How Many Cans of Spray Paint to Paint a Car?(Answered)

Spray paint is a convenient and effective way to paint a car. Any DIYer can do it. 

So, have you asked yourself, how many cans of spray paint to paint a whole car? I’ll give you a specific answer to this question. However, you still need to know a thing or two about spray paint. 

Today’s post will answer the most lingering questions about spray painting your vehicle. I’ll also take you through a step-by-step guide for spray painting for the inexperienced DIYer.

Dupli-Color Spray Paint to paint a car

Dupli-Color Spray Paint

Can You Use Spray Paint on a Car?

Yes, you can use spray paint on a car, but not any spray paint. If you were to use house paint, it would prove disastrous to your vehicle. So, you will need automotive spray paint because they contain color pigments. In addition, it uses a thinner that levels the consistency. Also, automotive spray paint contains a binder to bring together the color pigment and the thinner. Thus, it bonds to metal which, in this case, is the car’s body. 

It’s important to know that metallic colors do not apply as well as enamel and acrylic spray paint. So, when deciding to buy a car spray paint, it’s essential to consider your car make, model, and the year before determining the kind of spray paint you want to purchase. 

Here are a few things to remember:

  • Lighter paint is easier to apply than dark paint
  • It’s challenging to maintain unglazed metallic paint since it’s hard to polish
  • Limited series colors are difficult to find later because they can go out of stock 
  • Varnished paint is impossible to touch up by amateurs 
  • It would help if you consult with a professional painter on the best way to handle the job


  • Restores the car’s appearance
  • Provides more coverage than brush strokes 
  • Dries much faster 
  • It’s faster to apply than brush primer and brush-on paint 
  • It’s easy to clean up after painting 


  • Similar colors may not match 100%
  • A bad nozzle can splatter the paint

How Many Spray Cans to Paint a Bumper?

The bumper is considered the most vulnerable part of the car regarding paint damage. As such, it will need enough layers to protect it. You will need three coats for the bumper to appear fresh. So, you will need 4 cans for the new layers and two cans for the clear coat. 

SprayMax 2K Clear Coat Spray Paint to paint a car

SprayMax 2K Clear Coat Spray Paint

POR-15 Coat Spray Paint to paint a car

POR-15 Coat Spray Paint

How Many Cans of Spray Paint to Paint a Whole Car?

Spray paint is not created equal. Some companies have thin consistencies while others are thick. The lighter the paint, the more cans you will need. Then, you will need to know the number of coats for a fresh look. 

In many cases, the ideal number of coats is three, which will require 21 spray cans. This number of coats will provide enough coverage. Furthermore, they will offer better protection from the elements, so you will not have to wax as often as you would with one or two layers of paint.

How Much Does It Cost to Spray Paint a Car?

As I said, you cannot skimp on the amount of paint you need to get protective layers for your car. This is to ensure that the paint adheres to the surface and will be durable.

Remember, standard spray paint will not do a good job. Any results it yields will be short-term, plus you may start to deal with flakiness that can lead to exposed metal and finally rust. 

A high-quality automotive spray paint costs roughly $7 – $13 for one can. 

A good example is Dupli-Color. Another nice option is Rust-Oleum, an enamel spray paint. This brand is still good-quality, but it’s a bit cheaper than Dupli-Color. You can count on it to get even layers and as much coverage as you’d get from a professional paint job. 

You will need up to four cans of primer spray paint and 2-3 cans of clear coat. In total, you’ll spend around $250 on spray paint. 

Besides, you will also need a paint masker/film/masking tape, safety glasses, mask, and drop cloth. These items will cost roughly $300. 

The preparation step is the most tedious part of painting your car. You may need to sand the car down to bare metal to its original primer if you need the paint to adhere and prevent peeling. The vehicle may need dent repair and other automotive touchups. 

The items you need for the job include sandpapers, an air compressor if you don’t own one, an orbital sander, solvents, and body fillers. These tools will set you back another $300 or more.

In total, it costs approximately $900 to spray paint a vehicle at home.

POR-15 Chassis Black Top Coat Spray Paint to paint a car

POR-15 Top Coat Spray Paint

Dupli-Color Chrome Aluminum Premium Acrylic Enamel Spray Paint to paint a car

Dupli-Color Spray Paint

How Long Does It Take to Spray Paint a Car?

Preparing the car for painting takes the longest. Sanding, detaching removable parts, repairing dents, and priming the surface takes 3-4 days. 

Painting takes the shortest time. However, different layers will have different times to dry. For example, the primer takes up to 12 hours using an oil-based primer. This will depend on the room temperature, type, and room humidity. On average, you should wait 3-4 hours to apply the color coat if you’re not using an oil-based primer. 

The color coats take 30 mins or up to 24 hours to dry, depending on the type of spray paint. You’ll need to perform a few touchups before applying the clear coat. 

An entire spray paint job can take a few days to two weeks.

What Kind of Spray Paint Can You Use on a Car?

I’ve touched on automotive spray paint. However, it’s not the only type of spray paint available for cars.

Other options include:

Metallic Spray Paint 

This type of spray paint is common for DIY applications. It’s expensive and available in many different tones. The good thing is that it comes in a more precise nozzle that aids the application. Nevertheless, it remains challenging if you are a beginner in spray painting cars. 

Dupli-Color EBGM05357 Silver Metallic to paint a car

Dupli-Color EBGM05357 Silver Metallic

Gloss Spray Paint

If you’re not digging a metallic look, you can use gloss spray paint. It’s midrange in price, and it provides lots of versatility when it comes to improving the look of your car. 

Spray Max 2k High Gloss Clearcoat  to paint a car

Spray Max 2k High Gloss Clearcoat 

Matte Spray Paint

This paint is relatively cheap compared to gloss and metallic spray paints. It leaves a matte finish that is low-profile and non-reflective. Its main advantage is fast-drying, allowing for faster application.

Dupli-color Matte Clear Coat to paint a car

Dupli-color Matte Clear Coat

High-Heat Spray Paint 

If you live in a hot climate, high-heat spray paint is an excellent option. This is because it provides superior protection for cars that soak in the sun for long hours.

How Long Does Spray Paint Last on a Car?

Car spray paint needs proper care and maintenance to last long. You will need to wax the car regularly to protect the paint from UV and adverse weather. With good care and maintenance, spray paint can last up to ten years.

How to Paint a Car with a Spray Can for Inexperienced DIYer?

You Will Need:

  • Orbital sander 
  • Multiple grade sanding pads 
  • 120-1500 grit hand sandpaper 
  • Acetone/Eastwood Pre Solvents 
  • Body Filler for any repairs 
  • Newspaper 
  • Primer 
  • Enamel/acrylic/polyurethane spray paint 
  • Paint thinner 
  • Safety glasses 
  • Face mask 
  • Clear coat lacquer 
  • Mineral spirits/ denatured alcohol 
  • Rubbing compound 
  • Rag 
  • Drop cloths

If you don’t have enough tools, buy here

Step #1. Preparation 

Find a suitable location for this DIY project. The place needs to be well-ventilated and provide ample working space for moving around the vehicle. This room also has to have minimal dust with access to electricity. 

Avoid painting your car in a garage since the paint fumes can be a fire hazard when they contact heaters or furnaces. 

Step #2. Sanding 

Please make sure you wear glasses and a mask during the whole process. 

Sand the paint to original primer or bare metal. You’ll need to sand it down to a surface that allows the paint to adhere. Use circular motions to achieve the perfect level of sanding. The best results come from sanding the paint to bare metal. 

Use 180-grit sandpaper to dry sand and remove surface damage or rust. Then, use 320-grit sandpaper to remove the scratches from the 180-grit sandpaper. Follow this sanding with a 400-600 grit to get the paint surface ready. 

Step #3. Dent Repair 

Apply body filler to the small patches and dents that need repairing. You’ll need to use a filler along with a hardener. However, do not aerate or whip the mixture. If you do this, it will introduce bubbles. Now, wait for the mixture to harden and sand it until smooth. 

Step #4. Clean all Surfaces 

Now, use denatured alcohol or mineral spirit and a rag to wipe down all the surfaces. This process removes oil residue and gets the car ready for painting. 

Step #5. Tape surfaces 

Use the newspaper and masking tape to cover all the areas that don’t need to be painted. These include the window trim, door handles, mirrors, grills, etc.

Step #6. Primer 

Apply three coats of corrosion-resistant primer. Allow 15 minutes between each layer for drying. Then, allow the primer to cure according to the instructions on the primer. Once the primer is cured (it can take up to 24 hours), you’ll need to sand the primer with a wet 1200-grit sandpaper until the surface is smooth.

Finally, wipe the car with a rag dipped in thinner. 

Step #7. Paint 

It’s important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions on using the brand’s spray paint. 

Shake the can gently for at least three minutes to build pressure in the can. Then hold the can six inches away from the car. Use wide side-to-side motions to apply thin, even coats. It will be a few hours before you cover the car evenly with two coats of paint. 

Wait for the directed drying time. Now, you’ll need to sand all the surfaces before applying the last coat. 

Step #8. Clear Coat 

Apply the lacquer coat after the paint has dried completely. Then, remove the masking tape while the clear coat is still wet. Next, allow the clear coat to dry by waiting for the directed time. 

Step #9. Buff the Painted Surface 

Use circular motions to buff all the painted surfaces. After which, use a rubbing compound to achieve a glossy finish.

Final Thought

We hope you know how many cans of paint to paint a whole car. In summary, you’ll need at least 20 cans to apply three coats of fresh paint. The bumper can take as much as four cans, plus you’ll need more for the primer and clear coat. 

Know that it’s possible to achieve a perfect look with spray paint. The important thing is to prepare adequately and sand surfaces as required to get a smooth surface. 

So, are you going to spray paint your car? Let us know your experience in the comments.

You may concern:

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How Many Coats of Clear Coats on a Car?

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