How To Know a Car Has Original Paint

If you are buying a used car, one the primary things you need to know is if the car in question has the original (factory) paint.  The steps to answer that are pretty straightforward and go from the obvious clues to the ones that may be difficult to spot.

The ease of determining if the car has the original paint will depend greatly on the age of the car, the condition of the paint, and the overall condition of the car.  If it is an older car, does the paint seem to match the overall condition of the car?  If it is a newer car, is it clean and shiny?  In this step of looking for original paint you will have to rely a lot on your own instincts and common sense.  If it is not obvious at this point, move on to the more subtle clues.

One way to know if a car has the original paint is to look inside the driver’s side doorjamb area for a sticker that has “paint code” information. This code will correspond to a very specific color assigned by the manufacturer for that particular year and model of their car.  If the car has the original paint then the color specified by this code should match what you see before you.  Any mismatch here is a sure sign that the car was repainted.  So what if the color code seems to match what is on the car?  Let’s move on to even more subtle clues.

If the car has the original paint then there will not be any signs of “overspray” which is paint that missed the intended surface, and ended up on areas that would not normally have paint on them.  You will find this overspray in areas such as: on the undercoating of the car along the bottom edge of the doors or inside the fender wells, on any of the trim work like chrome, lights, mirrors, etc., and in the font or rear of the car on any air dams, tail pipes, etc.  If there are no signs of overspray, then it’s time to dig deeper for more clues on whether or not the car has the original paint job.

One of the last, and most subtle, things to look for are different colors in places that are hard to reach and not likely to be covered, even if the entire car was repainted.  Look in the engine compartment and compare the color, and quality, of the paint on the outside fender to that under the hood and on the inside of the fenders.  Look at the doorjambs and around the inside of the trunk for the same thing.  Everything should match if the car has the original paint.


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