As customizers, most of us are used to spending a boatload of cash when it comes time to paint a truck. Why do you think you see so many primered rides with some sort of graphics? These guys may have hit the big gap in the budget and now are just waiting to save up enough cash to have the truck sprayed. Well, what if there was a way to paint a truck for less than 1,500 bucks? Would you consider it? Before you answer, what if we told you it can be done at a national chain? We took a truck to Maaco paint and body (an Orange County location for us), and after a few days we had a paintjob that looked like it cost us a whole lot more. When it comes to paint, we're a pretty picky group of gearheads, and everyone on staff was impressed with the paintjob, especially at that price.

For some time now there has been a stigma surrounding national chain paint shops. Word on the street is these places don't do good work, so we decided to find out for ourselves. We drove our '89 standard cab longbed S-10 to Maaco in the city of Orange to get an estimate and find out firsthand what the deal was. During the estimate, manager Edger Perez pointed out we could buy replacement sheetmetal for less than what it would take to get our stock parts straight. He said we could disassemble the truck and save some money there also. We were surprised to find out that there are a few things we could do before taking it to the shop to save a few dollars. Now if your ride is nice and straight, then sheetmetal is a moot point but you can still save some money by removing stuff. In our case, we were better off replacing the hood, doors, and tailgate.

Once he was finished walking around the truck and assessing how much bodywork was needed, we sat down and discussed color choice and type of paint. We told him we wanted to change the color from the generic blue to a nice bright yellow. He said a color change will add to the cost, because of the doorjambs, back of the cab, and underhood area, but not too much.

Now it was time for us to pick the level of paint and prep work. Maaco offers four different tiers of paintwork (see Maaco's website for each one), starting at $249.95. We decided the Presidential at $549.95 was the one for our truck. It is a single-stage enamel that comes with a two-year warranty. We also chose the prep work. Again, there are options of $129 for the basic Value Prep and $229 for the Prep Plus. We went with the Prep Plus because we know good prep is one of the key elements in a good paintjob.

Once we had a good idea of how much it was going to cost, it was time to find out how long it would take. Expecting to hear something like three weeks, we were quite shocked to find out it would be done in three days.

Now that we were armed with information, we decided to find out just how good the deal was. We went to the local paint shop to price the materials being used if we were to buy them ourselves. The guy behind the counter told us we were looking at about 800 bucks just for the paint, primer, and catalyst. The Maaco deal was sounding sweeter and sweeter by the moment. On top of all that, we would still need to buy tape, masking paper, sandpaper, and the blocks, which would set us back even more. Maaco buys in such volume that it gets great deals from the paint suppliers, and the company passes those savings on to the consumer.

Since the deal was so good, we went back to Maaco and signed the estimate, locking the deal. Before taking the truck in for the work, it was completely torn down to its bare bones and the new sheetmetal was installed. Check out the following photos to see exactly what went down and how Maaco colorchanged our truck even on our very tight budget.