Average Car Restoration Prices

February 24, 2012

An overview of the costs of project car acquisition, preparation, parts, labor, and the finishing that comprise car restoration prices.

Car restoration prices depend on the level of restoration, who does the work and what kinds of parts and labor you use. You have to have a plan. If your car only needs a few upgrades and a good paint job, that's going to cost a lot less than if you have found a classic rusting away in someone's barn that you want to restore. Some car restoration fees and costs are considered below.

Project Car Acquisition Costs
Depending on the condition of the car you purchase, this cost can be anything from the smallest to the largest expense of your project. Classic Camaros and Mustangs that are in driving condition, but still require restoration can cost up to $5,000. At the lower end of the price spectrum, if you purchase your project Camaro, Mustang or other model from a junkyard, you can expect to pay anything from $100 for a bare chassis up to around $2,500 for a somewhat drivable whole car. Finally, you can buy a car in good condition from a private party or a dealer starting around $15,000. If you plan on running the vehicle on the street, you have to register it. If you bought the car from a junkyard with a salvage title, one expense to keep in mind will be an overall lights, brake and safety inspection. This could be as much as a few hundred dollars.

Restoration Preparation Costs
If you're planning on creating a show car, you need to fully strip the frame and chassis of everything that can be removed. You then need to have the body and frame media blasted and re-plated. You also have to have every nut and bolt cleaned in an acid bath and then re-plated. Parts need to have rusty chrome stripped and clean chrome applied. This process can cost upwards to $15,000.

Parts Costs
When performing a complete ground up restoration, especially when doing a show level or factory showroom restoration, the greatest portion of your car restoration costs will be in parts. The total amount depends on how complete of a restoration you do. If you plan a complete, back to all original restoration on an older car that has been driven and worked on for a number of years, you may have to replace a number of parts that are still in great condition, but because they aren't original equipment, they require replacement. If you plan on entering the car in shows once the restoration process is complete, parts costs could end up topping $10,000 for a Camaro or Mustang.

Any parts that you don't supply are going to be charged to you with at least a 25% markup. All of your parts are going to be expensive if they are sourced out by the shop. You're going to pay shipping fees and expediting fees for anything that has to be shipped in from another region or country. There is an extra charge for getting the parts cleaned and treated again, because most parts are sold 'as is' and then cleaned before installing.

Labor Costs
All shops charge labor, and most charge upwards of $75.00 per hour. Specialty shops like custom paint work or upholstery may charge more, or may charge a flat rate for the job. Many shops mark up the parts more than that. If the shop does subcontracting to get metal work or something else done, that will also be charged at cost plus method. You are going to pay someone at least $25 per hour just to clean parts and wash them, and $35 to $45 an hour to restore the chrome or electroplate parts. These prices could change at any time. Although labor rates usually stay for a few years, with inflation they are subject to change.

Finishing Costs
Painting and any required body repairs may add several thousand dollars to your overall car restoration costs. If you don't plan on entering the car in shows, the total cost of body repairs can be significantly decreased by the use of body fillers instead of labor intensive sheet metal repairs. If the car has rust that can't be treated, replacement panels need to be cut, shaped and welded in. Body repair costs can be anywhere from several hundred dollars to several thousand dollars. Depending on the quality of the paint job, the type of paint used and the number of coats applied, a good paint job can cost anywhere from a couple thousand dollars up to several thousand dollars.

Overall Restoration Costs
An overall restoration done by one shop is going to cost you anywhere from $40,000 to $60,000. Most of this will be billed monthly or with considerations made between you and management for payments. Some will finance the work at a percentage, while others work on a cash up front basis. You pay for the parts as they get them and then pay for the installation as it is done. There is a lot of money to be saved by doing some of the work yourself before taking it in to be restored. It depends on whether you want to be involved in the restoration, or just want to enjoy the completed project.

When considering a car restoration project, the first thing you should do is determine the maximum amount you will spend and what level of restoration you plan on performing. Once you know this, you will know what the ideal condition of your project car will be before the project begins. The preceding paragraphs contain ballpark figures to help you decide how much of a restoration you will be able to accomplish.

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