How much can you expect to earn Painting Cars right out of school

Tags: Shop Management

Be Sociable, Share! was talking with a friends kid who just got a job at a national chain so you can probably guess where he is working.

His background is 2 years of high school trade school for bodywork and he only has a couple cars under his belt at this time but he wants to paint and not prep.

They started him off  at minimum wage somewhere around $9 to $10 an hour and he is prepping cars for paint. As far as I know his job consists of sanding cars all day and cleaning them up. Most of the work at that place is not heavy frame or dent repair although they do get the occasional wreck.

He hasn’t even been there a few months and is thinking he is wasting his time and considering a move to large trucks where he would be painting. Probably most of his work would be spraying synthetic paint on trucks for color changes and cleanups.

So, he is asking me what I think he should do… and he is asking this in front of a couple of us that have been in the industry for a while now.

Honestly the kid probably doesn’t have the skills to do overalls or cabs on these trucks. Although no one is really going to care if the jobs aren’t perfect you are talking about large trucks not pickups. We are talking about gallons of paint vs quarts and that takes a lot out of you no matter how young you are.

I had a friend I grew up with that followed about the same career route as this young kid he went to trade school after high school and then ended up painting tractor trailers for a shipping company. There was some job security working for this larger company and they offered benefits along with a few dollars more starting pay. I know the work was tough for him and it was the kind of job that when you get home you pretty much need to drink a beer.

Unfortunately because the company he worked with didn’t tie his performance to his pay he lived at home well into his late 20’s to make ends meet. His parents were pretty nice and it wasn’t a real hardship but the fact is there were a lot of other guys that made twice what he made and were able to afford down payments on homes within 5 years after high school.

So, this kid is considering what his career will be.  On the one hand it probably will be a couple years if ever that he can graduate to the paint booth. Normally those places have one painter that sticks with the place for his whole life and a few others that come and go for various reasons.

The kid seems dedicated enough but he really wants to earn money.

So, I am thinking either place he works he is getting screwed.

However there are some considerations to be made here before he jumps in and finds himself a 30 yo guy thats too poor to ask his girlfriend to marry him and have kids. .. .yeah sure people without jobs have kids but this kid doesn’t seem the type that would risk being on the dole and eventually breaking up over finances .. he seems to know this already because he has seen it.


A lot of the guys are telling this kid that he should stay at the national chain and pay his dues prepping cars. But the fact is this chain really isn’t known for high quality work so if he decided to leave any experience would be a be considered a percentage of what he could have got working at a dealer or a large private shop.

I say this….

The kid needs to make money and there is a possibility of another better job so he should take it if he can.

This is how it works in all of life.

No one that became a Billionaire ever turned down a better offer if it was a real offer.

The other consideration is that the kid could decide to move but the fact is if he got a job at another franchise of this national chain his experience would be prepping cars not painting so he would still be stuck with earning maybe a few dollars more which would still mean he needs a second job to pay for a house, food, kids …..

You can only do that for so many years… earn minimum wage or minimum and a half and skimp or work two jobs and body work is pretty tough on the body so whatever other job he got better be at a mattress company testing the beds.

So, I say go to his present boss and have this conversation….

Tell him he isn’t right off the street he has a couple years education but not a lot of time behind a gun.

Then ask him what is the path to get in the booth and how long can he reasonably expect this to take.

If the manager says the guy that shoots now has been here 7 years and he doesn’t see an opening happening for a few years then be completely respectful and tell the manager that an opportunity presented its self and if it happens he will be getting $5 more an hour and he will be painting rather then prepping.

Tell the guy there is nothing set yet even after a good interview with the other company and then say thank you for the job but at this time he can’t turn down something better even though he is not sure it will work out.

And then say I hope you will consider me for rehiring if this does not pan out.

I honestly think this is the best choice because first he will be painting and second he will be being paid more. Maybe not a lot more but more. The advancement choices may not be better at the truck company but there is no reason he has to spend his entire life there.. he just needs to shoot 1000 gallons of paint so he knows how to mix and paint without runs.

At that point the kid has 2 choices. He can either take work in on the weekends to supplement his income, work on his own cars and sell them until he can open a shop or he can look for higher pay at a better shop.

The thing is if he wants to move from painting trucks to painting custom cars or working in a dealer then he will have to prove his ability by painting some of his own cars and making sure he gets a good reputation around town.

Final Note

There are a lot of fools out there that think you should suffer for your trade.

That you should make less then the guy in the next bay or across the street.

These people are IDIOTS….

I heard one guy say his brother took a job at a big company making over 200k a year and lived his whole life in a job he hated.

I am sure your brother hated all those trips to Hawaii and the fact he could put his kids through college without blinking…

Lets get this straight.


You find any guy working in any job for $50 an hour and he wins the lottery .. the next day he quits his job and goes off to have fun with his life.

You don’t work to enjoy work… you work to have money so you can enjoy your life with your family, kids and friends outside of work…

If you happen to work with a great crew of guys fine.. if you work with assholes that shouldn’t matter as long as you can do your job and not feel threatened at work .. that you will lose your job or have to kick one of their asses.

If you are ever given a better opportunity no matter what it is … take it.

But I say that with a caveat.

You don’t jump ship for a hope or a dream.. even if this kid doesn’t settle down in the next 10 years and ends up working 2 jobs he still has to fend for himself so you never risk everything for something slightly better.

In this kids case he would get benefits and 30% increase in pay and he would be painting rather then sanding all day. At the very least it is a decent step up just for the income and less strain physically.

But honestly ..

DON’T LISTEN TO IDIOTS who say you need to pay your dues and suffer..

No you need to do your work and get paid. .. then go home to the wife and kids.








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