Is it Cheaper to Wrap or Paint a Car

Learn whether it's cheaper to wrap or paint your car, and determine whether a car wrap is right for you and your vehicle.

In many cases, a vinyl vehicle wrap is less expensive than paint

We get calls everyday where customers are under the impression that a vinyl vehicle wrap is cheaper than paint, and it is, but it’s also not. The cost of wrapping as well as paint, can vary greatly from shop to shop. The costs rely on experience of installers, type of materials used and most importantly, quality of work. Wraps are not for every situation and you have to also keep in mind that paint, is permanent!

Have you ever wondered how much a good quality paint job costs? We’re talking about a GOOD quality paint job. We've seen the going rate for a nice quality refinish ranging anywhere between $12K-$20K on most cars!

Of course though, there are lots of “cheap” paint shops which specialize in fast in-and-out style paint for vehicles and you can likely repaint your whole car for under a few thousand dollars.

Quality matters, a lot, when it comes to paint

Thunderbird with Glossy Red Paint Job

A more common cost to repaint the average vehicle in the Bay Area can run between $4,000-$9,000 for what could be considered a "decent" paint job by many. But remember, paint is permanent! A permanent $4,000 paint job really isn’t going to be that great of quality. 

These middle range paint jobs will lack the additional prep work required for optimal durability and aftermarket paint is never as durable as factory paint. Aftermarket paint usually starts to fail within 5 years, and when it does happen, you can't just peel it off like you could with a vinyl wrap, the whole car will need to be sanded down again and re-coated.

How do car wraps compare to paint?

Vinyl vs. Paint Boxing Graphic

Vinyl wraps allow anyone to change the color of their vehicle without committing to a permanent change. You can get exotic colors and specialty finishes that are difficult to achieve with paint, for literally a fraction of the cost of a good paint job. 

The average price of a full coverage external color wrap is between $4,000-$5,000 for most vehicles and most finishes. If you're looking for in-depth information, check out our color change wrap pricing guide. The turn around time for a full wrap is only about 4 to 6 business days from the time you drop your car off, to when you pick it up from our shop! 

Compare that to a paint shop which could have your vehicle in the shop from an average of 3-5 weeks, sometimes extending to several months!

When does a vehicle wrap make sense?

If your vehicles paint is in great condition and the car is 5 or less years old, a wrap is an excellent choice to temporarily change the color of your vehicle. If you have a limited edition paint color, but aren’t feeling it anymore, a wrap allows you to change your vehicle’s exterior without compromising your exclusive OEM paint color. 

This isn’t to say that wraps can’t be a long-term customization option, many of our customers plan on leaving their vehicle's wrap on permanently. When properly cared for, wraps can last more than 10 years. They aren’t purely aesthetic either, the vehicle wraps can protect your car’s paint surface as well. Your wrap will bear the brunt of sun damage, light scratches, bird droppings and other environmental and natural elements which normally hurt your paint.

Over the years, we have wrapped many restored hot rods and classics. Instead of committing to a $20,000 paint job, many owners opted to wrap their restoration projects first. As long as the vehicles body is placed into a “paint ready” state where the primer coat has been applied and the surface is smooth, we can wrap the car and give the customer that completed look they have been wanting, all while providing them another decade to save up for their actual paint.

When does paint make sense?

Car wraps aren’t for everyone though. There are certain situations where you’ll get more value out of a cheaper paint job than a wrap. A paint job that is failing or has imperfections is not a candidate for a vinyl wrap. Your vehicles paint should be in good condition and free of any peeling, rust, major paint chips and any other paint imperfections that can be felt by running the palm of your hand across the surface. 

The vehicles body should be in a “paint ready” state meaning any body work issues have been resolved, sealed and smoothed out. If your paint has imperfections, it may not be possible to wrap your car. If we did wrap a car with paint issues, all the imperfections would show through the new install and also likely cause failure of the film. We are unable to properly warranty car wrap installs on vehicles with paint issues or poor aftermarket paint.

Acura RSX with paint chips and oxidized paint

But what if I just want a quick fix for unsightly paint?

There are also times where customers may not care about perfection or a warranty due to the circumstances. A very common occurrence these days is to have paint failure on the most exposed areas of the vehicle, such as a hood, roof or trunk… typically on vehicles that are around 10+ years old. 

After obtaining quotes from various body shops, the impression people get is that a vinyl wrap would be a simple solution to their problem. A roof or hood could cost around $300 to wrap, which is often only 1/4 the cost to have a body shop strip and repaint the same area. This often leaves customers unable to justify the expense of paint on a car with a couple hundred thousand miles on the odometer, and a resale value of several thousand dollars. 

The problem here, aside from the fact that you’ll still need to pay someone a few hundred dollars to sand your paint smooth first, is a vinyl wrap may only last 1.5 to 3 years on the most exposed areas (anything horizontal such as hoods, roofs and trunks). 

This means you’ll be spending anywhere between $500 to $800 on just a roof or hood, to have someone sand down most of your flaking paint and to have a shop wrap that area with something that will only give you another 2-3 years maximum.

You’ll need to consider all these options make sense for your situation, including a cheaper paint job.

How long does it take to wrap a car vs. paint a car?

Based on our past interactions with customers and body shops, painting a car typically requires you to leave your vehicle at the body shop for 4-6 weeks but can at times take months! That’s a lot of time if you’re planning to paint your daily driver. In contrast, the whole wrap process takes on average 4-6 business days. If this is your only vehicle and you would need to rent a car while your vehicle is in the shop, the costs would be significantly cheaper to wrap your car in almost every way.

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