Car Paint Repair Costs: How to Pay for Auto Body Scratches (2023)

Fixing your car can put a major dent in your finances, especially if you don’t have an emergency fund. While insurance can cover many regular repairs, car paint repair costs may not necessarily fall under insurance coverage.

Depending on the damage to the paint or body of your vehicle, repair costs vary widely from hundreds to even thousands of dollars, or you could “DIY” a lower-dollar solution. There are many factors that can influence these car scratch repair costs, including the type of car you have, the extent of the damage and how you choose to pay for it.

In this guide:

  • Factors that affect car paint repair costs
  • Whether insurance covers damaged car paint or scratches
  • How to pay for car paint repair costs

4 factors that affect car paint repair costs

While a dollar amount or range can help you determine if you should get paint repairs for your car, it’s not that easy to calculate.

In general, a car paint job takes about five coats of paint. There are usually two coats of primer or base paint, two coats of color and a final clear coat. Each coat requires prep work and drying time before the next step can begin.
Car Paint Repair Costs: How to Pay for Auto Body Scratches (1)

The more extreme or deep the paint damage is, the more you can expect to have to pay to repair it. There are a few things that auto body shops consider when fixing the paint on your car:

  1. The car
  2. The color
  3. Previous paint jobs
  4. The extent of the damage

1. The car

It’s no secret that different kinds of cars come with different car repair costs. And that holds true when it comes to car paint repair jobs. The bigger your car, for instance, the more surface area that may need to be repaired.

Additionally, if your car is a luxury brand, the paint job will likely cut into your budget more deeply. That’s because many of the colors that cost more from the factory have added metallic flakes or a pearl finish that makes them more costly to produce, and more difficult to apply.

2. The color

The color of your car can affect its repair costs. We’ve already seen how this applies to luxury cars, but it can even apply to non-luxury models. Some colors are so specialized that they can only be found at the manufacturer. That means that the cost of the raw materials to make your car look great again will be higher.

3. Previous paint jobs

If you’ve had paint work done on your car that was not applied correctly, you may need to have the damage repaired. This can be costly, because it could require the paint to be completely removed and reapplied.

4. The extent of the damage

A light scratch is vastly different from dents and serious body damage. A little scratch could take as little as a couple of hours to repair. A big scratch could be half a day. Major damage could keep you out of your car for weeks. Special paint or fixes may mean a higher price tag when it comes time to pay.

There are different depths of paint damage to consider, too. Some scratches only go through the very top level of the clear coat, while others go all the way down to the metal. The depth of the scratch determines how much work a body shop will need to do to repair it.

Types of car paint scratches
  • Scuff marks
  • Residue from tree sap, bird droppings, etc.
  • Sun damage
  • Clear-coat scratch
  • Paint scratches
  • Deeper paint gashes

Whether insurance covers damaged car paint or scratches

Having car insurance can save you a bundle when you’re getting paint repaired. When it comes to repairing car paint, some things are covered under insurance while others are not. In general, if you have comprehensive insurance coverage, it’s likely that the repair will be covered. You’ll need to pay your deductible, though.

Some of the common types of paint damage that are covered under comprehensive insurance coverage include:

  • Vandalism
  • Paint damage as a result of theft
  • Fire
  • Natural disasters
  • Water damage
  • Falling objects
  • Damage from striking an animal

Insurance doesn’t cover regular wear and tear, sun damage, rust or peeling paint. However, you may be able to negotiate with your car insurance company to reduce your out-of-pocket costs.

Tips to avoid car paint repairs, scratches in the future
  • Wash the car yourself, using a microfiber towel
  • Park in larger spots to avoid doors of other cars
  • Practice safe driving, sticking to well-paved roads

How to pay for car paint repair costs

It can feel unfair to be stuck with the cost of car paint repairs after insurance won’t foot the bill. However, it’s important to keep in mind that most of the time, car paint damage isn’t essential to the functionality of your car. So while you may be able to take out a loan or charge a credit card in order to pay for these repairs, it may be better to save up and budget in advance.

You could also save money on damaged car paint or scratches by doing the repairs yourself. Avoid the potentially higher price tags of dealerships and body shops by buying rubbing compounds and touch-up paint pens at a lower cost.

If you do decide to pay the out-of-pocket costs for more extensive repairs, however, weigh your options below:

  • Paying out of your emergency fund
  • Credit card
  • Personal loan

Paying out of your emergency fund

After insurance, you’ll be on the hook for any costs related to car paint damage. It’s best to pay these costs out of pocket if possible to avoid borrowing money and paying interest. Since you’re paying out of your own cash reserves, you won’t have to pay interest or fees like you would with a personal loan or credit card.

Is this a good option for you? If you have the money to pay for your car paint repairs out of pocket, and it won’t completely deplete your emergency fund, then this is a good way to go.

Credit card

Paying with a credit card is a simple way of getting your repairs covered and completed, but it could prove costly. You’ll have to pay interest on any balance that isn’t paid by the time your statement is due, even if you make the minimum monthly payment. Zeroing your balance at the end of the month is the only efficient way to use the plastic in your wallet.

You may be able to cut down on interest costs by signing up for a credit card with an introductory 0% APR period. These credit cards won’t charge interest on purchases made within a certain number of months from the time you open the card, as long as the balance is paid off by the end of the promotional period.

One caveat: You’ll need good credit to qualify for a credit card with an introductory 0% APR period. Not everyone will be a good candidate for this choice.

Is this a good option for you? If you can qualify for a 0% APR promotion and you feel confident that you can repay the balance in full before the promotional period ends, then this can be a good option for splitting costly car repairs across a number of months. If you can’t afford the monthly expense, you may want to skip using a credit card. Falling behind on credit card payments can cause your credit score to plummet.

Personal loan

Taking out a personal loan is another option to cover the cost of car repairs. These loans are lump-sum loans that are typically unsecured, which means they don’t require collateral in the form of an asset you own. Personal loans are repaid in fixed monthly payments over a set period of time, typically a few years.

Another benefit of using a personal loan to pay for car repairs is the funding speed. Many personal loan lenders can get you approved and deposit funds into your account on the same day or the next business day, which makes them useful types of emergency loans.

The best personal loan interest rates are reserved for borrowers with good-to-excellent credit. Not everyone will qualify for a personal loan, so take note of your credit score and debt-to-income ratio before you apply. Borrowers with subprime credit should also consider looking at…

  • Credit union personal loans
  • Cosigned personal loans
  • Secured personal loans

Is this a good option for you? Paying with a personal loan is a good option if you have good or excellent credit (or a cosigner) and can land a competitive APR. However, if you get a loan offer with a high APR, it may not be worth the money spent in interest to repair your car paint, since it’s not essential to your car’s functionality.

Car Paint Repair Costs: How to Pay for Auto Body Scratches (2)


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Last Updated: 25/12/2023

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