A wrap can give your car a visual makeover—but it’s not a great investment, for a lot of reasons.
Your car is probably one of the most expensive purchases you’ll ever make that isn’t a house, so it’s understandable the lengths people will go to in order to protect and spruce up their rides.Recent years have seen the advent of a new option: Car wrapping, which involves applying a thin vinyl covering to the body panels of your car, creating a smooth, paint-like surface.
Sound good, but here’s why Yyou probably shouldn’t wrap your car!
People like car warps because they can put designs and finishes on a car that would be impossible (or very expensive) to accomplish with paint. But beyond giving you the creative freedom to have a car emblazoned with a wicked design (or, for some reason, made to look like a rusty beater), is vinyl-wrapping your car a good idea? If you’re thinking it might be an alternative to a quality paint job, think again—while vinyl wraps can be cool, they can also cause a lot of problems.
Wrapping comes with some limitations
First, a wrap won’t hide body damage like dings or dents—in fact, those kinds of imperfections can make it impossible to wrap the car properly and probably need to be fixed before you have the wrap applied. Almost any imperfections left on your car’s finish will be highlighted by the wrap, too, so if you imagine a wrap is a way of literally papering over some wear and tear, think again.
Wraps aren’t very durable
A fresh wrap on your vehicle looks terrific, but it’s kind of fragile. Depending on the climactic conditions in your area and how you store the car when not in use, your vinyl wrap could last as little as one year, especially if it’s often left to bake in the sun. Leaving it in the sun can also cause the vinyl to stick to the paint underneath, making it more difficult to remove once it starts to fade and peel.
If you park the car in a covered garage or—at minimum—cover the car every time you park it, wraps can last as long as four or five years. You can also opt to add a ceramic coating to the wrap that will make it much more durable, but this can cost you an extra $1,500 to $2,000, and the end result still doesn’t last nearly as long as a quality paint job (typically about 15 years).
If your wrapped car is damaged, fixing it might require re-doing the entire wrap, as it can be difficult to color-match vinyl wraps that have been weathered by the sun. Where a damaged panel can often be sanded and painted to match without too much difficulty, replacing the wrap on a single panel will usually cause it to stand out.
Wrapping isn’t cheap
Vinyl wrapping your car isn’t cheap, especially when compared to paint. A basic auto paint job starts at a few hundred bucks and can range up to $5,000 for a higher-quality result (though repainting more expensive cars can cost a lot more). Vinyl wrapping typically ranges from about $2,000 to $10,000 depending on make and model, and not including any body work necessary to get your car’s surface in good enough shape for a successful wrap. Even if your project falls on the lower end of that price range, you’ll probably wind up wrapping your car (and paying for it) every few years to maintain the look, whereas your paint job will last as long as you’re likely to own it.
But that’s not the only cost of a vinyl wrap—when the time comes to remove it, you can try doing it yourself with a heat gun, but this carries a real risk of damaging your car. Professionals will charge you anywhere from $500 (if your wrap has been well-cared for and is in good condition) to $2500 (for a challenging removal).
Wraps can damage your car
Vinyl wrapping your car carries a risk of damaging the vehicle. The vinyl material comes to the shop in a roll and must be precisely cut to fit your car’s body panels. If the person you hire tries to cut the vinyl on the car itself (because it’s a little easier), they risk leaving cut marks on the paint job below. That’s bad enough, but if the marks get covered up by the rest of the wrap process, you might not even be aware of it happened until you remove the wrap years later.
Then there’s the aforementioned sun damage that can make removing the vinyl wrap a nightmare, plus the fact that vinyl wrapping also has the potential to remove the clear coat off the paint if left on too long, and the possibility of rust if moisture gets trapped under an improperly applied wrap. Granted, going to a professional with a solid reputation and then caring for your wrap properly will mitigate the danger here, but it’s still a major downside to consider.
It can lower your resale value
Finally, consider the impact of a wrap on resale value, even if you don’t plan to sell your car at the moment. Giving your car a unique wrap is kind of like painting your bedroom a crazy color—some people will love it, but some people will consider it a chore they’d be paying to deal with and walk away. While a high-end wrap might in some cases enhance your car’s value to potential buyers, there’s a good chance it will have the opposite effect.
Done properly, wraps can be attractive, but when you consider their fragility and the potential downsides, you’ll almost always be better going with a high-quality custom paint job.
You can ask our detailing experts about care and cleaning of your wrapped vehicle or other car care tips from Sunset North Car Wash.
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