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How Much Does it Cost to Fix a Deep Scratch on a Car?

Most  minor scratches happen just from regular everyday use and should be expected at some point during the course of a vehicle’s life. 

  • loading or unloading items from the trunk
  • placing bags and items on top of the vehicle
  • leaning things like bikes against a car
  • too close to another car or surface
  • driving into other vehicles and objects while parking
  • debris along dirt roads 
  • vandalism

Regardless of the cause, chance are that scratches, dents, unsightly marks and blemishes are going to happen. Some paint scratches can be fixed by yourself while others will have to be repaired by a professional. In this article we will discuss how to identify the different types of car scratches, whether you can fix the scratch yourself or if you will need it professionally repaired, how much it costs to repair paint scratches, and some tips on how to prevent future scratches to your car.

Identifying the Different Types of Car Scratches

Car paints are composed of several layers: primer, base, and clear coat. Each layer has an aesthetic and a protective property meant to defend it against corrosion or damage. The first layer of paint is the primer coat which levels out any inconsistencies or imperfections in the frame smoothing out the surface and providing a sleeker appearance. This helps to make the surface of the vehicle more conducive for the application of the next two layers of paint. Applied directly to the metal framing, it is also the first layer of protection against corrosion, heat, chips, and ultraviolet light. The second and thinnest layer of paint is the base coat which provides the color for the car. As this layer of paint is meant only to add aesthetic value to a car, it provides only the minimum of added protection. The last layer of paint is the clear coat which is a thick and transparent coating that provides the final level of protection for a car. The thickest of all three paint layers, the clear coat protects the paint layers under it from abrasions like bumps, chips, and light scratches, as well as offering another level of protection from the sun’s ultraviolet light. The clear coat also provides a car its shiny or glossy finished appearance.

Just as there are three layers of paint, there are also three main types of scratches vehicles can have: scuffs and clear coat scratches, color or base coat scratches, and primer or deep scratches. The severity and type of scratch is mainly determined by the depth in which it goes into a vehicle’s paint job.  A good way to test the depth of a scratch on your vehicle is to run your finger over it. If your fingernail does not catch the scratch then it is likely just a clear coat scratch. If your fingernail does catch the scratch then it is probably a deep scratch that has penetrated down through the clear coat and you should think about getting it looked at by a professional.

Scuffs & Clear Coat Scratches

These types of scratches are the most superficial and easiest to repair because they are just on the top layer of a vehicle’s paint job. The main difference between a clear coat scratch and a scuff is the size of the blemish. Scuffs are light scratches which result from the surface of your vehicle rubbing against something such as someone leaving up against the side of a vehicle, improper washing, shrubbery, rocks and debris kicked up from the road, another vehicle or an obstruction in a parking space. Clear coat scratches are just larger, longer and more pronounced scuffs that cut a bit more deeply into the glossy finish. The difference can be easily determined by a visual inspection as these types of scratches also reflect light unevenly from the vehicle’s surface. Although a scuff or clear coat scratch is nothing to worry over, it can still spoil the appearance of a vehicle. These types of scratches can be easily repaired by yourself by using a store bought home scratch repair kit.

Color or Base Coat Scratches

Base coat scratches are the type that cut through the clear coat and reach the color coat damaging the paint layer but not exposing the metal. These types of scratches are more costly than scuffs and clear coat blemishes and although you can also try to fix it yourself using store bought repair kits, it may be a good idea to have it repainted and fixed by a professional. These types of scratches are typically caused by moderate to heavy contact with hard objects such as hitting branches on the road while driving or someone vandalizing your car by ‘keying’ it. They can also be caused by fender benders and light accidents with other vehicles. While clear coat scratches can generally be avoided by practicing careful driving and being attentive to potential situations that could scuff the paint, color coat scratches are harder to prevent.

Primer or Deep Paint Scratches

Primer coat scratches are the deepest and most expensive scratches that vehicles can get. These deep scratches cut through both the clear and base coats exposing the metal of the car. Primer coat scratches will require every layer of paint to be repaired and will definitely need the expertise of a professional to be properly repaired. Typically major scratches like these happen with serious car accidents and hard collisions. Scratches this serious should be looked at as soon as possible so as to avoid any further chipping of the base coat from happening. If scratches this deep are left for too long without being repaired it could also lead to rust damage.

How Much are Scratch Repairs?

The cost of repairing scratches to your vehicle depends on the severity of the damage. Generally, the deeper the scratch the more it will cost in materials and time to repair it properly. Repairing minor scratches to the clear coat or even the base coat can be done yourself without professional assistance using store bought products at cheaper cost, however, deeper and more serious scratches will need to be repaired by a professional. If you decide to go to a professional a scuff or clear coat scratch should only cost between 150$ to $300 after paint and labor. Color or base coat scratches are a little more expensive but generally range anywhere from $500 to $1000 for each scratch for materials and time needed to repair. Primer coat or deep paint scratches are the most expensive and can cost upwards of $2500 to $3000 or more depending on the model, make, and age of the car. As well, depending on the severity or depth of the scratches and how many you have to be repaired, the full costs of fixing them across the entire vehicle could be upwards of $5000 to $8000. It is always good to get an estimate by calling around automotive repair shops in your area and be sure to check reviews for any shop you are looking to send your car into before you make any final decisions.

You may also have insurance coverage that could help to pay for the costs of repairs to your vehicle. Check your policy, if you or the other driver involved in an accident have collision insurance then the cost of repairs might be covered depending on whose fault the accident was. If your vehicle suffers scratches from falling branches or from launched rocks hitting your car then you need to check your comprehensive coverage. Having the right insurance can save you a good deal of money so be sure to check if you have these types of coverage.


Can I Fix the Scratch Myself?

 As mentioned earlier, you can likely tackle the challenge of fixing scuffs and clear coat scratches yourself using DIY or store bought repair kits but it is always best to leave scratch removal to a professional. The main reason is that in order to fix a scratch you have to remove the clear coat surrounding the scratch to get at it. As the clear coat on most vehicles is only about a few millimeters thick, so you have to be careful when repairing the scratch not to go too deep and make it worse.

 You may have read that you can use toothpaste to fix minor scuffs and scratches, however, it is not recommended that you do so as it could cause further damage if not applied correctly. If you choose to do so then be sure to wash the damaged area before applying anything to the scratch. Use a non-gel toothpaste with some grit in it and only use microfiber cloths to apply the toothpaste to the damaged area. Squeeze a small amount of paste (a fingertip amount) onto the microfiber cloth and gently work the paste into the area using small circular motions for about half a minute. Wipe off any excess paste using a damp microfiber cloth. Dry the surface with another microfiber cloth. You then repeat the process as necessary until the scratches are no longer visible. This should only be done for minor scuffs and clear coat scratches.

 If you decide to use store bought scratch removal repair kits, then be sure to only use these products if there is a minor scratch in the clear or color coat. If there is any metal showing then do not attempt to fix the scratch yourself and get it repaired by a professional. Even color coat scratches should be repaired by a professional but if you are that adamant then be sure to follow these steps. The method is similar to that with the toothpaste. First, wash your car or at least the damaged area before you apply any materials to the scratch. Apply a small amount of the solution to a microfiber cloth, perhaps about a quarter-sized glop, and work it into the damaged area using circular motions. Use another damp microfiber cloth to wipe away any excess solution and then repeat until the scratch is no longer visible.

It is not recommended that you try to fix primer or deep scratches by yourself. A licensed expert should do the repair work. A deep scratch will require advanced skills, the proper tools and materials to be completed properly. If you have a deep scratch then be sure to call around and get some quotes on the cost to repair it from your local automotive repair shops.

Tips to Prevent Future Scratches on Your vehicle

The best way to avoid getting scratches on your vehicle is to firstly be mindful of the environmental surroundings in which your vehicle is parked or those you are driving in. As well it is always good to practice safe and responsible driving so as to avoid fender benders or more serious collisions and accidents.  You can also take preventative steps to reduce the risks of your vehicle getting scratched which will save you a great deal of stress and money.  Do your best not to park too close to other vehicles or moveable objects. All too often drivers get dings, dents and scratches either from their own mistakes or those of other drivers who are not careful enough to pay attention to their surroundings. Another common mistake is parking too close to shopping cart return kiosks in parking lots of shopping malls. Some people carelessly roll their shopping carts away and they often bump into parked cars leaving minor scratches. Sometimes these scratches can be deep if a cart is pushed too strongly or if there is a decline slope and the cart picks up more speed. When parking to go shopping, always be sure to give the area a quick look for any of these kiosks and be sure to park a good distance away from them. When you clean your car be sure to use only microfibre cloths