Car painting is a difficult and time-consuming process best left to professionals. Prices will vary depending on the quality of the job and the type of car, but unless you have your paint booth and sprayers, paying a technician will always produce a better result.
National low-cost chains like MAACO often advertise specials for between $250 and $400, but this is usually for a paint job only and doesn’t include any sanding, priming, or prepping necessary to ready the vehicle for car painting. Expect the final price at a MAACO to be between $500 and $1,500. Generally, the low-cost chains do low-quality work. You may get lucky, but you may also end up with the new paint job peeling off after six months.
For higher quality car paint, seek out independent auto body shops. Often these will quote prices between $1,000 and $2,000. It is rare to find good quality work for anything less than $1,000.
For custom car painting that involves a change in color, more than one color, chrome plating, or airbrush designs expect to pay from $4,000 to $8,000. Regardless of price point, there are some things to watch out for when choosing an auto painting facility.
If you pull up to a shop and see vehicles that look newly painted sitting outside drying with the masking tape still on them, turn around and drive right back out. Letting a vehicle dry out in the sun allows dust, insects, and other contaminants a chance to get embedded in the paint.
Inside the car painting facility, you should look for lots of overhead lighting and exhaust fans in the paint booth. The more the better. Exhaust fans suck up dust and other particles before they can touch the paint. Ask to see a newly painted car. Look at the tires, windows, license plate frame, bumpers, taillights, headlights, and weather stripping around the windows for signs of over-spray, or paint where it isn’t supposed to be. This is caused by poor masking and a failure to take off easily removable parts before paint application. Also, look at the quality of the finish. Check for smoothness, any particles trapped in the paint, and evenness.
If an employee of the car painting facility gives you an estimate and a timeframe based only on a glance at your car, you may want to try another shop. He should walk outside, carefully look over the body of the vehicle, examine it for any signs of damage, and ask you whether it’s ever been hit. He should also initiate a discussion about what exactly you expect in your paint job.
Quality car painting takes time. If a shop promises to paint your vehicle in two or three days, be suspicious. Some make their profits by painting a high volume of vehicles. Rarely do they pay proper attention to priming and sanding, or the details like door jambs or trunks. A one-week turnaround is fairly standard at quality operations.
Ask about the shop’s warranty. Some car painting operations will guarantee the paint against flaking and peeling, but not against rust. Have reasonable expectations. Expect to be without your car for at least a week. Expect to spend at least a thousand dollars. Understand that even the most reputable shops occasionally have to raise their initial estimates if they find rust or other damage when sanding your car.