What Does it Cost to Restore a Car?

What Does it Cost to Restore a Car?

This is the most common thing that is asked for people new to restoring cars. And the question keeps on coming up because there are a lot of various factors to the costs, it highly depends on:

  • Location - Prices between continents, e.g. Europe and USA differ. Even between countries/states will be different and this all is because of local taxes, customs and shipping costs. The prices in this article are based in Europe.
  • Costs of products - Cost of paints, primers and other material at the given year, there have been times where governments banned certain products resulting in sprayers using more costly products increasing their prices. There are also the costs of parts, a hood for a Ford Mustang in USA is cheaper than a hood for an Alfa Giulia, but it's vice versa if you are located in Italy.
  • The car itself - Rare cars will tend to cost more to restore because parts are harder to come by and people selling them are aware of this and will demand top money for their parts.
As an example, we will base our cost analysis in Europe and take the ever so popular Datsun 240Z/260z/280z, also known as the Nissan S30Z.


1. The Base Car

Finally, all those months of scavenging through online classifieds and you finally found a car that is in your budget and that does not seem to need a lot of work. Everyone in the trade will tell you its best to spend more and start with something clean and straight. Going cheap now will still mean you have to pay more at the later stages.

The car in the photo is currently for sale on Ebay - https://ebay.to/2U3GraL. Does not seem to have much rust, but needs quite a bit of metal work. And when considering the price of the car, currency conversion, transportation and documents you end up at about ....

Approx. Cost: €10000


2. Full strip down

If we are going to do a proper restoration, the best is to fully strip down the car to its bare shell, even the paint. If we are going to do this right we do not want to base any work on previous "hack jobs". This entails taking it to a specialist with the proper tools and chemicals to do a clean up, blasting, epoxy coating ...etc.

Aprrox. Cost: €2500


3. Panel Beater

Now that we expose all the defects in the body, the car can be sent to a panel beater to get all the rust cut out and weld in new panels, remove that non factory sunroof, fill in the extra holes in the bodywork left over from an aftermarket spoiler from the 80s, align bent bumpers...etc

Approx. Cost: €2500


4. Engine Overhaul

With the body being treated and the engine out its a good time to tackle the mechanical bits. Who knows when is the next time your engine would be out of the car, so now is the best time to replace :

  • all fluids
  • oil filter
  • spark plugs
  • any brittle rubber hoses
  • any brittle wiring
  • gaskets
  • Clean injectors
  • thermostat
  • seals
  • radiator flush, if not a new radiator
  • ....etc
Approx. Cost: €3000 (If doing a transmission overhaul add another €500)


5. Interior

Interior parts are fragile and could have been damaged to excessive heat, age, and even by mistake while dismantling the car. Re-upholstering just the one door card or seat does not make sense because new material will never match the old. So to do a proper job you would have to do redo everything.

Approx. Cost: €1500


6. Suspension, Brakes and Tires

If the car has been standing still the chances that your brakes and suspension are shot are high. And the best option here is to replace and not fix, meaning new rubbers, seals cylinder units. Not to mention the tires on your car might be from 20 years ago, and would be no longer safe to use although they have plenty of tread left.

Approx. Cost: €2000


7. Paint

Finally, you got the body, mechanical and electrical work sorted and interior. All is left is a fresh lick of paint and the car is ready to be enjoyed. But it's not only paint, there is also a lot of preparation work to be done to finish the untreated bodywork to accept the new color. Usually, sprayers for such a job tend to consider that the car needs to be sprayed twice to bring the required flawless finish to up to show quality. This adds a lot in material and labor cost.

Approx. Cost: €7000


8. Miscellaneous Parts and materials

This is a rough guide but still being easy on the prices. Restoration can take years. There is always something that needs to be catered for that isn't covered above. Noticed that your current 14" wheels are small and don't have a lot of tire options, so need a new set of wheels in a larger diameter? Need replacement panels, because defects could be seen after the exposed body after blasting. Taillights, Grills and dashboard ... these 3 unique items can be expensive if you notice you have a crack and need to be replaced. A sensor got damaged or lost during storage? Fuel tank or lines clogged up after so many years in the barn? Need a specific size bolt? And need 6 of them ..... Fancy in treating your car to the rare options to the Japanese market only, such as original badges, fender mirrors or headlight covers? You guessed it more €€€.

Approx cost: €2500


9. Labour

Unless you are doing the job on your own, you would have the final bill of the company for the man-hours spent on the transport, disassembly, assembly of your vehicle and even storage cost throughout the various stages of the build.  We can estimate at around €30 per hour for this service that should take a reputable company of at least 2 full months (500 hours) if they dedicate all their time on it.  And this is for a specialist who has previously done work on the same car and has experience with all the small details and procedures.

Even if you have done the work yourself, you must calculate the time spent away from friends, work, or away from spending it with loved ones.

Approx. Cost: €15000

- - - GRAND TOTAL: €46000 - - -

This is assuming you keep the car yourself. If you initially bought the car to make a profit you would need to consider 4 to 5 months wait with the money spent on the project tied up in the car until its sold.

Below is a summary and blank table for you to print or copy into an Excel sheet to calculate your own expenses:

Description Vendor Days Costs
1. Base Car
2. Full Strip Down
3. Panel Beater
4. Engine
5. Interior
6. Suspension, Brakes, Fuel
7.  Paint
8. Miscellaneous
9. Labour
Hope this helps for anyone wanting to restore a car, and if it did please share the article within your group.


Tags: classics, Datsun, 260z, 280z, 240z, restoration, s30z

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