How Much Does It Cost To Paint a Car?

Applying a new coat to a faded or peeling vehicle can improve its resale value and how you feel about it.

Painting a carShutterstock

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Time hasn’t been kind to the finish of your vehicle. You’re thinking of freshening the exterior, but you know that painting a car doesn’t come cheap. Whether you’re planning to sell in the next few weeks or to hang onto your car for years to come, you might be wondering if painting a car is a smart investment. It’s not a bad idea. Curb appeal can have a significant influence on both the sale price and how much you enjoy your vehicle, after all. But how much does it cost to paint a car? And will you make a return on your investment?

Cost Varies By Where You Get Your Car Painted

The cost of a paint job varies by the size of the repair, the amount of prep it needs, and how much the shop charges for labor. In general, though, you’re looking at anywhere from a few hundred dollars to a several thousand, depending on the scope of the job, where you go, and the quality of the work.

Barring a do-it-yourself job, there are three ways to go about getting your vehicle painted. The first is to take your car to a national auto body chain. Some offer different service tiers (e.g., good, better, and best); each step up the ladder brings more thorough prep and body work, a longer warranty, and a higher price.

According to a major chain’s online estimator, the cost to repaint a scraped bumper on a five-year-old Toyota Camry with no dents in California was $268 to $447. To refinish that car’s peeling roof, you’ll need to shell out between $289 and $481. And for a whole-body job, estimates range from $763 to $2,234, depending on which tier you choose. Remember that while the cost of the lowest-level service may be attractive, typically, you get what you pay for.

Option number two is to visit a locally owned body shop. This requires a bit more time and research, as you’ll want to check out different shops’ reputations and customer satisfaction as well as make sure they’ll stand behind their work. It will likely cost more, too, as independents tend to have high hourly rates and don’t do the same kind of volume as the chains.

Lastly, you can go to the body shop at a nearby dealership that sells your vehicle’s brand. This can be a solid choice if you want a precise factory color, and a dealer may have an advantage in obtaining trim pieces, if you need them, as they often stock in-demand parts.

Is Painting a Car Worth It?

Painting your car might increase its value or it might not. Steven Lang is a used-car dealer and Capital One Auto Learning Center contributor who has had more than 200 vehicles painted within the last 15 years. He cautions that this doesn’t always help bring a higher selling price, but it can if you keep certain things in mind.

First and foremost, Lang says you need to consider the car’s current condition. Is the clearcoat peeling? Is the paint discolored? Does the vehicle need body work? If so, it’s likely worth the effort to have it repainted.

You also need to be realistic about the demand for your car. If it’s a popular or valuable model, invest in a high-quality restoration. If the vehicle is 10 years or older and/or not very popular or valuable, Lang says an inexpensive paint job will probably suffice.

This advice can also apply to anyone who has purchased a used car and felt buyer’s remorse because of the paint. Lang says that if you tend to keep your cars a long time, it makes sense to refinish the exterior without regard to recouping the money years down the road. You’ll be happier with a better-looking car.

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Mike Hagerty
Sorting through the hundreds of new car, truck and SUV choices on the market to find the right one for your needs gets tougher all the time. I’m here to help. I’ve been writing and talking about new vehicles for 25 years on TV and radio, in print and online. And my passion for cars and driving goes back even farther than that. I love design and performance, but the second-largest purchase most of us will ever make (for some of us, the largest) needs to be based on more than good looks and quick zero-to-60 times.