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Dolla Dolla Bills: How Much Should You Pay for a Can of Paint?

Last year you loved teal, and it seemed like the obvious choice for your bedroom wall. But after 365 days of waking up to bright blue you’re over it, so you’ve decided to do some painting. Good idea. A new coat of paint is a great way to brighten up a room, embrace a bold color choice, change up your look or even help your exterior siding last longer.

But how much should you pay for each gallon-bucket you buy for the project?

One trip to your local hardware store and you’ll see that the price tag on seemingly identical cans of paint can vary dramatically. What’s up with that?

A few things. One major price factor is the surface for which the paint is designed. For example, exterior paint ranges from $30 to $100, while paint meant for concrete floors can cost as much as $300. To keep things simple, let’s stick to your typical interior paint that you’d use for a bedroom or kitchen wall.

The basic range of interior paint is about $5 to $60. Here are the benefits and drawbacks of different prices within this range. Note: The price of paint may vary depending on where you live and/or the store you're shopping at. This isn't an exact pricing guide, just a general overview.

Bargain Bin Paint: $5-$15

  • Pros: It's dirt cheap. You’re probably standing in a Walmart or the discount aisle of Home Depot if you find a gallon of paint at this price.
  • Cons: Bargain paint means bargain materials. It will be diluted with solvents and contain larger pigment particles, which means you’ll need to apply more coats to get a good look and your walls will fade and crack faster than they would if you used expensive paint.

Middle-Upper Class Paint: $20-$30

  • Pros: This is your mid-level paint. It won’t break the bank, but it will offer a nice looking finish without the hassle of applying five or more coats.
  • Cons: While it’s better than bargain paint, this tier will still fade faster than the premium stuff.

Penthouse Paint: $40-60

  • Pros: This is professional grade paint, which means it has higher grade resin (it’ll last longer) and finer pigments (higher color quality) than the cheaper options.
  • Cons: You might have to decide between that nice restaurant you were planning on trying and buying this can of paint.

The Verdict

We don’t recommend buying paint at the bargain tier prices – the money you save upfront won’t outweigh the extra effort or the amount of paint required to get a decent look. If you like to change it up and plan on going through a few color phases over the next five years, the middle tier paint is a great option because you’ll likely paint over it before it begins to fade. However, if you don’t want to paint your room ever again, it’s worth springing for the most expensive paint – the nicer stuff will last through the ages!

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