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How to: Cheaply Painting a Car - New Paint & Enamel Under $300

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The greatest drawback to mail-order paint is you're limited to the colors the retailer sells. If you want something custom, you're going to be visiting a brick and mortar store. Your local autobody supply store will have the means to mix nearly any color you specify, and some of them can color-match an existing color if you are doing a spot repair. Buying from a retailer also means you can go back for more product if you run out. We ran into this situation while painting our Crown Victoria when we realized we needed more paint than we had originally purchased. Luckily the store was only 2 miles away. That would not have worked if we were using mail-order paint.

The potential downside to buying from retailers is that their economy paint lines are usually fleet colors designed to be applied quickly in a high-volume shop, like a place that churns out taxicabs, for example. These lines of paint may not have the quality and durability that, say, Eastwood is able to specify its their paint line. In fact, Angel Martinez of Top Guns Autobody and Paint Supply in Gardena, California, told us that, in economy paint lines, UV blockers are one of the additives cut to lower the cost. With fewer UV blockers, the quality of the finish will deteriorate over time. It will appear chalky and may even start to chip or flake off after as few as two years of exposure to the elements, even with diligent care and frequent waxing.

A way around this problem is to use a BC/CC system with an inexpensive base and spend more money on a quality clearcoat. "The base just puts the color on the car," Martinez says. "The clear gives you the shine." So you could save some cash using a fleet base color but get a long-lasting finish by using a name-brand clear.

John Pentecost, a sales rep who's been in the business all his working life reiterated what Martinez at Top Guns told us. "You're giving up longevity because the low-cost paint lines are made with cheaper components. The binders and polymers aren't as good as in the expensive paints." Still, they're not all bad. Pentecost told us all the major paint manufacturers offer lower-cost paint lines, usually sold under a different label, and that they are good products for the money. Dimension is made by Sherwin Williams, Nason by DuPont, and Omni by PPG. Another brand he recommended is Transtar. He's heard good things about its products in his dealings with refinishing shops in his district. So when shopping at your local retailer, we'd recommend buying one of those brands.

The Kustom Shop
6695 Rasha Street
San Diego
CA  92121
Top Guns Auto Paint and Supply
Eastwood Company
263 Shoemaker Road
PA  19464
Transtar Autobody Technologies
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