Car paints are not just for changing the color or design of your car; they can also be used to protect your car’s surface, touch up scratches and defects, spray car rims, or add rust-proofing and weather protection. Painting your car yourself can save you a fortune in paying a professional automotive paint sprayer. Whatever your reason for investing in a car paint, you’ll want to make sure you choose one that’s easy to apply, looks great, and lasts a long time.
So, which auto paint should you choose? To help you decide, we’ve put together this collection of what we think are the 10 best car paint options on the market, as well as answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about painting your car. Read on to find out how to get your vehicle looking as good as new – or even better!
Best Car Paint
First on our list of the best automotive paints is this Plasti Dip Rubber Coating from Performix. This multi-purpose paint comes in an 11oz can, and can be applied by spraying, brushing or dipping, leaving a matte black finish that wouldn’t look out of place on the Batmobile.
The durable formula is designed not to crack, and to resist damage from heat, moisture, vibration, acids and erosion. It’s ideal for spraying car rims, mirrors, grills or bumpers, and you could even use it to dip your whole car – although you would need to purchase 10+ cans for this. For best results, make sure to clean the area you’re spraying thoroughly first.
- 11oz can of multi-purpose rubber coating.
- Apply by dipping, spraying or brushing.
- Matte black finish.
- Brand Performix
- Model 11203
- Weight 14.1 ounces
Protects against moisture, heat, electrical shock, vibration, acids and erosion.
Flexible formula – will not crack in extreme weather conditions.
Easy to remove from most surfaces if required.
Need to shake it well to achieve a consistent spray.
Will eventually start to peel.
Coming in at a close second on our collection of the best automotive paint is this option from Rust-Oleum. This basecoat formula comes in a stylish chrome yellow that’s perfect for touching up the details of your car. You could also use it to cover your whole car, if you were to purchase multiple cans – it comes pre-thinned and ready to spray, which is great for convenience, but means it might not stretch as far as you think.
It dries quickly in 30 minutes, so you don’t need to worry too much about bugs getting stuck in it during application – although you do need to make sure each layer is completely dry before applying a new one. Once applied, it will also help to protect your car from rust – for the best and most durable results, it is recommended to apply the topcoat from the same range. If you’re happy to do this, the results can be very impressive, especially when polished.
- 32oz automotive basecoat.
- Chrome yellow finish.
- Ready to spray system.
- Brand Rust-Oleum
- Model 262275
- Weight 2.15 pounds
Durable and attractive metallic gloss finish.
Provides protection from rust and the elements.
Quick drying time.
Need to apply additional topcoat to achieve the best finish.
Pre-thinned formula means no option for a thicker coverage.
If you’re looking to touch up the shine on your vehicle or accessories, this Dupli-Color Perfect Match Clear Coat might be for you. Available in an 8oz can, this premium auto paint is ready to spray onto your surface, and is perfect for applying on top of a basecoat to set your color and leave a high-gloss finish – just make sure your basecoat is fully dry first.
The top coat itself is quick to dry (30 minutes to touch, 1 hour to handle) and is formulated to match your OEM factory top coat. You might need to apply several coats to achieve an even finish, as the valve can be prone to clogging, which can cause large droplets in the spray. If you don’t mind spending a bit of time on it though, it is possible to achieve a high-quality, high-shine finish.
- 8oz acrylic lacquer automotive top coat.
- Aerosol spray application.
- Clear finish.
- Brand VHT
- Model BCL0125
- Weight 8.2 ounces
Durable high-gloss finish.
Formulated to exactly match your OEM factory top coat.
Easy to apply.
Valve prone to clogging.
May take several coats to achieve a gloss finish.
For Honda owners, this Honda Touch-Up Paint is the real deal, and is perfect for making your beloved automobile look as good as new. It’s suitable for a range of models, including 2008-2012 Accord, 2008-2010 Element, and 2008-2011 Civic – check your paint code against the manufacturer’s specifications to see if you’re covered. Of course, there’s nothing stopping you using it on other makes and models too, it just won’t be a perfect match.
The design features a double-ended pen that allows you to touch up both colored paint and top coat from the same device. The small size, non-clogging brush and foam applicator mean it’s perfect for touching up small scratches and imperfections in the surface of your vehicle. That’s about all it’s good for though – you won’t be re-painting any large surface areas or whole cars with this.
- Honda acrylic PPG touch-up auto paint.
- Crystal black pearl color – many other colors also available.
- Brush application.
- Brand Honda
- Model 08703-NH731PAH-A1
- Weight 1.6 ounces
High-quality, durable and UV-resistant.
A perfect match for a range of Honda models.
Pressure sensitive, non-clogging tip.
Ideal for touching up small scratches and imperfections.
Small size means it’s not suitable for covering large areas.
Perhaps you don’t need to add paint to your car to improve the paintwork, but just remove an existing scratch or blemish? If so, Meguiar’s Ultimate Compound is here to help. This clever polishing compound uses micro-abrasive technology to remove light to moderate paint defects, oxidation, water marks and stains, to restore your finish just as quickly as many harsh abrasives.
It can be applied by hand to a clean, dry surface with a foam applicator or microfiber cloth, or using a dual-action polisher. The clear coat-safe formula allows you to achieve results quickly and without risk of further damage, and even enhances gloss at the same time. It does have its limitations – it won’t remove major damage and it doesn’t cover with new paint – but if you’ve only got a minor defect, this could be an easy and effective alternative to painting your car.
- Micro-abrasive color and clarity restorer.
- Apply by hand, or using a dual action polisher.
- 15.2 fl. oz.
- Brand Roll over image to zoom in Meguiar's
- Model G17216
- Weight 1 pounds
Ideal for repairing small defects.
Removes scratches, water spots, oxidation and blemishes.
Cuts as quickly as harsh abrasives.
Clear coat safe formula.
Not a paint – won’t cover deep marks.
Takes a bit of effort to apply by hand – may require multiple applications.
Next up is another option from Dupli-Color: their Paint Shop Finish System. This ready to spray lacquer is perfect for exterior bodywork projects, or those with more significant paintwork damage. It comes ready to spray (we recommend using an HVLP gun), and dries exceptionally quickly. There’s also no re-coat window, so you can reapply it at any time.
Be aware that the pre-reduced lacquer is quite thin, so you will most likely require multiple coats to achieve the look and color you want. It also requires a clear top coat, and even so, it has to be said that the finished result is not the most durable. If you’re careful to avoid scratches though, you should be ok.
- Automotive lacquer paint.
- Pre-reduced and ready to spray.
- Brand Dupli-Color
- Model BSP200
- Weight 1 pounds
Perfect for larger bodywork projects.
Quick application and drying time.
Re-apply at any time – no re-coat window.
Can be buffed to a smooth finish.
Requires a clear top coat.
Lacquer is thin, and not the most durable.
This Automotive Enamel Gloss is the second Rest-Oleum product on our list. It’s another spray paint that can be applied directly from the can, so it’s great for those who don’t have, or want to invest in, a spray gun. The size does mean that’s less suitable for bigger projects –you will need to buy multiple cans to cover a large area or a whole vehicle.
Positive points to note are that the wide fan spray ensures as even and professional finish, and the paint is durable and UV-resistant. It’s perfect for touch-ups, and can be used to help prevent rust forming in scratches. There are some reports of the spray nozzles being broken or faulty, so make sure you check yours before you begin application, as a faulty nozzle could lead to a blotchy paint application.
- 12oz enamel automotive gloss.
- Spray directly from the aerosol can.
- Gloss black color.
- Brand Rust-Oleum
- Model 252462
- Weight 12 ounces
Durable, UV-resistant finish.
360° wide fan spray for an even coating.
Ideal for touch-ups.
Helps to stop rust.
Some reports of faulty spray nozzles.
Finish is not as glossy as some.
This CRC Enamel Spray Paint is another great choice for those looking for coverage they can spray directly from the can. Although it’s not specifically designed for use on vehicles, this multi-purpose paint is still one of the best automotive spray paint in a can options for touch-ups, or spraying rims and accessories.
The finish is a smooth gloss black, which dries quickly (approximately 30 minutes) and doesn’t run. The formula is quite thin, so you will need several layers to achieve good coverage, and being an enamel paint, is does produce strong fumes during application. As with all the paints on this list, you should only use it outside, in a well-ventilated area, or with a respirator.
- 10z can enamel all-purpose paint.
- Spray directly from the can.
- Gloss black color.
- Brand CRC
- Model 18005
- Weight 10 ounces
Ideal for touch-ups and accessories.
Not suitable for large surface areas.
Produces strong fumes.
Rust can be devastating to a vehicle, so if yours is starting to show signs, consider investing in this Rust Inhibitor Paint from Rust Bullet. It’s suitable for a range of automotive applications, including frames, undercarriages and suspension, and will work to both stop existing rust, and prevent new rust from forming.
To apply, you have a choice of spraying, rolling or brushing it onto your surface. It’s a standalone paint, so no primer or top coat are required, making it a highly cost-effective and time-saving solution – although a top coat could be a good idea if you want your finish to be as durable as possible. Just make sure to apply at least 2 coats of paint first, letting each one fully dry for at least 2-6 hours. The finish is a UV and chip-resistant metallic gray, which will leave your vehicle gleaming and rust-free.
- ¼ pint can rust-inhibiting automotive paint.
- Can be applied with a spray gun, brush or roller.
- Metallic gray color.
- Brand Rust Bullet
- Model RBA49
- Weight 8 ounces
Tackles existing rust, and helps stop new rust forming.
UV and chip resistant formula.
Standalone product – no primer or top coat required.
Minimum of 2 coats required.
Comparatively long 2-6 hour drying time, and 72-hour cure time.
Hard to remove if you get it on unwanted areas.
Last, but not least, on our list of the best spray paint for cars, is this PlastiKote Match Up Top Coat. This one is ideal for using over a colored base coat, to achieve a high gloss factory-style finish – although you could also use it on its own, as no primer or base coat is required, and the gloss can be applied directly from the can.
The paint is quick to dry, and the resulting finish will be scratch and rust-resistant. It’s ideal for touching up small scratches, water marks and defects in your bodywork. Just be aware that you may need a few layers, and there is the possibility of an uneven spray if you’re unlucky enough to get a can with a weak nozzle. This gloss makes a great additional purchase alongside many of the other paints on our list.
- 11oz acrylic lacquer auto paint.
- Clear top coat.
- Spray directly from the can.
- Brand PlastiKote
- Model 1004
- Weight 12.8 ounces
Perfect for touching up small defects.
Resistant to scratches, rust and weathering.
Can be used alone, or on top of a base coat.
Possibility of uneven spray due to the nozzle.
Still not sure which type or brand of car paint is best for your requirements? Check out our full buying guide and FAQ below to help you decide.
Things to Consider When Buying an Auto Paint
- Touch up vs. re-spray
When choosing the best car paint for your job, consider whether you want it for touching up a small area on your paintwork – perhaps caused by a chip, or a small patch of rust – or if you want to re-spray your entire vehicle. This will effect the type and amount of paint you purchase – for example, for touch-ups, a small can of ready-to-apply enamel paint may be sufficient.
When choosing your base coat, you’ll need to consider the color and finish of the paint. Do you need an exact match with your current paintwork? Do you want a matte, metallic or pearlescent finish?
The durability of the paint is also important – some paints come with additional anti-rust or UV-resistant properties, which will help to protect your car’s surface, and prolong the life of your auto paint.
Types of Car Paints
You should apply primer to your car before you start applying your colored base coat, to prepare the surface and help the paint to bond with the surface of the vehicle. Primers are generally white, grey or black in color – choose a lighter shade for light colored cars, and vice versa.
- Base coat
The base coat is the ‘main’ paint that will change the color and appearance of your automobile. It can be solvent-based or water-based, and you can choose from solid, metallic or pearlescent finishes. Your paint may be pre-thinned and ready to spray, or it may require a reducer first.
- Clear coat
The clear coat can be applied on top of your base coat, to protect the colored paint and give it a gloss finish. A clear coat will help prevent blemishes in your paintwork which could lead to the formation of rust, as well as provide protection from UV rays, which can cause your paint to fade.
- Acrylic lacquer
Acrylic paints are available as either enamel or lacquer, with enamel being the most common type of base coat. An acrylic lacquer paint can be used in place of a base coat / clear coat combination to produce a high-shine finish, but it will not be as durable, and will require significantly more maintenance to keep it looking its best.
Best Automotive Paint Brands
We’ve featured some of the best automotive paint brands on this list, including Rust-Oleum, Dupli-Color and Performix. There is also the option of choosing a paint made by the manufacturer of your automobile, for example Honda, if you want to achieve an exact color match with your current paintwork. When repainting your car, you should aim to stick with the same brand for the entire job, including the primer, base coat and top coat, to ensure the paints are compatible, and create the best possible finish.
Best Car Paint FAQ:
Q: How long does it take to paint a car?
A: This depends on how much priming work you do, how you apply the paint, and how many coats you apply. As a general rule, you should allow around 5 days for the entire process of repainting your car. This should give you enough time to properly prep the surface, including repairing any bodywork damage, sanding down and applying primer. You will then need to remove the trims and mask off windows, decals and other areas you don’t want to get paint on. Only then are you ready to apply your layers of paint. Make sure to allow the paint to dry completely between each coat, and finish with your layer(s) of clear coat.
Q: Is it legal to paint your car a different color?
A: Before painting your car, you should research the specific laws in your local area. In most places, it is perfectly legal to paint your car a different color, however you may be required to report modifications to the DMV or relevant governing body, as well as your insurance provider. Repainting your entire car yourself is a big job, and not something that should be undertaken lightly.
Q: What does medium, slow and fast mean when ordering paint?
A: This refers to how quickly the auto paint activates and begins to dry. For example, a slow activator will take longer to dry, which will be helpful if you’re painting in hot weather, as it will ensure you have time to spray all the paint in your gun before it dries up. Conversely, if you’re painting your car on a cool day, you’ll want to use a paint with a fast activator, to ensure your drying times are not too long between layers. If you’ll be spraying in moderate temperatures of 70 – 80°F, choose a medium paint.
Q: What is the FLASH time?
A: The FLASH time is the length of time you must wait between applying layers of your base coat. You must wait for the solvents in the first layer of your base coat to evaporate, so that you can apply a subsequent layer without risking irregularities in the paintwork. Flash times can be affected by temperature and climate, but are usually anything from 5 – 20 minutes. You should always follow the manufacturer’s recommended flash time for your specific automotive paint.
Q: Can I paint over my existing finish?
A: It is perfectly possible to paint over your car’s existing finish – however if you’re painting over a clear coat, it’s advisable to sand it down and use a primer first, to ensure the new paint will bond to the surface. This will help prevent peeling, and give you a better finish. If your car is old, or you’re not sure whether it might have rust or other damage, you should consider stripping it back to bare metal before re-painting it. By doing so, you’ll be able to discover and treat any underlying problems, before you cover them in new paint.
Q: How many coats of car paint do I need to apply?
A: This depends on a number of factors, including your car’s color, the type of auto paint you’re using, your spray gun, and your desired finish. You are likely to need several coats in order to achieve a premium end result. To give you an idea, most auto shops will apply 2 coats of primer, 2-3 coats of base coat, and 2 coats of clear coat.
Q: How long will my new auto paint last?
A: Again, the answer to this depends on a range of factors, including the type of automotive paint you use, how you prep your car for painting, how many coats you apply, and how you maintain your car paint. You can extend the life of your paint job by properly priming the surface before application and using a high-quality paint applied properly – as well as regularly waxing the surface once it’s fully cured, repairing chips immediately, and minimizing UV exposure. If you do all this, there’s no reason why your new auto paint shouldn’t look great for years to come.
Our Top Pick
There are some great paint choices on this list, but our top pick of the best car paints on the market has to be the Performix Plasti Dip Rubber Coating. This is an extremely affordable, durable and versatile option, which, when applied correctly, leaves a high-quality, matte black finish.
It can be used to paint the details on your car, or your entire car, and if you get it somewhere you don’t want it, it’s easy to peel off, so you don’t need to panic. Ultimately, if you’re looking to add a matte black, Batman-esque look to your automobile, this is both the car paint you need, and the one you deserve.