How Much Can a Car Body Designer Get Paid in a Year?

Car designers can earn high wages depending on the type of car.
Car designers can earn high wages depending on the type of car. (Image: Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

The automotive industry is one of the largest employers in the United States. As trends change, car makers use the artistic talents of car body designers along with consumer research, marketing and mechanics to develop practical, safe and visually appealing cars. Some body designers also specialize in custom body painting while others get paid as restoration experts. Jobs for car body designers can be fairly competitive, and several factors can influence the amount they are paid.

General Salary Range

According to a U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) 2009 report, commercial and industrial designers, including those who design cars, make an annual mean wage of $61,400 a year. Designers in the bottom 10th percentile make less than $31,810 annually, while the highest-paid designers make more than $95,910 a year, representing the top 10th percentile. Most fall into the middle 50th percentile, earning between $42,040 and $77,300 a year. Car body designers working for motor vehicle manufacturing companies average $86,050 a year while those in car and parts merchant wholesalers earn $73,730 on average.

Designers: Location

Designers in different areas may have wages influenced by factors like cost of living and need for their services. The highest concentration of car designers is in Michigan, where the average yearly salary is $71,660 a year, as of 2009. The lowest-paying state is Wisconsin, averaging $56,490 a year. There are only three states that were reported in the 2009 BLS survey as paying higher wages than Michigan. Kansas, Massachusetts and Louisiana all provide average salaries ranging from $72,100 to $73,100 a year. However, the highest-paying metropolitan area in the country is the San Jose, Sunnyvale, Santa Clara region of California, boasting an average pay of $81,220 a year.

Auto Body Paint Designers

People that specialize in car body paint design work more in a luxury service and have lower wages. According to the 2009 BLS report, auto body painters make $41,220 a year on average. The lowest earners in the bottom 10th percentile make less than $24,010 a year, but those in the top 10th percentile make more than $63,250 a year. Painters working directly for motor vehicle manufacturing companies earn well above average at $50,130 a year, but body paint experts working for vehicles in the spectator sports industry average $59,270 annually.

Body Paint: Location

The lowest wages for auto body paint designers are paid in New Mexico at an average salary of $33,860 a year, according to 2009 BLS data. California has the largest number of auto painters and a statewide average salary of $45,830 a year. However, the highest-paying state in the United States is Colorado, where body painters make $52,800 a year on average. Boulder, Colorado, is the highest-paying city in the nation, providing $61,890 a year on average.

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