When it comes to painting your car it is easy to be overwhelmed by the vast selection of paints available on the market. Also, you will have to choose between latex and acrylic enamel paint. I’m going to go ahead and say right now, you don’t want to use latex paint on a modern car. If you are doing a true, factory restoration then you may want to use it on an older classic simply for the look of the paint, but enamel paint is better in every way. It will last longer and go down easier. With that in mind I have put together a list of the best automotive paints you can get. Each of these serves its own purpose, so pick the one that is right for you. You also may end up using a combination of two. For example, POR-15 is great for protecting against rust, but it only comes in black, so you may want to repaint a different color with one of the others on this list. Now, let’s take a look at some of the best car paints for your next project.
Best Car Paint
|Car Paint||Best car paint for||Main benefits|
|POR-15 Car Paint||Rust inhibition||• Rust reformer and inhibitor|
• Can be applied directly over rust
• Lasts for years when applied properly
|Valspar Tractor Paint||Toughness||• Resistant to the elements|
• Resists rust
• Resists fading
|Dupli-Color Paint Shop||Appearance||• Professional grade|
• Requires clear coat
• Requires extensive prep work
|Rust-Oleum Automotive Paint||Budget paint||• Resists Rust|
• Easy to apply
Best Rust Inhibitor – POR-15 Car Paint
If you are restoring a classic then you need something to prevent rust. Especially if you live in the rust belt where the salt on the roads will accelerate rusting. In this case you need a paint that is going to be tough and stand up to that salt. Also, those older metals do not resist rust as well as newer alloys will. In modern cars they use different alloys that are designed to resist rust, but until a couple of decades ago it was pretty much just steel. This means rust is still a major problem on these older cars and the best way to preserve them is with a good, rust inhibiting paint such as the POR-15 car paint.
POR-15 is easily the best paint if your car is rusted. It is a rust inhibitor, but also a rust reformer. Basically it creates a chemical reaction within the rust that makes it inert. Because of this you can simply paint right over the rust and it will not continue to spread. Don’t get me wrong, you should still make sure that any thick spots and any water is removed. This will make sure that the paint adheres well and doesn’t bubble.
POR-15 has a reputation for being tough. In fact, many older car guys joke that their paint is going to outlive them when it comes to POR-15. They are not exaggerating either. If you prep the surface right then POR-15 will stay right where it is laid down for several years. It will resist rust, chemicals, and salt with ease. If you are restoring a classic and want to preserve it then this is the way to go. Keep in mind, POR-15 only comes in black, so you may want to use it as a base coat, then paint over it with your color of choice. This will ensure your car paint job really will last forever.
POR-15 Car Paint key specs
- Rust reformer and inhibitor
- Can be applied directly over rust
- Lasts for years when applied properly
- Only available in black
Toughest Paint – Valspar Tractor and Implement Paint
Yes, it’s tractor paint, but you know what? Tractors go through a lot. This is paint designed for heavy farm equipment use. Don’t get me wrong, farmers want their stuff to look good too. This is still an automotive grade paint, so when applied properly it will go down even and flat, just like any other automotive paint, but it is also much harder than most. Again, this is because it is made for tractors and other heavy farm equipment that suffers harsh abuse on a daily basis.
Tractors also tend to spend as much or more time in the sun as our cars. Because of this, the Valspar tractor paint is designed to be fade and rust resistant. It is going to stand up the weather much better than some cheap house paint you may have used. I’ll admit, I’m guilty of this. My first restoration I used plain Rust-Oleum paint. It worked well and went down flat, but it faded quickly and we had to repaint it.
The best part about the Valspar tractor paint is that it comes in most OEM colors. Sure, you aren’t going to find some one-off color by a foreign manufacturer, but you will find the basics. If you want an OEM look with a much better performance then this is the paint to get. It will stand up to the elements much better than any cheap, department store paint and will help prevent rust for years to come.
Valspar Tractor and Implement Paint key specs
- Resistant to the elements
- Resists rust
- Resists fading
- Much harder than OEM style paints
Best Appearance – Dupli-Color Paint Shop
OK, so here we have the first true professional grade paint on the list, and the only one at that. This stuff is not cheap by any means, but it is the best looking paint you will find outside of a professional paint shop. It comes pre-thinned, so you don’t have to worry about thinning it and keeping your ratios right. Just put it in your spray gun and get to work. Keep in mind, this is professional grade paint, so it is not as forgiving as the others on this list that are aimed at consumers. You will have to be sure to do all of your prep work and make sure it is done right, otherwise your paint will look bad and will peel. If, however, you do it properly then you will be amazed at the results you can get from this.
Dupli-Color also sells their Paint Shop series in rattle cans, but I would avoid these for full body paint jobs. They are best used for small repairs or single body panels. The cost of rattle cans adds up fast. Ask me how I know. I have attempted to paint an entire car with rattle cans before, and while it looked good, the cost ended up being much higher than if I had just bought the paint and used a cheap spray gun.
I’ll say it again because it cannot be overstated, this is a professional grade paint, so it will give you amazing results, but only if you do your due diligence. You will need to apply multiple light coats as well as a clear coat to make this paint really pop and last. If you do not do your prep work then any and all imperfections will show up, so take your time and do not rush it. If you do this right then I promise, you will have an amazing, show car ready paint job.
Dupli-Color Paint Shop Car Paint key specs
- Professional grade
- Requires clear coat
- Requires extensive prep work
- Yields amazing results
Best Budget Paint – Rust-Oleum Automotive Paint
I said before that I had used plain Rust-Oleum on my first restoration. This is not that same paint. This is Rust-Oleum’s automotive grade paint and it is well worth checking out if you are perpetually poor like me (it’s self imposed. I have WAY too many projects going on at any given time). The finish is good, but won’t compare to Dupli-Color’s Paint Shop series. That is not to say that you won’t get good results. If you just go slow and take your time then you will still come out with an excellent finish that will last for years and keep your car from rusting. After all, that is what Rust-Oleum is known for, preventing rust.
Color selection is decent, the basics are all covered, but you will not find a full OEM lineup. There is no reapply window, so you can add a new coat as soon as the last one is dry enough to not run or several years later and not damage your paint. This is a boon for anyone who has ever painted with older latex paint that has to be reapplied within a certain time window.
Rust-Oleum Automotive Paint key specs
- Resists Rust
- Easy to apply
- Limited color selection
There is a vast paint market out there, so choosing the right one for your car can be difficult at times. This is made worse if you want a specific color, but if you are looking for a basic color and good finish then you cannot go wrong with anything from this list. If you want the best looking paint then there is no other way to go but the Dupli-Color’s Paint Shop series. Val spar’s Tractor and Implement paint is also a great choice if you want something that is going to be tough, but still look good. Take my advice and do it right the first time. Paint prep sucks and you don’t want to be redoing it in a couple of years because you cheaped out on the paint.