From restoring and redecorating to touching up dents and scratches, your car is bound to need some fresh paint now and again. However, this doesn’t mean you should pay the fees for a shop to fix up your car if you have the right tools to do the job yourself.
With the right paint, fixing spots or even repainting your whole car doesn’t have to be a struggle and finding the best automotive paint doesn’t have to be a problem either.
With the help of this guide, you’ll find the best car paint for the job you need in no time.
Car Paint - Comparison Guide
Rust-Oleum Automotive 254864 Professional Undercoating
Rust-Oleum 275234 Brilliant Silver Automotive Body Paint
Meguiar's G17216 Ultimate Compound
Genuine Honda Accessories Crystal Black Pearl Touch-Up Paint
Dupli-Color BCL0125 Clear Perfect Match Automotive Top Coat
Rust Bullet RBA49 Automotive Rust Inhibitor Paint
CRC All Purpose Enamel Spray Paint
Rust-Oleum 252462 Automotive Enamel Spray Paint
PlastiKote 1003 Universal Flat Black Automotive Touch-Up Paint
Dupli-Color BSP200 Jet Black Paint Shop Finish System
Beginners Guide to Car Paints
Your two best choices for auto paint are going to be urethane or acrylic paints. This is going to be true unless you are interested in using metallic paints.
Urethane is a two-stage solvent-based paint that offers a versatile look.
It is more durable than acrylic but can also be more dangerous due to the chemical properties. Even still, most people seem to rely on urethane paints when painting a vehicle.
With a urethane paint, you can create a matte hue which seems to be increasingly popular. The matte appearance will allow for a more durable look and it won’t require a clear coat. The downside to this is if you live in an area where cars tend to scratch often. Thankfully, urethane paint is easy to touch up.
Acrylic paints are water-based and therefore less toxic. That makes the acrylic paint a safer option of the two. They will require a longer drying time and it can sometimes take up to 48 hours.
Both urethane and acrylic paints can achieve quality results when the appropriate clear coat is applied. In addition, they will both be durable options that can withstand the same amount of wear and tear. The choice will mainly be based on personal preference.
Types of Paint Used on automobiles
The type of paint you will need to complete your job will depend on what kind of work needs to be done on your car.
It makes sense then, that before you choose which paint to buy, you’ll have to choose what kind of paint you’ll need so before we look at the best paint for your car, we’ll go over a couple of different types of paint that you can choose from for your car, depending on the type of job you are doing.
Body paint is made for painting the entire exterior of a car rather than detailing or providing touch ups. There are several different types of body paints such as ones for hand painting or spray paints which will be discussed shortly.
There are also all-in-one paints that work without a base and top coat and others that need these. If you are getting an all-in-one though, be sure to check that it is good quality, so your car doesn’t look dull or receive damage rather than looking better than before.
These paints also usually feature certain protective qualities, such as anti-rust and protection from the elements. Most of these paints require a spray gun to apply the coating.
Touch Up Paint
Touch up paint is used for certain areas of the car rather than for repainting the entire vehicle. This can be used on scrapes and scratches or even dents that have made the paint chipped. These usually come in small, pen shaped tubes that can be carried in your car and easily used in case of an emergency.
Don’t worry about their small size though, because probability is that you won’t need as much of this type of paint as you might other types. These pens also come in many colors, so it’s important to order the color of your car carefully for the touch up to have a seamless appearance.
Spray paint can be used for touch ups, but more often it is made to be used as body paint. It can come in two forms, one of which requires an spray paint gun that you put spray paint inside and the other is just an aerosol can as we are used to seeing spray paint.
Spray paint does have its advantages the primary one being that it makes the job much easier by quickly covering large areas of the vehicle in paint evenly, so the finished product doesn’t look like some parts are darker than others.
A water-based acrylic paint or enamel is one of the most widely used paints for automobiles. The change was made several years ago to help lower the environmental concerns from auto paint.
While it may seem counter-intuitive to use water-based paint on a car that drives in the rain and goes through car washes, the top-coats and protective elements in the enamels protects the paint from erosion.
Prior to water-based enamels taking over, solvent-based paints were the primary paint choice of auto manufacturers. However, because of the toxins they produce and the harm done to humans and the environment, these paints were changed to more environmentally friendly options.
For older model restoration, though, solvent-based paints are still used to get the original paint color and match.
Single-stage paints are more durable and require less effort than two-stage paints. Because of this reason, a lot of auto body repair shops and home DIYers will use a single-stage paint on top of the primer for a quick paint job that will last. With two coats, you can be back on the road.
Two-stage paints are still preferred over single-stage paints for automobiles. Because the two-stage paints use color and a clear coat, the shiny, showroom finish is more evident. However, two-stage paints take longer to apply and need more time for the paint to flash before another coat can be applied.
Best Automotive Paint Brands
While there are many automotive paint brands on the market, two, in particular, stand out as the best options.
Rust-Oleum is the leader in rust-prevention so it makes complete sense that this would be a great option for automotive paints. With bumper-to-bumper durability and quality, Rust-Oleum offers a solution for every project.
You’ll find products for stripping, priming and painting. In addition, they have a full line of undercoatings for protecting the undercarriage of a vehicle from debris, moisture and rust.
Founded in 1921 by a sea captain, Rust-Oleum continues to be a leader in the painting industry. Their company makes some of the most well-known products on the market including NeverWet, Painter’s Touch, Zinsser, Watco and Universal.
Since 1938, Dupli-Color has a heritage of providing the best in automotive products. They started selling touch-up paints and have moved into making many of the innovative firsts in the industry. While they are still a leader in perfect-match paints, there is so much more to the company today.
You can repaint your entire vehicle with the Dupli-Color Paint Shop Finish System or use one of their specialty coatings. These are ideal for pickup beds, engine enamels, protective coatings and as rust stoppers. They also offer a full-range of spray-on metallic, reflectives, textures and metal flakes.
Car Paint Buyers Guide: What To Look For?
So, now you know what some of the best products out there are, but how exactly do you find the best car paints?
Luckily, the process isn’t that difficult if you know what you are doing. The first step is to decide what kind of job you are doing on your car, whether it is a whole new paint job or a touch-up, so you can decide what kind of paint you need.
Deciding on the type of paint will be the hardest choice (besides color) that you need to make. You can view our various suggestions above, but the primary choice is generally a two-stage, water-based enamel. This will give you a showroom quality shine and is safer for the environment.
Painting a vehicle will require a lot of room. Pulling your car in a single car garage covered in drop cloths isn’t going to work. You will need room all around, over, and under the car. Plus, you will need room to maintain your spray distance, stand, kneel squat, and hunch to paint all areas of the car. Make sure you have ample room before you begin.
Paint Preparation Process
Unless you are doing a minor touch-up job, you will need to thoroughly prep the surface. When painting cars, the prep work is an on-going thing. You will need to sand, buff, wash, and paint each section several times. Sanding between coats will require you to use tack cloths or lint-free rags to remove dust and debris from the paint area.
Repaint or Repair
Painting a car can add value for resale or bring an old junker back to life. However, it isn’t a fix-all. If there are repairs to be made to the body or frame, these need to be done during the prep stage. Otherwise, the repairs can cause your new paint to crack or peel.
Paint Gun Settings & Setup
Most automotive painters will use a gravity-fed airless system, or gravity fed HVLP system. If you ask the pros, they advise you to “let the gun do the work.” What they mean by this is to put your settings for pressure, flow rate, and airflow on maximum and let the system handle the painting.
Once started, you can throttle the settings back a little if you need to, but most professionals make adjustments to the paints (thinning, for example) as needed instead of messing with the system settings.
You should also decide what type of finish you are after. For a more matte finish without the glaring shine, a single-stage paint may be more beneficial. If you want that new car look and day-glow or wet-shine look, a two-stage paint with a high-gloss finish would be best.
Car paint needs to be durable. Not only will it be put through its paces with wind and water, but also road grime, bugs rocks, and other factors that can chip crack or damage the paint. Durable paint has some protection against moderate traffic damage. Some do not.
Quality of Paint
The higher the quality of paint, the more you are going to spend. The extra cost may be worth it if you are doing a restoration project or want to change to a new color. For touch-ups or if you are just putting a fresh coat on an old car that won’t be around much longer, any quality of paint may work for you to save a little money.
Top 10 Best Car Paints Reviewed
After finding the right type of paint, it all comes down to finding the best product on the market. This doesn’t have to be difficult, but there are certain traits that only the best products will have.
First, since we are talking about paint, it is most important that it doesn’t peel, leaving you to have to redo the job in two weeks’ time.
Ideally, the paint would provide extra benefits as well, such as preventing rust. The paint should also be strong enough to stand up to weather elements since its being used on a vehicle that will be subjected to heat, rain and snow.
However, these qualifications aren’t as hard to find as you’d think and to help you out, we’ve found the top 10 best products available.
1. Rust Oleum Automotive 254864
- Quantity of (12) cans: 15 OZ, Black...
- An Easy To Use, Black Protective Coating
- Protects Metal Surfaces From Corrosion &...
- Trusted Rust Preventive Formula Provides A...
This product is an undercoat paint rather than a top coat, which, when you don’t have an all-in-one paint, is a crucial step of the process, especially if your painting over something with a lot of rust damage.
This particular product is professional grade and corrosion resistant, so it is trusted to prevent rust by building a barrier for the surface it is on. The surface it creates is black, rubberized, and easily paintable. Including this undercoat won’t cost you a lot of time either, as it is a quick dry formula so you’ll be ready to paint on it in no time.
2. Rust-Oleum Automotive Auto Body Paint
This professional grade top coat pairs well with the last product of the same brand, Rust-Oleum and is also available to buy as a two pack to save you some money. The paint can be sprayed on and used on any vehicle for an attractive, durable finish.
The acrylic lacquer formula works well to prevent rust and add a much-needed protection against weather and elements on the road. This paint is durable as well as protective, and won’t peel off or need repainting for a while. In addition, the paint is fast and effective and will be dry to the touch in only about 30 minutes.
3. Meguiar’s G17216 Ultimate Compound
This paint has an advantage right off the bat with the fact that application can be done by hand or with a dual-action polisher, giving you both the option to save time or to finish the job without buying extra equipment.
This product also is good for removing oxidation, scratches, water spots, and any other blemishes all done by micro-abrasive technology that won’t scratch the vehicle. This paint also adds a glossy finish without the need for a secondary paint to finish the job.
In addition, if this is your first time painting a car, the company offers detailed how-to tutorials and tips to make the project go as smoothly as possible.
4. Genuine Honda Accessories Touch-Up Paint
- Used for: 2008-2012 Accord, 2008-2011 Civic ,...
- High quality PPG paint
- Makes fixing small scratches on your vehicle...
- High quality, tough acrylic paint resists UV...
This high-quality PPG paint is used for touching up nicks and scratches in the paint and finish rather than repainting an entire vehicle. The paint is tough acrylic that will last a long time and resist damage or discoloration from UV rays so that the spot in question won’t have a different appearance from the rest of the car.
This paint is also stored in a small, pen-like bottle so that you can carry it with you just in case you need it. There is a small downside to this product in that it is made for certain Honda models and none before 2008 so there are many cars that this product won’t work on.
5. Dupli-Color Clear Perfect Match Automotive Top Coat Aerosol
Yet another important step to finish off painting any car would be adding a top coat to bring everything together and seal the job up. This top coat in specific is a high-quality acrylic lacquer paint that dries very quickly.
The top coat is also made to be extremely easy to apply in an aerosol can with a 360-degree adjustable nozzle a wide spray pattern allowing for large areas to be covered easily. This top coat is recommended for large touch up areas, vehicle accessories, or smaller vehicles such as motorcycles.
This can be used on any color paint as well and will provide not only a glossy finish but an extra layer of protection as well.
6. Rust Bullet RBA49 Automotive Rust Inhibitor Paint
This rust inhibitor paint requires little to no preparation and uses a simple one-step process. Apply it directly over rust and there is no topcoat needed. The UV-resistant formula will not fade or crack. You can use this Rust Bullet product with a brush, roll or spray for easy application.
This low maintenance formula will stop rust permanently while offering a tough and durable finish. Rust Bullet offers more metal than the industrial coating. This allows for a smoother finish ideal for automotive rust repair projects.
7. CRC All Purpose Enamel Spray Paint
- Resistant to chipping and peeling
- Dries tack free in 10 to 30 minutes and fully...
- Good resistance to abrasion and corrosion and...
- Enamel formulation offers gloss, durability...
This easy to use spray paint will resist chipping and peeling on your automotive projects. It will also dry tack free in just 10 to 30 minutes while fully drying within an hour.
CRC offers this paint that provides good resistance to abrasion as well as solvents and corrosion. The enamel formulation will allow for a glossy finish. In addition, it provides superior durability and flexibility when compared to typical lacquer paints.
The All-Purpose paint can be used in contractor applications as well as at the factory. It also works great to spray over the rust spots of a vehicle.
8. Rust-Oleum 252462 Automotive 12-Ounce Enamel Spray Paint
This Rust-Oleum auto spray provides a long-lasting color finish with superior gloss retention. It resists nicks and scratches and provides a durable finish. This long-lasting protective barrier will help to seal out moisture while preventing corrosion and rust.
You can apply it over primed or bare metal surfaces. It can also be used on trailers, auto accessories and RVs. This UV and weather-resistant formula is ideal to be used indoors or outdoors as well. It will dry to the touch in just 15 minutes and will be ready to handle in as little as one hour.
9. PlastiKote 1004 Universal White Automotive Touch-Up Paint
This 11-ounce can of spray paint comes in several colors for any project. This durable acrylic lacquer paint is fast-drying and applies the color plus top coat in one product. This specifically formulated spray provides a tough and long-lasting finish that will resist nicks and scratches. In addition, it will not weather, tarnish or rust.
For the best finish, take your time and do all the necessary prep work. Then, simply spray this touch-up paint on and your vehicle will look as good as new. This is also a great product to use on auto accessories like running boards.
10. Dupli-Color BSP200 Jet Black Paint Shop Finish System
The Paint Shop Finish System comes in so many colors, it will be hard to choose what is best! This high-quality finish allows you to create the look you were hoping for. It’s a lacquer system ideal for automotive and motorcycle applications.
It is easy to apply and dries quickly. It can also be buffed to a brilliant, smooth finish. The ready to spray system requires no mixing or reducing. In addition, there is a no re-coat window, so feel free to apply additional coats at any time.
Car Paint Buyers Guide: What to look for?
So, now you know what some of the best products out there are, but how exactly do you find the best car paints?
Luckily, the process isn’t that difficult if you know what you are doing. The first step is to decide what kind of job you are doing on your car, whether it is a whole new paint job or a touch up, so you can decide what kind of paint you need.
Once you actually start looking for paint, you’ll want to make sure the product you’re buying is high quality so that the paint doesn’t start to chip or peel soon after applying it.
The best paints will also offer additional qualities to improve your vehicle’s appearance or the paint’s lifespan, such as anti-rust or being able to stand up to the elements.
In addition, if you are buying paint for touch-ups make sure it matches the color of your car and for any type of paint make sure that it can be used on your car and isn’t specific to a brand or model.
Best Ways To Remove Car Paint
There are three common ways to remove car paint. Sanding requires a 220-grit sanding disc and sander. There’s also the option to use a chemical stripper.
Simply brush it on the car surface and allow it to sit as per the manufacturer’s requirements. Then, scrape it off with a putty knife.
You might need to repeat the process again. When you’ve removed all the paint, you want to rinse the car thoroughly. There’s also the option to sandblast the paint off, but this is usually done by professionals only.
No matter which method you choose, make sure you remove any components you don’t want the paint taken off. This includes fixtures, glass and rubber trim.
What About Car Paint Sealant?
A paint sealant is merely a synthetic car wax. It performs like traditional waxes but does offer some unique properties. First, they last up to six months at a time. Second, they shed water and dirt so your vehicle remains cleaner between washes.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long does it take to paint a car?
You can have a car painted in as little as one day. However, each coat of paint should rest for 24 hours to be tacky (touch-dry), and the final product can remain wet for up to 10 days after you finish painting.
Is it legal to paint your car with a different color?
It is legal to paint your car a different color, for any reason. What does matter, though, is if you are required to report this change immediately, or at all. Some states will require you submit a registration update with the new color as soon as you paint the car. Other areas only require you to notify the DMV with the change when you apply for the next annual registration.
What does medium, slow, and fast mean when ordering paint?
These terms refer to the paint reducer. A reducer is a material added to automotive paint to change the thickness of the paint. Based on the ambient temperature of your area, you may want a slower or faster set rate or flash time.
What is FLASH time?
In automotive painting, the term flash time or flash rate is the amount of time it takes for the solvents and thinners in the paint to evaporate. You cannot paint a second coat until the flash time of the first has passed. The amount and type of paint, thinners added, and ambient temperature will all affect the flash time.
Can I paint over my existing finish?
For automotive work, it isn’t advised. Cars and trucks have clear coats that protect the paint from damage, cracking, and peeling. If you were to paint over this, the paint you used wouldn’t have a solid surface to adhere to. The new paint would come off in a relatively short amount of time.
How many coats of car paint do I need to apply?
The number of coats will depend a lot on the type of paint you are using and how thin you need to make it. In general, a car needs a minimum of three coats, one each for the primer, base and clear coat. However, for a showroom quality paint job, you can expect two to four coats for each paint.
How long will my new auto paint last?
If you have a show car that doesn’t see the road very often a new paint job can last a couple of decades. For a daily driver, this term will be shortened drastically.
What is Plasti Dip?
Plasti Dip is a rubberized colored coating that can be used to “dip” your car. It can create stripes, designs, or change the entire color of any part of your car. It isn’t permanent and is designed to be peeled off when you want to change color again.
How much does it typically cost to paint/repaint a car?
Custom jobs will cost more (over $20,000 possible). However, on average, for a newer car, with a simple, single-colored paint job with a primer, base, and clear coats, will cost between $1500 and $3000, according to CostHelper.com.
What other painting supplies should I invest in?
Spray guns, various nozzles, and tips, personal protective gear, ventilation, drop cloths and coverings, fans, filters, lighting, and of course, different types of paint.
What's the difference between acrylic paints, urethane paints, and lacquer paints?
Acrylic is a fast-drying paint with a high shine. Urethane paints need reducers and activators to achieve a proper viscosity for use and lacquers are thick, durable paints. There are enough differences between the three to necessitate an entire article to them. For automotive purposes, an acrylic lacquer will give you the best options from all three choices.
Now you know the best automotive paints available to you and how to find them. Once you choose the job you are doing and the type of paint you want to use, with a little research the right paint for you isn’t far off and your car isn’t far from being fixed or redesigned.
With the help of this review guide, you may have found your perfect paint already, so whether you have or not, you are not far from jumping right into your next project.