When you park your vehicle in a designated space at work or pull up to a friend’s house, one of the first things other people notice about your car or truck is the paint job. Is it clean and reflective? Or is it dirty and scratched?

Unless you think actively about your car’s paint job on a regular basis, it’s unlikely that your vehicle qualifies for the former status.

Four Tips for Protecting Your Paint Job

Your vehicle’s paint job wasn’t cheap … so don’t take it for granted. According to industry expert Kevin Outlaw, it can be downright expensive to have to repair it.

A basic paint job, which consists of only a few coats of synthetic enamel paint, may cost somewhere between $300 to $900 -- and this doesn’t usually include hidden areas (such as inside the hood). A standard paint job, which includes all the painted areas (visible and hidden), will probably run closer to $1,000 to $3,500.

But if you want a showroom quality paint job, which can involve sanding the bodywork down to bare metal, removing rust and dents, and applying two dozen coats of paint, that could set you back more than $10,000. 

Sure, you could do your own paint job on your vehicle, but that will require expensive equipment and plenty of patience. It’s also highly unlikely that your finish will be perfect, since considerable skill goes into doing a proper vehicular paint job.

If you want to avoid having to repaint your truck or car, the best thing you can do is protect it all along. Whether you have a shiny red sports car or an old pickup, the following tips will keep your paint looking like new.

1. Keep it Covered

The worst thing you can do for your vehicle’s paint job is to leave it exposed to the elements. There isn’t much you can do when the car is in use, obviously, but you should make it a point to protect the machine whenever it’s parked. Here are some suggestions for ways to accomplish that:

If you don’t have a permanent garage or carport attached to your house, you might consider installing a portable garage or other type of shelter. Not only will this keep your car protected from the elements, but these items are fairly versatile yet inexpensive. When your car isn’t in the space, you can use the cover to provide shade or store outdoor items.

When you park a vehicle in a parking lot for an extended period of time, always look for a shady area. Keep your vehicle out of direct sunlight to forestall premature fading and related issues. 

If you have to park on an open street where there’s no access to a permanent or portable shelter, the best way to protect your paint job is to put a cover over it. This prevents dust from clinging to the paint, and also lowers the risk of picking up accidental scratches.

2. Wash and Wax Regularly

Washing your car or truck often is worthwhile. Not only does it help the vehicle sparkle and shine, but it also keeps the paint job in good condition.

But if you’re washing without waxing, you’re not doing nearly enough. “When you go out in the sun you put sun screen on, right? Your car is no exception, think of wax as sun screen for your car,” Honest Wash Car Care explains.

“The thin protective coat of wax left on your car’s paint forms a barrier that keeps the sun’s rays from harming it. By maintaining a coat of wax on your car’s paint it will prevent fading, discoloring, and oxidation which are common effects of sun damage.”

3. Use a Clear Protector

When you buy a new car from a dealer, it may come with a clear coat over the paint layer. This keeps it shiny and protects it from the elements.

As long as this clear coat is on, any minor issues can be buffed out. Though it’s not a substitute for wax, you might add a clear coat after each time you wash your vehicle. 

4. Try a Vinyl Wrap

If you live in an area where your vehicle gets dirtied repeatedly, it may be worth investing in a vinyl wrap. These will shield the original paint job and are thick enough to sustain scratches. Removing them is extremely easy and won’t leave any glue residue.

Be a Proactive Car Owner

Ownership of a vehicle entails numerous responsibilities. Protecting the paint job is just one of your duties. You should also invest in preventive maintenance care such as changing oil, rotating tires, replacing brake pads, topping of fluids, and regularly swapping out your engine’s air filter.

The more you do little favors like these for your car or truck, the less likely you’ll see your vehicle experience premature deterioration and related woes.