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The first thing most people ask when considering a car wrap is, “How much does it cost?” The second question is often, “What if I do it myself?” We’ll answer both of these, but before you start buying a car wrap tool kit, we encourage you to read the entire article. Vehicle wrapping is not a hobby for the faint-of-heart or the not-so-handy-with-tools, but we’ll get to that. First, lets go straight to the big question: How much does it cost to wrap a car: professional vs. DIY?
How Much Does a Professional Wrap Installation Cost?
Automotive grade vinyl is by no means cheap, but it’s not the most expensive part of a professional wrap installation; labor is. Vinyl installation is done entirely by hand, and there are no shortcuts. A wrap may take a full day or more to install, depending on the complexity of the design, the topography of the vehicle, and the type of film used. Furthermore, professional wrap technicians don’t come cheap because it takes long hours to gain the experience necessary to perfect their craft.
With all that in mind, here are some estimates for basic wrap jobs on simple vehicle bodies, using standard vinyl colors and finishes (upgrades in materials and design can cost significantly more):
- Mid-size sedan: $3,000 – $4,000
- Compact SUV: $3,500 – $4,500
- Full-size SUV: $4,000 – $5,000
- Pickup truck: $4,000 – $5,000
- Exotic sports car: $5,000 – $8,000
- Motorcycle: $1,500 – $2,500
It’s cheaper than a high-end paint job, but still a healthy chunk of cash.
How Much Does DIY Vehicle Wrap Installation Cost?
You’ll spend between $500 and $700 for enough vinyl film to wrap an average sedan with a simple, gloss black finish. Your tools and supplies will run anywhere from $50 to $700, depending on what options you choose to invest in. If everything goes well, and very little vinyl is wasted, you’ll spend anywhere from a day to a few days installing the wrap, so whatever amount of money your time is worth for those hours is the final cost factor.
What Tools Do I Need to Wrap A Car?
Vinyl work requires some equipment you don’t find in an average tool drawer:
- Teflon-coated backcutter
- Small magnets
- Soft magnetic tape-measure
- Felt-edge squeegee
- Breakaway knife with spare 30-degree blades
- Spray bottle
- Microfiber towels
- Heat gun
- Lint-free gloves
- Cutting tape
- Air compressor
- Two more hands (this is a two-person job)
Other supplies you’ll need include car-washing accoutrements (Car Wash Equipment), a clay bar, isopropyl alcohol, and of course, the automotive vinyl film.
And finally, a dust-free work space is a pretty important consideration. You can install a wrap outdoors, but every speck of dust that floats by can potentially ruin the finish of vinyl film.
How Do I Prep a Vehicle to Be Wrapped?
The car’s surface has to be clean. Not sort of clean, but meticulously, squeaky, near-laboratory clean. Vinyl film can stay firmly adhered for up to 8 years, assuming it’s applied to smooth, pristine surfaces. On the other hand, vinyl adhesives may come loose in a matter of weeks or months if applied on dirty, dusty, or oily surfaces.
So you begin by washing the car, all over, in every crease, nook, and cranny. If you wax your car, you’ll also need to remove it with a chemical wax remover. Use a clay bar to remove oils and fine chemical contaminants from the micro-pores of the paint’s surface. When you’re sure every inch of the vehicle is as clean as it can be, clean the surface again with rubbing alcohol.
Remove any trim and hardware components that prevent access to edges.
Now apply the vinyl as quickly as possible, to prevent new surface contamination.
Should I Wrap My Own Car?
Yeah, let’s back up to a very basic question: can you do this job? Not everyone has the workspace, the to savvy, and the practiced dexterity to successfully install a vinyl wrap on their first try. Online sellers of DIY wrap kits would have you believe it’s a simple arts-and-crafts project, but this just isn’t true. Vinyl wrap application is more comparable to a multimedia sculpture project than to a paint-by-number kitten plaque. It requires finesse, concentration, and ideally, practice. If you decide to take the DIY route, it’s best to practice with smaller pieces of vinyl before tacking the actual installation.
For proper adhesion, vinyl film has to be heated and stretched, but not heated too much or stretched too far. You generally get one chance to stick a section of film to the car, and if you get it wrong, you may have to trash the whole section and start over.
Bottom line: we don’t recommend installing your own car wrap. It’s much harder than it looks, and though you may save some money, it will probably cost far more time (and emotional energy) than you bargain for. If you want a vehicle wrap, it’s best to pay for professional installation. Chances are, it will look better and last longer than a do-it-yourself job.
Car Wrapping FAQs
Can you wrap a car yourself?
Yes, but we don’t recommend it, if you want the wrap to look great and wear well.
Does a car wrap ruin the paint?
Professional installation of high-quality automotive vinyl should not damage the underlying paint. This is not necessarily true of DIY installations.
Do car wraps fade?
Yes, over time, even high-quality, UV protected, automotive vinyl will fade with enough sun exposure. You can expect 4 to 7 years of vivid color and reliable adhesion for an average car wrap. Then it can be removed and replaced with new vinyl.
Can I wax a wrapped car?
No need to; the vinyl will protect your paint, so waxing isn’t necessary.
Do car wraps prevent rust?
Yes, wraps protect paint from rust, dust, scratches, UV radiation, and chemical contaminants.