Why Is Car Wrapping So Expensive?


May 13, 2022

How hard is it to wrap a car?
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It’s the tough decision we all have to make: determining if what we really want is worth the price tag. When it comes to car customization, car wrapping is one of the most popular options. But the cost sometimes gives folks pause.

It’s no wonder why car wraps are so popular – a vinyl car wrap can change the entire look and feel of your car, and it’s a lot cheaper than painting your car a new color.

But why is car wrapping so expensive? Let’s take a look at what goes into car wrapping and how the price is determined. So you can make the best decision for your car – and your wallet!

What is a vinyl car wrap?

A car wrap is a large piece of vinyl that is printed with a design and then applied to the car. The vinyl is cut to fit the contours of the car and then stretched and smoothed over the surface.

Vinyl wrapping is temporary, in that you can remove it at any point. Typically, a vehicle wrap will last 3 to 5 years, depending on maintenance.

Vehicle wraps are safe for your car, protecting the paint job underneath. So if you aren’t happy with the factory paint color, but you want a temporary solution, a wrap is a fantastic option.

How much do car wraps cost?

Wrap price ranges can vary depending on a few factors, such as the size of the car, the complexity of the design, and the quality of the vinyl. Most car wraps range from $2000 to $5000.

There’s also a difference between a full wrap (one that covers the entire vehicle) and a partial one. With a partial wrap, you may cover specific areas of the car or just apply vinyl decals.

For example, a partial wrap on a compact car could cost as little as $500, but a full wrap on a van could be closer to $5000.

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How do wraps work?

Wraps are installed by stretching the vinyl over the car’s surface and then using a heat gun to shrink it into place. Once it’s shrunk down, the vinyl will conform to any curves or contours on the car.

The entire process is pretty quick, typically just one day. This is much faster than a paint job.

With a full wrap, the process consists of applying material to every panel of your car—the hood, doors, fenders, roof, decklid, and bumper covers. In that sense, a wrap acts just like a paint job.

One misconception is that you can use any vinyl and just add an adhesive or glue. However, vinyl wrap material is specially made for this purpose. The vinyl comes with an adhesive backing. The best quality materials for this purpose are manufactured by 3M and Avery.

Colors and options

Car wraps come in a wide range of colors and finishes, from matte to high-gloss. You can also choose from a variety of textures, such as carbon fiber or brushed metal.

The quality of the vinyl has a lot to do with pricing. However, just because a vinyl is cheaper doesn’t make it a good idea! There are lots of knockoff brands online that offer “competitive” pricing. However, when you take into account that they will deteriorate much quicker, the value just isn’t there.

When choosing your vinyl, you need to think of two things: quality and end result. What visual are you trying to achieve?

For example, are you looking for a vinyl wrap that will look like original paint, simply in a more appealing color? In that case, you would want a high–quality material with a glossy finish. You might also add chrome wrapping to cover details to give it that high-end look.

Special finishes and additions will bump up the cost of vinyl wraps, so keep that in mind. In the end, it’s typically still more worthwhile to pay a bit more to get something that will last longer and fit your vision for your car.

Wrap finishes

There are two main types of car wrap finishes – cut vinyl and printed vinyl. Cut vinyl is made by cutting out individual pieces of vinyl and then applying them to the car. This method is more time-consuming and therefore more expensive.

Printed vinyl is made by printing a design onto a piece of vinyl and then applying it to the car. This method is less time-consuming and therefore less expensive.

There’s also the finish of the material itself. For example, glossy versus matte finish. Matte finishes are common for printed designs, as are satin finishes. There are even metallic finishes, like chrome and steel, to achieve whatever style you are going for.

The options are endless – just speak to your wrap installer to find out what’s available and possible!

Application process

The application process for a car wrap is fairly simple. First, the car is cleaned and prepped for installation. Next, the vinyl is cut to fit the car’s contours. Finally, the vinyl is applied to the car and smoothed out.

While you can try to apply a wrap yourself, it’s best left to a professional. Professional installers have tools and training to make sure your wrap goes on smoothly and will adhere well for years to come. They’ll make sure you don’t end up with issues like air bubbles or uneven edges.

Unfortunately, simply buying a heat gun and a tape measure doesn’t make you an expert! Many installers have spent years perfecting their methods to ensure you get the best quality for your cost.

Other potential costs

Sometimes other costs come up that can make a car wrapping project more costly than originally expected. For example, if you need to make repairs to your vehicle in advance.

If there’s damage to the car’s body panels or exterior paint job, you may need to get it fixed. Most cars have some small scratches or dings that aren’t a problem when it comes to adding a wrap. However, peeling paint, uneven surfaces, and other damage can make it hard to wrap.

Basically, if the surface the wrap is being applied to is not stable, the wrap won’t lay flat to adhere or it will show the uneven damage beneath. Thus, you may have the added cost of repairs. Repair prices vary, so it’s always smart to get a few quotes.

Is it cheaper to get a car wrapped or painted?

In most cases, it’s cheaper to get a car wrapped than it is to paint your car. This is because painting your car requires more time and labor, and therefore costs more money.

Additionally, if you want a new paint job to look as good as the existing paint, you’ll need to pay more. Plenty of automotive industry shops advertise cheap paint jobs, but you get what you pay for!

However, according to reliable sources like Car and Driver, it takes at least $2500 to obtain a quality paint job. You can often get the same look with a wrap for much less.

So why is car wrapping so expensive?

Car wrapping is “so expensive” because of the cost of materials and labor – but when you take into account customization and value, it’s really quite reasonable!

As you can see, there are a lot of factors that go into determining the price of a car wrap. The size of the car, the complexity of the design, and the quality of the vinyl all play a role in the price.

Vinyl wrap maintenance

If you want to get the most for what you pay for, take the time to keep your wrapped car in great condition. That means avoiding things like automatic car washes and harsh brushes.

A properly maintained wrap can last 5 years or more! That means regular, gentle cleanings. If you notice a tear or edges that start to peel up, bring our car back to the installer for a touchup.

To protect the appearance of your wrap, try to keep the car out of direct sunlight. That means parking in a garage or under a covered spot if possible, or purchasing a car cover to help protect your vehicle when it’s parked outside. Like a temporary tattoo, wear and tear can lead to the wrap finish starting to dissolve.

Wrapped car – worth the value?

If you’re considering getting your car wrapped, it’s important to weigh the cost against the value. In most cases, car wraps are cheaper than painting your car, and they offer a lot of benefits, such as being low-maintenance and easy to install.

Car wraps can be used as an effective marketing tool, a way to improve the appearance of your vehicle or even a way to protect the original paint underneath.

And because wraps can be customized, they can be incredibly valuable. Whether you’re after a gloss, matte, or satin finish, a custom design or logo – essentially any appearance is possible.

Getting started

If you’re interested in getting a car wrap, there are some basic steps to follow:

  • Determine your wrap’s function
  • Settle on a design or aesthetic
  • Find a reputable installer and get multiple quotes
  • Make sure your car is ready for installation before you bring it in

Car wrap design

Start by thinking about the look you are trying to achieve. Are you wrapping your vehicle as a marketing tool? In that case, you want your logo or contact information to stand out. You may even enlist the help of a professional designer or marketing specialist to help you plan the best look.

If you’re just trying to feature a logo, you make consider only wrapping a panel of your vehicle, the doors, or just the hood, versus the whole car.

Maybe you just didn’t like the color of your vehicle but you don’t want to impact resale value, or the car is leased. In that case, a solid color with a gloss finish should fit your needs.

Whatever your goal or budget is, you will likely find a wrap for your vehicle that fits the bill. Cars are a great way to express personality and individualism or to drive up attention for your business.

Ready to get the process started?

Once you have a design or look in mind, it’s time to find a reputable installer. Look for reviews and always get a few quotes before making your choice.

Be sure to ask what is included in the installation, what materials they will use, and what they will do if you have any issues with your vehicle wrap down the road. When you get your final quote, make sure they inspect your vehicle in person or have seen photos of any damage so you know if you need to make repairs.

Have any other questions about car wrapping? Check out our blog or reach out today!

Connect with a car wraps expert today!