“How much does it cost to wrap a car?” is a little bit like asking, “how long is a piece of string?”.
The answer is: it depends. There are a few different factors to consider when pricing up the cost of wrapping your vehicle:
- What color or colors do you want?
- Is professional design what you think you need?
- Are you going to do the work yourself or hire someone?
- What’s the surface area of your car?
- Are there any specific aesthetics you want?
- What’s the state of your vehicle’s bodywork?
To customize your car’s color was once seen as a considerable risk. Paints were, and are, expensive, difficult to apply smoothly, heavy, and require huge studios dedicated to the job. It’s not an easy job to do by yourself.
The rise of vinyl wraps changed all that, making color swaps easier and less risky. They are also easy to change out after a couple of years or whenever you see fit.
But does wrapping really compare to a respray? Keep reading to the bottom to find out.
We hope this article will show you everything you need to know about wrapping, including how much it is likely to cost.
- What Does Wrapping Involve?
- Car Wrapping Techniques
- How Much Does Car Wrapping Cost?
- Wrapping or Painting?
What Is Car Wrapping?
To know the answer to this question, we should understand why it’s become popular. It’s because wrapping is a much cheaper, less risky version of respraying your car.
It involves either partially or wholly covering the surface of your car with vinyl. This film coating is usually a specific color or design, thereby changing the look of your vehicle.
There are other uses for wrapping as well. Some people do it to add a matte- or gloss-looking finish to the paintwork. Others want to protect the paintwork and use the vinyl as a sort of carnauba wax substitute.
Note: vinyl film protection is not as adequate as a top-layer chemical, such as wax, on your paint.
Wrapping a car might also be referred to as a paint wrap, vinyl wrap, or color change wrap.
Why Would I Wrap My Car?
Before knowing how much it costs to wrap a car, you might be thinking – why?
Well, there are a couple of reasons.
- Freedom of design – when it comes to cars, paint jobs are costly. Wrapping your car, though, has a substantially lower cost implication – at least initially. Whether you’re after a hot pink color, army camouflage designs, or fake carbon fiber, there’s a vinyl wrap style out there for you.
- Business advertisement – let’s say you run a small business, such as window cleaning. It might be worthwhile to plaster your logo and contact information all over your vehicle. That way, anyone looking at your car can get in touch with you. It might save you on future business advertisement costs too.
Wrapping a car isn’t for everyone. Although there is significantly less cost involved than repainting it, it’s still a hefty chunk. Click here to jump down to the section where we ask the question, “is it better to wrap a car than to paint it?”.
What Is 3M Vinyl Wrap Film?
You may have heard of the 3M Vinyl Wrap Film Series. 3M is probably the most well-known premium car wrap in the world. It is exceptionally high quality and easy to install, making it popular with, well, everyone.
It comes in these formats.
- Carbon Fiber
- Straight Fiber
- Brushed Metal
How Does Car Wrapping Work?
Car wrapping is a process that is both easy and complex at the same time. Yes, in theory, all it involves is sticking pieces of vinyl film onto your car’s paintwork. However, it also involves precise measurements, long hours, ideal conditions, and the correct application techniques.
And that’s before we’re even talking about the quality of the vinyl itself.
When someone comes to wrap a car, the first thing they will do is decide on the design they want. Some people wish to add a protective layer to the paintwork, which means little-to-no design work is needed.
After that, accurate measurements of the car’s panels should be taken. These measurements mean the vinyl can be cut to the correct size. Any pieces that are cut to the wrong size will have to be removed and done again, meaning many wasted materials.
Finally, the vinyl is printed and laminated, thus ensuring that it’s protected from the sun’s rays. It is then applied to the car.
In summary, the following process is always applied.
How Should I Approach Wrapping My Car?
If you are thinking about getting your car wrapped, the above steps are an excellent place to start.
Now we come to think about the design of your new wrap.
Do you want a simple recolor – nothing fancy? Or are you more into fake carbon fiber or impressive color fades?
Are you more interested in a simple white color? Or a vivid electric blue?
What suits you more? Which designs work for your car more? What do your friends and family think about it?
Most designs are pre-made at the companies you’ll be buying from, but you could always try designing your own too.
Alternatively, you could look at getting some help. A quick Google search should lead to someone that can help you there.
All these are critical things to consider. They will also all influence how much it costs to wrap your car.
You’ll need a company to print off your designs for you. That is unless you own an incredibly advanced vinyl printer.
The vinyl film must then be laminated so that it’s protected from ultraviolet rays. The laminate helps to prevent any future damage to the color due to general wear.
Once you have your vinyl printed and ready, it’s time to apply it. You could do this yourself if you want. Alternatively, you might choose to get a business involved.
On the face of it, it’s cheaper to do it by yourself. However, if you keep making mistakes (such as cutting a piece too small) and thus having to throw old bits of vinyl away, the costs can soon add up.
Suppose you have to lift and reapply or move the vinyl piece continually. In that case, this may start damaging the paintwork underneath, so watch out for that.
In the end, when doing it yourself, you could have a low cost with a low- to mid-quality finish. Hiring a technician to work on the vehicle is more likely to result in a high cost but with a high-quality finish.
That is, of course, a general statement and won’t be true in all conditions. If you’re keen to wrap your car, go for it. Just be aware of the potential costs down the road if you make mistakes.
How Do I Apply Vinyl Wrap?
Whether you’re wondering how to do this process yourself or wondering what the mechanic is doing to your car while they have it, this section explains what goes on when vinyl is applied.
There are two ways to wrap a car. These are known as the dry wrap method and the wet wrap method. The first is more likely to be used by professional technicians and experienced DIY workers, whereas the latter is better for beginners.
Let’s look at how both of these work.
Dry Wrap Method
The dry wrap method is most likely to be used by professionals. Once the vinyl touches the car, you can’t reposition it by sliding it around. You would have to lift it and move it. As a result, it’s essential to get it right first-time as often as possible.
This method is also more effective at working around curves.
For the best results, two people often work together.
The surface of the car must be as smooth as possible. As a result, the vinyl will stick to the car properly.
A big part of this process is to clean the outside of the car thoroughly. This might sometimes take a few days. The vehicle will be washed and detailed from top to bottom, getting rid of every speck of dirt.
Once this process is complete, it’s usually a good idea to remove the headlights, taillights, and fender covers. It’s not always necessary to do this, but it does help. Doing this means that the vinyl pieces can be wrapped around the car panels’ edges, giving it a smoother appearance. The edge of the wrap will be fixed in place on the sides or backs of the panels.
As the material is applied, the technician will most likely use several tools. The most common of these is a heat gun of some kind. Some DIY workers use hair dryers, although these aren’t quite so effective. A squeegee is also a must-have.
The heat gun helps to work the vinyl and make sure it is applied nicely and smoothly. It helps to prevent wrinkles and other blemishes. When a wrinkle appears during the vinyl application, the technician will lift it and use the heat gun. This process removes it from the vinyl and leaves the surface with a smooth appearance.
It’s essential not to overuse the heat gun, as this can damage the vinyl.
The squeegee is also used firmly. It’s another useful method of keeping the surface looking smooth and wrinkle-free.
Wet Wrap Method
You’re more likely to use this technique if you’re new to the world of car wrapping. It’s more forgiving than the dry wrap method.
The main disadvantage of this method is that it’s more challenging to cover curved areas. You’ll also have to come back to your work twenty-four hours after you finish with a squeegee to remove any wrinkles. Also, it doesn’t work with every type of vinyl – if you’re using air-egress pieces of vinyl, they won’t bond properly using this method.
Don’t use the wet wrap method in the following situations:
- When using air-egress pieces of vinyl (as just mentioned).
- If using translucent or transparent vinyl.
- When covering untreated metals.
- When applying vinyl over bolts or rivets.
In this method, you’ll make use of application fluid. This stops the vinyl from instantly bonding with the car’s paint (like in the dry wrap method) and means you can reposition it by sliding it around a bit. It gives you extra time to make sure everything lines up.
You could buy some application fluid – however, it is possible to make your own. Although we wouldn’t recommend it, using three drops of soap to one liter of water is the approximate ratio for the job. Don’t use too much soap or any scented products.
Once the vinyl is applied, use a squeegee to remove the fluid from in between the adhesive and substrate. Move it from left to right, overlapping every stroke, holding the film’s edges, and pressing down firmly. Then, repeat the process, this time going from top to bottom.
The last step is to wait twenty-four hours before repeating the steps with the squeegee. After that, you should be good to go!
Which Wrap Method Is Better?
For an experienced person, the dry wrap method is more likely to yield high-quality results. However, for the inexperienced, the wet wrap method is more forgiving.
If you’re planning on wrapping the car yourself to keep the cost down, hopefully, you relate to one of those statements more than the other.
Overall, the dry method, when done correctly, will give you a higher quality finish. The wet method is more commonly recommended for one-off designs, such as logos on the side of your vehicle.
How Much Does It Cost To Wrap A Car?
Getting a car wrapped by a technician is expensive because, usually, it’s a very labor-intensive job. That is, it often takes a long time. Most auto shops charge labor by the hour, and often two technicians are needed. That all quickly adds up.
In terms of raw materials, it doesn’t cost that much to wrap a car. You can buy all the raw materials you need on Amazon.
As we mentioned earlier, how much it costs to wrap a car depends on a few factors.
If You’re Wrapping The Car Yourself
- Your car’s surface area (square footage) – this is how much material you’ll require in total. You will need a bit extra as well since you are cutting random shapes out.
- The designs and colors you want – more exotic designs may cost more to purchase or print.
- Whether or not you already have the necessary tools.
If You’re Paying Someone Else To Do It For You
Paying someone else to do it for you still includes the previously-mentioned factors, plus:
- How intricate the design is – for example, some decals require multiple layers.
- How the shape of the car’s bodywork affects how easy it is to apply vinyl films.
- The number of individual panels on the car.
- The labor-rate of the shop you take it to.
How Much Does It Cost To Wrap A Car? (Continued)
You can see, then, that the cost of wrapping a car depends on these things.
So, what are the actual numbers involved? How much does it cost?
Wrapping your car yourself could entertain the following costs
- Tools and equipment – $100-$500
- Vinyl (depending on vehicle size) – $200-$700.
In total, you would probably be looking at between $500 and $1,000.
Getting the car wrapped by someone else could entertain the following costs
- Vinyl (depending on vehicle size) – $300-$1,500.
- Labor rates – $1,000-$2,500+.
In total, the cost is usually between $2,000 and $4,000 for the average car in the US.
There are, of course, some notable assumptions in this calculation. Cars can vary massively in terms of their surface area, shape, and size. You may also choose to use higher or lower quality vinyl.
It’s also important to realize that work done by professionals usually comes with a warranty. This is vitally important, as it might save you a lot of money in the future. It’s hard to attach a monetary value to it, however.
How Do I Protect My Car Wrap?
Once you’ve spent all that money on getting your car wrapped, you need to know how to look after it.
Mild climates are best for vinyl wraps. Hot, sunny areas will break vinyl down over time, the UV rays being a vital component of this. Equally, in cold climates, salt on the roads is particularly damaging to the car wraps.
The best-case scenario is a full car wrap lasting 4 or 5 years. That is, assuming you live in a mild climate and that the wrap has been meticulously applied by a hard-working professional.
To look after the vinyl coverings on your car, just use normal car detailing soaps. Take care of the car and it’ll continue to look great. In terms of additives and extra cleaning things, you’ll need to be a little extra careful. Check out the video above to learn more.
After this time, you’ll need to fork out another few hundred dollars to buy new vinyl and repeat the process. Or pay someone to do it for you again.
As you may have realized by now, keeping your car up-to-date with the latest color trends? – not the cheapest hobby in the world. Costs can mount up substantially over the years.
Do I Need To Wrap All Of My Vehicle?
Nope! In some ways, that’s the beauty of it.
Especially with dark colors (black, in particular), it’s not always necessary to wrap the entirety of your vehicle. We are considering the question “how much does it cost to wrap a car?” but an essential part of that is – “how much of the car do you want to wrap?”.
We’ve just looked at the cost of wrapping a car and seen that it isn’t necessarily the cheapest thing in the world. However, if you want less than half of your vehicle wrapped, you can cut this cost in half. Some auto shops estimate costs of between $600 and $900 for a partial wrapping like this.
If money is a concern, this might be a better option for you.
Wrap vs Paint Car?
This is one of those questions where the entirety of the internet has an opinion. Oh, and everyone’s opinion is always the right one.
Our answer to this is what we say to many questions – it depends.
It depends on you.
Painting your car is costly. In fact, very costly. In most cases, it will be at least twice the price of wrapping a car. You should always expect to pay at least a few thousand dollars for a full respray. Some cars can approach and even go over $10,000!
However, painted surfaces on cars can also be buffed out to be extremely smooth whereas, with wrapped surfaces, you’re stuck with what you have.
The main advantage of paint is longevity. When a car is produced and leaves the factory, that paint is expected to last for the car’s usable life. Sure, scratches and dings are inevitable, but the paint layers themselves should last for hundreds of thousands of miles.
So, for the average person, getting a car repainted or wrapped is probably something they never even consider.
However, for the car enthusiast, it’s another story. For somebody who cares about how their car appears, it might be necessary to change appearance consistently.
In that case, wrapping a car rather than repainting it is undoubtedly the less costly option. And by some margin. The more often you plan on changing your vehicle’s appearance, the more you will technically save. (Equally, you will also spend an awful lot of money – but, hey, that’s on you.)
To summarize, think of it this way.
- Paint for longevity and quality, trading off in terms of the higher cost.
- Wraps for intricate designs and ease of change, trading off on quality how long it lasts.
How Much Does It Cost To Wrap A Car? – The Answer
So, how much does it cost to wrap a car? You should expect to pay anything upwards of $500 to do it yourself and anything upwards of $2,000 to have a professional do the work for you. These costs can be brought down by considerable amounts by just wrapping a certain percentage of the car.
We hope this article has been useful for you.