How Much Does It Cost to Buff a Car? Give It a Scratch-free Look!

Updated: | Author: Steve Freling | Affiliate links may be present.

If your car’s paint looks worn and scratched, buffing is a great way to restore that shiny, new car look! What does it take to buff a car? How much does it cost? Is this a task you can do yourself? Keep reading to find out everything you need to know about buffing your vehicle.

Buffing is the process where the top layer of car paint is removed to eliminate scratches, swirls, fading, or light damage. This is usually done with a rotary sander or a cutting compound. The surface of the car is then polished and waxed. Typically, this process costs between $50-$300 for a regular-sized car, depending on the level of work needed and the technician.

What is Involved in Buffing a Car?

Buffing involves carefully removing the top layer of paint off the car. This is usually done with an orbital sander. The technician will start with a rough grit sandpaper, then move to a finer grit as the process goes on.

The car’s paint will be buffed down to the unblemished paint underneath. Eventually, the car is polished with a polishing compound, then sealed with wax to protect the paint.

This is a painstaking process. A skilled technician will evenly remove the top layer of paint and with it, all the scratches and paint damage. Depending on the level of paint damage, buffing can take multiple hours to a couple of days, especially if paint correction is required.

What is the Average Price to Buff a Vehicle?

An average-sized car will cost between $50-$300 to buff. A truck or SUV will cost $125-$400. The more damaged the paint, the longer it will take to buff, and the higher the price. If the car needs dents repaired or color collection, expect to pay more.

What Are the Factors That Affect the Price of Buffing a Car?

What causes that large price difference? There are several factors that affect the final cost to buff a vehicle.

Amount of Paint Damage

A car with minor scratches and paint damage will typically only need to have one layer of paint removed. On the other hand, if your vehicle has a lot of deep scratches, multiple layers of paint will need to be carefully removed until the technician reaches a layer without damage.

More work will equal more time and thus, more billing hours from your technician. Extensive paint damage on multiple parts of the car will cost more to buff than a few minor scratches.

If the car requires any paint touch-up or color correction, this will take longer. Any time new paint is applied, there will be more time and materials to account for.

Body Damage Repairs

Dents and dings can also be repaired by the technician, but they will have an additional cost.

Expertise of the Technician

Chains or car washes often offer buffing services. However, these are quick and often less thorough. A technician who is willing to take time to restore your paint will come with a higher price tag.

Where Should I Go to Get My Car Buffed?

As with any car service, look for multiple estimates. Request a detailed breakdown of the services offered on the estimate. Look at online reviews, and ask around before you decide on a paint service.

Local Car Wash

Many local car washes offer buffing as a part of a full-service package. The general goal for these places is to get your car in and out as quickly as possible, and for the vehicle to look somewhat better than it did before it came in.


  • The cost will be low.
  • The vehicle will be in and out of the shop quickly.


  • Technicians at car washes are often untrained.
  • Buffing tools may not be cleaned thoroughly in between vehicles and could have sand or rocks in them that will cause more paint damage.
  • Technicians at car washes often rush through the job in order to get more vehicles through the line.
  • The focus is usually volume over quality.

Price Estimate

The price estimate for buffing a car at a carwash is going to be on the lower end of the scale, typically around $50-$75.

Professional Detailer

A professional detailer has had extensive mechanical training. Their focus should be to make the car look as great as possible, no matter how long it takes. Often, these technicians are employed at local shops, or own the shops themselves. They rely on their reputation to keep their business afloat and want to take pride in their work.

If you want your car to look showroom quality, it’s best to take it to a professional detailer. Don’t go for the lowest estimate if you want top-notch work.


  • A professional will provide a high-quality buffing job.
  • Professionals have more training and experience.
  • They will take their time to make the car look its best.
  • Often, this is a way to support a local business.


  • A professional detailer will cost more.
  • The buffing process will take longer.

Price Estimate

A professional technician will typically charge $200-$350 to buff a car. However, if there is more extensive damage, or you are looking for a car show quality job, it could cost up to $500.

Why Does My Car Need to be Buffed?

Over time, grit, grime, and rocks can cause damage to a car’s paint. The sun, de-icer, and road salt are other factors that can damage paint. Or, there may be problems with the original paint job, like swirls or scuffs.

Car washes can also cause damage to paint. Often, the brushes will have debris, or rough materials that can leave cars with scratched paint. Whatever the reason, almost every car will have a scratch in the paint at some point! Buffing is a great way to remove those scratches and restore the look of the car.

How Do I Buff My Car Myself?

It is possible to buff your car at home. Remember, go slow and easy! You don’t want to remove too much of the paint.

Materials Needed

Step-by-step Instructions

  1. Wash the car – It’s important that the car’s surface is as clean as possible and free of any dirt or debris.
  2. Tape off any areas you don’t want to buff – Buffing will take the surface layer off of anything it touches. Mask lights, trim, molding, and badges.
  3. Buff the car – Use the wool pad attached to the rotary buffer. Start with the more abrasive cutting compound. Place the compound on the car, then hold the buffer flat against the paint. Slowly move the buffer in a circle in a 2 foot by 2 foot area, then move to the next area. Once the entire surface has been buffed, wipe the compound off the vehicle with a microfiber towel.
  4. Polish the car – Switch to a clean pad on the buffer. Use the same method used to apply the cutting compound to apply the polishing compound. Use a clean microfiber towel to remove the polishing compound.
  5. Wax the car – Use the foam applicator pad to apply the wax in a circular motion to the car. Once the wax has dried for a few minutes and looks cloudy, use a clean microfiber towel to wipe it off. Wax will fill in any minor scratches and protect the paint.
  6. Clean up – Wipe any compound or wax off of the windows and trim (or yourself!). Clean the mirrors and windows with some window cleaner and remove the masking tape.

What If My Car Can’t be Buffed?

Sometimes, a car’s paint is too scratched to be buffed. How do you know if your car is beyond buffing?

Extensive Damage

Look for deep scratches that go through all the layers of paint. If you can see the metal of the vehicle through the scratch, it is too deep to be buffed out. Likewise, if there are entire patches of missing paint, buffing will not solve your problem.

Flaking or deeply cracked paint is also not a good candidate for buffing. Often, cars that spend a lot of time out in the sun or the elements will have flaking or very faded paint. If the damage goes through all the layers of paint, it cannot be buffed out.

Restoration is Needed

If your vehicle has damage that is too deep for buffing, it likely needs a new coat of paint or extensive touch-ups from a car paint technician.

Final Thoughts

Don’t let scratched paint spoil the look of your vehicle! Buffing is a great, low-cost way to restore your car’s paint back to its former glory. Do your research to find the best place to detail and buff your car to your satisfaction, or do it yourself at home. Either way, your car will be looking shiny and new!

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About Steve Freling

Steve has worked for more than 20 years as an automotive mechanic, and later run his own repair shop for both cars and motorcycles. He's a maintenance freak, and generally pretty good at troubleshooting!

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