Cheapo paint job
You get what you pay for.
Hotrodding forums frequently witness posts by hotrodders endorsing various (and numerous) "cheapo" methods of painting a vehicle.
The overwhelming consensus of body professionals and experienced hotrodders is that, in most cases, "cheapo" paint jobs simply aren't worthwhile. There are many clever and reasonable ways to save money while building a hot rod, and overall, aggressively scrimping on the paint job does not seem to be among them. While "cheapo" jobs may be good for "cheapo" vehicles (beaters, work or farm vehicles, "practice" cars for learning painting, etc.), they aren't good for vehicles in which you have invested significant amounts of time, money, and effort.
The complexities of the various painting products and application methods can make it difficult for an amateur to understand why scrimping on a paint job is, ultimately, not a wise decision. So, this article has been started in an effort to diminish those complexities.
If you are an auto body professional, an experienced hotrodder, or simply someone with good information on the realities of the "cheapo" paint job, please feel free to add to this article.
 What's a "cheapo" paint job?
 Cheapo application methods
- Rattle cans
- Brushes and rollers
- "Powder puff" paint jobs. So-called because historically, hotrodders actually applied paint with powder puffs originally designed to apply makeup.
These methods typically leave visible marks indicating that a cheapo method of paint application was used.
To properly assess a paint job, you need to look at it in person. When viewing photos of paint jobs (in a magazine, on a website...etc.) there is a crucial factor to keep in mind: the brush or roller marks can be hidden when photographed. This could be done unintentionally, or with "selective" photography methods. Note the two photos below.
 Discount paint franchises
While Maaco shops follow corporate Maaco guidelines, they are all independently owned and operated. So, depending on the management, your local Maaco shop may or may not do quality work.
However, in general, when speaking of Maaco, horror stories abound. (Research and expand on this specifically, and give examples and proof).
 Earl Scheib
As of 2010, former Earl Scheib franchises are owned and operated completely independently as the franchise has dissolved.
 Lacquer-based paint
Dupli-Color is a lacquer paint product being sold by Sherwin Williams. It's marketed to the lower end of the skill and experience spectrum, as an easy-to-apply and inexpensive option for hobbyists.
Lacquers are the other "family" of paint products (the primary choice being enamels). While lacquer paints used to be commonly used, they have given way to the more modern enamels.
Lacquers literally "dry"; the solvent evaporates. For this reason, lacquers will re-dissolve if exposed to their original solvent. By comparison, enamels "cure" by chemical reaction. If you apply lacquer thinner to a lacquer paint job, the paint will become a liquid again. Other solvents can have the same effect. Lacquers also have minimal UV protection. Lacquers are also "hot" when applied and often attack existing enamel paints, even well cured factory paint.
While you can paint over a lacquer paint job, the lacquer would likely be the weak part of the paint job.
Dupli-Color describes lacquer as "durable", and enamels as "very durable". This is, at best, a generous description, and at odds with what professionals are saying. Marketing aside, lacquer paints are not considered durable.
A Dupli-Color paint job would likely be fairly easy to apply, and look good when completed. However, it will not have the durability of more modern paint coatings.
You can't directly price compare a quart of Dupli-Color to a quart of say, single stage traditional auto paint. Car paint must be "reduced" (like adding paint thinner) before spraying, at about a 50-50 ratio. Therefore a quart of such paint will make two quarts of usable paint. Dupli-Color comes "ready to apply". Therefore we can say that it is only half a quart of paint and half reducer. Therefore you'd have to buy two quarts of Dupli-Color to equal a quart of single stage paint with reducer added. To carry it further, it's a fair estimate that you need around a gallon of paint to paint an average car. Plus a gallon of reducer, of course. Painters have noted that it takes quite a bit more lacquer to provide coverage equivalent to the more commonly used automotive paints. So the equivalent amount of Dupli-Color needed may well be as many as sixteen quarts. If you also want clear coat, that alters the equation a bit but Dupli-Color still tends to come out as less of a bargain than it might first appear.
Some experimentation has led some to believe that what Dupli-Color is selling in quart cans is basically identical to what they are selling in their spray cans as "touch up" paint. Just different packaging. Better results will always be obtained with a good spray gun but the curious can generally try the spray can versions to get a fair idea of what this paint is like without investing in any painting equipment.
 Oil-based machinery-type paint
- Rustoleum can resist chalking and weathering almost as well as factory enamel paint if properly cared for. Many people tend to judge Rustoleum by how it weathers on outdoor equipment and its other more usual applications. But no one buffs and waxes the wrought iron railings on their steps or outdoor oil tanks, so the paint tends to suffer.
- Until the early 1960's, many OEM's used alkyd enamels to paint their cars, which were quite similar to what Rustoleum sells today. Some import manufacturers continued using alkyd enamels into at least the 1980's. For example a 1981 Isuzu pickup will have a buck tag underhood clearly stating "alkyd enamel" as the OEM paint. Dupont's website has a small history section that makes mention of their alkyd enamel automotive paint, "Dulux".
- It's inexpensive and widely available.
- Rustoleum is a one part paint, does not require the troublesome clear coat known to come off of vehicles requiring expensive stripping and repainting. Clear coat over time has a significant failure rate as seen on older cars.
- Unlike a base coat-clear coat type spray paint job where things must be done within certain time frames, a Rustoleum spray, roll and/or brush job can be started and stopped at the painter's convenience.
- Though Rustoleum paints are based on alkyd enamels, a process that had been abandoned to new processes that included clear coats, this method remains a viable method for an inexpensive home project to put paint on a vehicle. Plus, using enamel is generally far less toxic than using a urethane based paint, particularly in an enclosed environment like a garage.
- Using Rustoleum allows at least three methods for application:
- Roller. Rather labor intensive, but can have very acceptable results
- Rattle can (spray can). Spray cans provide a means to apply paint by spray methods without requiring the otherwise expensive hardware that a shop might need.
- Spray gun with compressor (figure $200), which is by far the best way to go
 Rustoleum label info
- Rustoleum Automotive Paint products for an inexpensive method to apply an easy professional look with Rust-Oleum Auto Paints
- Durable, long lasting finishes resist rust, nicks and scratches
- Leaves a smooth, even finish
- UV and weather resistant for superior color and sheen
- Rust-Oleum Auto Enamel Spray provides a long-lasting color finish with superior gloss retention. It’s durable long lasting finish resists nicks and scratches.
- Brilliant metallic finish. Sand down to bare metal. Otherwise, marks and imperfections will readily show. Avoid rolling or foam brush.
- Stops Rust formula. Available in quarts or gallons for some of their colors. Requires a spray gun and compressor for best results.
- Any-angle spray technology.
- Rustoleum Automotive Enamel Paints, spray or can, Ideal for use on Automobiles, Cycles, Trucks, ATV's, Engines, Wheels, Wheel Wells, Bumpers, Truck Beds, Car Underbody, Plastic, Metal, Car Interior Accessories, And much more! "ref A"
- Allows inexpensive color changes or body enhancing quickly without the Shop high labor charges and expensive paint cost allowing owner to be creative and do his/her own labor.
- Rustoleum frankly can not compare with a "catalyzed" or "two part" automotive paint for durability and hardness.
- Rustoleum enamels also lack the "depth" of color that many other types of paints have, though some people like the look as it compares well with many 1960's factory enamel paint jobs in appearance.
If you are considering using Rust-oleum, it is highly recommended that you spend a few dollars on some to experiment with first. Take it home and apply it to something like a garden tractor or spare car hood in the same way you would to your car. Sand it, polish it, wax it, the whole thing. Then study it very closely and decide if this is something you indeed want on your car.
Amateurs have applied Rust-oleum by spraying, rolling, and foam brushing. The last two methods will require significant sanding in an attempt to remove the roller or foam brush marks (bristle brushes are impossible; forget them!). Also when rolling or brushing to get good results one should expect to put down up to ten VERY thin (reduced) coats of paint. However, regardless of the care taken to apply your primer (such as "Ultimate Finish") and final coats of gloss enamel, rolling or foam brushing marks will definitely show up when applying the gloss enamel! It will shock you! Best results for both their primer and gloss enamels can be achieved with a spray gun and compressor of reasonable quality. "Decent" results (you don't really care how it looks, just cover the rust and dents, and move on to something else in you life) can be achieved using the roller or foam brush application methods.
Another method some use is purchasing Rust-Oleum in 12 ounce spray cans. At $25-30+ for a 6 can pack, your best bet is Rust-Oleum's Ultimate Finish rusty metal primer. Offers decent coverage per can. Over spray with the gloss enamels is high, so coverage is much less. Definitely wear a decent mask with the gloss enamels. Then throw it away or change the organic filter(s) (more at Respiratory protection in the Crankshaft Coalition wiki page, Health and safety in the shop or garage). Color choice is limited. Cheapest prices are for white or black.
 Why is the "cheapo" paint job so tempting?
- The learning curve: selecting equipment and learning how to use it, choosing finish products, getting a few screw-ups under your belt
- Automotive paint costs a lot (figure $300+ per gallon at 2012 prices). People who have never bought car paint are used to paying "house paint" prices for paint, so hundreds per gallon seems very high
- The satisfaction of a "do it yourself" project completed
- Forum posts often show cheapo paint jobs that appear to be high quality
 Why not do a "cheapo" paint job?
- Time invested in mechanical aspect of job
- Deterioration of finish over time. Looks great at first, but can take years to deteriorate
- Value of paint job relevant to value of rest of vehicle is disproportionate. For example: using this method to paint a show car or rare automobile
- Down the line, if you want to do a professional-quality paint job, all of the underlying cheapo paint will need to be removed. Stripping the paint, doing the filler work, priming, blocking, and removing trim or panels can take hundreds of hours for a hobbyist, or cost thousands of dollars if done professionally. When modern finishes are applied over cheapo finishes, the differing chemical make-ups cause problems. This removal is very time-consuming and labor intensive. Cheapo paints are often very soluble, and when modern finishes are applied over them, the solvents will get under the old paint and make it peel.
 When is a "cheapo" paint job appropriate?
- Work truck
- Race car
- Vehicle that will see farm or utility use
- Learning basic paint techniques
- Vehicles with a sufficiently low market value such that spending the money required for a traditional paint job doesn't make economic sense
- "Art" car
- A vehicle that probably won't be seeing too many more years
 The "right" way to properly paint a car
See: First paint job.
 Articles describing "cheapo" paint jobs
- $50 paint job -- RickWrench.com
- $98 paint job -- Hot Rod Magazine
- Poor man's paint job -- StylusCustoms.com
 Hotrodders bulletin board threads
- "Hot Rod Mag-approved" paint job, November 13, 2007
- How to paint your car for $75 -- no kidding, November 13, 2007
 From rustoleum.com
- UV and Weather protection, product info page
- UV protection and color retention and gloss retention, product info page
- Metallic finish, rust stop, spray tech, product info page
- Thread: paint job on a budget!?
- Rolling and Tipping
- Thread: DIY paint
- Paint your own car for under $200 (or how I learned to love Rustoleum)
 Hotrodders bulletin board threads