The basics of getting a vehicle wrapped.

What is a Car Wrap?

In case you’re not clear, a car wrap is a thin yet durable vinyl material that is comprised of PVC or Poly Vinyl Chloride, with added plasticizers for improved flexibility, and ultra-violet absorbers or stabilizers, for protection against harmful UV exposure. The material is bonded to car paint, glass, plastic, and other substrates via adhesive materials that are activated by water.

Car wraps are frequently customized with different colors, textures, graphic designs, or finishes. For example, you can choose from any of the following styles at most auto salons that install car wraps near you. You can upgrade your protection abilities by choosing a paint protection film – if that’s something you’re into.

There are several types of wraps including a full wrap (which covers the whole vehicle) a partial wrap (which covers a portion of the vehicle and often includes vehicle graphics or vinyl lettering), and a commercial vehicle wrap (mainly used for advertising).

Standard Color Wrap

The most common type of vehicle wrap is a standard gloss vinyl material. It can be customized to virtually any color on the RGB or hex code scale. This type of vehicle wrap cost ranges anywhere from $2.00 to $2.00 per square foot, along with additional costs for design, and labor to apply the wrap (based on time spent or the size of the vehicle).

Matte Vinyl

There is a growing trend in the automotive world to dull down the look of a car owners valued ride. This is called a matte finish, where the color’s gloss is reduced to produce a flat appearance. Matte car wrapping can be produced in multiple colors but tends to be printed in a matte white or black finish. The cost range is about $1.00 per square foot more than the standard gloss finish ($3.00sq/ft).

Enhanced Gloss Wrap

The next level on the vinyl car wrap scheme scale is the enhanced gloss appearance. Special gloss enhancers are applied to the vinyl to produce a crisp gloss finish. The pricing is on par with the matte finish in most cases.

Custom Graphics

If you’re creative or looking to brand your company, the custom graphics design is a smart and affordable advertising platform. This involves working with the auto salon that designs vinyl graphics to create a template and look that accomplishes this objective.

Carbon Fiber

Carbon Fiber is another custom vinyl wrap aesthetic that is growing in popularity. The cost of this solid color wrap material can range from $4.00 to $9.00 per foot, mainly based on the depth of the carbon fiber look. It’s bonded to the car’s paint to replicate a carbon fiber appearance – for much less than real carbon fiber materials. It’s a custom vehicle wrap in most cases.

Chrome Wrap

If you’re trying to be ‘that guy’ that blinds drivers and bystanders via the sun reflection of your full vehicle wrap, the chrome finish is right for you. This type of vinyl material is much different than normal custom wrap designs and often limited to a few different chrome colors including silver, black, red, blue, orange, or purple.

Some vehicle wrapping installers can custom order specific chrome finishes, but this comes at a high premium. The base cost for this material can eclipse $8.00 per square foot. Also, installing this type of wrap is more complex, so the rates can be elevated.

There are several ways about completing this type of project – and each with its own costs that should be discussed directly with the vinyl wrapping design or installation company.

First – Gathering Dimensions or Templates

The first step is to determine how much space is available on your vehicle to customize the design of the wrap. Most professional wrap design installation centers have templates for the most popular vehicles manufactured today. And, several of them have in-house graphic designers who can take on the entire development project – with your input of course.

Second – The Creative Process

Once you have a general idea of the layout, features, and materials needed, the design team at the vinyl service facility will turn your vision into a rendering. Once the design is approved, it’s broken down per panel, with dimensions sent to a printer which will apply the render to pre-sized sections.

Third – The Installation

At this point, the final customized vinyl design is applied to the vehicle. Sometimes it’s a complete car wrap, other situations call for small sections to be installed. Regardless, due to the customization of each of these variables, it’s exceedingly difficult to determine an exact range of cost. However, the average full car wrap can range from $2,500 to $10,000.

Jack Beckman (nearest to camera) and his teammate at DSR Tommy Johnson Jr. both race 11,000 HP Nitro Funny Cars – wrapped with customized vinyl – at speeds exceeding 330 mph in 1000′.

What are the Variables that Factor into the Cost to Wrap a Car?

In short – several. There are multiple variables that will determine how much it costs to wrap a car. We mentioned many of them above, starting with the type of material used, the customization requested, and of course the size of the vehicle. But there are other considerations you’ll need to weigh.

Brand of Car Wrap

Contrary to popular belief, not all car vinyl is identical. There are several manufacturers of vinyl used for wrapping a car – some are higher quality or product-specific than others.

  • Avery Dennison
  • 3M
  • Tinybot
  • Cheetah Wrap

    These are just a few

The Installation

Not all vinyl wraps are applied identically. Some of the more customized wraps like chrome or matte finishes require unique application techniques to be followed. This can and often will impact the sales price.

The Size of the Vehicle

Size does matter – especially when it comes to determining the cost of a car wrap. We addressed the cost of vinyl per square foot in the first section of this blog. While that cost is an average for the material, the cost of labor is really where the bills can add up.

Let’s be honest, applying vinyl is not simple – and for optimal results, should be done by a professional auto salon near you. As such, you’re going to pay a premium cost to have a professional complete this talented task. The size of your vehicle will impact the overall cost of labor.

Can You Save Money by Wrapping a Car at Home?

There is a fine line between can and should. Theoretically speaking, sure – you can save some money by trying to install vinyl on your own. But, unless you’ve done this before or are completely confident in your DIY abilities, you’ll likely spend more money on buying additional supplies to reapply the wrap.

How Can You Improve the Quality of Your Car Wrap?

When it comes to buying a car wrap, you’ve got multiple things to consider. Whether it’s the style of wrap, the texture, its finish, or the customization, working with a professional car wrap auto salon will simplify and streamline the process.

However, there is a proven method for improving the performance, cleanliness, and extend the longevity of a car wrap – and that’s to apply a ceramic coating made for these materials.

It provides a protective layer on top of the vinyl, which blocks water and other contaminants from penetrating through the wrap.

When it’s time to remove the wrap, having a ceramic coating on top will reduce the time needed to take the old stuff off the surface. The main source of extended costs for vinyl removal is getting rid of the adhesive that can bond to the paint surface when water penetrates the vinyl.

Apply the Ceramic coating made for vinyl not only makes the wrap superhydrophobic, but it blocks water from causing these common issues. It also makes them easier to clean, maintain, and improves the visual appeal.