Seeking opinions on "budget" paint jobs

My wife and I own a “beater” vehicle that I primarily use as a backup for days when I can’t or don’t want to ride the motorcycle. It’s an '86 Honda Civic wagon, and while it runs (with some coaxing and ample warm-up time), the exterior is in fairly bad shape. We’re hoping to hold on to this for a couple of years (until it’s time to smog it again) and we’re ready to maybe buy another newer vehicle.

So the other day, we joking about the fact that we had just a little extra cash that we’d come across, and how fun might it be to take the Honda to an Earl Scheib or one of the other discount auto paint places to put some funky color on it. Maybe with sparkles? I dunno. But I’ve become genuinely curious about these sorts of paint places. How do they differ from a more substantial paint job? Is it just that they don’t last as long?

Also, here is what the Honda would have looked like new. What color(s) would YOU paint it if you were going to just have fun with it and wanted to get it done as cheaply as possible?

Well, sparkles (candy, metalflake, pearlescence) are gonna cost extra. Basically, the cheap places use a cheaper single-stage paint and a lot less prep-work. No painstaking effort on masking things off or removing/replacing bumpers, etc. I’ve seen friends get decent paint jobs by doing bodywork and masking and parts removal before taking their car to Maaco or discounter of your choice. But these were cars they were keeping…none of us would paint a beater we were going to get rid of, except to practice bodywork on some POS. I’d spend the money on fixing whatever it is requiring ‘coaxing and ample warm-up’.

But, maybe a harlequin paint job, or you could make it an ‘art car’.

BiL had Maaco do his beater 4Runner. Looks good for what it is, probably not durable and might lack the UV protection that a good job would have. Hell of a lot cheaper than doing a good job yourself, but you still need to do the prep on it.

I’d go with a flashy metallic red, the kind you see on fixed up 50’s hotrods. Maybe blue flames, too.

Hmm… I got into a minor wreck in my beater Ford Ranger in Oct 2001, and after doing the bodywork and door replacement myself, I got a Maaco paint job on it- back to the factory color, and all for about $500 (I got the premium paint).

It lasted pretty well for about 4 years of sitting out 24/7/365 in the Texas weather, but by the 5th year, the clear-coat was peeling off, and looked very dull. The paint was still there, for the most part though.

The weird thing was that the paint only failed on horizontal surfaces. Vertical surfaces looked as good as they did the day it was painted.

My brother had a similar experience, but he got an Earl Scheib paint job, for under $200, and he had some problems with inadequate masking- his windows had some fairly noticeable overspray, but otherwise, it wasn’t horrible.

If you took the vehicle to a professional paint place like a body shop you’re paying for their expertly trained painters and their super expensive equipment (drying booths for multiple vehicles). If you just want a cheapo paint job I would recommend a place like Macco or the one you mentioned. Or hell just strip the paint off and drive it around town with that lovely grey primer look!

I knew a guy that got an Earl Scheib paint job. Looked good - until it started to peel like a bad sunburn…

Asimovian, I have a '90 wagonand my secret desire is to paint it to look like a turtle.

While it is true the cheap boys use really cheap paint, their painters can lay paint on like nobody’s business. They paint way more cars than most painters and as a result they are damn good at it.
The problems are the amount of prep they do, and cheap paint they use. Without adequate prep, the paint is not going to stick long term.