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Automotive Refinisher

Kaipeita Waka

Alternative titles for this job

Automotive refinishers prepare vehicle surfaces, match and mix colours, and apply paint to vehicles.


Automotive refinishers with one to five years' experience usually earn

$19-$25 per hour

Automotive refinishers with over five years' experience usually earn

$25-$32 per hour

Source: Collision Repair Association, 2017.

Job opportunities

Chances of getting a job as an automotive refinisher are good due to increasing demand for their services.


Pay for automotive refinishers varies depending on qualifications and experience.

  • Apprentice automotive refinishers may start out on the training minimum wage, the minimum wage, or a little more.
  • After one to five years they usually earn between $20 and $25 an hour.
  • Automotive refinishers with over five years' experience can earn between $25 and $32 an hour.
  • Self-employed automotive refinishers and those in roles that involve more responsibility or skill can earn more than this.

Source: Collision Repair Association, 2017.

(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our pay information)

What you will do

Automotive refinishers may do some or all of the following:

  • discuss vehicle-painting options with customers or managers
  • sand vehicles to prepare for painting
  • select and mix paints
  • apply paint
  • buff and polish finished paintwork.

Skills and knowledge

Automotive refinishers need to have:

  • knowledge of how to prepare a vehicle for painting
  • knowledge of vehicle-painting techniques
  • knowledge of different paint types and colours and how to apply them correctly
  • colour-matching and spray-painting skills.

Automotive refinishers who run their own businesses need small business skills.

Working conditions

Automotive refinishers:

  • usually work regular business hours
  • work in collision repair (paint and panel) workshops and in vehicle paint shops
  • work in conditions that may be noisy and fumy, so they need to use protective equipment.

What's the job really like?

Emma Keightly

Emma Keightly

Automotive Refinisher

How did you get into automotive refinishing?

"It wasn't planned at all. I had a one-day placement at a paint shop down the road as part of the course, and I ended up working part time while I was at school. Then it just progressed into full-time work."

What does the job involve?

"Because I am still learning, my main job at the moment is priming the cars after the panelbeaters have worked with them. I clean off rust and dirt to get the cars ready for painting. It can be a bit repetitive, but once I have more experience I will do more painting on the cars. It’s a gradual process because there's so much to learn.

What do you like most about being an automotive refinisher?

"It's cool to see the transformation of a car from being completely covered in rust to the finished job."

What's the hardest part?

"Colour matching is one of the hardest things to learn. People can explain it to you as much as they want, but it takes a lot of time to fully understand it."

Any future plans?

"I'd like to do something more creative, like airbrushing, or maybe one day own my own paint shop."

Automotive refinisher video

Holly talks about life as a paint specialist – 0.48 mins. (Video courtesy of MTA)

I had a passion for cars all my life, so it just seemed fitting for me to go down the car-painting direction.

Colour-matching is very much a skill. It's something you can't be taught – it's acquired over the years. You've got to have a really keen eye to see the different colours going on. A lot of people say "I've just got a white car" [but] there's so much more to it.

I love that everything changes day to day. There's always something to learn. I love the constant evolution.

I want to manage a branch. I want to be helping the industry flourish.

You can't go wrong in this industry.

Entry requirements

There are no specific requirements to become an automotive refinisher. However, a New Zealand Certificate in Automotive Refinishing may be useful. 

To become a qualified automotive refinisher you need to complete an apprenticeship and gain one or both of:

  • New Zealand Certificate in Collision Repair and Automotive Refinishing (Level 3) 
  • New Zealand Certificate in Automotive Refinishing (Level 4).

MITO oversees automotive refinisher apprenticeships.

Secondary education

No specific secondary education is required for this job, but many employers prefer apprentices to have at least three years of secondary education. Useful subjects include maths, construction and mechanical technologies, and English.

For Year 11 to 13 learners,  trades academies, and the StartUp, STAR and Gateway programmes are good ways to gain relevant experience and skills.

These programmes may help you gain an apprenticeship, but do not reduce the amount of time it takes to complete it.

Personal requirements

Automotive refinishers need to be:

  • punctual, motivated, responsible and honest 
  • careful, patient and accurate, with an eye for detail
  • able to follow instructions and ask questions
  • able to work independently and as part of a team
  • able to concentrate for long periods
  • good at problem solving and basic maths.

Useful experience

Useful experience includes:

  • experience with, and passion for, vehicles
  • working in an automotive workshop or in panelbeating
  • work as a signwriter or industrial spray painter.

Physical requirements

Automotive refinishers need to have good hand-eye co-ordination and normal colour vision, as they have to match colours as exactly as possible.

They should not have breathing problems or dermatitis.

Find out more about training

0800 882121 - www.mito.org.nz
Check out related courses

What are the chances of getting a job?

Growing need for automotive refinishers

Demand for automotive refinishers is expected to grow due to:

  • an increase in car ownership rates and a corresponding increase in crashes, which then require the services of automotive refinishers
  • not enough people completing apprenticeships in automotive refinishing.

There are not enough automotive refinishers to meet demand, and employers find it difficult to get staff. As a result, vehicle painter (automotive refinisher) appears on Immigration New Zealand's regional skill shortage list. This means the Government is actively encouraging skilled automotive refinishers from overseas to work in New Zealand.

According to the Census, 1,842 automotive refinishers worked in New Zealand in 2018.

Types of employers varied

Just over 10% of automotive refinishers are self-employed. Most others work for:

  • specialised collision repair businesses and car painters
  • general automotive workshops that deal with cars, boats and trucks
  • motor vehicle dealerships.


  • 1 News Now, 'The Industry's Still Tarnished with that Dirty Brush – Panelbeaters Cry Out for Apprentices', January 2017, (www.tvnz.co.nz).
  • Immigration New Zealand, 'Regional Skill Shortage List', 27 May 2019, (www.immigration.govt.nz).
  • Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, '2006-2014 Occupation Data' (prepared for Careers Directorate – Tertiary Education Commission), 2016.
  • Pritchard, N, general manager, Collision Repair Association, Careers Directorate – Tertiary Education Commission interview, October 2017.
  • Stats NZ, '2018 Census Data', 2019.

(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our job opportunities information)

Progression and specialisations

Automotive refinishers may progress to become sales or technical representatives, become self-employed, or set up their own automotive refinishing business.

A man kneels down to prepare a car body for painting

Automotive refinishers prepare cars before they paint them

Last updated 18 September 2020