If you have ever owned a vehicle more than a few years old, you may have considered a paint job to bring it back to its like-new glory. Finding out that a professional paint job can cost over $2,000 may have put the project on the back burner.
Another option is more DIY-friendly and can cost a lot less. Using spray paint can give you a high gloss and even finish and look professional with a skilled hand. But how many spray cans will it take to paint your car or truck?
We will answer all your questions and even cover the costs and amounts and how much paint is needed for your vehicle.
The number of cans needed to paint your car or truck will depend on many factors. The first factor, of course, is the size of your vehicle. For example, compact cars will need much less paint than a panel van.
A common rattle can of spray paint contains about 8 ounces of paint.  It is also recommended that you lay at least three thin layers of paint over the area, which can use more cans than a single thick layer.
For compact and midsize cars, you can expect to go through 12 to 20 spray cans. For trucks without campers, you can expect to use up to 30 cans, and vans may require more than 40 cans for complete spray paint coverage.
Removing rust is another issue that can take up more time or require the use of specialized paints like Rustoleum. You may need to use higher grit sandpaper and take the paint down to the bare metal. This will require more cans of primer to build up a smooth base to be painted.
Even on metal surfaces, one coat will not be enough. From a small car to a large truck, using a spray gun will speed the process along. Painting in smooth, horizontal strokes in a well-ventilated area will expedite the process.
How Much Spray Paint Will I Need For Various Car Parts?
Normal vehicles getting a paint job in a shop will use different measurements. Shops order by the gallon, usually allowing for at least two quarts for a full job. When trying to figure out how many cans, you will want to move to ounces for spray can measurements.
Aside from knowing how many cans of spray paint are needed, you also need to ensure you have the same color as the area of the vehicles you are sanding and spraying. Just don’t forget your mask when you paint a car or paint a truck. Gloves are also recommended.
Hoods vary in size from small to overly large and depending on the area, you can use a lot of paint to cover the entire thing. On average, you can expect to use 2 to 4 cans of paint. This doesn't include the can or two of primer and the can of clear coat to finish the job.
Larger hoods may require an extra can of paint to cover completely. As long as you use even strokes and thin coats, the coverage will be flush and smoother with a nice gloss finish to match the rest of the car.
You will want to be cautious about using a high-grit sandpaper. If you are only doing a touch-up on the hood, when you sand, you can end up taking off too much or get into areas you didn't plan to.
Rims can be tricky. It is always best to remove them from the car and the rubber from the rims before you paint them. Proper taping will prevent filling the lug nut holes and keeping the seal strong on the area where the tire attaches.
On average, you will only need about 2 cans for all four rims. More intricate designs may require more, but on average, it only takes about half a can per wheel for full, smooth coverage.
Bumpers can be difficult as well. A standard flat bumper typically found on trucks will only need about 1 or 2 cans of paint for full coverage. Modern car bumpers, though, can also include angles and parts of the rear quarter panels.
For these types of bumpers, it may require up to three spray paint cans for even coverage. Like the rims, bumpers can be intricate, and it is better to remove them from the vehicle. This will allow you to get even coverage on all angles and sides.
The metal surface of a truck bumper can oxidize or rust easily. Using rust inhibitors can help, but you can also paint the affected areas with specialized paints from Krylon, Rustoleum, and others. Just avoid the gloss Rustoleum options, as they will make your bumper surface too shiny.
Doors (Paint Per Door)
Car and truck doors will typically take about 1 full can of paint for coverage. Unlike the other areas, doors are frequently used, touched, and abused, especially around keyholes and door handles. Two coats may not be enough.
Proper taping, even if you are removing the doors from the car, will be the most important step you take. Slow and methodical spraying will be your best friend. While it will take longer, the coat will be more complete, even, and stand up to long-term abuse.
The truck bed will typically only need the lip, edge, tailgate, and side panels done. The inside of the bed is left alone or covered with a bed liner. The rest of the bed can be painted with 3 to 4 cans, even if you do a full three coats.
Extended beds may require more paint, and sanding, primer, top coat, and more may also be required. The bed takes up a lot of area but is generally without odd angles and edges, and the large flat surfaces make painting quick and easy.
Is Using Spray Paint On Cars A Good Idea?
(Pros + Cons)
Whether you are painting a 1970s Bronco or a 2000s model Civic, there are pros and cons to doing the project yourself.
There are several benefits to spray painting your own car or truck. You must ensure you follow all directions on the can, including spray methods, temperature, and location. Once you know how many cans of spray paint to paint a truck or car is needed, the other benefits fall into place.
Along with the positive benefits, there are some negative aspects to consider.
Common Truck/Car Spray Paint Questions
How much does it cost to spray paint a car?
Compared to a professional paint job, a proper spray paint job will cost about half as much. The primer, paint, and clear coat cans will cost about $400 to $800 in total, compared to the $3500 or more for a professional job. 
A large vehicle will cost more than a smaller one, of course. One coat to paint a car is also ill-advised.
Pros will use two or three quarts for an average car. The total cost for a DIY project depends on how many cans of spray paint you need to paint a car. Other paints like high gloss Rustoleum are an inexpensive way to paint a car while taking care of rust on a painted surface.
How long will it take to spray paint a car?
The time it takes to paint your car will depend on the type of car, its size, and what areas you are painting. A standard-sized car will take several hours, while a truck can take longer. It is best to paint in smaller sections, taped off, and completed before moving on to the next section.
You also have to consider preparation time. You need proper protection, including a face mask, gloves, and ventilation. Setting the surface, removing rust, putting sandpaper on a sand block, and ensuring your paint color is the same color as your car all take time, effort, and dedication.
How long does spray paint last on a car?
Properly applied fresh paint with primer, color, and clear coat for protection, can last for up to 8 to 10 years. This is compared to a professional application of automotive spray paints, which can last 10 to 15 years.
It doesn't matter if you are painting a minivan or a Miata; professionals with an air compressor and spray guns will have longer-lasting paints than you can get at home.
Do you need to seal spray paint?
Spray paint takes up to a month to fully cure, and having a sealed top coat will help protect it from weather, snow, ice, and rain until it is cured. While it isn't a requirement, it is highly recommended that you apply a clear sealant over the spray job.
Can you put too many coats of paint on a car?
The typical approach for high-quality work is three coats of base primer, two or three coats of color, and at least two colors of clear coat. If you use more cans of spray paint or apply too many wet coats, your project can run, crack or experience paint flaking when it dries.
How many cans of spray paint should I buy to paint a trailer?
Pull behind trailers typically uses two cans of spray paint, plus primer and a clear coat. However, for camping or live-in trailers, you will need at least 8 cans of primer, 8 to 12 cans for color paint, and another 4 to 8 cans of clear coat.
A paint job can cost a lot of money, but for an investment like your vehicle, it can bring restoration and aesthetics to your car or pickup truck. So, how many cans of spray paint to paint a truck or car? The answer is about an average of 30 to 40 cans, including base coat, color pigments, and a glossy finish.
Spray paint from a rattle can or an aerosol can is cheaper but requires more time. As a DIY project, it can be fun to bring the shine back to your car. With careful monitoring, a wind-blocking garage or tent, and additional time, you can have a brand new looking truck and save money.