Cheap Car Paint Jobs: Pro and DIY Options + Prices Listed

man using an airbrush to paint a car blue

Finding a cheap paint job for your car doesn’t have to be a difficult task. There are several different types of paint you can use, you can Plasti Dip your vehicle, or you can find a national or regional auto shop that 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 we explain below. We also outline the paint job methods and what you need to know before choosing each option.

What We Recommend

In general, the cheapest way to paint your car will be to use Rust-Oleum — either in liquid form or from the spray can.

Plasti Dip, while not actual paint, is also less expensive than traditional paint.

However, if you prefer to use paint that is manufactured specifically for automotive use and you don’t mind paying a bit more, consider buying the materials to do a standard paint job yourself.

For the cheapest professional painting options, you will likely have the most luck by searching sites like Angie’s List or Yelp to find highly rated automotive paint shops in your area.

Cheap DIY Paint Options

Roller Paint Job

Another common car painting method is 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 sprayer and air compressor.

These methods are popular because Rust-Oleum (an industrial protective paint) 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).

Spray Can Paint Job

Another popular and inexpensive way to use Rust-Oleum to paint a car is to use it straight from the spray can.

In the step-by-step video below, the host recommends Rust-Oleum enamel for the best results, which you can find for as little as $5 per can on Amazon.

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, as the full drying process can take several weeks. However, the time and effort needed may be worth it, since this option typically costs a fraction of the price of other methods of automotive painting.

If this option seems right for you, there are plenty of online tutorials to help you get started. For example, Instructables provides instructions for spray painting a car using Rust-Oleum in six steps.

Plasti Dip

Plasti Dip is a type of air-dry rubber coating that you can remove fully simply by 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.

Our related research has the cost breakdown of how much it costs to Plasti Dip a car.

Standard Paint Job

There are several items you’ll need to paint your car successfully, and we’ve listed them below.

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 from scratch and you’re having trouble finding all of the supplies you need, a professional paint job may be a more cost-effective choice.

However, we recommend asking around; your friends, family, and neighbors may be willing to let you use some of their tools, which can save you a lot of money.

Here are the items you’ll typically need:

  • Prep materials
    • 1200-grit wet-and-dry sandpaper
    • 2000-grit wet-and-dry sandpaper
    • Masking tape
    • Masking paper
  • Machinery
    • Electric or air-powered sander/buffer combo
    • Air compressor with appropriate pressure capability and output
    • Sprayer
  • Paint
    • Paint thinner
    • Undercoat/primer
    • Topcoat acrylic or enamel paint
    • Clear coat lacquer
  • Safety supplies
    • Face mask
    • Safety glasses
  • Total for painting a small or medium car: Approximately $400
  • Total for painting a large car: Approximately $550

If you already have most of the non-paint materials from previous DIY projects, and all you really need to buy is the primer, topcoat, and clear coat, this 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.

You can rent an air compressor at The Home Depot for about $37.00 per day. However, if you’ll need to use the compressor for more than two days or so, you may be better off purchasing one outright.

Of course, the total cost of 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)
    • One gallon of base coat (primer)
    • Three gallons of topcoat
    • Two to three gallons of clear coat
  • Large Car (such as vans, trucks, SUVs, etc.)
    • 1.5 gallons of base coat (primer)
    • Four gallons of topcoat
    • Three to four gallons of 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.

National Auto Shops With Cheap Paint Jobs

If you can’t get the equipment you need for a DIY paint job, or if you simply don’t feel comfortable doing the work yourself, you may want to consider visiting a body shop for your paint job.

Below, we list the 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.


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

  • Price range: Starting at $400
  • Are free estimates available? Yes
  • Is the vehicle sanded before painting? Yes
  • Is body repair included? No
  • Turnaround time: Two to three business days
  • Find out more or find a MAACO location

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: $400 to $1,000; varies by franchise
  • Are free estimates available? Yes
  • Is the vehicle sanded before painting? Depends on the package that customers choose (the Pennsylvania location charges $199 for sanding and prep).
  • Is body repair included? No
  • Turnaround time: Varies; check with your local franchise
  • Note: 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.

Regional Auto Shops With Cheap Paint Jobs

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 about places near you where you can get your car painted.

How to Find the Best Value at a Local Shop

Finding a local business with low overhead may be the right option for your budget.

You can even ask around your personal network to find out about small shops that may be willing to do the work — word-of-mouth is usually a good way to find reputable services.

Keep these tips in mind as you research, or use one of the sites detailed below and check the listings for paint shops.

Check Reviews and Ask for References

Besides looking at sites like Angie’s List or Yelp, you can 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.

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.

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 estimated costs?
  • What brand of paint does the shop use?
  • What can the shop do for you if you aren’t happy with the result?

Sites to Check

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. You can create an account and search listings.


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.

You can find a shop and schedule an appointment.


Yelp is a customer review site that can help you find virtually any type of business in your area, and any auto shop you find will likely be accompanied by plenty of customer reviews and ratings, as well as pricing information, to help you make your decision.

You can create an account or browse businesses.

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