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How Do Car Wraps Work?

A simple way to change your car's look

by George Mensah

Re-painting your car is a great way to personalize it and add some pizazz to it. Unfortunately, it’s permanent, which means you can’t go back and change your mind without repainting the entire car. It’s also expensive, and a quality coat of paint often causes several hours of work from a specialized automotive shop. As a result, wrapping your car is a popular alternative to a full paint job and has a few advantages (as well as disadvantages).

Car wraps can transform the appearance of your vehicle in ways that painting would be extremely difficult (if not impossible) to achieve. It’s frequently the first choice for tuners looking to make their vehicle stand out. According to Car and Driver, a properly applied car wrap can actually preserve the original paint underneath the vinyl. Unlike a traditional paint job, where even a single part may require hours of buffing, sanding, and multiple coats of paint to achieve the desired look, wrapping a car is a relatively simple process.

Edmunds defines a wrap as “a printed vinyl sheet that adheres to every surface of a car.” This vinyl decal can be a solid color, reflective metal, or any pattern you can imagine. Because a large specialized printer typically produces the wrap, they essentially limited the design options to what you or a designer can conjure. Because hand painting a sign or logo on the side of a car would be extremely expensive and time-consuming, businesses frequently use vinyl wraps to advertise on company vehicles.

There are a few things you should consider before getting a car wrap. To begin, the paint on your vehicle must be in reasonably good condition in order for the wrap to adhere properly. A poor original paintjob, or flaky paint, can not only show through the wrap, but it can also cause the paint to flake off when the wrap is removed, as Edmunds points out. Next, make sure the car’s bumpers, doors, and other surfaces are free of dents and dings so the new vinyl sticks and doesn’t accentuate any existing damage.


Simple wraps for most cars will cost between $3,000 and $4,000. If you want to wrap a supercar, the price can double or triple. A professionally applied vinyl wrap can be expected to last for five years if properly maintained and kept out of harsh weather.

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