Best Automotive Paints: Color Your Car Right

Choose the right paint color the first time with our top automotive paint picks

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BY Mike Knott , Rebecca Henderson / LAST UPDATED ON August 20, 2021

Does your vehicle have a signature look? With the right automotive paint, your ride will stand out from the crowd and make a powerful statement. If you’re thinking about painting your car or truck, check out our buying guide for the best automotive paint available.

Best Overall
Speedokote High Gloss Jet Black 2K Acrylic Urethane

This is a forgiving, fast-drying, easy-to-apply high-gloss, jet black paint. It comes with 3/4 gallon of paint and a quart of medium activator.

  • It’s a single-stage paint, so it mixes up and goes on easily
  • Formula doesn’t run
  • Fast-drying, allowing you to apply multiple coats within minutes of each other
  • Pigments could be a little darker, but this is resolved by applying multiple coats
Best Overall
Speedokote High Gloss Jet Black 2K Acrylic Urethane
Best Value
Dupli-Color Paint Shop Finish System

This affordable 1-quart can of paint comes in a wide variety of ready-to-apply colors that go on easily and provide a high-quality finish.  

  • This paint requires no mixing or reducing—it’s ready to apply straight out of the can.
  • Highly affordable
  • Re-coats can be applied immediately without any drying time in between
  • You will need to apply a clear coat following this paint application
Best Value
Dupli-Color Paint Shop Finish System
Honorable Mention
Rust-Oleum Automotive 32-Ounce Autobody Paint Quart

This protective acrylic base coat is a great way to guard your vehicle against damaging rust and decay. It comes ready to apply right out of the can, no mixing required. 

  • It’s a durable and resistant base coat that will protect your auto body
  • There’s no recoat window, so application is quick and easy
  • Easy to buff to shine once fully dry
  • This is a thin base coat, so some running may occur and due to its quick-drying nature
  • Can be difficult to get a nice, even coat
Honorable Mention
Rust-Oleum Automotive 32-Ounce Autobody Paint Quart

Why Trust Us

Our reviews are driven by a combination of hands-on testing, expert input, “wisdom of the crowd” assessments from actual buyers, and our own expertise. We always aim to offer genuine, accurate guides to help you find the best picks.

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Benefits of Best Automotive Paint

  • Choose your own paint color. You don’t have to stick with just factory finishes. Painting your own vehicle allows you to choose your own color and even—if you are skilled or know someone similarly skilled—your own paint scheme. The list of artistic possibilities is endless.
  • Practice painting your own vehicle. Whether you keep it as a hobby or make a living via painting, practicing on your own vehicle is a great way to experiment and potentially learn a new skill.  
  • Determine whether or not you want to be an automotive painter. Just like any other profession, automotive painting takes knowledge, time, and practice. If you’re looking into becoming an automotive painter, the best way to know if it’s the right job for you is to give it a shot and assess.
  • Restore your own DIY project. Whatever project you’ve been working on, one of the final stages is paint. And just like every other component, it’s incredibly important when it comes to the finished product. If you’re looking for a one-off paint job, spraying the layers yourself might just be the answer you’re looking for. 
  • Learn more about the automotive painting process. You may or may not end up painting your own vehicle but knowing about the process can be useful in a variety of situations. You really don’t even have to get that deep into the specifics to have a decent understanding of what’s involved.  

Types of Best Automotive Paint

Plasti Dip

An inexpensive rubberized coating, Plasti Dip is a cheap alternative to traditional automotive paints. With enough coats, Plasti Dip can weather prolonged use relatively well, depending on where on the vehicle it is applied. However, excessive wear and tear can cause the Plasti Dip to deteriorate prematurely, requiring removal and reapplication. Plasti Dip can’t necessarily compete with the high gloss-finishes of higher-quality paints.

Spray Paint

Also an inexpensive solution, spray paint is often seen as the shortcut to paying thousands of dollars for a factory-finish paint job. When compared to these professional masterpieces, spray paint wouldn’t win any beauty contests and, eventually, this paint will wear off. Spray paint is best for vehicles that aren’t necessarily going to enter any automotive shows in their lifetime.


Water-based paints only include a small amount of solvent used in the process of adhering to the vehicle. They’re not as toxic to work with and actually dry faster than solvent-based paints. You might think you’d need to apply more coats of a water-based paint than a solvent-based paint, but that’s not the case. The water acts as a carrier and dissipates once the paint is applied, so you won’t get as many toxic chemicals off-gassing, even after the paint is cured.


When people typically think of automotive paint, solvent-based paints are what usually come to mind—or the nose. Solvent-based paints typically have higher amounts of toxic chemicals that make inhaling car paint such a bad thing. These types of paint can have lacquer, enamel, or urethane as a basis, each with their own pros and cons. These solvents act as a carrying agent and bring the paint molecules to the vehicle’s surface. Most solvent-based paints take longer to cure than water-based paints.


As you’ve probably deduced from the name, single-stage paints combine the basecoat and clear coat in one. There’s no activator necessary. Single-stage paints are easier to lay down on a vehicle because they simplify the process, but there’s a trade-off. These paints are much more susceptible to premature breakdown. You may still use a primer, but the topcoat layers are not protected by multiple layers of clear coat. Rather than stacking up layers on layers, single-stage paints combine them into fewer.


Two-stage paints are better at weathering harsh conditions than single-stage paints. On top of the primer coat, you’ll find anywhere from four to five topcoat layers, upon which will sit three or four layers of clear coat. Wearing away all those layers takes much more effort than the combination of layers found in single-stage paints. Two-stage paints do, however, take nearly twice as much time to lay down on a vehicle, since there are so many steps involved. An activator is also required for two-stage paints.


Sometimes you don’t want to paint your whole vehicle. Instead, you want to simply highlight a certain feature or improve the overall look of that area. You can use part-specific paints for brake calipers, wheels, engine blocks, and any other area that will take paint. Many engine-specific paints are high-heat, so they won’t flake and peel off due to the high temperatures an engine block emits. 

Top Brands


With over 60 years in the paint-correction business, Dupli-Color knows what it takes to create a like-new finish over those unsightly paint blemishes. Invest in the Automotive Primer Series Adhesion Promoter for a better final product. Dupli-Color serves the world market.


Ohio-based Speedokote specializes in providing high-quality refinishing products at affordable prices. The company offers a huge selection of automotive, industrial, recreational, and marine detailing and repair products to suit every need. The SMR-245 Speedo Prime White Aerosol is one of the company’s top sellers.


Rust-Oleum was founded in 1921, on the principle of creating innovative products that protect surfaces from harsh elements and wear and tear. The company’s founder, sea captain Robert Fergusson, wanted to create a product that would protect his ship from the harshest of environments, the ocean. That desire has led to such cutting-edge products as the ROCKSOLID Polycuramine Garage Floor Coating Kit and dozens more.

Plasti Dip

Dipping since 1972, the experts at Plasti Dip are headquartered in Minnesota. You can use Plasti Dip for a variety of projects and applications, but if you’re looking for a quick solution to your automotive paint woes, check out its Plasti Dip Rim Kit. Who says looking good has to be expensive?

Best Automotive Paint Pricing

  • $10 or less: Most aerosolized paints will fall into this entry-level pricing category. Paints are typically packaged at or around 12 ounces and can be sprayed on car bodies or particular parts such as brake calipers, wheels, or even engine blocks.
  • $15-$30: Depending on the paint manufacturer you choose, you should be able to pick up multiple units of automotive paint for around $20. Many will be aerosol paints, while you may be able to find a few liquid paints as well.
  • $30-$50: Higher-priced and harder-to-find paints will cost you a bit more, even in quantity. Liquid automotive paint can be bought around this price point in pint-sized packaging, while spray cans are often available in multiples.
  • $50-$90: If you’re looking for single-stage paint, you can pick up a gallon for under $100. At the same time, remember you’ll need a handful of gallons for a medium-sized vehicle. Basecoats/primers and clear coats should be available in this price range as well.
  • $100 and up: Higher-quality, single-stage paints can be bought in gallon form for upwards of $100. If you’re opting for two-stage paint, you’ll likely spend over $100 for a base coat, topcoat, and clear coat, in multiple varieties. 

Key Features


Besides color, finish is usually number one on the list when it comes to picking out paint. Finishes can take a plain black color and turn it metallic with tiny flakes that reflect light for a high-end look. Or you might choose a matte finish for a sleeker style. Pearlescent paints look best on vehicles with lots of dynamic exterior curves, while chameleon paint turns even the most mundane car into exotic artwork.

Paint Type

Before you get your heart set on any shade, consider what type of paint will be best for your situation. Consult our paint type section above for reference. Will you be transporting the vehicle outside and in the elements for most of its life? You should probably choose a two-stage paint. If you want to stick to the original finish, single-stage will likely give you the results you’re looking for.

Other Considerations

  • Painting Space: If you plan on painting your vehicle yourself, having the space to do it is priority number one. Temporary paint booths work just as well as professional setups, but just remember the process that’s happening as you paint. For example, pulling your vehicle into your one- or even two-car garage and then proceeding to lay down some paint will create a whole lot of problems for you pretty quickly.
  • Paint Preparation Process: On top of securing the space, you’ll want to make sure you understand the painting process from start to finish. Not only will this help you prepare mentally, but you’ll also be able to acquire the necessary materials so you won’t have a last-minute run to the store. Paint prep doesn’t stop at supplies either. Sanding, smoothing, and cleaning the surface of your vehicle isn’t something you should overlook.
  • Repaint or Repair: There’s a huge difference between repainting your entire vehicle and simply touching up some scrapes on a single panel. You’ll still spend time in the paint booth either way, but the value of effort varies drastically in both cases. Repairing damaged paint could be a good first step for you if you’re not sure about the repainting process. After about 20 minutes of laying down paint, you’ll know if it’s for you or not.
  • Paint Gun Settings and Setup: The method you use to paint with is just as important as the paint itself. Fine-tuning your spray setup can take some time, but it makes a huge difference when it comes to your final product. Having incorrect air pressure settings or even the wrong paint gun entirely can take your adventure into painting and turn it into your worst nightmare. Read up on what settings you should use before you begin.

Best Automotive Paint Reviews & Recommendations 2021

Best Overall
Speedokote High Gloss Jet Black 2K Acrylic Urethane

The biggest hassle we see in painting your own vehicle is matching the tones already present. Automotive manufacturers pride themselves on their paint schemes as much as the models that wear them, so it can often be hard to duplicate a factory finish without the correct shade. Dupli-Color’s Perfect Match system takes the guessing work out of the equation, allowing you to focus on more important things.

If you ask a random stranger on the street what the technical name is for their car’s paint color, we’d guess only a handful would be able to rattle off the correct answer. With Dupli-Color’s Perfect Match products, though, all you have to know is what brand your vehicle belongs to. Then, simply choose the color of your vehicle from the available selection. The Dupli-Color paint comes packaged in spray cans that make application as simple as pressing down a nozzle. Plus, you can apply the paint over existing coats if necessary.

Car owners who purchase and use the Dupli-Color Perfect Match products may find the panels they paint differ in appearance from the rest of the vehicle. Essentially, you’ll find the painted panel looks like-new, while the rest of the panels weathered together to create a more unified look. This applies to dents and dings that are filled in or covered up as well. All the same, Dupli-Color makes it easy for anyone looking to touch-up their vehicle’s paint to bring a little life back to their ride’s exterior.

Best Value
Dupli-Color Paint Shop Finish System

This one quart can of paint lacquer comes ready for use in a sprayer. You can buy it in a single can or a two-pack for bigger projects. There are 20 colors to choose from. Once applied, you can wet sand the paint easily. 

What’s nice about this paint is that it doesn’t require any mixing or reducing before you use it. There’s also no recoat window, which means you can reapply at any time. The paint is easy to work with, goes on smooth, and you can save whatever you have leftover for future use. 

Unfortunately, once the paint is dried, you’ll need to apply a clear coat. While the colors are coded, they’re limited in shades, so there may not be one that perfectly matches your car’s exterior paint. You’ll probably need more coats than you plan for. 

Best for Sprayers
Rust-Oleum Automotive 32-Ounce Autobody Paint Quart

This acrylic lacquer is a base coat formula. The paint comes in a one-quart can. This paint comes ready for use in a sprayer. Once applied, you can buff it to a beautiful finish. You can also apply a clear coat for a high gloss finish. 

What makes this paint stand out is that it’s tough and resistant to road conditions. There’s no recoat window, so you can reapply additional coats at any time in the future. 

Unfortunately, this paint is very thin, and you can’t make it thicker. It also dries incredibly fast, which makes it difficult to get an even and smooth coat. The thin paint means you’ll need a lot of coats and a lot of paint to get a nice looking finish. 

Best Rust Preventive
POR-15 45404 Rust Preventive Coating

The POR-15 45404 Rust Preventative Coating gets a shout out for being a durable and permanent solution that stops rust in its tracks. Available in clear, silver, gray, semi-gloss black, and gloss black, this product paints right over existing rust, without having to remove it first. It’s designed to stop car cancer by creating a permanent seal that eliminates oxidation.

This lead-free compound can be used directly on sandblasted surfaces, prepped rust, and seasoned metal. It dries to a rock-hard, non-porous finish that is chip-, crack-, and peel-resistant. This product exceeds the 2,000-hour salt spray test for the ultimate in durability.

While this product is the ultimate rust protector, it’s actually designed to be the third step in a three-step process, which can be long and time-consuming. However, if you do undertake all three steps, your ride will look just like new again. You also want to be sure to follow up your application with a clear coat or a UV-resistant top coat.

Honorable Mention
Krylon Color Master Paint and Primer

This rattle spray can of paint comes in several finishes, including flat, gloss, matte, metallic, satin, semi-flat, and semi-gloss. There’s also a primer option for creating an even basecoat for your color. The can holds 12 ounces of paint. You’ll then need to choose your color as there are many to pick from. You can use this paint on metal, wood, wicker, and many other surfaces. 

You’ll like using this paint because it’s easy to spray on and dries in 15 minutes. The EZ Touch Conical Tip reduces finger fatigue while spraying. This makes your painting project a fast one. The dried paint has a brilliant and richly hued finish. 

The biggest downside of this paint is that it isn’t color code matched to your vehicle. This means while you may get close, it won’t be a perfect match. This is a general use paint, so it may not hold up to the test of time and wear like specific automotive paint would. 

Honorable Mention
SEM Paints Satin Black Color Coat Aerosol

This automotive spray paint is designed for use on plastic, carpet, velour, and vinyl materials. This makes it ideal for painting the interior of your vehicle. Each can contains 12 ounces of paint. The elastomeric coating is flexible, so it won’t crack on materials that bend. 

This paint stands out for its ability to adhere to surfaces. Once dried, it holds and stays without peeling and cracking. The improved spray tip makes it easier to spray with reduced atomization, even coverage, and a better fan pattern. 

Unfortunately, the paint will easily scratch off with your fingernail. Friction can also cause it to rub off. The black color isn’t a true void black. It has hints of gray and brown in it. It’s also difficult to get an even coat while spraying. 

Honorable Mention
Dupli-Color Trim and Bumper Black

Not all automotive paint is for the body of your vehicle, and the Dupli-Color Trim and Bumper paint is the ideal solution for faded and discolored bumpers and trim that need freshening up. This easy-to-apply compound features Fade-X Technology that helps to ensure a pristine and long-lasting finish. 

You can use it on all your black exterior thermoplastic and polyurethane trim, but it’s also suitable for interior trim touch-ups as well. This paint comes in a handy can with an EZ Touch fan spray nozzle for even and precise applications. However, be sure to tape off areas that you don’t want painted, as the spray isn’t as precise as if you were to use a paint sprayer.

This super adhesive paint is dry to the touch in 30 minutes and is able to be handled in one hour. It may be a good idea to practice on something to get the feel for the spray nozzle prior to applying to your vehicle. This product dries glossier than some others, so if you’re looking for a matte finish, keep scrolling.

Honorable Mention
Rust Bullet Automotive Rust Inhibitor Paint

Another excellent restorative paint for your worst rust buckets is the Rust Bullet Automotive Rust Inhibitor Paint. This is the only rust coating to hold a patent. In fact, it has two patents: one kills rust and the other prevents its reoccurrence. We like this product because it’s easy to apply with either a paint sprayer, roll, or brush.

The patented formula soaks into your rustiest and most damaged areas to actually strengthen the metal. Subsequent coats continue to build-on and provide further heavy-duty protection. We also like that you can apply this paint directly without the need for a primer or a top coat.

However, for added protection, you can choose to apply a top coat if you want. This paint requires a minimum of two coats to be really effective. Once dry, this paint provides seriously rugged UV-, scratch-, and chip-resistance. This paint is pretty pricey compared to some other options, but it gets high marks for rugged protection and a sleek appearance.

Honorable Mention
CRC All Purpose Enamel Spray Paint

This aerosol paint can come with ten ounces of enamel spray paint. Once applied, it will dry to the touch in five minutes and a tack-free finish in about 30 seconds. It will take about an hour to fully dry. The finished enamel offers a glossy finish with durability and flexibility. If you want to apply a second coat, you should do so in under an hour or after 48 hours. 

What’s nice about this paint is that it’s resistant to peeling and chipping. It’s also resistant to abrasion, solvents, and corrosion. This paint is versatile and safe for use on wood or metal and both indoors and outdoors. 

Unfortunately, there’s a lot of overspray when using this spray can. This can make for a messy application and a lot of wasted paint. This is also an all-purpose paint, so it’s meant for use on a wide variety of surfaces and may lack the durability that specialized automotive paints have.

Honorable Mention
ERA Paints Pick Your Color Automotive Touch Up Paint Kit

This kit comes with two aerosol spray cans, one for the base coat color and the other for the clear coat. The color can is 12 ounces, and the clear coat can is 10 ounces. One color paint can will cover a four-by-four foot area with two coats. 

What makes this paint stand out is that it’s coded for OEM specific paint codes. The kit also comes with a paint test match card and easy to follow documentation and instructions. This makes using the paint kit easier, so you can get better results. 

Unfortunately, one can of paint doesn’t go very far, so you’ll need to buy several cans for larger projects. You’ll also need to be careful because the paint on your vehicle ages, and it may not match when it’s mixed for the original OEM color. 


  • Invest in and make use of proper safety equipment. That includes a disposable set of coveralls and a high-quality respirator. There’s a reason those painters on TV work in a well-ventilated area and wear this type of equipment. Painting chemicals are incredibly toxic, especially when you are around them for hours at a time.
  • If you’re unsure about the painting process and want to practice before you use up your expensive paint, take a dry run with a test piece bought from a local junkyard. Perfect your technique and write down what works best for you so that you can use it come crunch time.
  • Painting a vehicle requires a lot of time—a lot. Read the instructions on your chosen paint and work out the schedule. Setup will easily take an hour or two, after you’ve already prepped the car (which alone could take days). Factor in drying times and the maximum number of coats. That way, if you stop before those last few coats, you’re still on schedule.
  • Speaking of prepping the car before painting, make sure you’re as thorough as possible. You may not be able to stand one more minute of sanding, but trust us when we say it will make a huge difference on the back end. Those clean, smooth lines don’t just happen overnight.
  • Before you don your paint suit, go through the motions to determine what supplies you need, where to place them, how you’ll track the number of applied coats, etc. This includes planning out how you’ll spray the car as well. Will you move from the front to the back? Beginning and ending in the same spot each time ensures a better coating and a smoother finish as a result.
  • Every painter has their own unique process. It’s like any artistic skill. At the same time, watching other painters can do a lot to help you not only understand the process but work out the kinks as well. Whether you incorporate some of their techniques or just wing it, having an idea in your head of what to do goes a long way in physically and mentally preparing yourself for the task ahead.
  • Do yourself a favor and order a set of coveralls—one for you and one for a friend. Having a helping hand not attached to a spray gun can do a lot to make the painting process smoother overall. Hoses can catch on light fixtures; paint supplies can run out; or any number of potential mishaps can occur. Find someone to have your back when the paint starts flying.
  • Keep track of the number of coats you apply via a large poster or piece of paper. You can either write down the coats as you apply them, check them off as you go, or even write down the times a coat was applied to determine drying periods. Make sure you differentiate between basecoats, topcoats, and clear coats if necessary.
  • Maintaining your paint job is just as important as the process itself. Though it might be tempting, wait at least a month before waxing your vehicle or taking the buffer to it with gusto. This allows the paint enough drying and setting time to adhere to itself and the layers below it. Ideally, you’ll want to keep the car beneath a roof during this month for best results. 


Q: How much paint will I need for my car?

A: This depends on the size of your vehicle and what type of paint you’re using. Vehicles smaller than or equal to the size of a typical four-door sedan will likely need at least 2 to 3 gallons of single-stage paint, in addition to a gallon of primer. Two-stage paints require 1 to 2 gallons of primer, 4 or 5 gallons of topcoat, and just as many gallons of clear coat for a similarly-sized vehicle.  

Q: How do I know when I’ve put enough paint down on the surface I’m covering?

A: The best way to determine this is to consult the manufacturer’s guidelines as to how many coats are necessary for a solid finish. The difference between too-thin paint and thick paint layers can be seen in the texture of the paint once it’s dry. Thick layers will look like the peel of an orange, with small ridges alternating between valleys. It’s better to go thicker because it can be sanded down, however.

Q: What’s the best air gun to use for painting vehicles?

A: Really, there’s enough to be said about air guns that it could comprise an entire guide in itself. At the same time, the best one is going to be one you feel comfortable using that’s also in your price range. Like many things, it’s better to invest in a higher-end air gun. Research before you buy and ask local painters what they use.

Q: Are there alternatives to completely painting my entire vehicle when it comes to repairing auto paint blemishes?

A: There are a few alternate routes, depending on the extent of the damage. Scratches can likely be taken out by your local automotive detail expert. More extensive damage may require an auto body shop to fix the metal or plastic beneath the paint before repainting can occur. Touch-up paint can be a quick, cheaper alternative, but there are techniques for proper application as well.

Q: How much does it typically cost to paint/repaint a car?

A: Hypothetically speaking, it can be cheaper to paint your own car than to bring it to a professional paint shop or big-name company. However, the quality of said paint job should be high on your priority list if you’re investing a lot of time and/or money into the process. That being said, it may cost less to paint your car yourself, but you may be able to get a better finish from paying someone to do it.

Q: Can I buy my vehicle’s specific paint from the dealership or manufacturer directly?

A: Touch-up paint can typically be bought from a dealership or even online. Beyond these small amounts, however, your specific paint may not necessarily be available in larger quantities. A call to your local dealership is the best way to answer this question.

Q: Can I paint over my car’s existing paint job?

A: Yes and no. Painting over the existing finish will inhibit the topcoat from adhering to the vehicle’s body and could cause flaking and disrepair. It’s always best to sand down the vehicle’s exterior to bare metal so that the primer and subsequent coats have the chance to create a solid bond. These paint jobs typically last longer than those painted over existing topcoats.

Q: How big does my paint booth need to be?

A: You want the area to be big enough to maneuver comfortably around the car, especially because you’ll likely be two or even three feet away at times from the surface of the vehicle. You may also need room for lighting equipment and tables to hold your supplies. The best way to determine if your space is big enough is to act out the painting process and adjust accordingly.

Q: What other painting supplies should I invest in?

A: Choosing your paint color is the easy part. Making sure you have all you need before you enter the paint booth is another story. On your shopping list, you should include (multiple) paint cups, paint sticks for stirring, disposable coveralls, gloves, tarps (removable, disposable flooring), paint strainers, a paint respirator with refill cartridges, and a lined trash can. Timers and scratch paper will help in determining drying time and a number of coats applied.

Q: What's the difference between acrylic paints, urethane paints, and lacquer paints?

A: Lacquer paint is reserved mostly for vehicles meant solely for show. Extremely demanding when it comes to caring, lacquer paints are less and less popular these days, due in part to their high toxicity. Urethane paints are more common in the automotive world, as they tend to be more durable. Though, they are harder to spray than acrylic paints. Acrylic is just another type of resin used to deliver the paint to your vehicle’s surface. 

Final Thoughts

For our top pick to click, we had to go with the Speedokote High Gloss Jet Black 2K Acrylic Urethane. This is a forgiving, fast-drying, easy-to-apply, high-gloss, single stage jet black paint. It comes with 3/4 gallons of paint and a quart of medium activator.

Our favorite budget-conscious choice that delivers a high-quality, superior finish without a depressing price point is the Dupli-Color Paint Shop Finish System. It requires no mixing and is ready to apply straight out of the can.