Maaco Doesn’t Want You Painting Your Own Car. We Did It Anyway

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This week, Maaco — the cheapo respray company — began running ads featuring a husband rolling paint on the hood of his wife’s car, to suggest that for $499, they could do it better. We begged to differ, and we proved it. You can achieve decent results on a car with $50 worth of Rustoleum and a paint roller.

The idea came to us when I bought a 1979 Chevrolet Blazer from the original owner. It only had 60,000 miles, but it had suffered 35 years of New England winters as a plow truck and was pretty rough around the edges.

The photos don’t show it, but the Blazer was in tough shape in 2013. The rockers were rusted, the inner fenders had holes you could put a fist through, and the rear quarters were getting rusty.

After doing all the bodywork myself — new inner and outer fenders, new rocker panels, new rear quarters and one new door — I decided to take it to the local Maaco franchise to take advantage of the same $499 offer it’s running in its ads today.

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Because of the size of the truck — the franchise manager told me — I wasn’t eligible for the $499 offer. I was going to have to pay closer to $1,000. I didn’t measure the entire surface area of the truck, but considering he wasn’t going to have to paint the Blazer’s fiberglass top over the rear passenger and cargo area, it had to be pretty close to that of the Kia Rio he pointed out was the size car that qualified for the offer.

I left and decided that the best route was to do something I’d been thinking about since I read about it in Hot Rod magazine ten years ago: I’d paint the truck myself using gloss black Rustoleum and a paint roller.

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It sounds crazy, I know. But if you consider the old adage that the quality of a paint job is directly influenced by the amount of prep work before the paint goes on, I figured I could achieve as good a result as I could expect from Maaco.

Hot Rod did a pretty decent job laying out the basics of how to get it done, but the best resource I found online was Rickwrench’s “$50 Paint Job” website, which details the entire process he used to paint his Corvair. I followed it pretty closely, only diverging when I found better information in a couple of YouTube videos.

The results? Check the photos for yourself. It’s not concours-level paintwork by any stretch, but it’s as good as I could expect from a quickie respray outfit, and it’s on par with the lousy paint that Chevrolet squirted on it in 1979. Two years later, it still takes a shine and it’s held up remarkably well to the weather.

What’s interesting is that I documented the entire process at and I referenced my experience at Maaco. If you leave out the enthusiast publications, which haven’t written about this process since 2010, Car Talk definitely had the most eyeballs of any consumer publication focused on painting a car with a roller.

Did somebody from Maaco see the story and respond with an ad? As they used to say on Monday Night Baseball, “You make the call.” Here’s the Maaco spot running on the CW Network:

Craig Fitzgerald

Craig Fitzgerald

Writer, editor, lousy guitar player, dad. Content Marketing and Publication Manager at