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How Much Paint To Paint A Car – Usual Cost For A Paint Job

by Jordan Harris
How Much Paint To Paint A Car

If you are looking for a new fresh look for your daily driver, other than buying a new car, getting a new coat of paint is a valid option. The problem that everyone worries about is the cost. Getting a professional paint job on your car is not cheap. That makes us think that whether getting a paint job is worth it. Is a DIY paint job an option? If so, how much paint to paint a car? And, how much is it going to cost?

One of the biggest issues that people face while painting is the amount of paint required. Whether it be your house or your car. Unless you are a professional or someone who is experienced in the field you are not going to know how much paint you will need to get the task done.

If you try to purchase car paint you will find it in pre-measured amounts. And those are pints, half-gallons, or gallons. The most common unit used is pints. If you have an extra pint sitting around after you finished painting, that pint is not going to do any good. It will be a waste of money.  But if you run out of paint halfway through the process, that is even worse.

Knowing how much paint to paint a car will definitely help you if you start a solo project. Here is the catch, it is hard to put a number on exactly how much paint you are going to need. That number depends on many factors. And after analyzing the facts it is your job to decide how much you will need.

How Much Paint Is Required To Paint A Car

The amount of paint needed to paint a car depend on a couple of factors.


The first to look at is the size of your car. Obviously, if your car’s surface area is high, you will need more paint to cover the entire car.

If your car is a mini car or a hatchback, you will require a relatively less amount of paint. Generally, any small car would be included in this category. To paint such a car, maybe you’ll need around 2 quarts of paint.

With a medium-sized or full-sized car, you are going to need more paint. A muscle car, a modern sedan, or any full-sized car will require upwards of 3 quarts. With 3 quarts it is going to barely make it. If you want to be on the safe side it is best to purchase an entire gallon.

With bigger vehicles such as vans or heavy SUVs, you are going to need a significant amount of paint. A huge vehicle such as this will not be able to manage even with a gallon. You are going to need upwards of a gallon and 2 quarts. If you have a truck, the inside of the bed needs to be thoroughly painted as well. For this, you will need up to 2 gallons.


And the 2nd factor is experience. These amounts mentioned above are the absolute amount of paint required to cover the car. To cover the mistakes you make along the way you are going to need more. Without any experience painting cars, you cannot expect to be a pro on your first try. You will make mistakes along the way. So how much paint is needed to fix those mistakes?

As a general rule, it is said that a beginner uses twice the paint professional uses. This is a bit exaggerating. 1.5 times the amount mentioned above should be enough. After all, leftover paint is worthless.

So how exactly do beginners waste paint? The most amount of paint is wasted while correcting flaws from the first try. On the first try, it is not uncommon to see dull spots and other problems with the coat. These mistakes are correctable, but only by using more paint.

Another area where beginners waste paint is by spilling. Without even thinking about it or noticing paint spills. It might not be one huge spill. Often it is smaller drops every time you get to work. It is hard to be efficient with paint without gaining experience painting. This experience is what allows professional painters to be so efficient with the paint.

What Else Do You Need To Paint Your Car

You can just dump a bucket of paint over your car and expect a paint job. Painting is a tedious process and every step requires different kinds of equipment. The cost of paint is not the only thing that you need to purchase. Knowing the steps and the equipment that goes into painting a car will give you a good idea of how much you need to allocate to your budget. This will drastically decrease those hidden costs.


First off, you need a proper environment to start your work. You can not paint your car outdoors. The reason is dust and debris. If dirt particles get under the paint coat, it will chip off early. For this reason, you need an enclosed space. That is always indoors.

When you are painting indoors you need to cover surfaces that you do not want to get paint all over. For this, you would need either painter’s drop cloth or sheets of plastic. And you need masking tape. This is to tape the car while painting. And also tape the conjunctions of the plastic sheet.


Now that you got the area prepped for painting, now you need to protect yourself. You might think that you can just wash off the chemicals after you paint the car. Paint is full of harmful chemicals. If this comes in contact with your skin it is not going to be good. It is imperative that you follow all the safety measures before you start painting.

The first thing you need to focus on is your eyes. If the paint particles get into your eyes, you are in big trouble. Other than the irritating sensation to start with, it could cause blindness. It is crucial that you wear proper goggles that provide a good seal.

Then you need to focus on the poisonous vapors. For this, you need high-grade masks. The standard painter’s mask may prevent the inhalation of paint or particles, but might not be strong enough to block the toxic vapors that result from painting in an enclosed space.

To protect your hands, you need Nitrile gloves. This is to protect your skin from the paint particles that you will be scrubbing off from the existing layer of paint.


Before applying the new coat you need to remove the old coat of paint. The most economic and overall best option is to use sandpaper. This can be done using sandpaper with grit anywhere from 80 to 220 on a sanding block or sanding board.

Once you remove the existing paint you might notice dents or small dings in the body. Use a body filler or glazing putty to fill in these dents and dings. Once the putty or the filler is dry, use the sandpaper to smoothen the area.


Before you start applying the paint you will need to apply a layer of primer. Primer is added to seal the metal of the body. This will also help create an even surface in the body of the car. This will make the finish even smoother.

Epoxy-based primers are always considered better. They protect the car from rusting and it is much easier to apply.

Choosing The Best Paint For Your Car

There are many different types of paints for your car. Metallic, Urethane, and Acrylic are by far the most popular. Buying a can of paint is a simple task. But when you step into the store and see all the variations to choose one is hard. There are many pros and cons of each type of paint.

Your needs and the look you are trying to achieve will dictate the best type of paint. Some are easier to apply while others are hard. And in the same manner, some are hazardous to your health and require a lot of ventilation while painting.

Urethane Paint

Urethane paints are a good choice if you want to paint your car. The substance that urethane is made of is quite dormant will not react easily. You can even apply it over almost any kind of paint. You can even spray it over lacquer. It is also cheaper compared to other types. It dries quickly so it is easy to apply. The durability of urethane paints is also commendable. They last long and rarely ever chip.

Even though urethane is cheap it is not the cheapest type of paint available in the market. Another issue with urethane is that it has a look similar to plastic after the finish. You will need to wear proper protective gear as it is toxic. This will not be enough either. You need to have proper ventilation as well. When handling urethane you need a painter’s suit. In addition to that, you will also have a respirator with an air pump if you do not have enough ventilation.

Using a paint gun on urethane is also a bit tricky. The flow is not quite smooth. So it needs extra care to avoid dull spots.

Metallic Paint

Metallic paint is known to give a cool sporty look. It is the best choice if you have a sports or muscle car. It can make your car highly attractive. This will surely give an increase in resale value. Metallic paints are a type of premium paint and it can hide dings and scratches because it is highly reflective. Metallic paints are engineered to make your car look perfect.

The stunning look that metallic paints add to your car is not cheap. This is the first problem with metallic paint as it is very pricey. Another issue is finding specific colors. The number of colors offered in metallic is limited. If you are looking for a rare and unique color as metallic paint you might have a hard time.

Finally, it is hard to match metallic colors. Yes, it does reduce and hide scratches and dings. But if a scratch is visible, finding the exact shade to repaint that area is quite hard.

Acrylic Paint

Acrylic paints offer a nice glossy finish to your car. It is also very easy to apply if you know what you are doing. Particular acrylic enamel paints will produce a hard shell when it dries and when professionals apply they will actually bake it onto the car. The baking is not necessary so you do not need to worry about it if you are doing it without the equipment to bake your car.

While acrylic enamel paints are a type of car paint hardener, acrylic lacquer paints do not last very long. This is considered a soft type of paint. It fades relatively sooner than many other paints. The fading happens with excess exposure to UV radiation or chemicals. It can also be very difficult to apply for those do-it-yourself painters and you will need to do a lot of finishing work.

Once you mix the acrylic paint that is the start of the timer. It is imperative that you hustle and not let the paint lay around because it could harden.

With all these paint choices it will be hard to choose the right type. There is no such thing as perfect paint. By looking at the pros and cons of each type of paint and depending on the car you own, you should decide on what paint will work best. Choosing the right type of paint could make your job a whole lot easier.

Total Cost

It is hard to give an exact amount of the cost. Different people run into different kinds of trouble along the way once the painting has begun. And whenever you run into trouble you will have to put some money into the hole you are in to dig yourself out of it.

These side expenses are hard to predict therefore it is hard to put a number on them. But it is possible to give a rough estimate on how much you would have to spend on a base coat, primer, paint, and other gear. More often than not the total cost will not be much more than these costs.

Base Coat

The amount of base coat also depends on the size of the car. It is possible to get an estimate of how much base coat you will need by the amount of paint you are using. Commencing with the quantity of base coat, the same color car would use about 2 to 2.5 quarts of paint. And the mixing is done in a 1:1 ratio.

This being said, for an average size car such as a sedan you will need 2 quartz of base coat. This will generate a gallon of sprayable base coat.

The price of the base coat spans between $25 and $150 per quart. It depends on the brand and the color. While whites are inexpensive, bright colors like red tend to be more on the costlier side. It is not necessary to buy top quality base coat as it is very expensive.

Clear Coat

Since the 1980s painting in two stages has been the common norm. So after the base coat, you would need to invest in the clear coat as well.

No matter how big the project is a gallon of clear coat is more than enough. If the clear coat is mixed with a harder or an activator the cost is going to add up slightly. The cost of the activator often costs between $100 to $300.

The clear coat costs between $100 to $250 per gallon

Paint Cost

Paint cost varies according to the size of your car as mentioned previously. Here is a rough idea of how much it is going to cost according to the paint you choose.

If you are using Acrylic paint it is a lot cheaper as a gallon will cost only $30. With metallic or urethane you are looking at upwards of $90 per gallon. Enamel paint which is also widely used costs somewhere in the middle. The usual cost of enamel paint is about $50.

How Much Paint To Paint A Car

Multiply this with the size of your car and the paint type you use, you should be able to get a rough idea of how much you will need to spend on paint.

Other Equipment

Within this category, you will find the equipment required for preparation and safety. This includes goggles, plastic sheets, masking tape, etc…

This is not going to cost much. On average this is going to cost in the neighborhood $100.

Other than this equipment if you are planning on buying a spray gun and equipment associated with it, you will need to allocate much more. Rather than spending money on such items, it might be cheaper to get the job done at the hands of a professional.

Considering all these we can estimate a rough idea for the total cost. As a whole, you might be spending between $600 to $900 on a DIY paint job.

How Much Does It Cost For A Professional Paint Job

We narrowed down the cost of a DIY paint job to around $600 to $900. How much more does it cost to hire a professional to do the job?

It depends on the quality of work put into the car. You can get an Acrylic paint job for $300. But will this last for long, no way. There are a few professional workshops that offer cheap paint jobs. But low costs come at the expense of quality. An average paint job will take up to 5 to 7 days. If the mechanic estimates that he can do it quicker, then that is a red flag.

So how much does a proper paint job cost? For all the components to be perfect, which includes the base coat and the clear coat, a professional would charge anywhere between $2000 to $4000. This of course depends on the size of the car and the type of paint you choose.

A custom paint job will cost more. If you do want unique stripes or flames in the car then you will need to pay more. Depending on the complexity of your request the price could go up to $20,000.

Advantages Of A Professional Paint Job

Certainly no matter how hard you try a DIY job will not be as profound as a professional paint job. There are many advantages of hiring a pro to paint your car.

Professional autobody painters know sanding and body filling techniques that take years of experience. This will make sure that your car gets a show-quality finish once you get a new paint job. Overall a professional will give more attention to detail than you would.

Painting a car is a tiresome process. It takes days if not weeks to complete. Painting your car then leaving it to dry for a whole while can get really stressful. And all that while messing up your garage. Is it worth it to save $1000? That is up to you to decide. Either way by hiring a professional you will be able to save a lot of time.

On top of that, if you could get a warranty period from your auto body shop, that will you some peace. You would not have to worry about chipping or fading prematurely. But they will not cover scratches so you have to do your part to protect your paint as well.

Car Paint Facts: How Much Paint is Needed to Paint a Car and What Type of Paint to Use

  1. The amount of paint needed to paint a car depends on the size of the vehicle and the type of paint used.
  2. A medium-sized car will use around 96 ounces to one gallon of paint for a professional painter, and up to two gallons for an amateur painter.
  3. A big-sized car such as an SUV will require around seven quarts of paint for professionals and up to two gallons for amateur painters.
  4. Painting other parts of the vehicle like the boot or door jambs will require more paint than usual.
  5. Regular wall paint should not be used for painting a car as car paint is specially made for flexibility and durability.
  6. Primers are necessary for painting a car to help the paint stick to the body of the vehicle.
  7. The base coat is the layer of paint that goes on top of the primer and needs to be protected with a clear coat to avoid moisture from causing the surface to rust.
  8. Clear coat is paint without any pigments that protects the base coat and gives it a shiny appearance.
  9. Proper maintenance of the clear coat can maintain the shine of the car for a long time.
  10. Before painting a car, a primer is required, and it is recommended to reduce the color of the paint with a base layer before applying it to the car.


Finally, if you do get a new paint job you got to take care of it. Do not wash your car for a month. Even though the paint does dry within a few days it is better to be on the safe side. The same goes with waxing. You should not wax your car for about 3 months.

If you do decide to paint your car yourself you might be able to save a decent amount of money. But expect to run into some trouble along the way. If you do enjoy the process, this can be a fun project.

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