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Your car’s paint is an expensive thing. Arguably, it’s one of the more expensive parts of your car to maintain. It’s also the most prone to damage. That’s exactly why some choose to wrap their car. If the word “wrap” conjures images of wrapped sandwiches and candy (or Tupac), you’re close. That’s effectively what a wrap does for your car. Just like that sandwich, it protects the goodies inside.

Size can chage how much costs to wrap your car

NASCAR team members apply a car wrap to one of their vehicles
Even the pros use wraps | Jerry Markland via Getty Images

Now, estimating the cost of these isn’t an exact science. After all, I did just use the word “exact.” Even auto shops that do this kind of thing aren’t specific on their pricing. Frankly, it’s all about material use. The colorful protective shield that will eventually go over your car or truck costs money. Generally, the more of that material needed to cover your vehicle, the more things will cost. In essence, a Fiat 500 is going to be cheaper to wrap than a Cadillac Escalade.

Of course, there’s also the quality of materials to consider when wrapping your ride. You can go out and buy cheap carbon fiber-look vinyl decals and try yourself, but odds are that vinyl won’t hold up in the sun. That kind of defeats the purpose of protecting your paint, doesn’t it? Overall, expect a clear wrap, or paint protection film as they’re often called, to cost less than the highest quality colored wrap designed to look just like paint.

Paint condition can hurt a car wrap

3M headquarters at sunset
3M doesn’t just make tape, they make vinyl wraps too | 3M

Now that you’ve decided to wrap your car, there’s also the quality of the canvas you’ll be having “painted.” If your paint is fading, oxidized, or otherwise generally gross, odds are a wrap won’t stick very well. Think of it like this: If you peel a sticker off its backing and try and put it on your sock, how long will it be there for? Not very long. If you try the same thing on a window, it’ll be there till the death of our sun.

This principle applies to your paint. Rock chips, scuffs, dents, and scratches can all play a role in how well a wrap adheres to your ride, per 3M. Often, a shop will fully detail your car before application. Honestly, if they don’t, you probably shouldn’t be letting them wrap your car. Speaking of shops, that brings me nicely to my final point.

You get what you pay for with a car wrap

A yellow-wrapped BMW coupe
Why wrap your car in a factory color? | Altan Gocher via Getty Images

The old adage “you get what you pay for” is absolutely true here. Both the quality of the wrap and the skill of the technician can affect the longevity of your wrap. In ideal circumstances, expect a wrap to last for three to five years. That’s assuming a clean car, no harsh winters, and a covered parking spot. As for pricing, it truly can vary. On average, you can expect to pay right around $3,000 for a solid wrap in your choice of color. A good wrap will help protect your paint, and won’t void any warranties. Just make sure you’re sure about the color first.


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