How Much is Scratch Repair? Understanding Automobile Scratches and Scuffs

Whether you drive a car, SUV or truck, discovering scratches and scuffs is unsettling for many vehicle owners. While a scratch is considered minor auto body damage, it is unattractive and is usually noticed at trade-in or lease return.

What is a Car Scratch?

Scratches and scuffs mark the surface of a vehicle. Sometimes driving on roads with small rocks or gravel is the source of the damage. Other times a driver may brush up against a post, wall, or even another vehicle. Fortunately, scratches and scuffs are completely repairable at your local Scottsdale collision repair center.

How Much Does it Cost to Fix a Scratch?

This question comes up multiple times a week at Airpark Collision Center in Scottsdale, AZ.

“It’s just a scratch, nothing too serious. It shouldn’t take long to fix. How much do you think it will cost to repair?”

In our opinion, it is really difficult to give an estimate to repair a scratch based on a photo or a verbal description. While an estimate is an estimate, our team aims to be as accurate as possible.

Professional Scottsdale auto body shops write scratch repair estimates based on labor hours and materials. Professional collision repair estimators are looking to answer these questions:

  1. What is the depth of the scratch?
  2. What is the location of the scratch? Is the scratch just on one panel?
  3. Is there also a dent?
  4. Does the vehicle have a 2, 3, or 4 stage paint?
  5. What materials will the repair entail and how many technician labor hours are required for a quality and lasting repair?

Identifying a Scratch

While you can’t always tell at first look if the damage is a scratch, you can get a better idea by feeling the mark. Keep in mind, the depth of the scratch will determine the collision repair procedure. If you skim your finger along the scratch easily, it might be simply buffed and polished out. If the scratch is not on the most exterior paint surface, it will catch your fingernail. Deeper scratches might indicate the clear coat has been compromised, and the panel will most likely require repainting. If you see bare metal or primer, you can safely assume both the clear coat and the color have been damaged. This will definitely require repainting.

What is Clear Coat?

Clear coat is a clear layer over the paint color. The clear coat safeguards your vehicle from the sun and other damaging environmental effects. Clear coat acts as a protective barrier to the paint and prevents the color from fading to a certain degree.

How are Scratches or Scuffs Repaired?

Once the type of scratch or scuff is determined, you may have a few options. Usually, these options depend on the value of your car, the size of the damage, the amount you are willing to spend, and most importantly, your expectations.

Touch Up Paint: Touch-up paint is sometimes an option, but it will depend on your expectations. If you have a new car or a high-end vehicle that is a few years old, you may not want to settle for touch-up paint. Touch-up paint often does not match and will actually bring more attention to the scratch or scuff.

Buffing and Polishing: If your vehicle simply has a surface scratch this is an option. Buffing and polishing require less repair time and therefore can be completed at a reduced cost compared to repainting. Buffing out a qualifying scratch often starts around $75.

Brush Touch: If your car qualifies for the brush touch method, a Scottsdale auto body refinish technician will use your vehicle’s paint code to mix paint to match your car. Using a professional brush the technician will apply color and then a layer of clear coat. This method is better than a DIY with touch up paint, but not as good as sanding, priming, repainting and clear coating the auto body panel. Once again it depends on the vehicle owner’s expectations and amount they would like to spend.

Refinish a Door, Bumper, Fender, etc.: Refinishing the panel will result in the best repair. This repair method is the most expensive because it requires the most labor time and materials. This type of collision repair can easily cost $800+.

Should I Make an Insurance Claim?

If painting a door, bumper, fender, etc. is required, you may consider making an insurance claim. Repainting parts may require masking off adjacent panels or possibly removing the damaged part from the vehicle for paintwork. Sometimes blending is a necessary step of the auto body repair. The part will be sanded, primed, and then repainted and baked in a paint booth for a professional, dust-free finish. The paint is mixed just for your vehicle using the manufacturer’s paint code, ensuring an accurate match.

Quality VS Cheap Scratch Repair

Price is often correlated with the level or quality of the Scottsdale auto body shop you choose. For example, if you have a deep scratch on a door, it should be repainted. A reputable collision repair center will follow proper auto body repair procedures and will paint the panel and if necessary blend the paint on to the surrounding panels. Blending, eliminates the newly painted part from standing out against the surrounding panels that may have worn from sun exposure or other elements.

If you are looking for a cheap Scottsdale auto body repair, be sure to choose a body shop that will be willing to spot in the damaged area or take short cuts to keep the cost low. Keep in mind, the repair is inexpensive because the time was not spent to do it right, therefore the repair will probably not be warrantied. It may peel or not meet your standards. Again, this depends on how much you are willing to spend, the value of your car, and your level of expectations.


A scratch or scuff is unfortunate, but remember, you have options. Airpark Collision Center is committed to honest and proper repair methods. Our lifetime workmanship warranty ensures a job done right. Stop in for a free estimate and our professional estimating team will help you determine a quality course for scratch repair on your vehicle. Walk-in estimates are welcome!


Tina Small has been part of the Airpark Collision Center team since 2006. Working directly with customers, her goal is to share frequent customer questions, and proper methods of collision repair.

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