Boat Wraps vs. Paint: Which is Better?
Until the 1980s, a custom paint job was the only way to transform your boat into a unique creation. Then vinyl wraps came along and changed the game entirely; now you can have virtually any imaginable design on your boat without paying thousands of dollars to an airbrush artist or waiting weeks, months, and sometimes years for the job to get done. But is vinyl superior to paint in all ways? In this article, we will discuss the strengths of boat wraps vs. paint for your boat’s exterior and interior aesthetic upgrade, you can decide which is better.
Advantages of Vinyl Boat Wraps
Does Vinyl Costs Less than Paint?
Vinyl is a lot cheaper than a marine paint job/ gel coat, averaging a third of the cost. This really adds up if you have more than one boat. If you are running a fleet of any size, vinyl can save you a ton of money, and it offers more options than paint for crafting promotional messages. Even if you are running an aluminum flat bottom bass boat, wrapping it rather than painting it makes more sense.
Since we are on the subject of bass boat wraps. When you get done reading this article, head over to Rick Wallace’s Tackle Village and check out the detailed bass fishing guide, Bass Fishing Tips for Beginners, written by Shawn Chapin that covers bass fishing tackle, tips, lures, advice, techniques and more.
Vinyl is Durable, Really Durable
Okay, marine paint is very tough, as paints go, but vinyl has a few advantages:
- • Easy repair – When your paint gets dented or scratched, repairs are not cheap or easy. Vinyl repair is simple and can often be performed on a same-day basis.
- • Protection from the elements – Vinyl offers better protection than paint against ultraviolet rays, so fading is far less problematic. Vinyl lasts an average of 7 years, roughly the same as paint.
- • Ease of repair, replacement, and removal – Unlike paint, vinyl application requires no sanding, masking, or body work.
Vinyl is Easy to Care For
If you love your boat, you probably spend time washing, waxing, buffing, and hugging it, etc. Vinyl boat wraps just require an occasional bath with soap and water. No waxing or buffing. Although, their are some specific waxes, like Meguiar’s that you can use, but they have to be approved for vinyl or it will void you warranty. Regular everyday waxes or shine solutions can melt the vinyl or cause it to dry out and crack. Ask a professional or click this link to discover what to use.
Wrap Installation is a Breeze Compared to Custom Paint
Painting a boat is not one of life’s quicker tasks, and the processes involved in painting custom graphics onto a boat are even more complex and may take weeks to complete, while vinyl may take only a couple of days. Furthermore, custom painters often have long waiting lists. All of this equates to less time on the water. Think of this way: wrapping a boat with vinyl takes about the same amount of time as it would to prep the craft for a paint job.
Pre-Visualization of the Finished Vinyl Design
When you hire a custom painter to give your boat a new look, you can probably expect to see some sketches of the design before the painting begins. You may be in for some surprises in the finished product because the contoured surfaces of a watercraft can make a graphic look very different than it does on a flat piece of paper.
With a vinyl wrap, you will be able to view 3D computer mock-ups of the design as it will appear on your boat. You can make revisions until it is perfect, and only then are the graphics transferred to vinyl. This is an important process for partial wraps, but it is indispensable when you are applying a full exterior wrap, especially if you plan to wrap interior components as well. This is a complex design beast, and you need to be able to see how it will all fit together.
Wraps can be Removed and Replaced
This is another big advantage for fleet owners; if you change your branding, you can remove the old vinyl and start over. If you need to sell a boat, you can remove the vinyl and return it to its original condition. Vinyl protects the paint beneath, so the craft will look as good as the day you covered it.
Reduced Environmental Impact
Marine paints are notoriously toxic to the environment, along with the solvents used to apply them. Some of these materials may leech away into bodies of water over time, hurting the habitats you go there to enjoy.
Vinyl Boat Wraps FAQ
Q: Will the colors fade on my boat wrap?
A: Not nearly as much as paint. The materials used in vehicle vinyl are less susceptible to sun fade, plus most wraps contain an outer layer of UV shielding.
Q: Do you have to maintain a vinyl wrap?
A: Not much, it is considerably easier than paint to care for. Wash it with boat soap, lukewarm water, and a soft cloth. You can use a very soft brush to loosen tougher dirt. Avoid pressure washers because it is possible to lift the edges of the vinyl with that much concentrated force. As with paint, you should never use abrasives on vinyl.
Try to wash the boat every few weeks because dirt can get ground in, over time, making it harder to remove. But hold off on washing a new wrap until it has been installed for a week to allow the adhesives to fully cure.
Unless you have a matte finish, you can also wax your vinyl. Just be careful to use only gentle, nonabrasive waxes.
If you have the option, store your boat out of the sun and weather. This will preserve the vivid colors of the vinyl even longer.
Q: Doesn’t vinyl peel at the edges after a while?
A: As long as you keep your boat clean, you shouldn’t have any problems. The adhesives used for these applications are extremely high-tech, and vinyl wraps are hard to remove even when you are trying.
Q: Does vinyl look as good as paint?
A: Digital imaging technology has made leaps and bounds over the past 20 years. If you still imagine grade-school stickers when you think of vinyl graphics, you will be very pleasantly surprised by, not only the photo-realism that vinyl achieve, but also the variety of special finishes. Your boat can have a glossy or matte finish, it can shine like new chrome, it can glow with iridescent rainbows when the light hits it, or it can appear to be made of carbon fiber. Cannot do that with paint.
Q: Will I be able to see seams in my vinyl wrap?
A: Part of the skill involved in designing vinyl lies in the artful placement of seams for maximum inconspicuousness. Installers are equally skilled at hiding and matching the edges of individual vinyl pieces. Short answer, yes, if you look closely, you may see a seam here and there, but only if you are looking hard for it.
Q: Is there more than one kind of boat wrap?
A: Yes, the basic types are:
- • Interior Wrap – You may not be aware that you can wrap interior components of your boat. Vinyl can be applied to most any smooth surface, providing a fast facelift that also offers protection from the elements.
- • Full Wrap, Exterior – A full wrap offers the best exterior protection from the elements because it covers the entire hull of the boat. This can be an aesthetic design for personal watercraft, or it can be a floating billboard to market your charter business or other enterprise.
- • Partial Wrap, Exterior – This less expensive approach may be the answer if you want to add color to certain parts of the boat while allowing the original paint to show through in places. This can be a large graphic or a collection of accent graphics.
Q: Will a wrap reduce my boat’s hydrodynamic performance?
A: Worry not: vinyl is as light as paint, so weight will not be an issue, and it is as smooth as glass, so hull friction and drag will be unchanged.
Q: How much does a boat wrap cost?
A: Anywhere from a couple hundred dollars for a partial wrap, to the low thousands for full wraps with specialty vinyls. And of course, it depends on the size of the boat. Average cost is around one to two thousand dollars.
Q: What about DIY wraps?
A: You can certainly take that route, but if you have never wrapped a boat or vehicle before, you will soon understand why vinyl wrap technicians undergo training. Vinyl is extremely unforgiving to work with; it takes a practiced touch and offers no second chances if you make a mistake. Poorly installed vinyl will not last as long as a professional installation, so we always recommend leaving it to the pros, who have the experience and specialty tools to do the job right. You will also get a warranty on the installation if Mighty Wraps does the work.
Q: What kind of prep is needed before getting a boat wrapped?
A: There is a lot less prep involved with wraps than with paint jobs, but there is some—especially if there are imperfections in the hull surface. Any dents will need to be sanded flush to the surface. Any mold will have to be removed. Some surface hardware may need to be removed. Also note that the underlying paint cannot be degraded to the point of chalkiness; the adhesives will not stick to it.
MightyWraps (a US Logo company) can help you evaluate any issues that need to be addressed before wrapping.
Q: How long does it take?
A: Again, it is faster than paint. The design process may take a few days, then the installation about the same, depending on how busy our Mighty Wraps vinyl wrap division is. You can usually count on having your boat back within a week or so. (Keep in mind that we generally have a 10-day production time after the art/ job is approved.)
Q: Can boat wraps be removed or repaired?
A: Absolutely. Repairs are easy, and vinyl can be fully removed without damaging the paint hull beneath it.
Boat Wraps for Fun and Profit
A wrap can change the entire aesthetic character of a boat (and protect it from the elements) for a very reasonable amount of money. For businesses, wraps are an even better deal because they not only make your boats look clean and professional, but they are also a great way to drum up new business. If you run a charter, guide, rental, or vending boat operation, why not turn your boats into floating billboards? It reminds people that your service is available, explains what you offer, and tells them how to get in touch with you. Depending on where your vessel is located, the graphics may be seen by thousands of people per day.
Whether you need to brand your boat to help drum up business, or simply add a catchy name to the side, wraps are almost always cheaper, faster, and more practical than paint. Check out our boat wraps page, then give us a call at (316) 264-1321.