Not too long ago, if you wanted to change the way that your car looked, you would have to get it repainted.
But that’s where vinyl wrap comes in.
Even though it has been around for a long time, wrapping your car has only become more mainstream in the past decade or two.
How much does it cost to wrap a car?
Depending on what kind of car you have and what style of wrap you want, you can expect it to cost around $2,000 to $10,000. For average sedans, crossovers, and SUVs, it should cost between $3,000 and $5,000. This is typically cheaper than high-end paint jobs while still being incredibly durable.
So if you’re considering the idea of changing the way your car looks, you shouldn’t rule out wrapping it.
There are pros and cons of wrapping a car vs painting it, but it’s going to look great no matter which route you go.
Let’s see if it’s the right choice for you.
Is it cheaper to wrap or paint a car?
Like pretty much all things in life, the answer to this is that it depends.
The type of vehicle you have and the final color and finish that you’re going for will determine whether it’s cheaper to wrap it or have it painted.
Let’s dive into each scenario so you know exactly what to expect when you go to the shop to have your car painted or wrapped.
According to Edmunds, a cheap paint job will often be the most cost-effective way of changing the look of your car.
That said, this is definitely one of those areas where you get what you pay for, and an expensive paint job will almost always be the poorest finish of anything discussed in this article.
These paint jobs typically don’t have enough coats to look complete and you often won’t get the door jambs, the bottom of the hood, and the underside of the trunk lid color-matched.
If you pay for a high-end paint job with precise sanding, multiple coats of paint, and color-matched nooks and crannies, you can expect the price to be similar to a wrap at between $2,000 to $10,000.
But everything mentioned so far assumes that you’re just looking for a simple color and finish that’s similar to standard colors offered by automakers.
To really change up your car and add some flair like a matte finish, metallic look, or color-changing effects, then wrapping your car will be significantly more affordable than having it painted.
These special paint jobs can easily reach prices of $50,000 or more, but you can often get a similar look with a vinyl wrap for $5,000 to $10,000 at the most.
How long does a wrap last on a car?
For a well-maintained vehicle that stays clean and is kept in the garage, you can expect the wrap to last around five to seven years.
If you don’t take care of the wrap and just let it go, you’ll be lucky to get two to three years out of it.
The biggest factor that will alter how long vinyl wrap lasts on your car is sun exposure.
If it’s regularly exposed to the sun for long periods of time, the wrap can begin to break down and start fading and cracking.
In addition to starting to look much worse than it should, it will also be harder to peel the wrap off when the time comes to replace it or to switch the color of your car up again.
In addition to keeping it out of the sun as much as possible, you should keep it clean just like you would if the paint was still showing.
Avoid abrasive cleaners, keep as much dirt and grime off as you can, and wash it often.
You’ll get the most life out of the wrap and you’ll keep your car looking great.
Why you shouldn’t wrap your car?
As you might have gathered from the section above, one of the biggest reasons to not wrap your car is that it adds more maintenance to it.
Since sun exposure can be so damaging to vinyl wrap, if you don’t have a garage or somewhere else to keep your car whenever you’re not driving it, it might not be worth getting it wrapped.
The extra cleaning necessary for vinyl also adds a significant amount of maintenance.
Since the wrap is more susceptible to any foreign deposits such as dirt, bird waste, grease, and grime, you need to wash your car much more often and get those contaminants off as quickly as you can.
Taking your car through an automatic car wash could also void the wrap’s warranty, so be wary of that!
You also need to be wary of subpar vinyl wrap quality if you’re about to pull the trigger and get your car wrapped
If you see a price that seems too good to be true, remember that you get what you pay for.
Lower quality wraps won’t last as long, won’t look as good, and can even damage the underlying paint when it’s removed, which leads us to the next thing you might be thinking.
Does wrapping your car ruin it?
One of the biggest concerns about wrapping a car is that it will ruin the paint underneath it.
When you go to get your car repainted, you don’t really have to worry about the original paint that’s being replaced.
It’ll get sanded down, dents and divots will be repaired, and completely new coats of primer, paint, and clear coat will be applied.
From then on, the new paint will be the underlying paint of anything you decide to do moving forward.
But with vinyl wrap, it’s not quite the same.
When you get your car wrapped, the vinyl is applied directly on top of the existing paint underneath.
Installers won’t be sanding the surface down and prepping it for the wrap (in most cases) since you likely don’t want the paint underneath to get ruined in the first place.
It’s basically a big sticker on top of the paint. What happens when the wrap is removed later?
As long as you’ve opted for a high-quality wrap like 3M, then you won’t have to worry about ruining your car.
If and when you (or the next owner) decide to remove the vinyl wrap, the paint underneath will look just as good as the day you wrapped it.
But as mentioned above, if you choose a cheap wrap to save some money, it could very well ruin the paint underneath.
Is there a downside to wrapping a car?
Although there are a bunch of benefits to wrapping your car, it’s not without disadvantages.
You’ve already read about the extra maintenance above, so we’ll spare you the details of that again here.
Instead, one of the biggest downsides to wrapping your car is that it could make it harder to sell it moving forward.
Even if you don’t have any plans of selling your car any time soon, who knows what the future holds? If you do decide to sell it at a later date, the fact that it’s wrapped could make it much harder to find a buyer.
While this might be obvious if you’ve chosen an exotic wrap or design, it’s also true even if it’s just a basic color.
People might be worried about the condition of the paint underneath, which could lower the value of your car or at least make it harder to sell.
Another downside to wrapping your car is that it doesn’t last as long as a new paint job would.
As mentioned above, vinyl wrap typically lasts 5-7 years.
A paint job, on the other hand, can last upwards of 15 years or more.
This means that you’ll typically have to get the vinyl wrap replaced about twice as often.
But the good thing about this is that the paint underneath it will remain in perfect condition and look as good as the day you wrapped it!
The bottom line is that if you’re thinking about changing up the look of your car, you should really consider getting it wrapped instead of painted.
Sure it requires a bit more maintenance, but it’s often cheaper, it looks just as good, and it’s easy to swap it back out if you decide you don’t like the wrap in the future.