A scratch, dent, or ding in your car’s paint is unsightly and frustrating for many car owners. Some minor damages can be buffed out. But deeper scratches or severe fading from sun damage are probably going to require a touch-up paint job to get it looking new again.
Though prices vary based on the market, at-home car paint touch-up kits usually run between $15-$75, but that doesn’t include any extra tools you may need to purchase. Taking your car to an automotive repair shop will cost you anywhere from $150-$500, depending on how bad the damage is.
Keep in mind that touch-up paint is slightly different than repairing a paint chip. If you want to know how to repair a paint chip in your car, I suggest you to read this other article of mine.
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When Should You Touch up Your Car Paint?
Although a scratch in the paint is obvious, there are a few other situations where a car paint touch-up job would be beneficial for you.
Sun damage usually creates fading in the paint and a deterioration in the clear coat on top of the paint. The most common areas sun damage appears in are the top facing parts of the car, like the hood, the roof, and the trunk.
I live in a very hot and sunny environment and can assure you that not protecting your car from the sun will lead to the paint fading within as little as two years.
Replacing Body Panels
After an accident or an upgrade to a vehicle, any new parts that were not color matched precisely can be apparent and will require a touch-up paint job to alter them slightly. This helps them to blend in with the rest of the car.
If you have a classic vehicle that you want to sell, you should strongly consider some minor touch-up paint in order to get top dollar for your vintage beauty.
Cost Ladder for Minor Paint Repairs
Let’s go through the average cost for minor touch-up paint repair. This will include small dings and scratches. First, I’ll discuss the tools you will need on hand so consider the cost of these when budgeting your repair.
- High grit sandpaper: $10-$15
- Primer: $15-$25
- Automotive paint or paint repair kit: Varies widely, as low as $25 to several hundred dollars depending on the scarcity of the color.
- Automotive painters tape: around $10
- Clear coat: $20
Total upfront cost: about $70 plus automotive paint
A Word on Primer
Though most automotive primers are formulated the same, the shading of it is different for each manufacturer. Some primers will dry to a gray color while others will dry white.
Putting red over white will leave you with a different shade than putting red over gray – that’s just color theory.
Research the make and model of your car to determine what type of primer will work best.
Minor Repair Process
Surprisingly, repairing a minor scratch is a lot easier than most people think.
First, sand the area well with the high grit sandpaper. Then clean it with rubbing alcohol to remove any bits that flaked off. Next, tape off the area and apply your primer.
After the primer has dried, lightly sand it again and clean it once more. Then apply two coats of touch-up paint – allow the first coat to dry completely before you apply the second coat.
Then clear coat the area. After the clear coat has dried, remove the tape and you’re good to go! You can buff the area as you would normally if you want to maximize the shine.
Cost Ladder for Major Paint Repairs
By major repairs, I mean those incidents of sun damage and full panel replacement that I mentioned earlier. The price of auto body repair shops is going to vary widely, depending on your region. So, unfortunately, I can’t give you an estimate on that.
What I can do though is give you the average cost for the tools needed to do this repair yourself.
Full Panel Touch-up
For this, you’ll need:
Total upfront cost: Between $200-$250, plus automotive paint
The process is also very similar to doing minor repairs, except you will want to buff and polish the area after you’ve applied the clear coat so that the shine and finish all blend together seamlessly.
Automotive paint can be bought in small amounts for touch-up purposes, but if you are going to be touching up an entire panel, you will obviously need more. Many online retailers have the ability to perfectly match your existing color.
For Sun Damage Touch-up
Even though this is considered a major repair, you may not need to touch up the paint at all! Minor to moderate sun damage on a car can be easily fixed by thoroughly buffing and polishing, so you could end up spending as little as $80-$120.
Before you begin buffing, carefully check the car and make sure the clear coat hasn’t been damaged. If it looks intact and there are no obvious gouges, use your orbital buffer with a small amount of buffing compound to try and restore the paint to its original shine.
If the fading is severe or the clear coat has been damaged, then you should repaint the whole area just as you would repaint an entire panel and finish it off with a good buff and polish.
It’s difficult to get an exact dollar amount applied to a car paint touch-up job. Even automotive repair shops can’t quote you until they actually view the damage. This can be a source of stress for many individuals, as a dollar doesn’t seem to go as far as it used to.
Thankfully, with access to the internet nowadays, it has become easier to do repairs like this yourself as long as you gather the proper tools and research the correct process. And in most cases, it will cost you far less than a repair shop.