Car Scratch Repair And Cost

Who doesn't love a beautiful, scratch-free car? Unfortunately, a car might get scratches. Here's a guide to help you pinpoint the repair cost.

Unfortunately, car scratches are bound to affect you at some point. They are sometimes caused by loose stones and road debris, while others are caused by objects that touch your car intentionally or unintentionally.

Whatever the cause, you are now left with a scratch on your car. There are several ways to repair a car scratch.

The best repair method depends on the extent of the scratch. A scratch that only affects the clear coat will not be expensive to repair, while a deep scratch could cost thousands of dollars.

In some cases, superficial scratches can be fixed as a DIY project, while more serious scratches are best left to the professionals.

In this guide, I will give you an idea of the estimated repair cost for a car scratch. Let’s get started!

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Should You Fix A Car Scratch?

Deep scratches

You may feel that you can ignore a minor scratch on your car, especially if it is barely noticeable.

However, if you care about your car and want to preserve its appearance in the long term, fixing it is a must.

If a scratch is not repaired, it will eventually lead to further damage when rust, debris, and other unwanted particles get into the scratch, causing more serious damage.

As we state in our guide about the cost of paint jobs, paint plays a more important role than simply being aesthetically pleasing; it also protects the car.

To avoid rust and other damage to your car’s frame, it is best to repair the scratch as soon as possible in an appropriate manner.

Types Of Car Scratches

Light scratches

Not all scratches are the same. Some are superficial and only affect the clear coat, while deep scratches can run to the body panel.

Generally, the deeper a scratch is, the greater the cost to repair it. Scratches can be separated into three categories: clear coat scratches, primer scratches, and deep paint scratches.

Clear Coat Scratch

clear coat scratch

The clear coat protects your car’s paint from the environment and ensures the paint looks good. If it appears that the scratch on your car has only affected the clear coat, you might be in luck!

You can perform the fingernail test to find out if the scratch is only affecting the clear coat. Simply run your fingernail over the scratch to find out if you can feel it.

It is, unfortunately, deeper if you can feel the scratch with your nail. On the other hand, if you can’t feel it, grab your toothpaste and get to work!

Toothpaste? Yes, you read that correctly. Small, clear coat scratches can be a simple DIY fix with some patience, a microfiber towel, and toothpaste.

wikiHow has a great guide on how to remove superficial clear coat scratches, as well as deeper ones. However, we recommend taking your car to a professional if you suspect the scratch might be deeper.

Repair Cost For Clear Coat Scratches

If you don’t feel like using toothpaste to fix a superficial scratch, professional rubbing compounds come in kits that generally cost $100 to $250.

If you prefer to leave it to the professionals, you can expect to pay $150 to $300, including parts and labor.

Primer Scratch

primer scratch

The primer of the paint also serves a protective role. However, in comparison to the clear coat, a primer scratch is deeper and needs more attention to repair.

These scratches are not recommended to be fixed as a DIY project, as the paint is far more difficult to fix if you want to match the original finish and look.

Repair Cost For Primer Scratches

If you opt to have the work performed by professionals, which we recommend, the cost will vary depending on the extent of the scratch.

As a very rough guide, repairing a primer scratch will usually cost between $400 to $1000, including labor and all the necessary materials.

Deep Paint Scratch

deep paint scratch

A deep scratch is the worst possible scenario when it comes to scratches. This means the scratch has penetrated all layers of the paint job.

Once the damage has affected the paint, the whole body panel must be repainted. Therefore, the cost depends on which body panel has been affected.

Repair Cost For Deep Paint Scratch

This is a job for a professional. Unfortunately, it is also a very expensive job.

A deep paint scratch will cost $700 to $2500 to repair, depending on the extent of the scratch.

Protect Your Car from Future Scratches

scratches on gray car

As you have probably realized, scratches can be very expensive to deal with. On the other hand, they can also cause more serious damage to your car.

The best way to avoid paying to repair expensive car scratches is to avoid getting your car scratched. This may seem obvious, but there are ways to minimize the risk of getting your car scratched.

A key part of this is to wash your car properly.

Properly Wash Your Car

hand holding soapy sponge washing car

Many people discover the hard way that automatic car washes (with brushes) are perhaps the most common reason why scratches occur.

As many cars pass through the car wash, dirt and debris accumulate on the relatively stiff brushes, which then scratch your car.

This is why it is best to avoid automatic car washes altogether. However, even hand washing your car may result in scratches. It sometimes seems impossible to win this battle.

A proper handwashing technique will minimize the risk of scratches occurring and will thus prolong the lifespan of your car’s paint job. 

Over the years, many advancements have been made regarding handwashing a car. Fortunately, it does not have to be as complicated as some people make it.

The most important rules are using microfiber mitts, good car soap, and drying your car using microfiber towels.

If you are unsure how to hand wash your car, you can either leave it to the professionals or follow this concise wikiHow guide.


scratches on red car

Your car will eventually suffer scratches, whether they are from road debris or improper car washing. Whatever the cause, it can be fixed, and there are several precautions you can take to minimize the risk of scratches appearing.

A scratch on your car, especially a deep one, can lead to further damage to your paint and your car’s metal frame. Therefore, you should resolve any scratches as soon as possible.

Three main types of scratches exist, depending on which layers of the paint are affected. Clear coat, primer, and deep scratches are the three groups of scratches that indicate the extent of the damage done.

A clear coat scratch is relatively good, as it can be fixed easily, even with toothpaste. If you decide to take your car to a shop to remove the scratch, you should expect to pay $150 to $300, depending on the size.

The fingernail test can determine if the scratch only affects the clear coat. Simply run your fingernail over the scratch. If you don’t feel a slight indentation, it is likely a clear coat scratch.

Primer scratches are deeper than clear coat scratches and are best left to the professionals to handle. These scratches will cost $400 to $1000 to fix as they require greater care and more steps to deal with.

scratches on blue car

The worst possible scratches are deep scratches, which means the scratch has penetrated every layer of the paint job.

If this occurs, the whole body panel must be repainted, resulting in an expensive bill: $700 to $2500, depending on the body panel.

As previously stated, a scratch should be fixed as soon as possible. There are also ways to minimize the risk of getting scratches on your car and prolong the lifespan of the paint job.

The best advice you can take on board is to properly hand wash your car when it gets dirty. You should avoid automated car washes with brushes as they usually contain debris from previous cars, which may cause scratches.

Many scratches occur in parking lots. To avoid scratching your car, give some extra thought to where you are parking.

If you park next to a car that doesn’t appear to be well taken care of, the owner of that car is less likely to care about any possible scratches, which is bad news for you.

With this in mind, you should try to either park away from other cars or next to cars with sufficient room, and the other cars appear to be well taken care of.

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Bajro Muric

Bajro is an ASE-certified master technician and car enthusiast with a love for writing and teaching. He writes about anything regarding cars, from common problems and fixes to racing.