How Much Does Car Rust Repair Cost?

Last Updated on June 27, 2023
Written by CPA Alec Pow | Content Reviewed by Certified CFA CFA Alexander Popinker

The specific type of corrosion that happens when oxygen combines with metal is called rust. Although rust will just cause the metal to turn reddish brown color at first, it will eventually eat away parts of your car if you keep ignoring it.

This deterioration process can happen regardless of where you are located, although depending on the area, it can take more or less.

How much does car rust repair cost?

The cost to fix rust on your car is anywhere between as little as $50 and more than $2,500, depending on several very important factors like the amount of rust you need to fix, the car you own, and the professional you hire for the job.

When dealing with smaller spots that are three inches or less in diameter, you shouldn’t spend more than $50 to $150 to have them fixed. Major repairs, on the other hand, that cover spots larger than 12 inches in diameter, will surely cost more than $250 to have fixed, sometimes reaching prices of $2,500 or more.

Average Cost to Fix Rust Depending on The Size of Deterioration

Size of Job Average Price
Minor rust damage is considered when there are only small rust spots of one to three inches in diameter. $80 to $200 per 1-3 inch spot
Spots of a maximum of 12 inches in diameter will usually go several layers deep and will require intermediate repairs. Anywhere between $200 and $500, depending on the size of the spots and their number. This number should be an estimated indicator per area that needs repairs.
When it comes to major rust repairs that are larger than 12 inches in diameter, these will likely go very deep and even piece through the meta. This will leave hollow spots and extensive damage, which usually requires more than just removal. You will likely need to either replace the part sections or weld stuff. $500 to more than $2,500, usually depending on the size of the job and the amount of labor that will be put into it.

Other articles you might enjoy are about the cost of car painting, paintless dent removal, and keyed car repair.

A thread we found on talked about someone’s car being taken to the local shop where sanding down the entire hood and repainting it was charged $300.

If a panel like the hood or one of the doors of the car has excessive amounts of rust, then painting will be involved. This will bring the budget closer to $750 per panel.

Repairing rust on a car

Surface rust, as its name implies, begins at the surface, in places where the paint and coat have been broken. This is one of the simple rust repairs you will face. If you ignore a small rust sport of this kind, it will get bigger with time, spreading continuously and turning into penetrating rust until you will take the necessary steps to stop it.

As this type of repair is pretty straightforward, you will likely need only a metal conditioner and a sander.

The sanding and grinding process can be replaced with sandblasting if the shop you work with prefers this method. Usually, the shop will use a two-part epoxy primer as soon as the rust spot has been removed and conditioned. Still, for bigger spots, that go deeper than average, the void will be filled with plastic filler.

To determine the right course of action for rust jobs that have some age to them, the parts will have to be inspected in full. The shop will surely have you replace the whole panel and then repaint it if the safety of the vehicle is affected by the severity of the rust. The rust will only be grinded and then filled with filler if the part can be salvaged and doing so won’t be more expensive than actually replacing the part.

Fix Rust on a Car Yourself

As long as you know what you are doing, you can actually save money by fixing the rust yourself, as long as you catch the issue in time before it goes beyond your knowledge and ability to handle and the rust repairs become too complex. And you will only need a limited amount of supplies to have everything done in your backyard:

  • Sandpaper – 40, 60, 300, 6000, and 1000 grit works best, as well as a sanding block
  • Clear coat
  • Paint for touch-ups
  • Polishing compound
  • Poly sheeting
  • Tack rag and microfiber cloth
  • Grease and wax remover
  • Masking tape
  • Primer and filler

You will also make sure that you match the car’s paint job as accurately as possible when you fix the rust spot on your car.

If you want the car to still look good, you can’t just go buy red or black paint. The good news is that when it comes to automobile paints, there is a paint code you can guide yourself by. This means that you will have to make sure you get the right paint code that matches the touch up paint so you make the car look as new.

  1. The first step is to mask off the area that you want to fix. This is done with the help of poly sheeting that is used to cover areas all around the affected spot. In this way, you don’t get everything covered in paint.
  2. You start by scraping off any flaky rust you can see. Then, with the help of the 40-grit sandpaper, you will sand the rust down until you reach the bare metal. Don’t just sand the exact rust-covered area. You’ll want to sand a bigger area instead, and then, with the help of a finer grit, you will feather the edges.
  3. The area will then be cleaned with the tack rog.
  4. If you find pits that are caused by rust, use body filler to fill them.
  5. Use soap that cuts through grease to clean the full area. You shouldn’t need more than household dish soap. After the cleaning, you will have to dry it thoroughly and then wipe it clean with a lint-free cloth. Before you apply the prep solvent that is added to prepare for painting, you have to make sure that the surface is perfectly clean.
  6. Spray down filler primer and self-etching epoxy primer, but make sure you do this according to the directions of the can. Professionals say that using two to three layers would be enough. You should also allow about 15 minutes to dry before adding an additional coat, with a whole hour after the epoxy primer has been added, to give it enough time to dry.
  7. After you sand the epoxy primer using 1,000 grit sandpaper, make sure you wash and then water and dry it.
  8. Give it at least two, if not three coats of paint with lacquer filler primer, but allow drying time between coats.
  9. To get rid of the remaining dried and uneven drips, you can use a primer with 300 to 320-grit sandpaper. The whole area will then have to be sanded with 600-grit to get the edges feathered and smooth the primer. The final smoothing should be made with wet 1,000-grit.
  10. You will then move on to spraying the base coat of color. This is done slowly, with left to right motions, and as much as possible, in even layers. Don’t forget to allow drying after each coat. A total of 3 coats should be enough but let everything dry to the touch, which means pauses of at least an hour.
  11. The base coat of color should only be sanded down if you notice uneven dips. If this is the case, they should be sanded down with the 1,000-grit until you consider them smooth enough, and then respray for a final touch-up of the areas.
  12. When you are satisfied with the results you get with the color coat and how it matches the rest of the paint job on your car, then go on to spraying a clear coat. Again, when doing this you will have to take into account waiting for the coat to dry between coats. This is one of the hardest parts, as it is very hard not to overspray, which will cause the clear coat to run, especially since you have to add a very thin layer. It will be rather time-consuming to smooth out the clear coat when it’s completely dried. It will take around 48 hours for it to dry fully, and then you will have to sand it with 1,000 grit and give it another try.

If you’re set on trying this job as a DIY project but you’re still unsure of some of the steps, there are quite a few videos on YouTube that you can use to guide yourself, with step-by-step instructions. This will be very helpful to remove the guesswork and give you more confidence, especially if you’re new to all of these.

As you can gather from the above lines, the process will require several materials that you might not have. All of these materials may cost $100 or more, but the good news is that aside from the cost of the materials, all that you will spend is your time. If the clear coat or any other steps go wrong, it’s not uncommon for the process to prolong over three days.

So, don’t take dealing with rust as an easy, weekend fun process, because if you want it repaired perfectly, the job will be a lot more in-depth than you might think. Of course, the best way to save your money and time on rust repairs is to do whatever you can to prevent rust as much as possible.

Important things to consider

When looking for structural stability and integrity, the most effective long-term repair would be to replace the entire panel. This repair will help keep the car value high and extend its life, although you should know that it isn’t cheap.

As many rust repairs aren’t going to last a lifetime, replacing the whole panel is a great way of making sure that rust won’t just reoccur, especially if you will just treat the car as you did before.

Prevent rust and other ways to save money

Consider going for a DIY project at home for a smaller rust area, as these are pretty easy to do. There is also rust dissolver gel, that can be simply brushed onto the rust spot. It can then be washed out with a rag. These usually come in small eight-ounce containers that shouldn’t cost more than $30.

For rust sports that are smaller than a quarter, try doing the process of fixing the rust at home as a way of saving some money. You can also try to use an angle grinder and a sanding disk to remove rust and then go with a body filler like Bondo.

As with everything else, it’s always better to prevent issues from happening than having to fix them, so park your car indoors as much as you can and prevent it from having to face weather changes outdoors. Also, if you have the means, try adding a coat of wax before each winter to prevent your car from developing rust.

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