We get this question all the time: How is it possible that there are companies out there (you know the usual suspects) that advertise "Complete paint jobs for just $999," yet you have heard many people say they ended up sinking over $30K into a "paint job." I guess the best sayings I can think of that put this all into perspective are, "There is no free lunch," followed quickly by, "You get what you pay for." If any business claims they can paint any vehicle for that sort of money, it is just bullsh*t, plain and simple. In fact, the cost of just the materials it takes to apply a proper coat of paint is many times that.
The cost of $30K+ for a "paint job" does seem ridiculous. The thing is: What the average person really expects when they go in for a "paint job" is actually a complete exterior restoration. The "paint job" itself is just one step of that process, albeit an important one. But, first things first.
The first critically important step is to completely disassemble the vehicle prior to preparing it for paint, which takes one professional an entire day's labor, at least. All handles, emblems, wipers, wiper post seals, washer jets, bumpers, trim, decals, windows, and seals must be removed. In addition to that, on pop-top models the pop-top and luggage rack have to be removed and completely disassembled. These two parts, by the way, are not metal—and require totally different preparation and materials, outside and inside. At that point you can begin preparing the body for paint.
The next step should ALWAYS be to have the entire body gone over by our professional "paint-less" dent repair (PDR) expert. Without using any body fillers, a good PDR expert can remove small- to medium-sized body damage by simply working the metal. I use the word "simply," but this is only simple in theory. In fact, it can take a very skilled person an entire day to get ALL the body panels as straight as they can be. This can cost as much as $1000, but it saves at least that much at the body shop. Instead of using "traditional techniques"—namely, hammering and body fillers ("Bondo")—the eventual body and paint technician has a nice straight body, so little to no filler has to be used. Most leftover imperfections can be fixed with an extra coat of primer and sanding. This makes for a much more durable finished product: no thick body filling materials swelling and/or contracting. The result is OEM-looking panels that you just cannot duplicate with "traditional" methods, even when performed by the most talented body and paint technician.
Then, after all of that, comes the "paint job." The cost of paint materials available today varies widely in price and quality. It is possible to buy enough paint in some colors to repaint a vehicle for not a whole lot of money. Using low-end materials is a huge mistake, however. The stuff will not have the luster and durability of the higher end stuff. And when you are going through all the proper and expensive steps I have listed above (and the one coming next), it just does not make sense to throw it all away and put on any ol' crap. So, insist on the absolute best, most cutting-edge, state-of-the-art, epoxy-type paint that uses a hardener for fast curing. On top of that, spend whatever extra money needed to have a clear coat applied to give the paint extra UV protection. If done correctly, it will be the last "paint job" the vehicle will ever require.
Then comes the final step: re-assembly. Remember all the stuff we removed earlier? It may have looked okay on the old, faded paint on a rusty and dented body. But now, no way are you going to put back all that faded, chipped, rusty stuff. All new stuff is required for a like-new restoration, with the additional cost that comes with it...
So that's the long answer to a seemingly simple and short question about a seemingly simple procedure. And maybe it is just a long way of saying:
YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR!