Wrapping your car can be a smart way to show off your individuality while saving on the costs of a full paint job. However, the cost of wrapping a car can differ, particularly when it pertains to the type of wrap. The differences in the type of vehicle wrap, such as vinyl or chrome, can affect the price. Furthermore, the percentage of the vehicle that you want to wrap or cover can also have an effect on the price.
Imagine spending a veritable fortune on an expensive, top-of-the-line sports car and tricking it out until it hits its maximum capacity. You buy a BMW M3, the best model, and then add all of the most coveted additions available. We’re talking 20-inch rims, a huge customized bass speaker built in the back, and perhaps boosters on the engine or even hydraulics. You pull up to the stoplight in this shining gem of an automobile, and, as you gaze out the window, you can’t help but have one thought cross your mind. The car to the right of you is a worse model, an older model, but it has one important advantage. It’s covered in a unique and interesting manner and looks way cooler than yours. Why? Because the owner of that car invested in a wrap to cover the vehicle.
Wraps are a great way to cover your car with something that shows your artistic sense while saving considerably on a paint job. It may also have other advantages worth considering. This article will explore the benefits of wrapping your car, what doing so might cost, and other things you should consider before deciding to wrap, or not wrap, your vehicle.
What is a car wrap?
A car wrap is a large piece of vinyl or similar material either completely covering or partly covering your car. A wrap can be used to cover your car with a unique art concept, or you can stick to a more run-of-the-mill solid color. Wraps can be used to cover only a small portion of your car or its entire structure.
Will a car wrap save me money?
Wrapping a car can also be a smart alternative to getting a new paint job and can save you a considerable amount of money. A car wrap can range from $2,000 on the low end to $10,000 on the high end. A car wrap’s cost really depends on what you want to make of it and what type of car you have.
So why wrap your car instead of getting a simple paint job to make everything fit and fresh? There are some clear benefits to wrapping a car.
How to finance a car wrap
It’s usually best to save up for purchases like a car wrap, but sometimes you may find financing it with a low interest loan is also a good option. Typically, the most practical options are either a credit card (particularly if you can qualify for a 0% APR introductory offer) or a personal loan. The comparison tool below allows you to compare leading lenders and get prequalified offers without hurting your credit.
Key reasons to wrap your car
Here are some of the best reasons to wrap your car.
- More artistic options. Car wrapping can be as simple as wrapping your solid green car in a solid green wrap. However, for those who have an actively artistic brain, wrapping a car could allow you to put shapes and pictures on your car that you might not otherwise realize were possible. As the original car wraps were used to put advertisements on cars, they have since evolved to encompass any type of picture or style you can think of. Your dream of having every song from the Grateful Dead’s Europe 72 can now be realized.
- Easier and cheaper than painting. Having your car painted can be an exorbitantly expensive affair. You might have to re-paint a significant amount of your car just to cover one pedestrian-looking scratch. Car wraps are not only easier timewise, but they are also typically cheaper than trying to completely redo your car’s paint. This holds particularly true if you are looking for a full paint job, rather than just a dab here or there.
- It can be removed easily. If you are someone whose mood requires a suitable car color on any given day, then you will need to be replacing your car color constantly. Though changing your car wrap frequently will cost you, you do have that option. A car’s wrap can be removed just as easily, or more easily, than it can be put on.
- Protection. Wraps can also offer an extra layer of protection against scratches and dents. Particularly if your wrap is of the carbon fiber variety, you can receive significant added protection from wrapping your car.
On the subject of protection
Protecting your car against scratches and dents is a good idea, certainly. But what if you have an accident that causes the kind of damage a car wrap can’t prevent or conceal? What if you have such an accident with an uninsured motorist? Will your insurance pay for all the repairs you need? Can you afford the deductible?
If you aren’t sure you have all the coverage you need or the best insurance deal you can get, perhaps you should look into some alternatives
Types of wrap
The first order of business when looking at wrapping your car is to choose the car wrap. The basic material for car wraps is typically vinyl. As manufacturing methods have advanced, however, the selection of car wrap materials has grown in tandem. Among the materials you can now use to wrap your car are vinyl gloss, vinyl matte, carbon fiber, and chrome. Each offers it own set of features and price range.
This is the traditional wrap material most people have in mind when they say just “vinyl wrap.” Vinyl gloss does a good job of blending into your car and giving it a shiny feel. It does reflect sunlight, however.
It’s $1.50–$3.00 per square foot for vinyl gloss.
This version of vinyl wrap has one major difference from the traditional vinyl. It contains a flat finish that doesn’t reflect sunlight after you are done wrapping your vehicle.
You can expect to pay from $2.00–$3.50 per square foot for vinyl matte.
Carbon-fiber wraps are very good for protecting a vehicle from damage. The carbon fibers offer greater protection than the classic vinyl (gloss or matte). That being said, carbon-fiber wraps are difficult to apply, and it’s best to seek out a professional to apply one properly.
From $3–$7 per square foot is what you’ll likely spend to wrap your car in carbon fiber.
Chrome is the caviar of vinyl wraps and, thus, the most expensive. It’s a trendy way to have your car glistening.
You may be looking at a cost of $8 a square foot to get your car wrapped with chrome.
Wrap cost recap
|Wrap material||Description||Price per sq. foot|
|Vinyl gloss||Does a good job of blending into your car and giving it a shiny feel. Reflects sunlight.||$1.50–$3.00|
|Vinyl matte||Has a flat finish that doesn’t reflect sunlight.||$2.00–$3.50|
|Carbon fiber||Very good for protecting a vehicle from damage. Difficult to apply, so best done by a professional.||$3–$7|
|Chrome||Trendy, glistening, and expensive.||$8|
Wrap cost for different vehicles
Wrap material is not the only factor that will influence the cost of your car wrap. The type and size of your vehicle will also affect the cost. Here are the specifics.
A compact car is the vehicle of choice for those who dwell in the city. On average, a compact car is going to cost around $2,000 to cover with a full wrap. The exact price will vary depending on the wrap design, as well as on the wrapping material that you choose.
For those with a couple of kids and a family dog in tow, a family sedan is a must. A family sedan will cost around $3,000 to wrap.
A full-size SUV such as a Ford Expedition is considerably larger than a family sedan. For a full-size SUV, you are looking at $4,000 on average for a full wrap.
A pickup truck can be essential for those who use their vehicles for work purposes. A pickup-truck wrap could even be considered a commercial-vehicle wrap. Like an SUV, a pickup truck is considerably larger than a sedan. As a result, the wrapping price for a truck will be greater than for an average sedan. A truck will cost you around $4,000 for a full wrap.
DIY vs. auto shop
If you have decided that wrapping your car is the right direction to take, then whether you do it yourself or take it to an auto shop obviously affects the price. That being said, wrapping can be a job best left to a seasoned veteran rather than attempted by a first-timer. An understanding of the material as well as the physics of the car is paramount if you want to do a decent job. Vinyl must be both heated and stretched property to attain the best-looking professional wrap.
Likewise, there are multiple tools you must have for a successful wrap. These tools include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Small magnets
- Felt-edge squeegee
- Spray bottle
- Heat gun
- Microfiber towels
- Air gun
It’s safe to say that most people will have only some or absolutely none of these tools. It takes 7–9 hours to wrap a car, and this can incur significant labor costs. Expect to pay at least a $500 premium to take it into an auto shop rather than attempt a wrap yourself. Depending on your priorities, this could be small potatoes compared to the satisfaction of having your wrap done properly by a qualified professional.
Changing a wrap
Perhaps you need different designs and colors reflecting your mood on a regular basis. Perhaps you are constantly hitting inanimate objects in your vehicle and, thus, displaying dents and scratches not in line with the image you want to present to the viewing public. Either way, you can replace your wrap. It costs around $500 to remove your wrap. Then it’s your choice how much to spend, depending on the style and makeup of your new wrap.
So you are now convinced that, going forward, you will choose to only wrap your car. What you might not be aware of is that there is no one-size-fits-all wrapping solution. In fact, you can choose how much of your car you want to cover and, if you decide you don’t need the whole surface covered, you can do a partial wrap. The less you want to cover, the less wrap you need, and the less money you spend. Here are some typical choices.
A wrap with 40% coverage may involve things like the hood and the trunk portions of your car. The cost for this should be 40%–50% of the full-vehicle wrap cost.
A wrap with 60% coverage will allow you to play around with the trunk, hood, doors, and side panels. This is one step closer to having your car fully wrapped.
100% full-car wrap
Head to toe, and all parts in between. A full wrap will make sure that nothing is left naked and bare. Most auto shops, or other professionals who wrap cars, will quote you the price for a full wrap by default. Be aware of this and specify if you want less than a full wrap when you ask for a quote.
Is it cheaper to wrap or paint a car?
It’s usually cheaper to wrap a car with vinyl film or another material than to do a full-on paint job.
How long does a car wrap last?
A car wrap typically lasts 5–7 years.
Is it worth it to wrap your car?
Yes, it can be. Most car wraps can look just like paint, and they can even protect the paint they cover. Depending on the wrap’s thickness, it may offer protection resembling that of paint-protection film. The latter is a clear wrap product used to prevent paint damage without changing the car’s appearance as much as an opaque wrap.
One estimate indicates that paint-protection film (PPF) ranges in thickness form 8–12 mils, whereas the vinyl-wrap average is around 4 mils. If you want to achieve PPF-level paint protection with your vinyl wrap, you’ll want a thicker wrap. Keep in mind, however, that the thicker the wrap, the more difficult it may be to apply it correctly.
Does a car wrap ruin paint?
No, not as long as it’s done properly.
Can I wrap a car myself?
Yes, you can wrap a car yourself, but doing so is risky. Most experienced car-wrappers recommend that newbies not go down the do-it-yourself route if they can afford to hire a pro.
- Wrapping a car can be a smart alternative to getting a whole paint job.
- The materials you may choose to wrap your car with offer different advantages and correspondingly different prices.
- The type of car you have will affect how much it costs to get the vehicle wrapped.
- If you wrap only part of your vehicle, this will cost less than wrapping your entire vehicle.
Still feel driven to learn about cars?
A wrap to customize your car’s appearance, or just to avoid the full cost of a new paint job, is just one of many expenses you may face as a car owner. For instance, what if your car breaks down and you need to have it towed? Read How Much Does It Cost to Tow a Car? to find out.
Want to buy a car but don’t have a driver’s license? Wondering if that’s even possible? Read Can You Buy A Car Without A License? to investigate this question.
View Article Sources
- How to spot a car wrap scam — Federal Trade Commission
- 5 cool new accessories for your car — Consumer Reports
- Useful background articles from multiple car-wrap service providers, and from automotive and personal finance sites — Various
- Can You Buy A Car Without A License? — SuperMoney
- How Much Does It Cost to Tow a Car? — SuperMoney