How Many Cans Of Spray Paint To Paint A Car

How Many Cans Of Spray Paint To Paint A CarSpray painting a car yourself can be a nice alternative to the vastly expensive professional jobs, that can cost anywhere up to $2000.

For a hobby, small fix, or just looking for a cheaper method, spray painting is an effective way to get the job done.

But you don’t want to buy too many spray paint cans, so how many will you need?

And, roughly how long will it take?

How Many Cans Of Spray Paint To Paint A Car

It obviously depends on the size of the car, but you could expect a smaller car to be done in between 8-12 x 500ml cans, whereas a 4×4 may take 12-15 x 500ml spray paint cans. Vans and trucks could take anywhere between 18-22 x 500ml cans. This may seem like a large amount for each vehicle but you’ll be wanting to do at least 3 layers to get a good coating.

There are multiple factors that will determine how much spray paint will be needed to fully paint a car. The more obvious factors being the volume of the spray paint cans and the size of the car, but also the shape of the car, i.e. if it has lots of different panels and sections. It also depends on the type of spray paint you are using, as both automotive and acrylic enamel spray paint can be used on cars, as well as the use of a primer or clear coating, in their respected stages of the painting process.

Paint cans required to paint a car

A small car

You can expect to spray paint a small car in 8-12x500ml cans. A Nissan Silvia S13 takes around 10x500ml spray paint cans to fully coat the car 3-4 times, and it is an averagely-sized, small car. As a general rule, it should take you about 10 minutes to spray paint one panel, so you can work out from there roughly how long it should take to do one layer on the whole of your car.

An estimate to spray paint one coating for a whole small car is 90-120 minutes, and you want to make sure you’re not applying it too thickly, or you could end up with spray paint crackles. You will also have to wait the drying time displayed on the can, between each coating. Automotive dry time is usually in the range of 20 minutes, whereas acrylic enamel paint can be much longer. You should expect this to take a whole afternoon/day, or if it’s a hobby project, it might be best to do a layer each day.

Medium car

A medium car has larger panels, and often more of them, so it can take up to 15x500ml spray paint cans. It is best to buy a couple more cans than you think you need, as you would hate to run out of cans halfway through the project, especially if you go back to buy more, and they do not have any more stocked in the correct color.

Another popular type of spray paint that can be used is Krylon, which has a dry time of 15 minutes, although it can vary depending on the specific can. The time taken for the spraying itself is as much determined by the wait time as it is by the actual spraying, as each panel will have to dry individually before a another coating. It is also important to take into account the preparation time for spray painting a car, as it is advised to sand down the previous paint job, tape anything you do not want spray painted, and use primer to ensure the paint goes on evenly.

A Van

Vans use a surprisingly large amount of spray paint, anywhere between 20-25x500ml cans, because of the size of their panels. The back of a van can often have no windows at all, which makes the surface area much larger in terms of spray painting. An extended Ford E250 takes around 22x500ml cans of spray paint, and the Ford E250 is one of the largest vans available, as it has an extended rear space, so you can expect to not need any more than 22 cans of spray paint for your van.

Using Krylon, acrylic enamel or automotive spray paint is paramount, especially when spray painting a van which needs the largest coating, as other spray paint will not be able to sustain the constant UV light that car paint has to withstand. Painting a van can take up to 8 hours, depending on its size, and possibly longer, if you break it up across several days.

A Truck

Pickup trucks can take less paint than a van, as the boot space is not covered by paneling or a roof. A dodge pickup can be done in about 12x500ml cans of spray paint, which is about the same as you could expect for a medium car. Pickup trucks may also be one of the easier vehicles to spray paint, as there is less paneling, making it quicker, and also more easily spray painted, because it is harder to accidentally overdo an area.

For a pickup truck, it is advisable to ensure you are using automotive spray paint, as they are often used in off-road and more rural environments. For this reason, you’ll want to use the most durable form of paint, and most definitely not use any paint that is not advised for vehicle use.


Cans of Spray Paint Required to paint Different Car parts

Car hood

Car hood sizes vary, and you can expect to do the hood of your car in 1-2 x 500ml cans. You’ll want to use a primer beforehand, to prepare the hood for the spray paint, and put on a clear coating at the end, to protect it from damage and give it a nice finish. You want to be careful at the lip of the hood, where it curves downwards on the side and front, as spray painting this part can be a little trickier. You want to make sure you do not lay it on too thickly, onto another part of the hood, while trying to coat the lip.


Car bumpers shouldn’t take much spray paint at all, usually, 1x500ml can for both bumpers. The difficulty of spraying the bumper depends on the shape, as some bumpers are very uniform and can easily be sprayed just flatly. Other bumper has cut-outs and can be more difficult to spray paint properly. If you have any concerns about the job, it’s best to dismount it from the vehicle and spray paint it elsewhere, to give you more room and options for angles.


The roof can take anywhere between 1-4x500ml cans, as they can range in size. Pick-up trucks have small roofs, that often only cover 2 seats, so they take very little spray paint. Whereas a van’s roof takes 4 spray paint cans as the panel is so large. While the roof may be the most difficult part of the vehicle to reach, the paint job is usually very uniform, unless you have a sunroof, so the paint job will be easier compared to other parts. Make sure to cover the aerial to protect it from paint.


You can expect a car door to take up to 1x500ml can of spray paint. Obviously, the more doors the more cans of spray paint, but in general it is 1 can per door. A lot of people take the doors off of the car when spray painting because they want to ensure the paint is applied properly around the side of the door, as they are constantly opened, exposing how good your paint job is. The car door is the most important section to achieve a good taping job, prior to the spray painting, as there’s nothing worse than a spray-painted window.

4 rims/wheels

To spray paint 4 car wheel rims, it would take 1-2x500ml spray paint cans, and they are one of the easiest parts to spray paint. Simply remove the rim and spray it in a well-ventilated area. They can have some interesting shapes, which can make it more difficult, but in general, it’s is a quick job. You can expect to spray all 4 wheels with one coat within 10-20 minutes. Leave them to completely dry before you attach them back onto the wheel, preferably for 24 hours, as you do not want the paint to run.

Engine bay

Engine bays greatly differ in size and spraying difficulty, and they can take anywhere from 1-5 x 500ml cans. A lot of people do not bother with spray painting the engine bay, as it cannot be seen from the exterior and is the most difficult part to spray paint. Unless you are only doing the visible sections of the engine bay, you will have to remove the engine and all other parts completely. Definitely only recommend this for a proficient car hobbyist or professional, although it can be satisfying to have a complete spray paint job inside and out.

Related Questions.

How many spray cans of plastidip to paint a car?

Around 20 cans of plastidip are needed to fully coat a normal-sized car. Plastidip works by creating a plastic coating around your car, that you can peel off once you want to change it. It’s a fun way to change the color of your car, while retaining the original paint. What is important to remember while spray painting is that it does not act like normal paint, and for that reason it is harder to gauge when you’ve used enough. Spraying at least 3 layers will ensure that the plastic is thick enough to create a substantial layer that will come off easily when it comes to taking it off.

How many cans of spray paint to paint a golf cart?

A golf cart can take 3-4 x 500ml cans, which may seem significantly less than a when spray painting a car, but the a golf cart has significantly less paneling. Golf carts are also easier to paint as they have parts that are easily removed, either to take off for spray painting, or to be out of the way when spray painting. Using acrylic spray paint, rather than other types of spray paint, is advised for maximum cohesion and esthetic outcome.

How many cans of spray paint to paint a motorcycle?

To spray paint a motorcycle, you can expect it to take 3-4 x 500ml of spray paint, similar to a golf cart, due to the lack of paneling and colorable parts. Some motorcycles have more parts than others, and it can take more, but generally, it is not that many. A motorcycle can be trickier to paint as it can take a lot of taping and careful spraying. It is best to remove the part if possible.