Why does car paint cost so much?

Why does car paint cost so much?

The old saying goes “time is money” and there is no better example of this than when you get a car painted. 


Getting a mad new coat of paint is one of the ultimate boogeymen to conquer when working on old nuggets, as getting a perfect shine on ruler-straight panels takes hundreds of hours of hard work to achieve. This is why it costs so much; you’re paying someone to devote weeks of their life to the job of fixing years of car park dings, rust, and old paint.

 Marty recently had his new 1999 WRX STi painted (as you can see HERE) as it had 20 years worth of dings and scratches on it, but even though it wasn't a crusty, rusty old nugget (like a certain Mira they cut in half in Japan) it still needed plenty of work to make it mad. 


Basically, if the car's panels aren't straight and properly aligned, then your shiny paint job will look uglier than a drop-kicked kebab.

 Any paint job needs the right surface texture to bond to, as paint requires a chemical adhesion to the lower layers. Rust, grease and other impurities hiding under the new paint will cause it to have poor adhesion, which is a fancy way of saying the paint won’t stick properly. Think of it like trying to paint a sand pit by painting over rust or old, flaky paint and clear coat.

Modern plastic body fillers (also known as ‘bondo’, ‘bog’, ‘mud’, and in some cases ‘the talent-replacer instead of doing proper panel beating’) provide even better adhesion and pliability.

Once the bodywork is repaired and sealed it needs to be sanded through a range of different grits of sandpaper. The lower the number, the harsher the grain of the paper, so most shops will start at 80-grit, stepping up to 240, then 400, 600 and sometimes, even 800-grit, before the car is ready to be painted.

Depending on the paint you've chosen, your bill for materials can be huge or unbelieveable. A clear-over-base, pearl or metallic-finish paint costs more than a simple solid colour, let alone a multi-stage paint like a candy which sometimes requires four-times as much time to paint properly.

There are also costs involved with preparing the car for each of these stages, but also costs to keep a paint and panel shop open. From the power bill to the product needed to clean spray equipment, sandpaper, masking tape and plastic, and even respirator filters, there are many overheads to pay before you get to buying primers, or top- and clear-coats.

When it comes to getting that flash, fresh new spray job there are plenty of hurdles and bulk work, but just think of how good it will look when the car is back together choo-chooing its heart out and looking awesome. Money well-spent, we say!

Here's a sneak peek at the finish!


Watch the full video here:


  • JohnH

    Would it have been cheaper/easier to come over to the UK (if such things were still possible) and buy this: https://www.autotrader.co.uk/classified/advert/201601280476667 ? 2 door P1 limited edition, fully stock with 24 Subaru dealer stamps! Sadly, it’s way too nice for me given my general mistreatment of cars.

    Anyway, can’t wait to see what the “WRX” looks like once the full paint job is revealed and the suspension is sorted out.

  • Carter

    I’m so mentally ill that I won’t even consider buying a car unless the brand and model have a WR blue equivalent.

  • Stubie

    paint it mica red or that metallic green you have it will look awesome

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