:
We’ve written a comprehensive article about wrapping your car, and you can learn more about it below:
Do You Have to Notify the DMV When You Repaint Your Car to a Different Color?
Yes and no. We couldn’t find any information that specifically says you have to notify the DMV, but the rules and regulations may vary from one state to another. If you’re wrapping your car, you probably don’t have to do this since the wrap isn’t permanent.
But if you repaint your car, we recommend taking a look at your car’s registration. If it has any information regarding the color of your car, it’s a good idea to notify the DMV. The DMV will view your car as the same car as long as it has the same VIN, but it doesn’t hurt to notify the DMV. Additionally, you’ll want to notify your insurance company as well. This is to avoid any legal issues and avoid problems when you want to make an insurance claim.
How Much Does It Cost to Paint a Car a Different Color: Conclusion
How much does it cost to paint a car a different color? As mentioned, this depends on a few things. Such as the color, the quality of the job, and the size of your vehicle. It will cost as low as $500 to as high as $10,000 should you decide to get a high-quality paint job.
You can repaint your car yourself if you wish to save some money, but this is a lengthy process. And be sure to follow all safety precautions as you’ll be working with harmful chemicals and you’ll want to avoid any expensive medical bills. If you find the cost a bit high, we recommend wrapping your car instead as it’s not permanent and usually less expensive. Be sure to repair any dents and rust on your car’s bodywork before proceeding. Good luck!