Solid vs Metallic Car Paint: Which Finish is the Best?


Solid and metallic finishes are the two most popular options for modern day cars, but which finish is the best for your next vehicle? In this article, I’ll compare the pros and cons of solid and metallic car paint so you can decide which is the most suitable for your next car.

The Quick Answer

Metallic car paint is made by infusing aluminium powder into the solid color to give it more depth and a shimmery appearance to compared to solid paint. Metallic paints hide imperfections more easily however they more expensive and more difficult to color match compared to than solid paint.

Solid (left) vs metallic (right) car paint finishes

Solid (Non-Metallic) Finishes

Solid paint finishes are very popular and inexpensive. On most cars, at least a couple of solid paint color options which be included in the standard price. However, for more exotic solid colors, you may be expected to pay a little bit more when purchasing a car brand new. Solid finishes come in a huge variety of colors, offer exceptional gloss and make color matching easy in the event that a panel needs respraying.

Metallic Finishes

Metallic paint is often charged as an optional extra on brand new cars which typically costs upwards of $500 in the USA and £500 in the UK for most makes and models. Metallic paint is more expensive to produce and more laborious to apply compared to solid paint, hence the higher cost.

Metallic paint is made by mixing aluminium powder in with solid paint to give it a shimmery appearance under direct light and to increase the depth of color. Metallic finishes are better at hiding paint imperfections however they are more difficult to color match in the event that a panel needs respraying.

Comparing Solid and Metallic Car Paint

Now that we’ve been through the basics of solid and metallic car paints, let’s compare them head-to-head in the following categories:

  • Appearance
  • Hiding Imperfections
  • Color Matching
  • Hiding Dust and Dirt
  • Care and Maintenance
  • Price

Appearance

Metallic paint looks shimmery under direct light, whereas solid paint has a flat appearance. Metallic paint helps to provide more depth of color and looks more interesting in the sun compared to solid paint. However, solid paint can sometimes look glossier if kept in good condition. In dull conditions it can be harder to tell solid and metallic finishes apart.

Hiding Paint Imperfections

If a car is washed improperly, for example by using sponges and brushes instead of microfiber wash mitts, then damage will be inflicted in the top layer of paint known as the clear coat which sits on top of the color coat.

These clear coat scratches are often referred to as swirl marks and are highly visible in direct sunlight and often look like spider webs. However, they also make the car look lighter and duller in all conditions so avoiding them is important if you want to make your car look as shiny as possible.

These clear coat imperfections are slightly masked on cars with a metallic finish because the aluminium powder essentially creates a distraction to make them look less visible compared to solid paint.

However, these scratches will still be noticeable no matter whether the car has a solid or metallic finish. If you want your car to look as glossy as possible then you should check out my complete guide to washing your car without causing scratches. Make sure you also avoid roadside and automatic car washes as these are almost guaranteed to inflict clear coat damage.

Resprays and Color Matching

With solid paints, color matching in the event that a panel needs respraying is a much easier process. However, with metallic paints, the process is more complicated and it can be much harder to get an exact color match with the rest of the panels.

If the color is still in production and is used by a popular brand then it shouldn’t be too much of a problem to get the right color. However, if the color has been discontinued then the paint will need to be mixed up to try and achieve the closest possible match to the original color.

Hiding Dirt and Dust

There is some argument that solid paint finishes hide dust and dirt more than metallic finishes. This is because the dust and dirt hides the glittered effect of the metallic finish making it more noticeable. However, the color of the car makes a far greater difference with regards to how clean the car looks between washes.

Check out my article on the easiest and hardest car colors to keep clean to learn everything you need to know.

Care and Cleaning

Some prospective buyers wonder whether the cleaning and care process is different for metallic and solid paint, however the process is the exact same.

If you want to keep your cars paintwork in good condition then I recommend washing it at least monthly using the proper technique (check out my guide for more info) and applying some paint protection in the form of a wax or sealant. You can also hire a professional detailer to look keep your car in the best possible condition.

Price

Metallic paint finishes are more expensive than solid paint finishes. On most brand new cars you’ll get the choice between a few standard solid colors which do not add to the overall price of the vehicle, or some optional colors which cost extra.

Most metallic colors are considered optional extras, but some more unique solid colors may fall into this category as well. It all depends on the make and model of the vehicle. It’s worth noting that in the used market, metallic cars don’t usually cost much more (if any) compared to cars with a solid finish.

ManufacturerMetallic Paint (USA Cost)Metallic Paint (UK Cost)
Audi$595£575-£750
BMW$0-$1950£595-£795
Mercedes-Benz$750-$1750£625-£880
Ford$395-$595£525-£850
Toyota$425£590-£730
Cost of metallic car paint (compared to solid standard colors) for popular brands on a brand new car

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Heather

I first became interested in car detailing around 3 years ago and learnt all the main techniques on my very first car. I spend a lot of time detailing my current car, and trying to keep my family's cars looking presentable too!

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