Vinyl wraps are a great way to change the look of your car while also protecting the original paintwork underneath. You may also think these vinyl wraps will help get a lot of attention and help your car stand out from the mass-produced crowd, but there’s yet another type of wrap that can do the same thing but to an even greater degree: chrome.
Chrome wrap is a little “controversial,” both in a legal sense and in the sense of personal taste. It can be divisive, with some people loving the metallic shine and distinctive colors, but others balking at the extreme nature of the covering.
Some who have chrome wraps also remind us that they more often get pulled over by police who doubt the legality of the chrome wrap based on its reflectivity. In today’s blog, we’re offering up our guide to chrome wraps. If you're looking for details on pricing, check out our article on how much wraps cost
What Is a Chrome Car Wrap?
Chrome car wrap, also known as chrome vinyl wrap is a subset of vinyl wrap, offering a shiny, reflective and glossy surface with a strong metallic look, much more so than the more common matte finishes that are used for vinyl-wrapped surfaces.
Besides their color and overall appearance, they are otherwise fairly similar to any other vinyl wrap material. They are thin, but extremely durable and made from vinyl. The most common brands and suppliers of chrome wraps are Avery, Oracle, 3M and Rwraps, but there are other suppliers too, of course. These are just the “big hitters” when it comes to vinyl wrap.
In the absence of vinyl options, some instead opt for metalized and polyester films. These alternatives are not used as full car wraps, but can be used for smaller coverings and special custom graphics.
What Colors of Chrome Car Wrap Are Available?
When it comes to color, chrome car wrap can be a literal rainbow. The potential for solid colors as well as blended colors creating a spectrum-like impact on the car is very impressive. From black chrome car wrap to silver, and everything in between --- blue, gold, red…the list goes on --- the color options are limited only by what various suppliers have for sale. 3M has some high quality vinyl options that are the defacto standard.
How Much Does Chrome Car Wrap Cost?
According to Edmunds, prices for this option will be markedly more expensive than a matte or satin finish on a vehicle because the cost of the materials is much higher. The installation is also more difficult, and that is well-known to the professionals. Professional shops know that it’s unlikely anyone will attempt to apply the wrap themselves because of the relative difficulty. This means they are confident in charging more since they know you will not do a DIY job to try and save.
For a sedan car, you can expect to pay anywhere from $6,500 and $8,000 according to Edmunds. If you’re applying to something much more high-end like a Bentley or a Rolls-Royce, then you would expect to pay in the region of $12,000 or more. Truck wraps can also be priced quite differently in that they are physically so large and require additional vinyl.
When considering cost, don't forget to factor in how long your car wrap will last.
What Are the Pros and Cons of Chrome Car Wrap?
As with any paint protection or car modification method, there is an upside and a downside to doing it.
- You get an eye-catching, head-turning appearance. If regular vinyl wraps can help make a car stand out, then chrome makes it figuratively and literally shine. This is a surface to truly make a car’s inner glory come forth. The added luxury impact is also palpable, adding a “high-end” look to a car’s outer color and style that its original paint job didn’t quite do.
- When applied well, high-quality chrome car wrap can last up to six years. Chrome vinyl wraps of a high order of quality can last for several years, which helps to justify some of the additional cost. In addition, they will protect your paint in the same ways that other vinyl wraps will, which helps preserve some of the resale value of your car later on.
- Help to prevent scratches, chips and other impact damage. As we just mentioned, a wrap will help greatly with basic paint protection that you’d get from ceramic coating or high-quality synthetic wax. But, they go even further and can provide more physical protection from scratches and rock chips.
Chrome is just another form of vinyl wrap, which acts like a skin around the original car paint. While a very determined vandal with a large piece of rusty metal could still get through, the risk from flying rock chips and small debris from the road is greatly reduced by using a protective wrap.
- It’s expensive, even when compared to some paint jobs. One of the advantages of vinyl wrapping is that it is often cheaper than getting your car repainted, especially if your car uses a premium paint color and style that is complex to restore. Chrome car wraps are expensive in the vinyl wrap world, and in many cases it will cost more to wrap a car in chrome vinyl than it would even to repaint it. Only the most advanced and intricate paint jobs are typically more expensive than chrome vinyl finish.
- Scratches made on the vinyl are very visible. While the chrome car wrap can help to protect your car’s original paintwork underneath, any scratches or impacts made on its surface are very visible thanks to the shiny metallic look. The chrome look seems to highlight imperfection. It’s true with anything you own that’s chrome. A dirty chrome surface in your kitchen is instantly noticeable, whereas duller, grey marble surfaces can hide it well. The same is true of your vinyl.
- It’s difficult to maintain. Chrome wraps will not only show imperfections from damage, but is also more likely to show imperfections in its application after a shorter time than regular vinyl wrap. The chrome wraps are, for example, more susceptible to heat. They can peel or gain other unsightly parts much faster than regular car vinyl wrap.
Can You Apply Chrome Car Wrap Yourself?
Technically, of course, yes you can. There’s nothing to stop you applying your car wrap yourself if you have the skills and the know-how. What’s more, you can save a lot of money doing it yourself, having only to pay for the chrome vinyl film itself --- between $60 and $75 per roll of chrome car wrap, and $5-8 per roll for the cheaper alternatives like metalized polyester film. Make sure you know how much vinyl wrap is needed first!
Chrome needs to be seamed in more places than regular vinyl wrap, and you have to be very careful using your heat gun on chrome when compared to basic vinyl wrap. The trickiness of it makes it inadvisable for the vast majority of people to try installing this themselves. The potential for expensive mistakes is rather high.
If you are going to do a chrome vinyl, therefore, it would be better to have a professional fitter install it.
Conclusion: Chrome Car Wrap – Is It Worth It?
If you like the look, can afford the installation price, and you feel it will bring a great deal of benefit to your car, then there should be nothing stopping you from getting a chrome vinyl wrap on your vehicle. There is one more crucial aspect to consider, however, and that is the legality of your chosen style.
Rules about chrome car wraps are a little fuzzy, with even a lot of police officers wrongly pulling people over, thinking that all chrome surfaces are illegal everywhere. In fact, rules vary from place to place. It’s absolutely essential that you are clear on the rules.
If your state, county or city imposes a total ban on chrome vehicle wraps, then you shouldn’t waste either your time or money getting one. Legality often depends most on reflectiveness. If it is deemed to post a threat to other drivers’ visibility in the road, then you may be fined and/or asked to remove the chrome vinyl wrap.
Therefore, know the rules before you get started, otherwise you might be wrapping your car in chrome-finish wasted money.