Have you ever passed a car on the road that looked insanely cool, and you didn’t know how their paint looked so shiny? It might have been a car wrap. Wrapping a car is a great way to stand out in traffic and create a look that you’re proud of.
In this guide, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about car wraps before finally explaining how much it costs to wrap a car.
What is a Car Wrap?
A car wrap uses a really thin piece of vinyl plastic. It’s typically made of PVC (poly vinyl chloride) with some extra goodies that make it more stretchable. It also includes stabilizers that protect the wrap against UV rays.
The wrapping material is stretched out and laid over your car’s paint, plastic, or glass. A little water activates the adhesive and officially bonds the two materials together.
The Process of Wrapping a Car
The process of applying a car wrap is really demanding. At first, your car needs to be completely clean and smooth. When you drop your car off to a wrap shop, they might start with a complete detail and power wash.
If there are any imperfections on your car, the vinyl won’t stick right or look good. Even a little bird poo can completely ruin a wrap job.
From there, a shop might remove pieces on the exterior of your car. Things like your headlights, taillights, and bumper covers can get in the way of a perfect wrap. Next, they’ll stretch the material and use a heat gun and water to finish the process.
This is typically a two to five person job depending on the complexity, size, and requirements of the wrap job. The process itself can take multiple days or weeks to complete. Moreover, it’s a really easy process to mess up if you don’t have a ton of experience.
Why do people go through so much trouble just for a car wrap?
Why Do People Wrap Their Vehicles?
First and foremost, a wrap changes the entire look of your vehicle. It’s often cheaper than a complete paint job, and the final look can be dramatically different than just a coat of paint.
Additionally, a wrap can protect your car and help your car last longer. Not only does it protect against UV, but it also does a pretty good job of preventing scratches and chips. A wrap isn’t the same as a paint protection treatment, so people don’t get a wrap solely to protect their paint, but it certainly helps.
A wrap is easy to remove and replace, as well. If you don’t like how it looks or want to change the vibe, you can just take it back to a shop and pay for a new wrap.
Who is a Car Wrap Right for?
Wraps are incredibly popular for business owners. Picture a Geek Squad, Xfinity, or Monster vehicle. It’s not reserved for giant companies, though. A ton of small businesses wrap their work trucks and vans. When you think about it, you’re getting a billboard on wheels.
That’s just one lane of people who get wraps, though. The other lane is reserved for people who deeply care about how their car looks. You can achieve a look that’s impossible to get with paint. You can add textures, incredible designs and patterns, and a shininess that’s impossible to get otherwise.
A car wrap is right for anybody who’s willing to pay a little for their vehicle to look its best.
How Long Does a Car Wrap Last?
A good wrap can last up to seven years without needing to be replaced. On average, your wrap will last around five years with normal wear and tear. If you’re an off-roader or you really abuse your ride, you might have to replace it after just a year or two.
If a wrap isn’t installed correctly, you can plan on replacing it a lot sooner. Factors that affect how long the wrap lasts are:
- Your climate
- How much sunlight the vehicle sees
- Amount of wear and tear
- How often you wash your vehicle
Types of Wraps
In the world of car wraps, you have a lot of options. The first choice is what type of wrap you want to grab. Each one is tailored to create a specific look and they have a coinciding cost associated.
Added price per square foot: $0
The standard gloss wrap is the starting point for any type of wrap after. You can bump up the shininess or make it more dull in subsequent types. This style has a little bit of shininess like you just washed your car. You can find a standard gloss wrap in just about any color you can imagine.
Satin/ Enhanced Gloss
Added price per square foot: $1.00
Satin is another form of finish that you can get on a standard wrap. In this case, the final look will be really shiny. You can go a step further and get enhanced gloss if you really want your ride to glisten.
A gloss wrap will look like you just buffed and waxed the heck out of your car – nearly a showroom finish that dulls a lot slower than a car without a wrap.
Added price per square foot: $2.00
A matte finish is one of the hot new styles in the auto world. Rather than go for that shiny, in-your-face look, a matte finish dulls and mutes the shine. You’re left with a completely flat color.
Although you can get a matte wrap in any color, white or black are massively the most popular choices. It’s common for someone to “murder out” their car by adding black matte wrap, black wheels, and tinting their windows.
Added price per square foot: $8.00
An even shinier option than enhanced gloss is chrome. This is a mirror-like finish that comes with a premium price tag. It has a shiny, metallic polish that reflects everything around you.
It’s incredibly unique to see on the road and it’s a great way to stand out. If you are familiar with chrome grills on cars, this looks just like that.
The color scheme is pretty simple when it comes to chrome wrap. You’ll choose from silver, gold, black, or some really basic color options.
Added price per square foot: $4-9.00
This style of wrap doesn’t actually contain carbon fiber, but it has the same coloring and texture. A lot of people will do a carbon fiber wrap on just their hood, spoiler, or side mirrors. It creates a great accent to your car and can work with nearly any color scheme you can think of. Bonus points if you throw some red brake calipers on your car to complete the look.
The price range varies a lot – more than double. More expensive options will have a “deeper look” in regard to the texture. Cheaper options will look less believable and might stick out a little.
Added price per square foot: $10.00+
Some people wrap their car with their company’s information. In this style, you’ll also have to factor in the cost of doing graphic design. This custom job can involve any type or combination of wraps discussed on this list.
Conditions that Change the Price of a Wrap
When you look at the price of a wrap, a million different factors come into play. For that reason, we can’t give you a final price just yet. Let’s talk about some of the conditions that will change the price of a car wrap then we’ll give you an estimated cost.
Colors and Options
As we just talked about, there are different types of wraps to consider. Each one has its own associated cost. On top of that, adding extra colors or combinations of colors will add to the final price.
Opting for more elaborate options and designs will yet again hike up the price.
The Condition of Your Vehicle
If your car is in rough shape, you might not be able to wrap it at all. If there are a lot of scratches, dents, rust spots, and knicks, the wrapping pro might advise against it.
It’s all because the vinyl needs a perfectly smooth and consistent surface to bond to. If your car is in poor condition but still salvageable to wrap, the shop might charge you extra for added labor time.
Your Make and Model
The make and model of your car also play into the final wrap price. The more curves and complexity that the body of your car has, the more expensive the wrap is.
In addition, more luxurious cars tend to come with a more expensive wrap quote. Size also comes into play here.
The Size of Your Vehicle
The final price of a wrap has a lot to do with how much material is required and how long it will take the crew. This means that larger vehicles will cost more money for a wrap. You’ll notice in the cost breakdown later that this trend is blindingly obvious.
Do You Have a Body Kit?
A body kit will add another layer of complexity to the wrap. The installers might take of the kit and wrap it separately if they can’t get a seamless wrap across your vehicle. In addition, this is more surface area to deal with.
The Brand of Wrap
Not all brands are created equal in the world of wraps. 3M is probably the largest name in the game with a huge slice of the market. As you go into lower-quality options, you’ll pay less for the wrap.
How Much Do You Want Wrapped?
There’s an option to wrap as much or as little of your car as you’d like. A lot of people will go for a full wrap which entails wrapping the entire body of the car. Some people just want their hood wrapped and they keep everything else stock.
This goes back to the time and material required. The whole car costs a whole lot more than just a single piece.
How it’s Applied
If you go with a low-quality shop that speeds through the process, the cost will be lower. If a shop quotes you at a higher price, it usually means that their guys have a higher-quality application process.
The installation will make or break the final look. A low-quality shop will leave defects and bubbles across the wrap.
Quality of the Vinyl
The final quality of the vinyl is also a huge driving force behind the price. Even though you get a certain brand of wrap, they might have different levels of quality that they offer.
How Much Does It Cost to Wrap a Car?
Without further ado, here’s the general cost you can expect when you want to wrap your vehicle:
- Motorcycle: $1,500+
- Coupe: $2,000+
- Sedan: $3,000+
- Compact crossover: $3,500+
- Full-size SUV: $4,000+
- Truck: $4,000+
- Luxury sports car: $5,000, but easily over $10,000 depending on the supercar.
Keep in mind, these values are going to vary dramatically based on the factors we just talked about.
Can You DIY a Wrap?
If you want to do it yourself, that’s definitely an option. Be warned: there’s a big learning curve when it comes to car wrapping. It helps to practice before doing it on your own car.
If you have all the tools and space setup, you’ll spend about $500-$750 on 250 square feet of wrap material. Again, this varies widely depending on everything we discussed earlier.
If you want to tackle the wrap job yourself, make sure you have a buddy to help you out. Preferably, grab your buddy who’s a car wrapping expert.
Knowing about car wraps is the first step before picking out your own wrap. We just told you what a wrap is, the application process, the different types, what factors go into the final cost, and what you can expect to pay for a standard wrap. Now you have to make the hard decision – what’s your wrap going to look like?