Hi all, I'm new here so thanks for having me and potentially answering a question that has been answered before (I did try to search for the answer first).

It seems that there's a combination of folks who do their own bodywork and folks who use the services of a pro. Personally I have NO experience of painting cars or even doing the initial prep stages. I'm fairly confident that I could do a reasonable job of the final sanding of primer, wipe-down and the same between top coats, but I would NOT trust myself to do a good job of the initial prep in terms of blending and reducing release lines, smoothing, filling pinholes, etc. And I certainly wouldn't want to tackle the priming/painting itself unless I was doing it with direct supervision/training of a pro.

So I have a few questions:

1. What is the best way to find the right autobody painter? Assuming that we're looking for a balance of cost vs time vs quality, what is the right way to go about finding the right person for the job? What should we be looking for or looking to avoid?
2. Assuming that we're looking for a great finished product (as perfect as could be hoped), what is a ballpark figure that should be budgeted for for the paint job? I'm sure there are cheap guys and over-priced guys but it would be good to know if there is a ballpark figure that would be reasonable for a really-well done job. I think I'll likely be looking for a metallic base with stripes and, unless there's a reason not to, several coats of clear to give good leeway for the occasional machine polish without being nervous about going through the clearcoat.
3. Are there any folks on here who take on prep/paint for us builders who are the go-to guys?

I'm asking because, by the time I get to the paint stage, I'll have saved up for so long and put so much blood, sweat and tears into the project, I just KNOW that the paint will need to be done right. And I'd prefer to work a few more paycheques and wait a little longer, to ensure I'm 100% happy with the outcome, rather than try to save the wrong dollar in the wrong place.

Thanks all!