How Long Should My Car's Paint Last?


Hi John,

I purchased a new toyota corolla hatch back (ascent) in 2000. The first silver lining has peeled back on the roof and starting down the rest of the car. My understanding is that should not happen unless the car was previosly repaired.

Please advise.




Hi Marie,

Nothing lasts for ever. If your 13- or 14-year-old car were a person it would be about 90 years old.

Some 90-year-olds are still in great condition, and some are getting along fine with a few health issues, and some are doing very poorly indeed. Your Corolla sounds like it's in the middle category.

Paint life is dependent upon a range of environmental factors including UV exposure, atmospheric chemicals, garaging conditions, where the car generally got parked when it was out, etc.

It's not reasonable to expect the paint to last indefinitely - that just doesn't happen. Its certainly not a manufacturing defect if the paint starts to wear out at age 13 or 14; that almost certainly comes under the category of fair wear and tear.

Facing facts, a Corolla that age cost (ballpark) about $25,000 brand new. It's probably worth less than $5000 today as a private sale and less than $3000 as a trade-in. This implies that 80 per cent of its value is gone, and 80 per cent of its useful life is over. It's probably not worth spending any significant money on - you might get it detailed to improve the cosmetic appearance, but at this stage I'd just drive it until it dies and then look at alternative replacement options. (Unless you have the funds to replace it - in that case I'd look at two- or three-year-old cars because they're in the sweet spot, having already depreciated somewhat, still under warranty and packed with many more lifesaving safety features than any 13-year-old car.)

It won't cost you anything to talk it over with a penel beater - perhaps they can suggest a treatment to prevent the problem getting any worse.