How Much Does It Cost to Paint a Classic Car?

average classic car paint job cost

I’ve had cars painted before, but never on a classic muscle car. We called 25 high-end paint and body shops who specialize in paint jobs on classic cars. Here’s what I learned.

The average cost of a new paint job on a classic car is $3,900.00. The prices we found ranged from $2,200.00 to upwards of $10.000.00, with some higher than $30,000.00 depending on the car, paint scheme, trim, and bodywork needed for that specific classic car or vehicle.

We called 25 top tier auto-painting companies across the US and learned a lot. It was very nice of the companies to take the time to answer questions about painting classic cars. We only had to call 29 to get 25 to take the time to field our questions. We greatly appreciate their professionalism and time.

Ready to get started?

Great, let’s dive in and see what we learn.

Body Work Takes A Lot Of Man Hours

The first thing they all seemed to mention was the possibility of stripping the old paint, correcting body issues such as rust and dents. This is a very important part of the cost of putting a new paint job on a classic car.

The bodywork was their number one concern. Almost 100% of them cited the time it takes to correct body issues. Here is the list of things concerning bodywork that must be addressed for a top-quality paint job.

  • Body Rust
  • Amount of Trim
  • Does the current paint need to be stripped?
  • Do they have to find and replace any body parts?
  • Do they have to work on the replacement parts?
  • Is all of the trim in good shape and damage-free?
  • Is it an external paint job only?
  • Do they have to paint the interior and the engine compartment?

These were the major factors that were repeated over and over from each company we called. The amount of labor time involved can shorten or extend greatly on each of these depending on circumstances. Hourly rates can add up fast, and most of the cost is in labor on a paint job.

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Why Are Some Auto Paints More Expensive Than Others?

Paint costs can vary widely. Add a good metallic paint and you raised the price per quart significantly. Choose a blue color and the cost is much higher, then you have the quality of the paint to deal with.

With some auto paints, you can buy a gallon for under 50 bucks, but some can cost over $1k per gallon. Have 3 colors and you can exceed $5k on just the paint alone.

The Car Can Dictate The Price of the Paint and The Labor Involved

A lot of this has to do with the car you are painting if it’s a classic and you want to keep it that way.

To maintain the classic status, the car has to be 100% original… including the paint. The more elite the car, the more expensive it will be. A great example would be a 63 Porsche 356T6B Cabriolet. You can count on at least $1k per gallon. I just hope you don’t need 5 different colors as some have with that particular car.

The reason for the extreme cost in this particular situation is the paint and process. Single-stage paint is the culprit. It’s not a standard paint job and is rare these days. It’s generally only done on show cars and restorations. Some of these types of cars and paint jobs can put you well over the $30k mark for a complete paint job.

Know your car before you buy it if you have to restore it or paint it. It can seem to be a bottomless pit. If you’ve ever wondered why some classic and show cars cost well over 100k, now you have some idea of why. Some cars are simply expensive to restore, own and maintain.

The Prep For Painting Can Cost You Lot’s Of Money

The final finish is just as laborious as the bodywork on the more complex and high-quality paint jobs.

Taping and details on trim, undercarriage, firewall and engine compartment, the dashboard and other parts under it are just some of the sections that need to be done. The trunk and other areas such as the wheel wells are also points of interest.

How Many Colors You Use or Need Directly Affects Labor Cost

This means more design, contours, lines and much more must be dealt with when using multiple colors on a car. A work of art takes a lot of time before the paint guns are even pulled out.

The more complex the job, the more taping you have to do.

As you can see there are a lot of variables in the cost of a paint job, much less on a classic car that has issues to fix and an above-average paint standard.

Final Notes:

If you shipped your classic off to get it painted, I would suggest you choose covered shipping for your cars return trip back to you. A fresh paint job is still pretty fragile. If you are not transporting it yourself, you need to take precautions to make sure it’s prepped and shipped properly to avoid damage. If you’ve spend over $5k on your paint job, it would be wise to have a top tier car transport company to make sure it gets home as it left the painter.