Can I paint my white car blue?
August 10, 2005 2:14 PM   Subscribe

I recently bought a used car and I don't particularly care for the color. Can I have it repainted to a different color? Nothing special, just a new solid color. I see they do this to the extreme on shows like "Pimp My Ride" etc.

I am wondering about several details:
1) The cost
2) insurance ramifications
3) other government/local ramifications (do I need to register the color change?)
4) where do you suggest I have this done?

Here are the details of my car for reference: White 2001 Toyota Prius, located in near Washington, D.C.

There's no rust or anything, but there are some unique things on the car that may be dificult to paint (i.e. around the Toyota logo, and the strange Prius battery vent outside behind the left passenger seat. Do things like logos and other insignia get removed before painting and then reapplied?
posted by clgregor to Grab Bag (17 answers total)
A good paint job will entail removing exterior trim, removing the doors, sometimes glass, and lots more so the paint covers all the areas that were a previous color. In general, for a good paint job, you are looking at a few thousand dollars, even for a solid color. I don't believe there are any insurance or other registration issues. I've certainly owned cars that were a different color than the VIN number would indicate.
posted by Slothrop at 2:29 PM on August 10, 2005

Response by poster: So "MAACO" is not good?
posted by clgregor at 2:33 PM on August 10, 2005

Look at it this way: it's only in Maaco's highest end paint-job that they say they duplicate "the factory look" with an actual clearcoat, and that's in the $1000 or more range.
posted by smackfu at 2:36 PM on August 10, 2005

My brother does autobody for a living. I already asked him a while ago about painting a preowned car I had a couple years ago. He discouraged me, and advised me to live with it. And then I watched him repaint a car he was refurbishing. From all my observation, it's an expensive, time consuming, extraordinarily detailed pain in the ass, to be really blunt.

I'd imagine that if you do cross the giant bridge to get a decent paint job more power to you. But you'd want to alert your insurer and your local registrar.

It's a small amount of footwork/expense on your part to get all the paperwork in order. It's definitely going to save you a hell of a lot of hassles if you're ever pulled over (and get an officer already having a bad day) or the car is ever stolen/in an accident. Fighting tickets and insurance companies are already difficult enough, don't put yourself at a disadvantage over something small. The expense of the extra paperwork is minimal in comparison to the cost of the paint job. Good luck!
posted by jerseygirl at 2:54 PM on August 10, 2005

really? my mother got a $300 job done at Earl Scheib (while they were running a special last year), and it basically looks like the factory coat. Now, I don't have the kind of eye that could say "whoa, that's not show quality", but you know, I don't think you're gonna be taking a Prius to any sort of auto show.
posted by fishfucker at 2:55 PM on August 10, 2005

No, MAACO is not anywhere on the same continent as 'good'. They do the cheapest possible job... they don't mask your radiator, for instance, so you get a nice coat of paint on the guts of your car that should really remain paint-free to operate well. They do no prep and use a one-step paint, which goes on thick and dries into a very soft, bumpy, unwaxable, not-very-shiny coat ... you could get a better paint job from a rattle can.
posted by SpecialK at 2:58 PM on August 10, 2005

White can actualy be a pretty nice color for a car, as long as you keep it nice and clean.
posted by delmoi at 4:05 PM on August 10, 2005

I've received acceptable results from MAACO (in suburban DC) getting VW bugs (classic, not New) painted different colors.
Unsure about the insurance/government ramifications; I guess the vehicle's color is listed somewhere but I never bothered with updating anything. I did some prep myself, but they did a lot also -- those jokes about MAACO supplying the razor blade to get the paint off the windows were never applicable, in my experience (which was in the 1980s, actually). They offer various grades, I always went for the less (but not least) expensive, and had no troubles with the finish.
posted by Rash at 4:09 PM on August 10, 2005

A color change is very difficult/expensive if done right. Most paint jobs only cover the outside, because the door jambs and under the trunk lid are out of the sunlight and don't go bad. You have 3 choices: only paint the outside, but the door jambs and stuff will look shockingly different. Paint everthing, but it will cost about $150 per extra item (trunk, 2 doors, hood...) (its very difficult to paint the edge of the door without getting paint inside the car, they tape and paper off the door opening, but then the car is not movable and blocks production). Or (my suggestion) add some graphics that cover most of the outside, but leaves enough white to make the interior look OK. Maybe like the Prius on the cover of Wired a couple months ago.
posted by 445supermag at 4:34 PM on August 10, 2005

I concur with many here. Learn to love white. Among other things, I assume you wanted a Prius to make less of an environmental footprint as a driver (I hope!). Painting cars is a major source of seriously toxic emissions. And I have known many people who have done it and gone through real hassles. like a job that looks good for a few months and then starts to fade or crackle. Getting it done right is very expensive.

One thing you don't mention is warranty coverage. A used Prius is still likely new enough to be under warranty unless it has a ton of miles. You might well void any warranty you have by painting the car cosmetically. Check with Toyota, and get it in writing, if that's not the case.
posted by realcountrymusic at 5:51 PM on August 10, 2005

A white Prius needs less air conditioning in the summer than darker colors, so by keeping it white you are keeping true to the car's philosophy.
posted by kindall at 6:59 PM on August 10, 2005

Camoflage is never a bad choice.
posted by Balisong at 9:00 PM on August 10, 2005

There's always vinyl graphics, too. Racing stripes on a Prius would rock. Or polka dots.
posted by mendel at 9:38 PM on August 10, 2005

One more in the 'learn to your little cumdrop' file.

A good paint job is extremely pricy (a few thousand for a good single color job, a lot more for something like you'd see on Overhaulin' or whatever). I don't see the point unless you're either doing a ton of bodywork, or you're absolutely in love with the car, and plan to keep it in service for decades.

(and yes, everything comes off during a competent paint job.)
posted by mosch at 10:56 PM on August 10, 2005

Here's the deal: A $200-$400 paint job from Earl Scheib or Maaco will look great from about 10 feet away for a few years, depending on how you store the car.

If you look more closely at the car, though, you'll notice all sorts of imperfections that you'd never get in a factory or "proper" paint job; There will be overspray and underspary around everything they mask off, including badges, vents and windows. You won't notice that from 10 feet away, but if you look more carefully, you will. There will likely be some areas with 'orangepeel' type texture where the paint wen on too thick.

The real killer for doing this to a 2001 Toyota, though, is that a cheap paint job won't be as durable as the rest of the car. If you garage the car, you'll be good for a few years. If your car is outside all the time, the paint will bleach and peel within a few years. Cheap paint jobs also scratch off super-easily. Bugs, rocks, belt buckles will all take a toll.

I've gotten cheap paint jobs on old/hobby cars, and I knew what I was getting. And I suppose, if, given that you know going in that the paint job won't last like a factory paint job will, and won't do a good job on the detail areas of your car's body, then you probably won't be too disappointed in the end.

Still, I'd never get a MAACO/Scheib job done on a 4 year old Toyota. I've driven every Toyota I've had for 10 to 15 years after the date of manufacture, and there's no way a cheap paint job will last that long.
posted by u2604ab at 10:58 AM on August 11, 2005

You might consider a two-tone paint job with white as one of the colors. There are a lot of minis running around with white tops and blue bottoms. Subarus also have two-tones with the bumpers and the lower foot or so a different color. This should be fairly cheap and not take very much paint or masking (that is, masking of many small parts).
posted by 445supermag at 11:04 AM on August 11, 2005

I had an auto professionally repainted a slightly different shade of dark blue.
You should understand that there are two types of professional repaint jobs, exterior only and complete. Complete will include door jambs, into the engine compartment, trunk, etc. Exterior will not get the white painted portions on the interior or the doors etc repainted.

I had a number of body modifications done and an exterior only repaint (blues match quite nicely) at a competent shop. Was charged an hourly rate plus materials. Total cost was three grand on a ten year old car I had just purchased for three grand, looks great three years later.
posted by DBAPaul at 7:22 AM on August 12, 2005

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