How much does it cost to paint a car?

close up of rear of vintage british car with tail image by Bo Widerberg from

Painting a car requires more than a few cans of spray paint. While these sort of jobs are available at low prices, the poor quality of the work will be apparent when the paint begins to peel after a few weeks. Garages that specialise in painting cars start from scratch.

The original paint is sanded down, specialised tools are used to apply a new coat and transparent layers are added for protection. Each of these steps includes variables that can alter the price of a paint job, such as the size of a vehicle and the quality of the paint.

The Process

A good paint job for a car requires extensive preparation, pricey materials and specialised skills. For this reason, the first factor in the price of painting a car will be the quality of work and the amount of time a garage puts into the job. First, the vehicle will be washed, the original paints will be sanded down and the chrome and windows will be covered. After the preparation has been completed, a colourless primer is applied to add longevity to the paint. Next, the coloured paint will be applied using spray guns, followed by transparent protective covering. Different garages may treat each stage differently. Some may run through preparation quickly, while others will take the time to do detailed work. The quality of work depends on what a consumer is willing to pay.


Besides the cost of labour, several materials are included in the cost of painting a car. Someone who decides to paint his own car should expect to purchase some specialised tools such as a spray gun and covers for windows and chrome. Those who go to a garage will still be paying for primer, paint and the clear coatings. Because several layers of each paint are required, a full set of decent materials fall in the range of £650 to £975. But like everything else, these prices can change dramatically based upon quality. Top-of-the-line paints can cost well more than £3,250, while the lowest tiers can be found for only a few hundred dollars. Some colours, especially reds, can also cost more. The size of a vehicle should also be taken into consideration because more or less material will be required, depending on body size.


Labor costs vary greatly in different areas and based upon the quality of work. While quick paint jobs can be found for under £325, preparation is usually nonexistent and the application of paint tends to be uneven and sloppy. Most garages will complete the entire process from preparation to finish for £1,300 to £1,950 in labour. But once again, the prices can vary based on quality. The cost of labour will also rise and fall with the size of a vehicle, largely because of the preparation process. Many garages include minor bodywork such as the removal of scratches and small dents during a paint job. Upper end labour costs can reach £32,500 or more, but these prices tend to be reserved for different types of specialised work.

Final Prices

With the combination of labour and materials, a typical paint job will be in the range of £1,950 to £2,925. The quality of labour, the size of a vehicle and the type of materials are the most important variables in deciding the price, and extremes exist in both directions. A poor paint job can cost as little as £520, while the absolute best can top £48,750. Those who decide to paint their own car can save thousands of dollars in labour, but they should expect to spend extra on a spray gun, sandpaper, covering for the windows and chrome. Paint can also cost more to an individual consumer, and the investment of time can be substantial to the inexperienced.


Those who are interested in painting their own car should be warned that improper preparation can create lasting damage on their vehicle. Not only that, but the improper application of paint can create uneven surfaces and ugly blemishes. Problems caused by poor preparation and uneven painting are especially visible with darker coats of paint. Skimping on any step can cause a vehicle's paint to prematurely peel or fade. Anyone without any experience or guidance in painting a car should strongly consider a consultation with a professional. Consumers must decide if the risk of damaging their vehicle and the time put into their own labour are worth more than the cost of professional work.