Car color change – the why and how

“New cars all look the same these days!” If you’ve ever heard people make this claim about modern cars, you might have dismissed it as something a Boomer would only complain about, but there’s actually a lot of evidence to back it up. The fact is that the world of car coloring has never been as limited and vanilla as it is now in 2022.

To prove just how vanilla it is, you only have to look at America’s most “popular” car colors, just FIVE of which make up 87.4 percent of all cars in the US:

  • White – 23.9%
  • Black – 23.2%
  • Gray – 15.5%
  • Silver – 14.5%
  • Red – 10.3%

No wonder so many people are interested in the idea of ​​a color change for their car. But how does it work? In today’s blog, we’re exploring all the reasons why and how car colors change.

Why are colors limited? Why do people make changes?

The first question we ask here helps answer part of the second question. One of the reasons people want to do color changes on their cars is that OEM colors are so limited and common. But, why? The biggest reason behind the limited choice of colors is cost and production efficiency. From a buyer’s point of view, colors like white, black and gray are desirable because they are the only colors that don’t cost additional money!

OEMs charge between $350 and $2000 for color options, depending on the make, model, style of your car, as well as the color profile you’ve chosen. For example, metallic and pearlescent paints cost more than more common block colors. When people aren’t willing to pay those prices, they opt for the standard offering, which is invariably one of the top 5 colors.

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Another reason why color is limited is production capacity. Companies like tesla, for example, reduced offering 10 to 11 different color options in 2015-2016 to only offering 5 colors today. The reason for this was that having to change colors so much to suit different orders was time consuming and expensive.

Car color change – what methods are used?

When it comes to a color change, the only ways to get a comprehensive change across the entire vehicle are:

  • Vehicle repainting
  • vinyl wrap

respray vs. Wrap – Process and Cost

Even though the processes are very different, the final costs of carrying out any of these processes to change the color of your car will cost approximately the same – anywhere from $2,000 to $4,000🇧🇷 Refinishing may be the cheapest option if you’re repainting from one plain color to another, but it will be more expensive if you want more specialized finishes like metallic or pearlescent finishes.


To repaint a car, there are five major steps that must be followed before a speck of fresh paint can surface, namely: cutting, sanding, priming, removing rust, and repairing. In short, the existing paint has to be completely removed (cut), then the surface sanded and smoothed, ready for priming. The prep stage involves coating the sanded metal surface to ensure the paint bonds to the surface properly.

In addition, there is also “descaling”, which refers to using chemicals mixed together to clean the surface of the car and remove any signs of rust, and “repair”, which is fixing the damaged parts of the car before repainting begins. . In other words, your car must be nearly reset to a factory-built state before repainting can begin. That’s part of the reason why it’s so expensive. If you could just spray a fresh coat on top and then apply a clear coat it would be simpler and probably cheaper.

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vinyl wraps

The process of applying a vinyl wrap is arguably simpler than repainting, but simpler doesn’t mean it isn’t careful, precise, and time-consuming, all of which add to labor costs. Applying a vinyl wrap is essentially applying a new color skin to your car that acts as both an exterior color change and a protective coating at the same time. It works as a paint protection film, but the finish is not transparent like normal film.

car wrap

The main benefit of vinyl wraps is that you can reverse the process easily just by removing the vinyl wrap. There is no guarantee, however, that removing the wrapper will not cause minor damage to the original paintwork, which will need touch-ups. Preserving the original color, however, can add value, as the wrapper protects the color from UV discoloration and contaminants that would otherwise diminish it. The result is that, when restoring the original color, it looks like a brand new car!

Car color change and the law – where things can get tricky

Another area to be careful about when it comes to car color is how it can legally affect you. There have been some famous court cases in the United States on this subject. One in particular was Van Teamer vs. State in 2013 in which a driver appealed drug charges that began with a police officer pulling his car over because the color did not match the official registration given to police for that license plate.

Van Teamer was originally pulled over because of this color discrepancy and the drugs were later found. His defense team claimed that the initial cause for pulling over the car was insufficient because it was not required by Florida law at the time for Van Teamer to report the color change on his car. The case went back and forth, with some courts supporting Van Teamer’s claim, but the higher courts eventually dismissed it and said the discrepancy was reason enough to believe that something untoward might be going on.

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It seems that it is not a universal requirement to have the color of your new car reported to the DMV after you’ve done that, but we can also see that it’s a good idea. If Van Teamer had done that, he probably wouldn’t have come to the attention of the police and therefore wouldn’t have been found out for his other vices.

Conclusion – Is it worth changing the color of the car?

There’s certainly a lot to think about when considering a new color for your car. The final most important question at the end of it all is “is it worth it?” Can you justify the expense if the total to get the job done is a significant fraction of your car’s total value? Is it worth risking the integrity of the original paint job to get a vinyl wrap? Can a color change affect the car’s resale value unless you spend even more money to get it back to its original color?

The important thing should always be whether you feel happy and comfortable with purchasing the color change. If you own the car, hate the original color, and would feel better and more confident driving a car in a different color, go for it. Always weigh the expense and benefits before proceeding. In some cases, a new car can be more economical.

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