How much will it cost to paint my bike?
There are a number of reasons why you could be interested in the price of a paintjob. You may have tipped it over in the driveway, you may have laid it down during a trackday, you may have bought the bike knowing that you wanted a different color...no way around it, if it's going to change from one color to another, unless you're uncle owns Hacking-Hal's Paint Emporium you're probly gonna have to shell out some dough. How much? That's a loaded question. In the same way that you can get a cheeseburger from McDonalds for 49cents, and a Steak Delicatessen Sandwich from the jazzy Petlazra's on Broadway in NY for $16, you can get cheap paint jobs and expensive paintjobs. And the Expensive ones aren't always 'better'.
Cost of Materials:
Whether you're trying to find a painter or you're going at it alone, the cost of materials is going to play a VERY big role in how much you end up paying for your paintjob, and the average person doesn't understand how much automotive-paint-materials cost. Some people hear about a $500 paintjob on their friends bike and thinks HOLY COW!! How can it cost $500!! Others hear that their friend spent $500 on a paintjob and think "jeez..he either found someone really cheap, or he got a Cheap job someplace nice". From beginning to end, $500 is pretty easy to spend on materials to paint an average-sized motorcycle, whether it be a non-bagger Harley, or a Hayabusa. Surface area is surface area and todays motorcycles all have approximately (within a few square feet) the same amount of surface area to be painted.
So what are you getting for $500?
For half a large bill, and ALLOT of knowledge and work, you can expect a paintjob that is comparable to your stock paintjob. Most likely you will end up with a single base color, some very minor graphics, and the stock (insert the brand of your motorcycle here) stickers on the tank and lowers. Where does the money go if you're just getting something that is comparable to stock? Lets look at what is needed to strip, prep, paint and polish a modern sportbike (on average....all of these prices are approximated, you may find a deal someplace, or you may have picked out an oddball color that is 3-times the prices I quote, but these are prices that I pay week in and week out for bike paintjobs at my local PPG supplier. I've found that the local Dupont supplier is within 5% either way of these prices on similar products). Here is the rundown if you have NOTHING but an aircompressor and a bike.
Sandpaper $45 To strip the bike, you will need sandpaper. 480 grit, 600 grit, 800 grit, 1000 grit, 1200 grit, 1500 grit, 2000 grit. a pack of 5 sheets of each, approximately $1.65 a sheet (using 3M paper...never buy cheap paper).
Precleaner $11 For routine cleaning, and wiping away oils left by your hands between stages of stripping, painting and before clearing, you'll need a pre-cleaner. One Quart may last you through a full paintjob.
Sealer $22 After stripping the bike down, you need to spray sealer (some call it primer, but primer is actually a different product used for bodywork) before spraying your color coat. $18 for a Quart of PPG High-Build Sealer/Primer, $4 for hardener.
Color coat This one is tricky. A Quart of Cheapo-Mondo Black is about $22 from your local O'Reillys. The problem is that you didnt' buy a Quart of Black paint. You bought a half Qt of black and a half Qt of reducer (O'Reillys and some cheaper retailers of paints sell the paint ready-to-spray for a very discounted price compared to Automotive Paint Retailers). If you buy PPG or Doupont black (no pearls, no metallics, no nothing) you'll end up with a Qt of paint (no reducer) for about $32. Mixing this 1:1 with reducer gives you a half a gallon of sprayable black (more than enough to paint all of your plastics, and possibly your buddies plastics). Now, if you pick out a black with some pearl in it (Say Flamego Black...it's a late 90's Honda color...VERY pretty) you will end up with a Qt for about $65. Pearls and metallics are what costs money. The difference between Red (supposedly the highest cost color) and black (supposedly the cheapest color) with no pearls or metallics in the same brand is approx $4 per Quart. Let's say you're spraying your bike three colors, and you're taping out your own graphics. You'll need a Quart of the main color (a nice pearl blue) and a pint of each of the secondary colors (a yellow and white, solid colors). You will have about $60 in the blue, and $18 apeice in the yellow and white. So you're into the color for about $100.
Reducer $33 A gallon of reducer will be used to reduce the sealer (sometimes...some sealers dont require reducer), the color coat, and the clear coat (sometimes, some clears dont require reducer).
Clearcoat $100 A Quart of clear should be able to get you by. The Quart of Clear isn't all that expensive...about $38 on average, dropping to around $20 for cheaper brands, as high as $75 for super-expensive specialty-clears (high-temp...super-adhesion...etc). The Hardner for the clear will probably cost you nearly as much as the clearcoat itself. The Hardener is made up of some VERY nasty chemicals that just aren't cheap. Figure $80 to $100 on average for materials to clear a bike.
Buffing materials are another spot that's kind of hard to judge how much it will cost. I'm assuming you do not have rubbing compound, Machine Glaze or Hand polish. The bottles of Polish/Wax most people keep around for detailing cars are not aggressive enough to remove the scratches you will be making in the clear while you try to sand out whatever dust, runs or sags you put in during the clearing step. At the very least, 3M's Perfect-It II system will cost about $140 out the door. That isn't including buffing pads, polishing cloths or wax.
So that's about $450. You need to add in a cheap Harbor Freight HVLP gun ($35 on sale), paper towels, soap, buckets, disposeable mask from 3M (the best $14 you'll ever spend), and probly $50 in misc items like extra lights.
So for the DIY'er to spray his own bike, figure $500 as a starting price if you are using Basecoat/Clearcoat (the norm today). If you want to use some of the new 'color-change' paints ($400 a pint), add that onto the current price. If you are looking to use a Tri-coat (sometimes called a Kandy color) color, double the price of your color coat. So you can see how trying to duplicate a very good-looking paintjob on someone elses' bike can get you into $800 to $1000 in materials real quick.
I wan to use a regular 'rattle-can':
If you want to spray the bike with 'rattlecan' paint...dont be discouraged when your buddies make fun of you. Many times an average person can do a better job using a special (spray-gun cap) on a can of special-mix paint in an aerosol can than they could with a full-sized automotive gun. Ask your paint supplier about wide-fan caps or spray-gun caps for aerosol cans, and dont feel limited by the colors you see at Home Depot. Most reputable automotive paint retailers can put ANY COLOR you like in an aerosol can. Expect to spend about $6 to $14 a can for custom colors, but if you figure everything up, you will save about $300 off the cost of Basecoat/Clearcoat...at the same time, it will be VERY DIFFICULT to match the results or quality of a regular automotive-style gun finish with an aerosol can.
I want to hire a "Professional":
There are tons of reasons to not paint your own bike. You WILL save time and most likely money sending your bike to a reputable shop to do the painting part. Most people will mess up their first paint job, and if they mess up at the end, they have, in essence, doubled the cost of materials (they will need to start over from scratch). Paying a qualified person to paint something $800 is allot better than spending $1100 to do it yourself twice. The problem is; Who to send it to? Check with your local Custom Harley Shops first. 90% of the time, they farm out their paintwork, and they know who's good, who's bad, and who knows how to paint sportbikes (it's not the same as spraying HD's...not any harder, just not the same). TRY...PLEASE TRY to use someone local. If you have never used a painter to re-color something, do NOT send your motorcycle peices across the country (or halfway around the world) to be painted by someone you heard was 'good' and 'cheap'. Every area (even the middle of nowhere) has at least ONE automotive artist that is good, experienced, and not advertising or 'asking' for work. These guys are booked all the time, and for good reason: they do a GOOD job, and are always in demand.
Step 1: Find yourself a bike or custom car shop and find out who they use for their paint, and ask for a business card.
Step 2: GO TO THE LOCATION THEY ARE PAINTING AT. If the person doesn't have a location suitable for painting, ask them where they will be painting your stuff at. Ask them if they will be doing the clearcoat work, or whether they 'farm out' the part that most painters dont like to do.
Step 3: Ask for a portfolio and references. Unless you trust the bike shop or car shop that sent you there very well, ask to see some of the painters work on sportbikes. One or two completed bikes (with contact information for the bikes owners) will suffice. Even guys who do mainly Sportbikes dont do more than 10 or so bikes a year. The chances of your local guy having 30 bikes in his portfolio is very unlikely. However, Harleys for reference are the next best thing. Make sure that the painter has done at least 5 bikes minimum (HD's and Sports) and make sure you get a couple of references that dont have the same last name as the painter.
Step 4: Ask for a rendering. The painter may not be interested in doing one, but ask anyways. It's best to know that the painter is thinking the EXACT same thing that you are thinking on which colors go where, and how big the graphics need to be. The rendering doesn't have to be elaborate, if he wont do one for you, draw up a quick sketch (or use a photo-editing program) on your own to ensure he knows what you are talking about.
Step 5: DO NOT PAY UP FRONT. If the painter asks you front money, ask him what the money is for. You should NOT be expected to front any more than the cost of materials, and you should be given a bill of sale showing that the money was spent on materials. The sum of the cost should not be handed over until the bike is picked up (and you are happy with it).
Some helpful hints:
Dont pick up your bike in the dark. Duh!
Do make sure that you get a receipt when you hand over your parts (or bike) or for any cash or non-traceable money that you hand over.
Make sure you get a 'finished' date, and establish how long after that date is acceptable. Painters routinely run behind, but more than a week behind, and you should expect to be reimbursed some of your costs. Estabish this in writing before handing over your parts.
Dont hand over any money other than what is reasonable (see above) for materials. An estimate would be nice on materials before being expected to hand over any initial payment. On average, I average about $250 up front to start a bike, this covers the colors and some misc items. Sealer, clear and reducer I keep in large quantities, so I dont need that money up front, however I have ran out and asked for that money to be included in the customers initial deposit.
Check the ENTIRE motorcycle before paying when you pick up the bike. DO NOT let the painter talk you into taking the bike now and letting him fix 'small problems' later on or 'after the riding season'. Do not pay unless you are ready to ride the bike home and keep it there. Make sure you sit on the bike and check whereever you can see at a bare minimum. If a spot of one of the insides of your lowers is visible when you're riding, and it wasnt' painted, you'll be kicking yourself for however long you have the bike that color.
Dont send your bike across country to be painted, you're asking for trouble. The painter is going to ask for money before sending the parts back. After sending them, you will be stuck with whatever was done. Trying to sue someone out of state is a nightmare.
If you have any questions, or have gotten a quote and would like someone to check it, shoot me a PM.