How Much Paint Do You Need to Paint a Car?

HVLP Paint Spraying

How much paint does it take to paint a car? It’s a question that every DIY auto restoration enthusiast will eventually ask. After all, a quart of paint doesn’t do much good if it goes unused. Of course, being a quart short is even worse. Part of knowing how to spray paint a car professionally is being able to accurately estimate the amount of paint it will take to complete the job.

Which brings us back to the question you’re asking: how much paint do I need to paint a car or truck? There is no way to know exactly how much paint you need to paint every car; however, there are basic guidelines. Of course, the bigger the car, truck or van is, the more paint you will need. If you are spraying a base coat and clear coat, you will need both components. One good way to make a more accurate estimate, before spending money on the paint, is to spray a coat of primer over the whole car and see how much it takes to cover it. You were going to prime it anyway, right?

Here are some rules of thumb:

  • Small Cars Miata, Minis, Model A roadsters and the like typically take about two quarts of single stage paint to apply enough coats to cover them, plus the reducers and hardeners.
  • Medium to Full-Size Cars Your typical muscle car, modern sedan, or full-size car usually will use most of a gallon of single-stage paint. Usually it is best to buy a gallon kit and have extra than to try to save a little and buy three quarts. If you’re spraying base coat/clear coat, it may only take 2-3 quarts of base coat to cover completely.
  • Trucks and Vans Obviously, these are bigger and you will need more paint. Buy at least a gallon plus an extra quart of paint for regular sized trucks and two extra quarts for vans, full-sized SUVs and crew cab trucks. Don’t forget, you have to paint inside the bed too. If spraying base coat/clear coat, a gallon of color may be enough but buy more than a gallon of clear.
  • Clear Coat Always buy a full gallon kit of clear and mix as needed. You can always use leftover paint that has not been mixed with activator for spot repairs or small projects.
  • Same Color Respray If you are respraying a typical car the same color because the clear has failed or after collision repair, you likely will only need about two quarts of base coat color. You will still need a gallon of clear, though.
  • Single-Stage vs. Base Coat/Clear Coat You will use more single-stage paint then you will basecoat to cover any given car. But chances are you will use less total paint when you compare the amount of basecoat and clear coat applied compared to the single-stage paint.


  1. In the “truck & van” section you mention….”Buy at least a gallon and an extra quart for regular sized trucks, and 2 for vans, full sized SUVs and crew cab trucks.”
    So for vans, is it 2 gallons and an extra qrt. or 1 gallon and 2 extra qrts.? Thanks

  2. W much paint would I heed to repaint a red Mirage. That the color it is .Thanks

  3. It varies on if you’re doing just the outside of the vehicle or under hood and in the jambs. A single kit of ours will do the exterior, but you may need a little more to do jambs and underhood if you decide to.

  4. How much paint for 66 Vw Convertible?
    I need gun. Tips. Mask and wet sandpapers
    I have a 30 gallon compressor.

  5. Hi Joe, It all depends on if you’re doing under the hood, jambs, interior, etc. Two of our single stage or base coat kits should handle pretty much anything you’d want to do on a smaller car like a Beetle. Our Concours Paint Guns are a great option for home use.

  6. Quantity of Primer and clear coats and type of mixtures of thinner for a 2002 Grey metallic Ford Windstorm. Thanks.

  7. How much would I need to paint just the cab of my 87 Chevy C10? It has a flatbed so I won’t be painting the bed. I also won’t be painting under the hood.

  8. 2 Quart kits to a one gallon kit depending on the color and what color primer/paint you’re covering.

  9. How much paint, primer, and clear coat is needed to paint 2 door panels, a 6x6inch square, and a couple dime sized spots on a 2003 Ford Crown Vic? All of it is just for rust repair after I sand it down to the bare metal.

  10. We’d suggest a quart of each product and you’ll have some leftover for a future product. We do offer the primers and clear in the 2k Aerospray cans for small jobs.

  11. I’m looking to paint my 69 Mach 1. I’m want to use a base/clear. I’m going to do the jambs and underneath the hood and deck lid. I’m wondering if I could use a single stage for the floors and inside the doors? Will the colors match? How much paint approx to do both?

  12. The colors may vary very slightly between the two different paints as well as clear coat changes the hue a little. We’d suggest 2-3 gallons to do the entire vehicle.

  13. One gallon kit will cover the truck exterior more than likely, but if you plan to do the engine bay, jambs, or in the bed, we’d suggest 2 gallons.

  14. Depending on if you’re doing underhood, jambs, trunk, etc. , we’d suggest 2-3 gallon kits. Hope that helps.

  15. I’m getting ready to paint a 1941 Chevy Special Deluxe 2 door Town Sedan. I am wanting to use a base/clear. I plan on painting the entire exterior, door jams, rims, dash, interior window panels, and external visor. Any idea how many gallons I’ll need?

  16. I would also be interested to know about the single stage amount as well.

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