Side view of colorful Kicklahoma vinyl car wrapped at outdoors

The Cost-Benefit Analysis of Professional vs. DIY Vinyl Car Wraps

Are you tired of blending in with every other vehicle on the road? Do you crave the enamored double-take at every red light? Does your inner peacock need a chance to spread its wings?

If you’re looking for a style that grabs attention, car vinyl wraps are the solution. Whether you want a slick chrome to match your personal style or an on-the-go billboard for your business, vinyl wrapping has quickly become the go-to choice for vehicle customization.  

Vinyl wraps get your vehicle noticed. In fact, the average wrap garners about 30,000 impressions per day. But before you jump headfirst into vinyl wrapping on your own, you’re probably wondering about the cost. How much is it to professionally wrap a vehicle? And is it worth doing it yourself?

In this post, we’ll analyze the car wrap cost comparison between DIY versus professional car wraps. By the end, you’ll know what choice is best for you.

Understanding Vinyl Car Wraps

Transforming your vehicle into your dream ride is possible through vinyl wraps. They’re fully customizable, so you can achieve the style, colors, and design you want without the cost and time commitment of a paint job. They’re also removable and protect your car’s paint job from erosion. What’s not to like?

So, what is vinyl wrap? 

It’s a thin, flexible film printed with custom graphics that is applied directly to your car and sealed with heat. Full vinyl wrap applies to the entire vehicle seamlessly, appearing like the “skin” of your vehicle. It’s fully customizable, so the colors, graphics, text, and finish are all up to you.

These days, it’s used to personalize vehicles or advertise businesses on the go. Its versatility, removability, and customization options make it the go-to choice for transforming your vehicle. Popular trends include matte wraps, chrome, vibrant colors, and detailed designs. Whether you follow the trends or march to the beat of your own drum, a vinyl-wrapped vehicle gets you noticed. 

Professional Car Wrapping

To look like your car’s second skin, car wrapping takes patience and an eye for detail. It requires proper prep, vinyl cutting, and application for a seamless finish at every angle.

A professional car wrapping service offers the highest quality of materials and installation, as there’s a lot of room for error in the tedious vinyl wrapping process. The professionals at Lettering Express have more than 35 years of expert vinyl wrapping experience, which is how we can guarantee a skin-like finish every time. 

A professional can also ensure your vinyl’s professional finish lasts. With a smooth application free of bubbles, overstretching, or tearing, your vinyl wrap will last anywhere from five to seven years

Cost Breakdown for Professional Car Wrapping​​​​

So, how much does it cost to have your vehicle professionally wrapped? Prices will vary depending on each professional’s fees and what you want in your wrap. 

Additional factors include:

  • Vehicle size
  • Material quality
  • Finish type
  • Design complexity​​

Your vinyl wrap car estimate is just that, an estimate. We’ll give you a ballpark idea below. For a comprehensive quote, give us a call to discuss your project. 

Price ranges:

  • Compact car: About $3,200
  • Family sedan: About $3,750
  • SUV: About $4,500
  • Jeep: About $4,250-$5,000
  • Truck: About $3,500-$5,500
  • Van: About $3,750-$5,500
  • Luxury car: About $5,500-$10,500

A professional vinyl wrap job is a worthwhile investment. When you’re completely altering the look of your vehicle or wrapping a business fleet for advertising purposes, it’s good to know it’s in expert hands.

A Detailed Look at DIY Car Wrapping Kits​​

If you want a more budget-friendly vehicle upgrade, you can vinyl wrap your own vehicle. Keep in mind that DIY will require specific tools and following steps carefully.

Start by choosing the brand and style of vinyl you want to wrap. 3M is the most expensive and highest quality wrapping material. Avery offers a more cost-effective option, best for shorter-term vinyl wrapping. 

Vinyl wrap styles include:

  • Matte
  • Chrome
  • Gloss
  • Carbon fiber
  • Metallic
  • Satin
  • Special effects

Tools you will need include: 

  • Teflon-coated back cutter
  • Small magnets
  • Soft magnetic tape-measure
  • Felt-edge squeegee
  • Breakaway knife with spare 30-degree blades
  • Spray bottle
  • Microfiber towels
  • Heat gun
  • Lint-free gloves
  • Cutting tape
  • Air compressor
  • Vinyl wrap material
  • A friend to help

We all wish we could magic genie our car into instant swag mode (give us a few decades, and maybe we’ll be there). But, alas.

So, here are the 11 steps for vinyl-wrapping your own vehicle. (See this vinyl wrap post for more detailed instructions.) 

  1. Measure car dimensions
  2. Measure each section
  3. Cut the vinyl
  4. Clean and prepare the car
  5. Apply the vinyl
  6. Remove creases and bubbles
  7. Remove excess vinyl
  8. Tuck the vinyl edges 
  9. Secure the vinyl
  10. Clean after wrapping
  11. Admire your handiwork!

Cost Analysis for DIY Car Wrapping​​​​

If you don’t already own the proper tools, you’ll need to invest to ensure a seamless finish. You can purchase wrap kits for a few hundred dollars, but be sure to check the quality and read reviews beforehand. The most expensive tool is typically a heat gun, which costs between $50-$150, as well as an infrared thermometer, which costs between $50-100. Depending on the quality you purchase, you can expect to spend between $150-500 on tools.

Vinyl wrapping typically costs about $5-15 per square foot, depending on the material you choose. You will also pay more for complex designs as opposed to one or a few colors.

Labor costs can add a significant expense to the overall price. You can save money through DIY, but be prepared to invest time in the project. It will probably take two to three days to complete the wrapping, requiring patience, skill, and an eye for detail. You should also budget for extra vinyl in case you make mistakes along the way. We’re not going to sugarcoat: it’s a big undertaking, and just because you’ve seen it done before or watched a few videos doesn’t mean you can do it well. 

Making the Right Choice

When choosing between professional wrapping and DIY, think about your desired outcome. If you are looking for a budget-friendly solution that’s flexible around your schedule, you may prefer DIY. If you want to achieve a high-quality wrapping completed efficiently, choose a professional. 

Factors to consider include:

  • Budget
  • Time availability
  • Desired end result 
  • Skill level
  • Project complexity

Remember that DIY requires precision, time, and has the potential for a less polished finish. Consider your own skillset and if you have the workspace and know-how to complete the job. Hiring a professional gives you access to top-quality materials, design and application expertise, and long-lasting results. 

Maintenance and Longevity

To get the most bang for your buck, ensure you take proper care of your vinyl wrap. The more you look after it, the longer the lifespan. 

Tips for extending the lifespan of your vinyl wrap include:

  • Prep Your Vehicle. You can ensure the best application by properly preparing the vehicle before application. Thoroughly clean your vehicle to remove any dirt, grime, dust, bugs, or grease. You or your vinyl wrap technician can go over the vehicle with alcohol and other agents to ensure a smooth application. 
  • Store Away From the Elements. Erosion happens naturally over time due to weather, sun exposure, pollution, or road debris. Keep your vinyl-wrapped vehicle in a garage or under a carport to prevent premature damage. 
  • Wash Carefully, But Frequently. Get in the habit of washing your vinyl-wrapped vehicle every week or two. Avoid automated car washes. Trust us. It’s not worth it. Hand wash any dirty areas with warm water and soap, drying with a microfiber towel. 

A professional wrapper applies your wrap with longevity in mind. That’s why vinyl wrapping requires precision to ensure no bubbles or stretching can cause premature damage. When installing the vinyl wrapping yourself, prep the vehicle diligently, apply with care, and be gentle with the wrapped vehicle. 

Making Your Dream Car a Reality

You should now have a better understanding of the pros and cons of professional wrapping vs. DIY. For a budget-friendly solution, you may choose to wrap your vehicle yourself. If your project requires precision and efficiency, go with a professional. Evaluate your project goals and consider your options carefully when making your decision. 

Whether you’re looking to spice up your vehicle to fit your personal style or take your business branding to the road, vinyl wrapping elevates the look of your vehicle. If you’re ready to make your dream car a reality, contact the experts (yes, that’s us!) at Lettering Express for all your professional wrapping services. Lettering Express provides businesses with the products they need to get noticed and be remembered.