Small Business

What You Need to Know About Wrapping Your Car

The Associated PressJuly 5, 2024

Gaze around the next time you’re stuck in traffic and see if you’re not surprised, maybe even a little saddened, by the monochromatic sea around you. Modern cars come in a fantastic variety of shapes and sizes, but far fewer explore the more vibrant shades of the color wheel.

The most popular colors for new cars in North America are white, black, gray and silver, according to automotive paint supplier BASF. Together, they constitute about 80% of the colors in new-car production. Drivers seeking more personality might opt for an automaker’s red, blue or forest green offering, but what if you prefer something more expressive? In the past, you would have been limited to an expensive paint job. Today there’s another option: a vinyl wrap. 

What’s a vinyl wrap? 

Vinyl wraps are sheets of film, precisely cut and applied to a car’s body panels using a heat gun and mild adhesive. They’re durable, relatively affordable and, with good care, can last around five years. And if you get bored, they’re also relatively easy to remove.

They’re also a fast-growing car-customizing trend. If you’ve ever spotted cars with chameleon, chrome-like finishes, patterns such as stripes and camouflage, or just an off-beat pink or lime green, you’ve likely seen a vinyl wrap. They can even incorporate graphics, logos and text, offering an ideal way to advertise products and services. Your only constraints are budget and imagination.



How much do they cost?

Like a new paint job, the cost of wrapping a car depends on size, style and difficulty of installation. Expect to pay about $3,000 to do a glossy or matte finish wrap on a small sedan like a Honda Civic. For an SUV, the price will rise to about $4,000. Chrome or metallic finishes require more care during installation so expect to pay anywhere from $6,000 to $8,000 for this eye-catching choice. There’s also an additional cost if you want your vehicle’s inside door jambs wrapped.

Interestingly, vehicle wrapping is no longer something you can only do with the aftermarket. Tesla offers colored protection wraps for its vehicles as accessories that can be purchased from its website and installed at a few select locations. Tesla’s pricing for wraps start at about $6,000.

As with good paintwork, much of the cost is in the prep. Installers wash and detail cars to remove contaminants from the paint and often remove bumpers, headlights and taillights to allow for tighter wrapping. Installers can also use scalpel-like tools to make finer cuts if customers balk at the idea of disassembly.

Why should I wrap my car?

A vinyl wrap is a great, low-cost way to try a new look for your vehicle. A reputable paint job designed to last for many years can cost almost double, or more, than a wrap, and it’s a far more permanent solution. Wraps are more versatile, especially if you want to add unique graphics, which would require skilled and expensive hands to replicate with paint.

Wraps require more care than paint, however. Sun, snow, salt and rain can exact their toll on a wrap. Owners can minimize the damage with regular washing (avoid the hard bristles of automatic washes), spot-detailing (cleaning off insects and bird and tree droppings) and limiting sun exposure as much as possible (parking inside, using a car cover for prolonged outdoor parking). Sun is a specific threat since prolonged exposure can “bake” the vinyl into the paint, making it harder to remove later.

Typical removal is easy for experienced installers and costs around $500 to $1,000. But if the wrap has fused with the paint and starts to come off in flakes and shards — a nightmare scenario for most installers — costs increase dramatically.

But with a bit of care, you can avoid this scene and instead think about the next vibrant color or design that will set you apart from the sea of silver, black and white cars around you.



This article was written by DAN FRIO from The Associated Press and was legally licensed through the DiveMarketplace by Industry Dive. Please direct all licensing questions to