If you’re thinking about wrapping your car - you’ve come to the right place. Don’t make a huge investment in your vehicle without knowing all the options you have available and the expected car wrap cost! If you already know all of the background, feel free to jump down to the pricing below. We know that pricing can vary depending on the situation so we've added some specific examples at the bottom to give you some helpful references.
We would also love to hear your experience with car wraps, so if you have specific pricing or thoughts please comment below.
First off, What is a Car Wrap?
They a pretty straightforward concept that involves a special technique of applying a thin film or sheet of vinyl - or other materials - around the entirety of your vehicle. Often, the vinyl is printed with a logo or brand that allows the truck to act as a moving advertisement for a company. However, lowered pricing and simpler techniques have brought this approach into the consumer market and it is now used very frequently for purely aesthetic reasons. Painting a truck can be a huge pain and very expensive, so sometimes this is really the better option. There are more than a few reasons why opting to wrap your truck instead of repainting it could be the smart decision. Cost is one I'll talk about below.
Check out this matte-blue wrapped Audi R8
Why Should You Wrap your Car?
Don’t see why you should spend the cash to upgrade yet? Let’s run through some of the main highlights. We discuss options for truck wraps in our other article as well, but the basics here are the same across the two.
1. Cost of a Car Wrap vs. a Paint Job
When you look at the pricing for various options it may certainly seem like they’re a big spend, but they’re not alone. Custom paint jobs will often trend higher than a good wrap as there are many more steps involved and high end shops that do it well will cost a premium. Consider all the steps involved. You need to sand the vehicle, prep it, and then fully repaint which can take a specialist a long time to get through. The last thing you want is a mediocre paint job on your new M3 with no way to go back to the way it was!
For comparison, Car and Driver found the average cost of a paint job was $4950, which is across all types including the cheap options. They can increase with level of care easily to $10,000. When you compare that to wrap costs that average in the $1500-$2500, you can see that there are some definite savings between the two.
Is it better to wrap or paint your car?
While it depends on the situation, it’s likely easier and safer just to wrap your car than repaint it. There are a lot of unknowns and difficulties in repainting a car. Wrapping is a much simpler process and tends to be cheaper.
Anyone who has spent time driving out in rural areas will know how quickly bugs and debris knick and pry away at the front bumper of a vehicle. Without a good vinyl layer, the car’s paint is free and clear to take the full brunt of any damage. If you add that vinyl, however, now there’s another layer of protective film for the underlying paint. Keeping your original coat in pristine condition. Some owners will actually wrap their vehicle with just PPF (paint protection film) which won't color the car but adds protection to the paint. This is another good option if you already like your car's color and want to preserve it. It is a "self-healing" material first developed to protect helicopters from shrapnel during the Vietnam War.
3. Keep things original
In addition to the price difference between a paint job and a wrap, you also have the benefit of being able to bring the vehicle back to original condition when you want to sell it. Rather than try to explain to a buyer that your paint shop did a perfect job, you can just take off the vinyl layer if they don’t like it and you’re good as new. This also helps if you chose something out there like bright purple. Maybe the buyer prefers the standard white / black options.
Because of how easy it is to remove, you’re free to go as wild as you wish with your color or designs! If you want a tiger running across the automobile - go for it. All the major manufacturers provide film in all sorts of matte finishes, reflective and chrome finishes, and more. Now you don’t have to worry that no one will buy it from you because you can just remove it.
While you’re at it, make sure to take some great photos of your sweet ride? See my article on car photoshoots tips.
5. Easy On and Off
To be fair, I’m using the term ‘easy’ in a relative sense as wrapping a vehicle well is no simple feat. That said, it is easy when compared to painting a vehicle. Taking one off is even easier because you don’t have to worry about the air bubbles or making sure there’s no seams. All in all though, it’s quite simple to remove it once you’re done with the car. That makes it a quick transition for when you’re ready to sell and want to get that top dollar for an original car with a nice untainted coat of paint.
Is it Good to Wrap your Car?
Does the Vinyl Damage the Paint? This is something people often worry about, but no, as mentioned above the vehicle wrap will not damage your original paint. Further, as we just described, it will likely even protect your paint in a variety of situations to leave you with a high quality, still-new coat of paint just under the vinyl.
Is a Vinyl Wrap a Good Way to Promote My Business?
Most definitely! This was one of the primary drivers in the invention of the technology. The cool thing about wraps is they can be easily printed on flat material by printers and then placed onto the vehicles. This allows for very detailed and high quality vehicle graphics, images, logos, and more to be showcased. You may not notice it all the time, but the next stoplight you’re at, take a look around and see how many business vehicles have their logo showcased on them. It might be more than you think!
What Options are there for Automotive Wraps?
Colors Options Are Unlimited
Considering modern technology in chemistry, you can choose almost any color you can think of these days. You've got all the power now. Make sure you stand out by choosing something unique! If you get overwhelmed, that's ok too. You can just stick with some of the basics. 3M has a huge color selection and different finishes to give you the perfect combo.
This style is often used for personal vehicles and does a great job at turning down the shinyness and reflections of the vehicle. It essentially dulls the color which leaves it with a very unique and attractive look. The Porsche above features a matte black and you can tell the light reflection is heavily reduced. It doesn’t take a genius looking at this example to see why matte is so popular these days.
How Much Does it Cost to Wrap a Car?
Pricing for automotive wraps varies widely similar to many other aftermarket upgrades. It will depend heavily on how you install it, what type you buy, and the size of your vehicle. These prices are just the cost of a car wrap vinyl - installation (see below) will run an additional $500-$1500.
You can cut these costs down some if you only do a partial wrap of your car. For instance, a lot of people will keep the hood or the roof the original color to add some contrast. Talk to your local wrap shop to see how that might affect the price. Keep in mind the top and hood are generally the easy part because they're not as curvy so may not reduce your install too much.
- High End ($5000-$8000)
Your Chrome and Carbon fiber options are going to be the most expensive and put you around $5-$8 per sq ft. That means you’re looking at about $5-8k for the vinyl. Since you’ll already be shelling out the coin here, definitely makes sense to choose a good installer! More about that in a second.
- Mid Tier ($3000-$5000)
There’s a lot of different options in the middle here ranging from the low pricing to the high. You can look at some glossy options, maybe some unique coloring or finishes. There are so many options it’s hard to give specifics but staying in the $3-5k range is likely where I would be.
- Low Tier ($1500-$3000)
At the bottom end of the spectrum you may be able to get a basic vinyl matte option for as low as about $1500 for your typical sized sedan. Again, pricing will go up based on square foot for a big truck or van. You’re looking at anywhere from $2-$3/sq ft if you have something larger. If you go bargain hunting there may be something cheaper.
Some examples from people who full vehicle wrap on an M3 and a 911 puts the all in cost close to $4k for basic colors, which is a bit on the low side of what's stated here! We are accumulating more data but it sounds like you might be able to shop deals these days for your basic mattes to stay under $5k for a great looking option.
You can always seem to find things online that might seem cheaper but ultimately end up costing an arm and a leg. I once tried to buy some rear headlight blackout film online and ended up destroying all of it because I didn’t know how to install it. You’ve been warned! This stuff isn’t easy. That being said if you know your brand (like 3M) and find a good price on a wrap for your car online, you can probably get a local shop to just install it for you. Check out a ton of options here at Rvinyl. This doesn't just apply to user error, it is wise to remember the old adage "you get what you pay for". While there are some cases where you may find a good deal on an equally good material, shop wisely. You should read reviews and spend a little more to get something with good quality because it will actually save you money in the long run most likely.
Checkout this youtube video on car wrap prices for a nice introduction.
DIY Car Wrapping
Honestly, I cannot recommend this. Unless you know you’re very talented at this and have done it before, you’re almost surely going to mess it up and end up wasting the entire cost of the vinyl. Please please please talk to a professional before trying to do this. If you are set on doing it yourself, try it with a cheaper vinyl first on a small piece of a vehicle. You can get some cheap rolls of wrap online, once you figure out how much vinyl you need, and use those for practice before buying a pre-cut version specifically for your vehicle. If you trudge through all the forums on this you'll find a lot of enthusiasts who have managed to do this quite well so it is definitely possible. I guess I just didn't quite have the skill, experience, tools, or dedication to get it done! So, if you manage to pull this off, let me know because I (and probably most readers) would like to hear your experience.
Professional Car Wrap Installs
This is definitely the preferred method and the one that most people choose if they’re buying a higher end material. If you are just buying a cheap option off of Ebay then maybe it’s not a total requirement. How much does a car wrap cost to install? You’ll likely spend an additional $1000 to $1500 on installation to cover your whole vehicle at a decent shop. A car will be on the low end, while a truck will be closer to the top or beyond depending on how modified it is. I hope this guide has helped you out in your journey to getting your car wrapped! Feel free to leave questions below and I’ll try to answer them!
This guy on Rennlist wrapped his C4S in a stunning baby blue for about $5,000 and it looks great. He notes:
"The vinyl wrap was done couple months ago. I always want a Riviera Blue 993 and I've thought about respray my car. But since the org. paint condition is still in great shape (car has only 35K mile), even all body shop ask me to vinyl wrap instead to paint. I've painted my rear spoiler, mirrors, door handles and Turbo S duct in Riviera Blue paint code.
Pro: You can change any color you want and don't worry about resell value. A good detail vinyl wrap job is about half the price of color change paint job. Color vinyl are design to be removable, so it can reverse when needed. A protection of OEM paint. I've attended 3 PCA driving event and find zero stone chip yet."
Petza 914 on Rennlist argues that he prefers to just paint the car vs. wrap it. Others note, however that it is much hard to get full resale value on a car thats been repainted. This is a major reason why wrapping you car is the perfect option to change the color and look while you own it, but not lose value. Petza says his paint was only ~$5,000 as well, but he did all the disassembly which would often cost you a pretty penny.
If the black car checks all the right boxes - take it apart and have it painted. Black over black is the best color to start with for a color change because you don't have to disassemble as far for it to look good (engine bay, internal roof areas when the sunroof is open, etc. I've done it twice now. I don't really care what it does to the value since I never sell the P-cars I acquire, as long as I can insure them for replacement value, and I have Agreed Value policies on all of them.
If you paint the car you are ruining your value, nobody will want to pay for a repainted car thats been color changed.
This thread on F80 Bimmerpost provides some back and forth on 3m vs. Avery Denison, but also has a really cool example of a matte orangish color. The owner notes:
...it is worth wrapping. I would say it would help protect the paint against salt, rush washes, small scratches. Mind you it will not protect against rock chips but it does add a layer of protection. Its a lot easier to clean the car as also ceramic coated. Snow just falls off. Quick washes are not worry free.
This Nissan GTR owner wrapped their car in matte white wrap and had a not so great installation experience. The early pictures look good, but a closer look shows a lot of bubbling, tears, poor cutting, and worse. This is a great example of why its a good idea to find a good local wrap shop who knows what they're doing! If you're in Houston, these are some good shops.
This reddit thread talks about pricing and suggest that you may be able to get wraps on the lower side of our pricing above at ~$1500-$2500.
Only 15% is going into material cost (basic color options - no chrome, ie; gloss,matte,satin) the rest of the car wrap price goes into how complex the tucking and curves are of your car. Some cars have easy gaps, some cars are just a hassle. Expect anywhere from 2000 on a normal sized car, for a full sized sedan expect 2800-3300, for an SUV expect 3500+. Wraps are not based on how expensive your car is, it's based on difficulty.
It is interesting to note that the price is not based on how nice or expensive your vehicle is, but rather the complexity of it. You might have a cheaper car and expect it to cost you less but if it has a lot of angular edges and requires a lot of labor and expertise you may be surprised. However, most high end and luxury vehicles have aggressive styling curves and edges, so there is some correlation between expensive cars costing more to wrap on average.
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