Vehicle Paint Buying Guide

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Vehicle Paint Buying Guide

Most people notice the exterior bodywork of a car before they notice anything else about a vehicle. The exterior paint job is the most prominent feature of a car. It is also the first line of defence against the elements. A good coat of paint can protect the steel frame from corrosion when exposed to air, water and salt on the roads. Every now and then this coating of paint needs to be reapplied. Car owners with some skill and experience in detail work can save a little money and do the painting themselves.

Before getting started, car owners need to decide what type of paint to use on their car. There are several options including lacquers, enamels, urethanes, and even water-based paints. Car owners also need to learn the multi-step process to creating a completed vehicle paint job. Vehicle paint is sold in auto body shops, car part stores, car paint manufacturers, online car detailing and body repair websites, and through auction sites like eBay.

Benefits of Repainting a Vehicle

Car owners have plenty of reasons for painting a vehicle. Exterior paint provides a protective cover for the metal car frame. This outer surface prevents water, salt, and other naturally occurring materials from corroding a steel frame and eventually compromising the vehicle. Of course, over time, paint chips and scratches leaving small openings for water and oxygen to get into the metal underneath, gradually creating rust spots. Repainting a car removes old paint and rust spots, and covers them with a hard protective surface that, if well-maintained, can last for many years. Adding another coat of paint to a car gives it new life. If one owns a vintage vehicle, one can transform it with a fresh coat of paint. Vehicle owners may also want to repaint a car that is painted in an unsatisfactory colour, to make it somewhat more agreeable. Or simply to update.

Types of Vehicle Paint

Car owners have a few different types of vehicle paint to choose from when repainting the car. The first three types of exterior paint listed below are all acrylic paints with slightly varying characteristics. The last one is an environmentally friendly water-based paint.


Acrylic lacquer is not nearly as commonly used as it was from the 1920s to the 1960s. In some areas of the world it is also illegal to use on a vehicle. As well, lacquer is easy for inexperienced painters to use, as it creates a nice, high-shine coat. It is also inexpensive and available in spray cans. However, lacquer chips easily and does not last long.


Acrylic enamel is more often used in professional auto body shops. This is a type of hard, baked on paint that lasts a very long time. Most enamel paints are applied in two steps with a base coat and a clear top coat. Enamel paint is also available for at home use, in spray cans designed for use in spray paint guns. This paint does not apply as smoothly or easily as lacquer paint. Hence, an inexperienced painter may leave the car surface looking thick and uneven in areas.


An acrylic urethane paint is a relatively new option for painting vehicles. These paints combine the hard surface of enamel paint with the smooth application of lacquer paint. Urethane is more expensive but may be the best choice for creating a beautiful paint job at home. Urethane paint is not entirely perfect. It requires a lot of preparation and must be used quickly before the paint dries.

To use a urethane paint, the vehicle owner needs three ingredients; paint colour, a paint reducer to thin the paint, and a catalyst which accelerates drying time. This paint is also applied using a spray paint gun. Urethane, like enamel, may be applied in two steps with a colour coat and a clear top coat.

Acrylic urethane is toxic and must be handled with care during the application process. Unused paint needs to be discarded.


Water-based paint is another new option for painting vehicles that is more environmentally friendly. This paint uses water instead of harsh solvents to suspend the colour pigments and carry them onto the car surface. Water-based paint can be used at home and provides good results. These paints are more popular for car detailing, but they can also be used to paint the car body. Water-based paints are not as tough as enamel, hence, they may require a clear top coat of acrylic urethane for protection.

The Anatomy of an Exterior Car Paint

Vehicle paint usually needs to be applied to the car in a series of steps. This increases the protection provided by the paint, helps top layers of paint adhere better to the car surface, and improves the overall appearance of the paint job. Before purchasing vehicle paint, it is a good idea to learn just how many layers of paint are used in an exterior coat.


Type of Paint




First layer of paint, evens colour; protects from moisture; helps basecoat adhere better

Base coat

colour coat

Second layer of paint; provides colour

Top coat

Clear coat finish

Third layer of paint; provides hard outer surface, prevents chipping; adds to shine; UV protection


Specialty paints

Last layers of paint; adds detailing designs to car surface

This is just a basic example of how paint is applied to a car. Not all paint jobs require this many coats, or some may require even more coats of paint. For example, the detailing may be protected with an additional layer of clear coat finish, while some paints can be applied without a primer to help them adhere to the car surface.

Health and Safety

Some of the chemicals in car exterior paint are toxic and care should be taken when applying them to the vehicle surface. Spray paint and spray paint guns aerosolise or disperse paint particles making them small enough to be inhaled into the lungs. It is important to ensure health and safety for the long term by using the proper precautions and wearing the proper protective gear when working with this product.

Safety Precautions

Read the instructions on any warning labels before applying paint to a vehicle. Be sure to follow those instructions to the letter. Always apply paint to a vehicle in a well-ventilated area, preferably outside. Do not spray other people or the skin with paint. When finished using car exterior paint, follow approved steps for disposing of any leftover paint.

Check with local authorities to find out what paints are considered pollutants and have restrictions on their application. It may be necessary to paint the vehicle indoors in a booth where excess paint is captured instead of making its way into the environment. Paint is highly flammable. To not use any open flames or heat sources near the paint.

Protective Gear

Wear long-sleeved shirts and trousers that can be disposed of, if necessary, after painting the vehicle. Wear safety goggles to protect the eyes at all times. Use a respirator to avoid accidentally inhaling paint. Rubber gloves and a protective hood are also a good idea for large paint jobs.

Buying Vehicle Paint on eBay

You can purchase all of these types of vehicle paint on eBay. Rather than spending time and energy searching manually through the listings for the correct type of vehicle paint for your car, use the search engine. The eBay search engine is available from any page on the website. It is also easy to use. Simply enter the search engine term into the bar at the top of the page. The search engine looks through thousands of listings in moments and returns those with matching descriptions in a search results page.

Buying Several Paint Products Together

Since you need several tools and types of paint to paint a car, it makes sense to purchase them all at once. This also helps cut down on costs of shipping and handling by bundling everything into one shipment. Be sure to check out sellers in the vehicle and paint categories to see which ones are selling bundled items or are able to create a single package shipment from different listings.


A new coat of paint can truly revamp an old car. It also helps protect the car from the elements and prevents rusting and corrosion. Car owners have several types of paint to choose from when deciding what to use on their vehicle. These paints boil down to either acrylic or a water-based paint. Some acrylic paints can be toxic to the environment, while the water-based paint needs a protective coat of acrylic to keep it from chipping. It is also a good idea for car owners to learn the process of applying car paints from the primer coat all the way to the detail work. This multi-step approach ensures the most appealing look and the strongest coat of paint possible.

However, car owners need to take certain precautions when working with these paints, as they can be toxic to people, especially when inhaled in aerosolised form. Car paint is available through several sellers on eBay.