Thinking about changing the appearance of your car? You have two options. You can either repaint your car or get a car wrap. Vehicle wraps have been around for a long time. In the past, they were mostly used for advertising by businesses. Fortunately, that’s not the case anymore. Car wraps are becoming increasingly popular, and it’s not hard to find a shop that offers car wraps.

What is better for your car, painting or wrapping? Both options have some advantages and some drawbacks. In this article, we will go over the most important differences between car wraps and car paint.

Car Wrap or Paint?

Application

Let’s start with a basic question. How long does it take to paint a car and how long does it take to wrap it?

When it comes to repainting your car, the waiting time will depend on the type of paint you are using and how many coats will be applied. Old paint needs to be removed first, and every layer of paint applied to your car will need a certain period of time to dry (usually overnight).

Therefore, repainting a car can take anywhere from 3 days to 3 weeks. In most cases, you will need to wait for at least a week before your car is ready for driving.

When it comes to car wraps, the whole process takes much less time. Once you get the car to the shop where you want your car wrapped, they will need to wash the exterior thoroughly first. After that, they just place the wrap over your vehicle and apply heat to activate the adhesive. Overall, wrapping a car shouldn’t take more than 3 days.

Removal

When you repaint a car, the results are permanent. There is no going back. Car wraps, on the other hand, are completely removable. Moreover, a car wrap will not damage the paint underneath and will keep it protected until removed.

Furthermore, repainting a car can have a negative impact on its resale value. Wrapping a car will allow you to change the car’s appearance while keeping the original paint intact, resulting in a higher resale value.

Cost

When it comes to painting your car, you could get a low-quality paint job for about $500. However, if you want a higher-quality paint job, it will cost you anywhere from $1,000 to $5,000 or more.

The prices of professionally applied car wraps range from $2,500 to $5,000.

Note: The prices above assume a full paint or wrap. The cost can be much lower depending on what needs to be repaired.

car fully wrapped

Durability

The durability of a paint job will depend on the quality of paint used. Lower-end paint jobs will last a couple of years. On the other hand, high-end paint jobs can last a lifetime if done right.

You should also keep in mind that paint can be damaged by UV rays, scratching, and other hazards.

A car wrap will last anywhere between 2 and 10 years. This depends on location of the wrap (horizontal or vertical) as well as color used.

Thanks to James Katt in the comments for summarizing Avery’s durability documentation. Scroll down to the comments to read his comments in more detail.

Maintenance

Painted cars require quite a lot of maintenance if you want to keep the paint looking shiny and new. It’s absolutely necessary to wash and wax the car on a regular basis if you want to avoid damaging the paint.

With a car wrap, you’ll spend much less time on maintenance. The only thing you need to do is keep the surface clean. You can simply wipe it with a wet cloth. Even if you fail to do so, the dirt won’t cause any serious damage to the wrap.

Customization

Getting a custom look for your car is much easier with a car wrap than paint. You can choose any color you like or even have a custom design made.

You can get a car wrap with a matte, metallic, or even a textured finish for a fraction of the price of what it would costs to achieve similar effects with paint.

Final Thoughts: Should You Wrap or Repaint Your Car?

First of all, if the paint on your car is in bad condition, getting a car wrap is not a good idea. Any imperfections on the original paint job will show through the wrap. In this case, repainting is definitely a better choice.

Car wraps are also a great option and it takes much less time to have your car wrapped than to have it repainted. Furthermore, the wrap will keep the original paint intact so you can always change your mind.

Richard Reed
Author

6 Comments

  1. Avatar

    I am curious about where you get your numbers. I have been in contact with two places that wrap cars and they said that wrapping lasts between 2 and 4 years. You saying up to 10 seems a little much by comparison. Is there a type of wrap or certain circumstances you are referring to?

    • Richard Reed
      Richard Reed Reply

      Hey there Bryan,

      Good questions. So when doing research for this I looked at two popular providers of Vinyl wraps: 3M and Avery. Both known for making Vinyl car wraps and leaders in this industry.

      Avery’s Durability Specifications: Here
      3M’s Warranty Specifications: Here

      It’s also important to note car wraps durability vary based on where you live as well. Avery actually notes this by even separating desert states into “Zones.” Here’s a document to see what I mean: Here

      Taking these factors into consideration resulted in our wide range of 4-10 years that we noted.

      A wrapped daily driver that is constantly exposed to sun and heat will likely last 2 years at most. In order to increase durability and add extra life it’s advised to park in shaded areas as much as possible.

  2. Avatar

    Essentially, vinyl wraps last 2-3 years. But in desert areas, they last 6 months. Avery’s data is summarized below:

    https://graphics.averydennison.com/content/dam/averydennison/graphics/na/en/documents/Product-Data-Sheets-NA-ONLY/SandC/vehicle-wrapping/supreme-wrap-film/pds-sw-900-wrapping-film.pdf

    https://graphics.averydennison.jp/content/dam/averydennison/graphics/ap/en/Instructional-Bulletins-merged-European/General/Avery_IB_1.30_Durability_of_Avery_Graphics_Films_Rev5%20EUROPE.pdf

    NOTE: LOSS OF GLOSS are not covered by any Avery Dennison Warranty. These changes are considered NORMAL WEAR AND TEAR.

    Avery SW 900 & SW 900X Vinyl Wrap Durability:

    Zone 1: United States except for desert areas in Zone 2.
    Zone 2: Desert Areas of Arizona, California, Florida (Southern), Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Utah.

    In Zone 2 desert areas: all vinyl wraps LAST 6 MONTHS – for horizontal areas such as the hood, the roof, the tail of the car.

    The vertical areas last longer: Metalics last 4 years, colors last 8 years, black and white lasts 9.6 years.

    In Zone 1 the rest of the United States: black lasts 3 YEARS, colors LAST 2 YEARs, metallics and pearlescents last 2 years. All other specialized finishes LAST 1 YEAR. These are for the horizontal areas such as the hood, the roof, the tail of the car.

    The vertical areas last longer: black and white lasts 12 years, colors last 10 years, metallics and pearlescents last 5 years. Other specialized finishes last 3 to 4 years.

    • Richard Reed
      Richard Reed Reply

      Thanks for your summation James. Greatly appreciated!

    • Avatar

      I have a 2015 Mustang GT that is only driven every once in a while, and spends several days per year on a race track at High Performance Driving Events (HPDEs). I’ve noticed that these events usually yield several chips in my car’s paint, and after 4 years it has quite a lot of chips.

      Would wrapping a car help prevent the chips, and could the wrap be protected in some way that it won’t become damaged the same way that the paint is?

      Thanks for any info, and have a great day!

      • Avatar

        You’re better off with a paint protection film for that use case. It is specifically designed to absorb the impact of rocks and other road debris. Typically you get your hood, front bumper, mirrors and all or part of your front quarter panels covered. If you want, you can get a ceramic coating on top of that. Probably $2500 for both.

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