Cheap Car Paint Job Options: Both Pro and DIY Options + Prices Listed

Finding a cheap paint job for your car yourself doesn’t have to be a difficult task. There are several different types of paint you can use yourself, you can plasti dip your vehicle, or you can find a national or regional auto shop who will put a new coat of paint on your vehicle for a low price. There are advantages and disadvantages to each of these options, which you can learn more about below. Whatever you decide, you don’t have to pay top dollar to get a quality coat of paint. Here are your cheap car paint job options and what you need to know about cheap paint jobs for cars.

How to Do the Standard DIY Paint Job

In the list below, you’ll see the items you’ll need to paint your car successfully. If you already have some of these on hand, you can save a considerable sum of money with a DIY paint job.

In some cases, if you’re starting with none of these things and you’re having trouble acquiring them, a professional paint job may be a more cost-effective choice. However, we recommend asking around; your friends, family, and neighbors will probably be able to contribute to your effort, resulting in a cheaper outcome (and a whole lot of bragging rights!).

Here are the items you’ll need:

  • 1200-grit wet-and-dry sandpaper
  • 2000-grit wet-and-dry sandpaper
  • Electric or air-powered sander/buffer combo
  • Masking tape
  • Masking paper
  • Spray gun
  • Air compressor with appropriate pressure capability and output
  • Paint thinner
  • Face mask
  • Safety glasses
  • Undercoat/primer
  • Top coat acrylic or enamel paint
  • Clear coat lacquer

Total for Painting a Small or Medium Car: Approximately $400
Total for Painting a Large Car: Approximately $550

Let’s say that you have most of the other materials from previous DIY projects, and all you really need to buy is the primer, top coat, and clear coat. That brings the prices down to roughly $250 for a small or medium car and $370 for a larger vehicle.

If you don’t plan to paint more than one vehicle, you can save money by renting an air compressor instead of buying one. Renting an air compressor at The Home Depot costs $37.00 per day. If you’ll use the compressor for more than two days, however, you’re better off purchasing one.

Of course, the total cost for painting your car can vary depending on how much surface area needs to be covered. Below are some general guidelines to help you approximate how much paint you’ll need depending on the type of car you have.

  • Small or Medium Car (most typical sedans would fall into this category)
    • 1 gallon base coat (primer)
    • 3 gallons topcoat
    • 2 to 3 gallons clear coat
  • Large Car (such as vans, trucks, SUVs, etc.)
    • 1.5 gallon base coat (primer)
    • 4 gallons topcoat
    • 3 to 4 gallons clear coat

Keep in mind that a significant color change (such as black to white) may require more paint for adequate coverage. You should also be sure to properly prep and prime your car before painting it. If your car has a deglazed clear coat, it will need to be sanded down before priming to be sure there are no impurities in the metal.

How to Do a “Roller” Paint Job

When you’re looking for DIY car painting videos, you’re going to run across what’s sometimes called the “Rust-Oleum Roller” method. This technique requires using a foam roller to apply Rust-Oleum, instead of applying standard auto paint with a spray gun and air compressor. These methods are popular because Rust-Oleum is cheaper than automotive paints at about $10 per quart on Amazon. Stretching a quart with paint thinner makes it go even farther. The instructional video below describes using a 60:40 paint to thinner ratio. Rust-Oleum is commonly used in the form of spray paint as well (see below).

How to Do a “Rattle Can” Paint Job

Another popular way to use Rust-Oleum to paint a car cheaply is straight from the spray can. In the excellent step-by-step video below, the host recommends Rust-Oleum enamel for the best results.

Allowing the paint to dry between coats is very important — it shrinks as it dries, so you want to make sure to wait at least a couple of days for it to dry between each step of the process. It can be easier to cover smaller areas (like the hood or fenders) with a spray can, but a whole car is more difficult. Spray painting with Rust-Oleum isn’t the fastest choice; the full drying process can take several weeks. But the time and effort can pay off since this option typically costs a fraction of the price for other methods of automotive painting. One Reddit poster painted their car for under $50.

If this route sounds like something you’d like to investigate further, there are plenty of how-to guides and tutorials to help you get started. For example, Instructables provides downloadable instructions for spray painting a car using Rust-Oleum in six steps.

How to Plasti-Dip Your Car

Plasti-Dip is a type of air-dry rubber coating that is fully removable by simply peeling it off. It lasts about three years and is sprayed on with a standard sprayer. Plasti-Dip comes in a wide variety of colors and customizable finishes, including gloss, satin, pearl, and metallic. There’s a great step-by-step video from that illustrates the full process. offers numerous Plasti-Dip kits starting as low as $191 to fully paint a 2-door vehicle.

National Auto Shops That Offer Cheap Paint Jobs for Cars

If you find that it is more cost effective or you can’t get the equipment you need for a DIY paint job, you may want to consider visiting a body shop for your paint job. Below is a list of national shops that offer reasonably priced paint jobs. Be sure to ask the shop whether it offers a lifetime warranty before going ahead with the service.

Earl Scheib

According to MapMuse, there are franchise locations in 21 states. Referencing a San Diego, CA location and Elmsworth, PA location, we found the following details. However, since each location is an independently operated franchise, we recommend that you confirm these details with your nearest location.

  • Price Range: $399.99 – $999.99. Specifics may vary by franchise.
  • Are Free Estimates Available?: Yes
  • Is The Vehicle Sanded Before Painting?: It depends on the package that customers choose (the PA location charges $199 for sanding and prep).
  • Is Body Repair Included?: No, that costs extra
  • How Long Does Painting Take?: Turnaround times may vary; check with your local franchise. (The San Diego location highlights its “fast turn around.”)
  • Due to restructuring, the corporate site for Earl Scheib is no longer available. Try a Google search for “Earl Scheib” to see if there are franchises in your area.


MAACO is a national auto paint and collision repair service provider. The company has locations in 46 U.S. states and Puerto Rico.

Regional Auto Shops That Offer Cheap Paint Jobs for Cars

Auto Painting USA Collision (Florida)

There are three Florida locations: Miami Gardens, West Miami, and Ft. Lauderdale.

Econo Auto Painting & Body Works (Southeastern United States)

Econo has more than 30 locations throughout Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Alabama, Arkansas, and Texas.

Want more options? Check out our article: Where Can I Get My Car Painted? At These 8 Places (Local to Most)

How to Find Someone Local That Does Cheap Car Paint Shops (Best Value)

Finding a local business with low overhead and time on their hands may be the right option for your budget. Heck, you can even ask around your local car community to find out if there are any shade tree mechanics that can lay a clean line. You’ll get a few names.

Angie’s List

Angie’s List has been around for 20 years now and is a service-oriented site for finding the best local businesses for a wide variety of services. At one time, Angie’s List required a fee to sign up and access the listings and reviews, but the site now offers free signup.


Carwise is a site specifically dedicated to automotive shops and related businesses. You can search on Carwise to find cheap car painting services in your area. When you work with one of the shops in Carwise’s network, the site even allows you to track your vehicle’s repair status and see real-time progress updates online or through the Carwise mobile app.

Here are a few tips for choosing an auto paint shop where you can get a high-quality, professional paint job without breaking the bank.

1. Check Reviews and Ask for References

Besides looking at sites like Angie’s List or Yelp, you can also ask around on your local homeowner association’s website or Facebook page or talk to friends and family to get their input on a local auto painting shop. If you know someone who works at an auto shop or has been a loyal customer at one for many years, you may even be able to get a referral discount or find out about a promotion that will save you money.

2. Get Several Estimates

It may be tempting to save time and just take the first estimate you get, but it really does pay to get more than one or two estimates. By comparison shopping around town for the best auto painting rates, you may end up saving quite a bit — and you could even find a new favorite local shop that you can visit again for auto work in the future.

Suggested Article: The Cost Comparison of Vinyl Wrapping Your Car vs Painting It

3. Ask Questions

When you are choosing the right shop for a good automotive paint job, you want to make sure you’re not left with unexpected surprises after the job is done. You’ll want to ask questions BEFORE the painting starts, such as:

  • What is the warranty? How long is it and what does it cover?
  • How long will the process take from start to finish?
  • Does the auto shop ever go over the estimate costs?
  • What brand of paint does the shop use?
  • What can the shop do for you if you aren’t happy with the result?

4. Pay Attention to Red Flags

Are you wondering why the shop seems so empty of other customers? That may be an indication that the business does not have many repeat customers. Does the shop seem neat and well-managed, or is it disorganized? How is the customer service — do you feel like your car will be well taken care of in this shop’s hands? All these things can give you a sense of the shop as a whole and how you feel about doing business with them. While reviews from other people are a great resource, ultimately you’re the one who has to be happy with the paint job, so pay attention to these indicators when choosing an auto paint shop.

In Summary

If you want to do a cheap car paint job yourself, there are plenty of step-by-step videos online to take you through the process. You can purchase all of the materials and supplies that you need for a DIY paint job for roughly $400 for a small to mid-sized car or about $550 for a larger vehicle like a van or SUV. If you already have some DIY tools available, the price of just paint will be close to $250 for small or medium cars and $370 for larger vehicles.

But, if you’d rather get a cheap car paint job from the professionals, you can expect to pay between $325-$400 from the lowest-cost auto shops. This base price quickly gets up into the $500 range and above depending on the package and warranty that you choose and any additional repair work that needs to be done prior to repainting. You can make a choice that’s right for your budget and your level of skill, and soon you’ll have a new coat of paint on your car that doesn’t empty your wallet.

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