How Much Does it Cost to Wrap a Car?

By laura.cox

Posted in: 

September 26, 2022

You’ve got a relatively new car in good condition, and you want to keep it that way. Maybe you also like to express your creativity with your car, showcasing your personality. Or maybe you just like to change things up with your car and don’t want the permanency or cost of a paint job.   

You’re in the market for a car wrap, an option that’s gaining popularity every day for the advantages it has over a paint job. What’s a car wrap? Just what it sounds like: vinyl material that’s wrapped over part or every panel of the car – hood, doors, fenders, roof, decklid, and bumper covers. It’s like shrink-wrapping your car in decorative colors and designs. 

How much does it cost to wrap a car? That depends on several variables, and we’ll examine all of them here. 

Why wrap your car 

Why do people choose car wraps? There are many reasons. They offer a wider array of possibilities than just paint, with computer-designed graphics and a variety of finishes. Car wraps can also be quickly and easily removed, for about $500, so there’s less of a commitment than there is with paint. 

Businesses wanting to advertise their wares on their company vehicles, or an individual owner with specific tastes, will find that it’s simple to remove the wrap when it comes time to replace the car. 

Car wraps also offer protection for the existing paint, fending off chips and blemishes that come with everyday driving and exposure to the elements. The paint won’t be damaged by the car wrap, either. 

A car wrap will last you about two to five years – seven years in very good conditions – so it’s a relatively good investment for those who want to change up the look of their car. 

These are all good reasons to invest in a car wrap, so don’t be afraid to think outside the box with the appearance of your car. Like paint, a car wrap can be customized with hundreds of colors and finishes. There are even chrome and metallic color options. 

Wraps are designed using a computer program, so you can choose from a wide array of graphics and designs to let you truly express yourself with your ride.  

In short, car wrapping is just as creative as paint, but more cost-effective, faster, and more durable than paint. 

The car wrap process 

It takes a team of professionals three to seven working days to apply a typical 3-mil-thick car wrap. The timing depends on the complexity of the bodywork of the car and the complexity of the design being applied. This is much faster than the two weeks it can take for a paint job. 

The wrap professionals will remove the bumper covers, headlights and taillights to avoid damaging them and to make it easier to wrap the covering around the edges. They will also perform a careful inspection to check for dents and dings, as well as damage to the original paint. A vinyl wrap won’t adhere to a damaged surface, as the car’s surface needs to be in near perfect condition to get a proper installation. 

Some shops will not apply a vinyl wrap or will refuse to warranty or guarantee their work if your car's paint is peeling or suffers from noticeable oxidation.  

The vehicle must also be thoroughly cleaned to remove any surface imperfections such as dust and grit before applying a vinyl wrap. 

The professional applying the vinyl wrap may use a heat gun to work the material. Advanced wraps and graphics may require several layers. Final steps include checking for air bubbles or imperfections and smoothing out the wrap material. 

Wrapping a car isn’t really a DIY project, requiring special skills, time and patience. You’ll need an understanding of the material and of the physics of the car to do a decent job. Vinyl wrap must be heated and stretched properly to get a good-looking wrap.  

That’s why most experts strongly recommend that you have a professional do the job. However, if you feel you have the skills and patience it requires, here are the tools you’ll need: 

·   Squeegee 

·   A small squeegee that is specifically designed for car wrapping 

·   Heat gun 

·   Air gun 

·   Surface cleaner 

·   Microfiber cloth 

·   Cutting tape 

·   Blade 

·   Safety cutter for vinyl 

·   Tweezers 

·   Tape measure 

·   Masking tape 

·   Gloves 

·   Spray bottle 

·   Clay bar 

·   Small magnets 

Of course, you’ll also need to acquire the wrapping material, which ranges in price (more on that later). The average car requires 250 square feet of material to cover the entire surface. It will cost you about $500-$700 for vinyl if you’re doing it yourself, depending on the specific material you choose and how much of the car you’re covering. 

Types of car wraps 

Car-wrap-example

There are several different types of material you can choose to wrap your car. The most basic being vinyl wrap. There are also newer and more exotic materials available in the market. Each one has its own distinct characteristics and price. 

These materials include: 

  • Gloss vinyl 

  • Matte vinyl 

  • Carbon fiber 

  • Chrome 

Gloss vinyl 

This is the standard wrap material most people think of when they say, “vinyl wrap.” Gloss vinyl does a good job of blending into your car, and because it reflects sunlight, it gives the car a shiny look. Gloss vinyl costs $1.50-$3 per square foot. 

Matte vinyl 

This is different from traditional vinyl wrap in that it involves a flat finish that doesn’t reflect sunlight. If you’re not into the shiny look, matte vinyl is for you. Matte vinyl costs about $2-$3.50 per square foot. 

Carbon fiber 

Carbon fiber wraps are difficult to apply, so it’s best to ask a professional for help with this one. However, carbon fiber car wraps are very good at protecting your car from damage, better than vinyl wrap of either finish. You don’t have to invest in a pricey carbon fiber hood like the ones on race cars when you can simply get a carbon fiber wrap on your hood. Carbon fiber wrap costs $3-$7 per square foot. 

Chrome 

This is the trendiest, shiniest finish of all car wraps in the market. It’s also the most expensive option at about $8 per square foot.  

PPF 

Paint protection film (PPF) is a thicker, clear wrap that prevents paint damage. It’s commonly applied to the front end of cars to protect from stone chips and other damage. It won’t change the appearance of your car but can be a valuable addition that keeps your car in top trim. PPF is about 8-12 mils thick, as opposed to other car wraps at 3-4 mils. If you want PPF protection from a regular vinyl wrap, you’ll need thicker wrap or multiple layers. 

Coverage options 

You don’t have to have your entire car wrapped! Sometimes you might be feeling like having just a part of it wrapped, and that’s OK. You can achieve some nice looks with a partial wrap, plus you’ll save money. 

40% coverage 

Consider 40% coverage with the hood and trunk wrapped. This will run you about 40-50% of the full-car wrap cost. 

60% coverage 

Going with 60% coverage gives you the trunk, hood, doors, and side panels wrapped. This is a nice look for less than the cost of a full car wrap. 

100% wrap 

Go all the way and have every inch of your car wrapped so that nothing is left naked. This is the default when getting a car wrap quote, so be aware of that when you request a quote from an auto body shop or other car-wrapping professional and specify what you’re looking for. 

Consider some of these other options that will give your car a distinctive look for a fraction of the cost of 40%, 60%, or 100% car wrapping: 

  • Roof only 

  • Cockpit style (the entire canopy, including pillars) 

  • Hood only 

  • Bumpers only 

  • Doors only 

  • Fenders only 

  • Grille only 

  • Rims only 

How much does it cost to wrap a car 

This critical question doesn’t have one definitive answer, because it depends on the size of the car, the complexity of the design you’ve chosen and the type of wrap material you want. But there are baseline costs for having a professional wrap your vehicle that will give you an idea of what you’re looking at. 

  • Compact car or coupe: Obviously, this is going to be the cheapest wrap. Prices vary depending on design, but they start at around $2,000. 

  • Family sedan: Getting a little bigger in size, the average family sedan would cost you about $3,000 to fully wrap. 

  • Compact crossover: Most average-sized compact crossover vehicles start at around $3,500 for a full wrap. 

  • Full-size SUV: A full-size SUV is likely to start at about $4,000 for full wrap coverage. 

  • Truck: This vehicle is also larger than a family sedan or compact crossover and is often wrapped for commercial purposes. A pickup truck will cost you about $4,000 to fully wrap. 

  • Luxury sports car: Starting at about $5,000, expensive luxury vehicles can reach as high as $10,000+ for a full wrap.  

Lifespan 

With care, a professionally done car wrap can stand up for roughly two to five years. There are some best practices that can keep your wrap in top condition recommended by the experts. 

First, avoid automatic or drive-through car washes. The rigid brushes at these facilities can cause considerable damage to the wrap. When in doubt, consult an Expert before taking your car to a car wash facility and get information regarding your specific car wrap. If you’re the type who hand-washes your car yourself, you can easily wash with just soap and water. There’s no need for a clear coat or wax post hand washing since the wrap itself is the protective coat. 

Keep in mind that if you use a jet washer on a wrapped car, you’ll have to keep the spray nozzle a safe distance away from the wrap, so the pressure doesn’t harm it. 

You should also remember to clean bird droppings and dead insects off the wrap as soon as possible. These things can cause damage to the wrap if left untouched for extended periods of time. 

Also protect your car from prolonged exposure to the hot sun. High temperatures and sunlight can warp your wrap if left unprotected from the elements. In cold climates, salt applied to snowy roads can damage the wrap on your car if not removed promptly. 

It’s good to know that if your wrap does sustain damage, that part of the car can be rewrapped much quicker and cheaper than a paint repair. 

Most importantly, don’t have a car wrap applied to damaged paint. That’s going to be a problem for you no matter what else you do. There’s nothing more unsightly than a wrap that’s come undone because it was applied over peeling paint. 

Your team of professionals – Ask a Mechanic at JustAnswer 

Anytime you have questions about your car, from “How much does it cost to wrap a car?” to questions about car wash, maintenance and repairs, there’s a team of Experts that has your back.  

Ask the mechanics and other Experts at JustAnswer any questions you may have about your car or truck. These professionals have years of experience and thousands of satisfied JustAnswer customers, so you know you can trust them when it comes to your vehicle. 

Ask the Experts at JustAnswer anything, from questions about car wraps to how to install new brake pads to maintaining your car most efficiently, and you’ll get an answer in just minutes, 1-on-1 online. You save time and money doing it yourself. With Experts guiding you every step of the way, you know you’re getting it done right, and with minimal frustration. 

Best of all, JustAnswer Experts are available day and night, 365 days a year. You’re never alone when you turn to JustAnswer. Ask an Expert a question today!