How Much Should a Vehicle Wrap Cost, and Why?
Sticking some vinyl film on a vehicle… how complicated could it be? You may be surprised to learn how much science, design expertise, and craftsmanship goes into a professional vehicle wrap installation. Do you really need all the details? Well, if you want a high quality wrap and trustworthy installation, yeah, it’s worth a few minutes of your time. So let’s get into it: how much should a vehicle wrap cost, and why?
Basic Vehicle Wrap Pricing
If you’re just looking for the shallow dive on car wrap costs, here you go: The average price for an average wrap on an average vehicle is $4,500 to $5,500. The low end averages around $1,500, and the high end runs into the $8,000-plus range. Done.
If, on the other hand, you want enough information to determine whether you’re getting quality materials and craftsmanship at a fair price, let’s take the deep dive. There are five factors that influence vinyl wrap pricing:
- The type of vinyl used
- Vehicle type, size, and condition
- Amount of vehicle preparation needed
- Quality of the vinyl film used
- The installer’s facility and staff costs
How Does the Type of Vinyl Used Affect Wrap Costs?
Different types of finishes present different challenges during vinyl installation, which affects price. The lowest-cost vinyl is a single-color with a standard finish, like gloss, matte, or satin. These are also the easiest films to manufacture, and they’re far less tricky to install than specialty finishes. Standard color films typically run around $3,000 for a small vehicle and $5,500 for an SUV or truck.
Standard colors are great if you’re just looking for a new paint job without the trouble of getting a paint job. But if you’re hoping to turn heads with your vehicle’s new look, you may want to consider one of the more exotic finishes:
- Iridescent finishes feature a subtle metallic flake and shimmering rainbow sheen that uses light to accentuate the lines, curves, and angles of a vehicle.
- Carbon fiber finish is a very sleek, understated, high-tech film that emulates the carbon fiber used in aerospace, military, and other applications.
- Camouflage is exactly what it sounds like, natural colors and patterns like on a hunter’s jacket.
- Brushed aluminum looks both realistic and striking, sort of a space ship feel.
Specialty films are significantly more expensive to produce than standard, solid colors, so the material prices are higher. Expect installation costs to go up, as well, because these films require much greater care by technicians. For example, brushed aluminum film has to be applied with the grain lines running the same direction. Camouflage, chrome, and carbon fiber films can’t be stretched as much as standard colors without blemishing the aesthetics of the finish. The bottom line is that these finishes typically add $500 to $1,500 to the cost of the wrap.
Chrome finishes are the brightest, shiniest things to hit the road in years—and they’re the most expensive option. The processes used to make them are complex, and installation requires particular care and expertise because the outer finish can crack over time if the film is even slightly overheated or over stretched. Plan to spend around $6,000 – $7,000 for a straightforward installation on a sedan, and up to $10,000 if you’re wrapping an exotic sportscar or other vehicle with complex contours.
How do Vehicle Type, Size, and Condition Affect Pricing?
Generally speaking, a smaller vehicle will require less vinyl film and less installation time than a larger one, although there are exceptions. For example, a complicated, custom wrap design on a Cooper Mini might cost more than a standard, single color on a Hummer. A standard color on a van might be less expensive than the same color on a Lamborghini Aventador because the van has mostly large, flat surface areas, whereas the Lambo will require lots of detailed work around its sexy curves.
Vehicle condition is extremely important for proper vinyl adhesion. If your car has pits, scratches, or other minor body blemishes, they will need to be repaired before wrapping it. Vinyl sticks like a second skin, so any imperfections on the surface will still look like imperfections through the vinyl. More importantly, vinyl doesn’t stick to inconsistent surfaces as well as smooth ones, which means your wrap may begin to peel without remedial detailing and possible minor body repair. This may cost a few hundred dollars or more, but most installers won’t guarantee installations over substandard surfaces.
How Does Vehicle Preparation Affect Wrap Costs?
Assuming your paint is in pristine condition, the wrap shop will still have to prep the surfaces, and this takes time. Even if you wash and detail the car immediately before taking it to the shop, the technicians will clean it more, removing every trace of oil, dirt, and atmospheric contaminants before beginning installation. They’ll also remove trim, if necessary, to hide vinyl edges and achieve the best possible adhesion. This whole process takes hours—before vinyl installation can begin. It’s the only way to do the job right, and it guarantees a longer lasting wrap.
How Does Vinyl Film Quality Affect Price?
If you’ve used duct tape, you may have noticed the huge differences in quality between, say, the Gorilla brand, and the no-name stuff you get at the dollar store. The same is true of vinyl films, of their adhesives, and of the processes used to create them. A lot of companies make film, but only a couple have refined the manufacturing process to a level of quality that will stand up to environmental extremes, ultraviolet light, and road debris.
The sad truth is that not all shops use high quality film for their installations, which means the vinyl won’t provide as much protection for the underlying paint or last as long as it should. Make sure your installer is using a premium brand like 3M, Avery Dennison, Oracal, or Arlon. It will cost more than the “dollar store” stuff, but it could mean the difference between your wrap lasting 2 years and 7 years.
The main thing that sets premium vinyl film apart is the research and experimentation that goes into its creation. The big names have huge laboratories devoted to the development of every aspect of vinyl car film, from adhesive types to pliability and ease of installation. When you buy these products, you’re paying for research and development as well as the material itself, and it’s money well spent.
Understanding the Wrap Shop’s Facility and Staff Costs
The thing about wrap installation is that it doesn’t cost much to set up a shop and go into business. The result is that there are lots of installers out there working out of garages or the corners of warehouses, which means the facility may not be clean enough to do professional vinyl work. But their low overhead allows them to offer lower prices than full-service shops that have proper installation spaces. They may also use cheaper film in order to keep their prices low. The biggest concern with these shops is that many of them lack the experience to perform an installation that will last years. If you get an amazingly low quote from a shop, it’s time to ask questions and possibly visit their facility. A half-price wrap that lasts half as long is no bargain—and it may not be as easy to remove as a premium installation, when the time comes.
So what does an established and trustworthy shop look like? They have large, clean, indoor spaces where vinyl can be applied without fear of dust or contamination. They may have extremely large bays for wrapping semis and buses. They have an in-house graphic design department with experience using the specialized software applications that allow designs to be accurately placed on vehicles, and they can provide 3D simulations of your wrap as it will appear on your vehicle. Their technicians have been installing vinyl for a long time, and they have experience with cars, trucks, boats, heavy equipment, motorcycles, exotic sports cars—in other words, they’ve seen it all and have honed their skills to a high level of craftsmanship. They are insured.
Don’t settle for less than the best, and be prepared to pay for it. You’re making a high-dollar, multi-year commitment, and the extra cost will ensure the longevity of your installation.
What About Vehicle Wrap Pricing Near Me?
If you’re in Wichita, Kansas, and you’d like more detail on wrap pricing, come and see us, check out US Logo’s Mighty Wraps shop, and get a first-hand look at what goes into a wrap installation. It’s pretty cool stuff. If you don’t live here in “Oz,” we can ship wraps anywhere for local, third-party installation. Give us a call at (316) 264-1321 and let’s talk about your project and plug in some numbers specific to your needs.