How to Paint a Car for Cheap

by Jenny Carver

Having a car painted by a professional automotive paint is not cheap. Even an inexpensive paint job can cost several hundred dollars, plus the cost of the materials. There are ways to save money on painting a car, though the final work won't be as flawless-looking as a professional paint job. With the proper tools and materials, you can change the color of your car or repaint it for a fresh look.

Sand the car with 120-grit sandpaper. Use the sandpaper and your hand or a block sander to wrap the sandpaper around. To speed the sanding process, you may use a dual action sander if you have an air compressor. Sand the car until the top coat of original paint is dull and sanded. The new paint won't adhere well to smooth, shiny surfaces.

Wipe the car down with wax and grease remover and a clean cloth. This removes remaining dust particles and oil from fingerprints that can cause orange peel or other imperfections in the finished paint job. This step makes a difference in the finished look of the paint job.

Place masking tape and paper over areas of the car that won't be painted. Cover the glass, wheels, tires, lights, grill, trim pieces and mirrors. Place a small piece of tape over the keyholes on the doors and trunk.

Spray a thin coat of primer over the car and let it dry for at least an hour. Use 300-grit sandpaper to sand it lightly. You can skip the sanding, but the final paint job will be a little rough rather than a smooth finish.

Paint the vehicle with a coat of paint, keeping the paint thick enough for good coverage, but thin enough so that it doesn't run. This can be done by painting a thin coat and then going back over any areas that are too thin while the paint is still wet. Remove the masking tape and paper carefully and then wait at least six or more hours for the paint to dry completely.


  • close Don't use newspaper in place of masking paper. Newspaper is porous material and will allow the paint to soak through, causing the paper to stick to the car.

Items you will need


About the Author

Since 1997 Jenny Carver has served as editor and freelance writer for many offline and online publications including,, "Hoof Beat News," "Import Tuner" and others. Carver owns a custom automotive shop where she has been doing paint and body work, custom interior work and engine building for over 11 years.