Best Exterior Paints From Consumer Reports' Tests

We tested paints from Behr, Benjamin Moore, Sherwin-Williams, and others. These finishes last longest and resist grime the best.

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Exterior paints have improved significantly over the past several years. In the past, very few formulas would be aesthetically intact after nine years, mainly because they begin to crack. Today, most paints resist cracking and fading so well that they could last longer than a decade.

Still, there are considerable differences among the 16 products in Consumer Reports’ exterior paint ratings.

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To determine which paints are likely to last the longest on your house, CR’s test engineers paint pine panels and place them on the roof of our Yonkers, N.Y., headquarters, where they sit for three years. Panel boards are positioned to face south and are tilted to intensify the effects of sun and weather. One year of CR’s severe testing is equivalent to about three years in real time. The results give a sense of how paints will look after nine years on a house.

Though CR only tests exterior paints for an equivalent of nine years, at the end of that test period, many products, like the ones in our roundup, still earn a Very Good rating for appearance. This suggests that they could last an additional three or more years.

“Consumer Reports recommended paints are the only paints we test that will resist cracking, fading, dirt, and mildew after nine years,” says Enrique de Paz, the chemist who oversees CR’s paint tests. Cracking resistance, de Paz adds, is the critical attribute for exterior paints and stains because cracks expose a home’s underlying siding or decking to water. Freeze and thaw cycles could potentially cause serious damage.

These formulas are the best from our tests, but this doesn’t mean they’re the only exterior paints in our ratings worth a look. Consider your location: Zones that are sunny, hot, and dry require a paint that resists cracking and fading. Warm, humid areas call for mildew resistance. Desert homes and urban dwellings need paint that resists dirt.

Upgrading your home’s exterior? We also test replacement windows, roofing, siding, and wood stains.

The paints we test cover a wide spectrum in terms of price: $20 to $72 per gallon. And performance doesn’t necessarily correspond with cost. CR members can read on for our top picks for exterior paint, all of which earn CR’s recommendation.

5 Top Exterior Paints


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Tanya A. Christian

I've spent more than a decade covering lifestyle, news, and policy. At Consumer Reports, I'm happy to sit at the intersection of these specialties, writing about appliances, product safety and advocacy, consumer fairness, and the best tools and products to help you spruce up your home. When I'm not putting pen to paper, I'm exploring new cultures through travel and taking on home makeover projects, one room at a time.