When buying a new car, you will almost certainly have several paint options available to you. ‘Solid’ paint, usually as standard and Metallic or Pearlescent (sometimes referred to as Mica) often offered at an extra cost or standard on higher-grade models.
Less popular and more likely to be offered on more expensive cars are matte finishes and some more ‘exotic’ special paint finishes.
So, what are the pros and cons of each paint type and is it worth paying extra for a metallic or pearlescent finish?
Solid paint colours are usually available as standard and choices can vary from just a few options to several colours. Popular colours are white, which has made a strong comeback in recent years, black and red.
White and light-coloured paints are some of the best choices for maintenance as dirt and blemishes and light surface scratches are less noticeable.
There are two main processes in use to produce solid paint. Either the paint is applied and then finished with a clear lacquer top-coat that provides a hard-outer protective layer, or the paint is mixed with a hardening agent thus removing the need for an outer lacquered coat (primarily on commercial vehicle only). Both methods provide a solid protective base to protect against the elements, stone chips etc.
Body repairs and touching-up paintwork is usually a more straight-forward affair with solid paint finishes than the equivalent job with metallic, pearlescent and other special paints. The downside to solid paints can be the car may be less appealing when you eventually decide to sell and vehicle residual values can be better on vehicles with metallic, pearlescent or special paint finishes.
Metallic paints are essentially a solid paint mixed with metallic particles. The type, amount, size and colour of the particles can vary to produce all kinds of glitter and sparkle effects, some more subtle than others, but all metallic paints will give you a shinier finish than a solid paint.
The need for car manufacturers to charge extra for metallic paints is due to the more laborious and time-consuming process involved in producing and applying the metallic paint to a vehicle.
The benefits are metallic paints with their reflective finish generally look more appealing than solid paints. The extra you pay initially for metallic may well pay off in a few years too, when you come to sell the vehicle; increasing its value and making it a more appealing proposition to would-be buyers.
Metallic paints also tend to conceal minor blemishes and dirt better than solid paints. The main downside to metallic paint is repairs can be trickier and more costly and paint touch ups look noticeable as the paint is designed to be atomised through a gun, not laid down with a brush. We regularly hear that a customer has been given some touch up paint and it’s the wrong colour – often it’s the right colour wrongly applied.
Pearlescent (Pearl or Mica) Paint
Pearlescent paints, referred to by some car manufacturers as ‘Mica’ or ‘Pearl’ for short go through a similar process to metallic paints except the particles are ceramic. Mica/Pearl paints produce some very interesting finishes and effects which reflect and refract light in different ways to metallic paints, often giving a subtle yet more colourful (two-tone effects for example) and classier looking finish to the equivalent metallic paint.
Pearlescent paint is more expensive than metallic paint but is considered to provide a much better-looking finish. Next time you’re in a car showroom look at both metallic and pearlescent finishes and you’ll notice a clear difference and will very likely prefer the classier looking pearlescent paint.
The benefits of a pearlescent paint are you get a much better-looking finish, so when you come to sell the vehicle, it will be more valuable and appealing to buyers, a clean pearlescent car is extremely eye-catching. The downside is repairs are more expensive and paint-touch-ups aren’t possible due to the nature of the application of the paint, requiring multiple layer of different colour paints applied through a spray gun to create the translucent effect.
Matte and Special Paints
Matte paints are usually offered on high-end vehicles, colours tend to be greys and blacks. These are generally a lot more expensive than metallic and pearlescent paints as the process of applying the paint is a much trickier one. The matte effects can vary from extreme matte finishes to vehicles with a subtle sheen.
Matte finishes can polarize opinion; some people love them, and others will not be as impressed. They can be a status symbol and the chances are the car will be an expensive purchase, the special paint will add £1000s to the final price and repairs to the body/paintwork will cost significantly more than standard paints. You should also be very careful what kinds of cleaning and maintenance products you use on matte finishes, abrasive polishes can result in a very expensive trip to the official body shop, so be sure you know the do’s and don’ts if you intend to purchase a car with a matte paint finish.
The upside to matte paints is you will have a car that looks extremely impressive, they’re won’t be many like it and it will stand-out in the crowd, plus residual values should be better than normal.