How Much Does It Cost to Wrap a Car?

boxster wrapped
How Much Will It Cost to Wrap My Car? Marc Urbano - Car and Driver

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Vinyl wraps are a quick and relatively inexpensive method to recolor an entire car or apply custom graphics. They can be used for protection as well—as in the example above, where we added protective film to the nose of our long-term Porsche Boxster S. Like a henna tattoo, a car wrap can be as artful, ornate, vibrant, or textured as your desire and budget, and it's never permanent.

Car wraps have distinct advantages over repainting your vehicle, and also a couple of disadvantages worth considering. Here's what you need to know about wrapping your car—including how much it costs.

What Is a Car Wrap, and How Is It Installed?

Picture vinyl wrap like a giant tube of colored plastic wrap, only thicker and much pricier. That's how they're sold in bulk. Installers cut and measure them by hand, or order them from vinyl suppliers as vehicle-specific kits, and cover the vehicle's entire body with individual pieces. Just like the plastic wrap in your kitchen, a car wrap easily adheres to a surface without actual adhesive. It's just soap and water.

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Before your car can be wrapped, the paint surface has to be as clean and smooth as possible. The process can take several days and generally begins with a thorough wash and detailing. Depending on the surface of a car's body panels and your trust in someone disassembling your car, an installer may remove the bumper covers, headlights, and taillights in order to wrap the vinyl covering around edges and into the car's crevices. This is not necessary for every car.


While applying the material, a shop may use a heat gun to work the vinyl. More advanced wraps and graphics may require several layers. The final steps are checking for air bubbles and imperfections and smoothing out the wrap. None of your vehicle's original color will show anywhere on the outside. In that sense, a wrap acts just like a paint job.

Why Not Repaint the Car?

A high-quality paint job, which involves stripping paint to the bare metal and applying layers of new paint and clearcoat, requires a dedicated paint booth, hardware, and a huge amount of technical skill. It's possible to do a cheap spray for a couple grand, but it'll look like a cheap spray for a couple grand. Proper repainting is reserved for vehicle restorers or collectors willing to shell out $5000, $10,000, or even more. A quality wrap has the appearance of factory paint from a few feet away and is many times better than a low-cost spray.

What Colors and Finishes Are Available?

Like paint, there are a wide array of colors available in matte, glossy, chrome, and metallic finishes. Because wraps are designed using a computer program, you can also choose from a seemingly infinite number of graphics and designs to give your car a distinct style. Want your ride to look like it's made out of carbon fiber? No problem.

For companies that want to place advertisements or a business logo on the car, a wrap is an easy way to do that, and it's removable when you want to replace the vehicle.

Will a Wrap Damage My Paint?

No. If applied correctly and maintained properly, a wrap won't damage or alter your car's paint and can even protect it. Since there is no sticky bonding and the wrap clings with only soap and water, you won't have to worry.

My Car's Paint Is Bad. Does That Matter?

The condition of your car will affect the performance and success of the wrap. Scratches, dents, and dings will stick out, just as they would if you tried to paint over them without repairing them first. Corrosion or chipped paint may hinder the vinyl decals from properly sticking. Some shops will not apply a wrap or will not warranty or guarantee their work if your car's paint is peeling or suffers from visible oxidation. Applied to a poor surface, a wrap often won't last as long as it would otherwise. If your car's paint is in optimum condition, figure that a vinyl wrap will keep looking its best for about four to five years, depending on the climate and exposure to the elements. It also becomes harder to remove after that length of time.

We had a clear protective film on the nose of our Porsche Boxster S long-term vehicle, and it was inconspicuous.

land vehicle, vehicle, car, sports car, convertible, automotive design, porsche boxster, supercar, coupé, performance car,
Car and Driver’s long-term Porsche Boxster S had protective clear film on its nose. Marc Urbano - Car and Driver

What Is the Difference between Wraps and Paint Protection Film?

They're essentially the same, as is the application process, except paint protection film is clear and made specifically to allow the original paint to shine through and generally offers a higher standard of durability than a wrap.

How Much Do Wraps Cost?

Prices vary drastically, based on the size of your car, the complexity of the wrap, and how much labor is required. For example, it's hard to remove the front and rear bumper covers on certain cars. Especially curvaceous bodies or sharply creased panels may require more work than smooth, flat ones. As a general rule, a two-door sports coupe will be cheaper to cover than a similar-size four-door sedan.

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Texas-based Austin Extreme Graphics says car wraps can start as low as $2000 for a small two-door, such as a Fiat 500. A larger coupe, like a Chevy Camaro or a Ford Mustang, and smaller SUVS, trucks, and vans start at around $3500. Treatments such as a carbon-fiber-look vinyl add more, and expect to pay extra for chrome treatments, which start at about $6000 and go up from there. The most exotic wrap jobs can go as high as $10,000 or more, depending on the difficulty, the materials, and the size of the vehicle. Wrapping inside the doorjambs, for instance, can take an additional two days or more, which adds substantial time and, thus, cost.

How Do I Take Care of a Wrapped Car?

Where you live can affect how much care you need to take of a wrapped vehicle. High temperatures and baking sun can break down the wrap over time. Ideally, a wrapped car is parked under the cover of a garage or at least is protected from the elements with a car cover. Cold-weather states present challenges as well. Salt used on roads in snowy areas is hard on vinyl. If a wrap has been applied professionally and you don't live in a harsh environment, it can last four or five years.

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Changing or removing a wrap is generally an easy process. It can cost $500 but can be significantly more if the wrap has fused to the paint surface, in which case it won't easily peel off.

If applied correctly, a vehicle wrap can act as a big, protective cover and help maintain your car's paint condition. With a variety of colors, treatments, and graphics on offer, you can find seemingly endless design options that can give your ride a unique look.

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