How Long Does It Take to Paint a Car? (2023 Average)

Author: Elissa Huebert | Updated: | Affiliate links may be present.

A new paint job can make an older car look like new again! New paint requires both time and money. Whether you paint your car yourself, or hire a professional, be prepared to be without a car during the process. As the saying goes, “Rome wasn’t built in a day”. Your car most likely won’t be painted in a day either.

It takes professional automotive painters anywhere from two days to several weeks to paint a car. It depends on the amount of prep work involved, the make and model of the car, the paint drying time, and the level of paint job required. Typically, it takes 2-5 days to prep the vehicle for painting, then the paint needs time to dry in between each coat.

What Factors Affect the Time It Takes to Paint a Car?

There is not a tried and true, across-the-board rule for how long it takes to paint a car. There are many different factors that may affect the total time spent on the vehicle.

Car Make and Model

Car makes and models vary in size and paintable surface area.

Body Work and Repairs

The more repair the car requires, the longer it will take to repair and paint the vehicle. Repairs to the body may include dent repair, part replacement, or filling in deep scratches. If your vehicle body needs to be repaired before painting, make sure to factor that into your time and your budget.

Prepping the Vehicle

Getting the car ready to paint usually takes longer than the actual painting part of the process! Some may argue that preparation is the most important step.

Vehicle prep may include:

  • Damage Repair
  • Sanding the vehicle down to the metal
  • Body fill for dents and dings
  • Scratch repair
  • Taping off and masking parts of the vehicle that don’t need paint
  • Removing parts of the vehicle
  • Complete disassembly of the vehicle, if each piece is going to be painted separately

Paint Application

Paint application itself does not take too long. However, each coat must be allowed to dry between applications, so this part of the process can take a long time.

If the car has been stripped down to the metal, a layer of primer is put on the metal. After that, depending on the paint job, there will be 3-20 layers of acrylic paint. The number of layers of paint varies according to the type of paint job.

Finally, 2-8 coats of clear coat are applied on top of the paint. The clear coat protects the vehicle’s paint from UV rays and other damage, plus gives the paint a glossy finish.

Some brands of paint need to dry overnight before another coat can be applied.

How Long Does It Take a Professional to Paint a Car?

Overall, the entire process can take anywhere from two days to multiple weeks. It all depends on the vehicle and the steps in the painting process that need to be completed. The prep work alone can take several days. Then, the paint needs time to dry in between coats. The more coats you apply, the longer it will take.

When Should I Hire a Pro?

Realize that painting a car takes time. Your time is valuable. It is best to hire a professional painter if you do not have the time or space to paint the car yourself.

If the vehicle has a lot of body damage, it may be best to hire a professional. Extensive repairs require specialized tools and skills.

A professional painter is the best choice for restoring a classic car, achieving showroom quality paint, or using custom designs or specialty paint.

How Long Does It Take to Paint a Car Myself?

It depends on your level of expertise, your goals for the vehicle paint job, and the amount of work you want to put into the vehicle. Make sure to budget 3-7 days for the prep work alone.

If you are working on the vehicle in your spare time, it could take weeks before the project is complete and you can drive the car. You may need to use a different car during this time, so plan accordingly!

Will New Paint Add Value to the Car?

New paint will usually add resale value to the vehicle! If the vehicle is fully functional, a shiny new coat of paint will help its value go up. Evaluate the cost of repainting with the expected sale price of the vehicle to make sure that it is worth it before you get the car painted.

What Do I Need to Paint My Car Myself?

So, can you paint your car yourself! Absolutely! Many car owners paint their own vehicles and are satisfied with the results. Here are some things you’ll need if you want to paint your car yourself.

Necessary Materials

These are the materials you will need in order to successfully paint your vehicle yourself. Choose a workspace that is well-ventilated, but is also sheltered from the wind and any debris that may blow in and stick to the wet paint.

Safety Gear

It’s important to protect your lungs, eyes, and skin from airborne paint. Use safety goggles, a respiratory mask, and long pants and sleeves while painting.


You will need wet/dry sandpaper in a variety of grits to sand down the car’s surface. A variety pack of sandpaper will most likely supply you with all the sandpaper you need for the job.

Paint and Rust Stripper

If you have any paint or rust to strip, use this handy tool. It fits onto the end of a standard drill. Its abrasive texture will easily strip off paint or rust.


If there is any exposed metal on the vehicle, you will want to use a sealer before you apply any paint or primer. Some painters may skip this step but sealing the metal will help the paint adhere, and prevent rust.

Paint Sprayer

An automotive paint sprayer will make painting your car a breeze! If you don’t have access to a paint sprayer or air compressor, they are often available for rent.

Drop Cloths

You will want a variety of drop cloths or plastic sheets. Cover everything! Paint overspray will happen, so make sure to protect the surrounding area.

Paint Masker, Tape, and Masking Film

Use these tools to mask off the windows, trim, and any other areas of the vehicle that you want to keep clear of paint. Take your time on this step and save yourself the grief and clean up later!

Body Filler

This sandable filler goes into dents soft, then sticks to the vehicle and dries hard. It can be sanded down to the surface of the car after it dries, then painted over.

Paint (Of Course!)

Look for urethane or acrylic urethane paint for the best, most durable results with a glossy finish. Keep in mind that urethane paints can be difficult to apply correctly. Look for videos or how-to guides before you get started.

The most popular, and well-regarded brands of automotive paint are Rust-Oleum, Dupli-Color, and Restoration Shop. For best results, apply at 3-7 coats of paint, allowing each one to dry completely before you apply more paint.

Clear Coat

The clear coat protects the paint from ultraviolet sun damage and scratches and dings. It also gives the car a super glossy, shiny finish! Apply at least two coats on top of the dry paint, allowing the clear coat to dry between applications.

Optional Materials

Here are a few materials and tools that may come in handy during your car painting project. None of these are absolutely necessary, but they may make your job easier.


Many automotive paints are a primer and paint combination, so you won’t need a separate layer of primer. Read the label to double check. If you do need to prime over any repairs, bare metal, or body filler, use an automotive or metal primer.

Portable LED Lights

If you look in any automotive paint shop, there will be bright lights to light up every inch of the vehicle! Portable LED lights will help you see what you’re doing and light up any flaws. The more lights, the better!

Power Sander

If you have a lot of paint or rust to remove, save yourself some time and elbow grease with an electric power sander. Use a fine-grit sandpaper, and move the sander over the vehicle in even, sweeping circles.

Hooded Paint Suit

Disposable hooded paint suits will not only protect your clothing and hair from flying paint, but they will keep fuzz and hairs from falling onto your newly painted car.

Final Thoughts

Whether you plan to hire someone to paint your car or do it yourself, make sure you allow enough time and exercise patience during the process. Painting a car is a process that cannot be rushed. A good paint job depends on proper prep work and proper drying time. Take your time and it will be worth the wait!

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About Elissa Huebert

Elissa has been a homeowner for 18 years. During that time, she has painted every surface of her home at least twice (and some of her friends' homes, too!). She enjoys writing, learning, traveling, and trying new things.

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