Best Car Vinyl Wraps: Wrap Your Car in Style
Treat your car to a new look with the best car vinyl wrap for your style.
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BY Corrina Murdoch / LAST UPDATED ON May 24, 2021
Want to completely overhaul the look of your car? A vinyl wrap can reinvigorate any ride, giving your car a brand new appearance. The best part is that it takes very little time and results in professional-looking results. Vinyl is an impressive material with insanely versatile applications. Classed as an organic polymer, as material science evolves, it becomes increasingly durable and flexible. Whether it’s just a patch wrap to cover scratch damage or you want to completely change the look of your ride, there’s a wrap out there. Of course, anyone who’s ever used a sticker before knows quality counts. Cars are exposed to everything from dust to humidity to snow, and the vinyl wrap needs to be up to the task. The idea is to balance the thickness of the vinyl with durability, the tensile strength of the adhesive with the bulk and bumps it can add during installation. To lend a hand in your hunt for the best car vinyl wraps, we’ve tracked down the top options ranging from sleek chrome to bold reds, and everything in between. Let’s delve into the leaderboard, along with some tips and tricks on getting the most out of your vinyl wrap.
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Benefits of Car Vinyl Wraps
- Customize your car’s look. A vinyl wrap is a whole lot more affordable and much more noticeable than opting for a spoiler or a new set of rims, creating lasting, impactful changes of your vehicle’s look. You can get wraps in any color, letting you completely overhaul your car’s appearance without making any mechanical modifications.
- Professional results. Unlike many vehicular accessories, this is something even an experienced DIYer can take on. Car vinyl wraps are made to be user-friendly and intuitive, with the material responding to heat and doing a lot of the work for you. Provided you take your time during setup, it’s shocking how smooth and stylish a newly-wrapped car can be.
- Protects the car’s paint. In terms of functional benefits, the wrap is literally a physical barrier that protects the paint on your car. The vinyl is relatively thin, yes, but due to the flexible nature of the polymer, it resists low-force scratches well. It keeps your paint out of the sun and helps it last longer overall.
- Affordable improvement. Getting your own car vinyl wrap can save you some expensive shop time. Though the project isn’t complex, it is time-consuming, and anyone who’s been to a mechanic knows that those hours can add up. Thankfully, vinyl wraps are easy to get in place, having evolved a lot since Milton Hershey invented them in 1900.
- Safe to use on any paint. The type of adhesive that works with vinyl wraps is heat- (or pressure-) activated. It enables you to slide it into position during installation. The glue is gentle on your car’s surface, even after it dries. Vinyl wraps are easy to remove and won’t harm your car’s paint. They are, however, single-use items. Once removed, you can’t reapply it.
- Prevents damage from overheating. Provided you choose a model resistant to ultraviolet radiation or something that reflects light well, your car takes in less heat. If used on the hood, it can keep the scorching sun off of your car’s essential components.
- Useful on exterior and interior. When you think of car vinyl wrap, you might think of a complete exterior overhaul. But vinyl has applications inside your car as well. If you cut it to size and pick a suitable color, it can really jazz up your dashboard, accent your radio, or make your doors more stylish. Yes, vinyl wraps are functional, but they also lend themselves to artistic applications.
Types of Car Vinyl Wraps
This type of vinyl material is cost-effective to manufacture and can be found in the form of car wraps. The main ingredient is polyvinyl chloride polymer, short for PVC. A plasticizing agent gets added in to add flexibility while a coloring agent gives it a hue. It is typically thick, due to the absence of a solvent for paint casting. Constructed by applying heat, it comes out as a paste that gets put through rollers. The end result is between three and six millimeters thick. It works best on flat parts of the car and is an ideal way to add accents. You can expect a lifespan of between one and seven years, though if you drive often, it will likely be on the lower end.
Though it’s more expensive to manufacture, this type of vinyl is generally preferred for car wraps — especially if you’re wrapping the whole car. It adds value in terms of durability, thanks to the plasticizing agent added during construction. It starts as a chemical slurry, referred to as organosol, and is poured on a casting sheet (thus the namesake). It’s then put on a conveyor belt and dried slowly, leaving behind a sheet. This is then rolled up for the later addition of adhesive. Most car vinyl wraps include this adhesive, but not all do. If you source your own glue, be sure it is high-viscosity, lest the two-millimeter thick vinyl show imperfections and air bubbles.
Not all vinyl wraps are meant as an aesthetic statement; so, while it’s less popular, the functionally-focused category is worth a note. Some drivers opt for a clear sheet of vinyl (made the same way as other vinyls, just without adding pigment). The primary purpose of this type of wrap is to prevent damage to the paint. It can help avoid issues with dust and debris in the air, as well as slow the fading of your car’s paint in the sunlight. Within this category, you can choose a matte look or varying degrees of gloss. As such, it can work to turn a matte paint job into a glossy one for a fraction of the cost.
Perhaps the most versatile type of wrap, you can find rolls of colored vinyl in any color you could imagine. Ranging from bright chrome to classic car colors like red and black, these wraps focus on aesthetics. Most feature gridmarks on the back, letting you make precise measurements. Stretchy and easy to apply, colored vinyl tends to last around five years in good condition. A perk of this type is that you can use it both inside the car and on the exterior. It comes either flat or textured and you can use it everywhere from your dashboard to your gearshift.
3M was founded in Two Harbors, Minn., in 1902 and started out as a mining business. The Fortune 500 company currently manufactures over 60,000 products, including adhesives, laminates, window films, paint protection films, and dental products. One of its popular car vinyl wraps is the 3M Carbon Fibre Black Vinyl Wrap.
A well-reputed Canadian plastics manufacturer based in Montreal, VViViD has over three decades worth of experience supplying vinyl for commercial and personal use. As the company evolved, it expanded and developed other brands such as Supercast Chrome, Air-Tint, and REV. Becoming a large name in the textile industry, it has products for both architectural and automotive uses, in addition to dabbling in printing media. It offers vinyl wraps like the VViViD Black Dry Carbon Vinyl Sticker.
With roots in California, this company may have only opened in 2011, but it quickly grew into a major name in the vinyl wrap industry. By keeping its focus on car vinyl wraps, it distributes reputable manufacturers in addition to supplying its own proprietary items. A noteworthy part of the global supply chain in the vehicle-enhancement industry, it deals in the United States, Europe, and Asia. From vinyl to tint film, EZAutoWrap makes it easy to overhaul your car’s look. Among its top selections is the EZAutoWrap 4D Black Carbon Fiber Vinyl Wrap, where you can adjust the package size to ensure full vehicle coverage.
Car Vinyl Wrap Pricing
- $10 to $20: This is the base amount you will pay for most vinyl wraps that are one foot by five feet. Obviously, you have to buy a lot more if you want to cover larger areas or your entire vehicle.
- $20 and up: The more surface area you want to cover, the more expensive the wrap will be. Some brands may be pricier than others. Higher-quality wraps work better on extremely curved surfaces and are more scratch-resistant. It can cost several hundred dollars for 375 square feet, for example.
Looking for the best vinyl car wrap colors? There are loads to choose from. Custom car wraps come in a variety of shades, depending on the manufacturer. In addition to color, you can also choose the type of texture you prefer as well as the finish. The possibilities are nearly endless. Ultimately, it's up to your individual style.
The best vinyl car wrap brands sell their products in a variety of sizes to accommodate different people’s needs. The first thing you need to do is determine the size of the surface area that you want to wrap. Then choose a corresponding wrap that exceeds those dimensions. It's always better to have a little extra left over than not enough to complete the project.
Look for high-grade cast vinyl wraps. They are very sturdy and durable. Note that some companies, including 3M, make several types of vinyl, so be sure to choose one designed specifically for automotive use. It will last longer and conform to the various shapes and curves of a car. Most vehicle vinyl wraps last several months to a few years.
- Pressure-Activated. If vinyl is pressure-activated, that means you can slide around and reposition the adhesive during application. Once you find the sweet spot, you apply firm pressure. These vinyl wraps have air release channels that enable you to quickly and easily install the wrap without any bubbles.
- Adhesives. Should the car vinyl wrap not come with an adhesive backing, you must supplement with a glue. If you want to avoid the extra step, make sure your set includes the adhesive agent. However, if you do source your own, check that it is a high-viscosity glue that will apply evenly and not result in air bubbles.
- Necessary Tools. Chances are, you’ve got a flat hand tool lying around your garage, but when it comes to removing air bubbles, you need something specific. Be sure that the kit includes one, or you’ll need to source a vinyl wrap tool elsewhere. Using proper supplies improves the end result significantly.
- Enlist a Friend. Two heads are better than one, and four hands are better than two when wrapping your car. From handling the roll to helping you efficiently remove air bubbles, this is a two-person task.
- Rules and Regulations. When you register your vehicle, you note the color. If you change the color of your car, you’ve diverged from the official record on file. This can cause some legal issues. Make sure your registration and insurance are up to date and ensure that you are within the law when you make those changes.
- Warranty Concerns. If your car is covered under a service contract, double-check the underwriting. Though wraps come off easily and don’t damage the paint, it’s better to have all the facts before you get started. Look at the underwriting and make sure you aren’t at risk of voiding your warranty.
- Installation. Not all wraps are the same when it comes to application. Some are easier to install than others. The best ones have flexible properties and allow you to reposition the vinyl. Many require an external heat source to set them in place and to conform to curves. Make sure to research the product to avoid any problems.
Best Car Vinyl Wraps Reviews & Recommendations 2021
- Measure twice, cut once. Be sure that you know the surface area of your car. On average, it’s 60 square feet, though every ride is different. It’s better to have extra materials than an insufficient supply. Tack on some extra square footage, especially if you are doing a full car wrap.
- Take your time during setup and consider issues with using multiple panels. Called edges, this is the space between two panels. Address each seam by running cotton fabric over the space. It provides a smoother result when using more than one roll.
- Pay attention to the thickness of the vinyl. Thicker vinyl may be sturdier and more durable, but it is also stiffer and harder to work with. You can heat the vinyl to soften and stretch it. However, if you stretch it too thin, you compromise its integrity.
- Look for vinyl that has a UV rating. Since you plan to put it on or in your car, it will fade quickly without some sort of protection from the sun’s UV rays. Even with UV protection, it’s best to keep your car out of the sun as much as possible.
Q: How much does it cost to vinyl wrap a car?
To fully wrap your car, the safe bet is getting 65 square feet of vinyl. The average car rings in at around 60 square feet, and it’s better to have more vinyl wrap than not enough. Typically, it runs around $3.50 per square foot, or around $220 for the whole car. The bigger your ride, the more vinyl you need, and the pricier it gets.
Q: Is it legal to vinyl wrap your car?
Technically, yes, it is legal to wrap your car. However, some states and cities have their own laws on the matter. These delve into the realm of advertisements on vehicles and registration, should the vinyl wrap reclassify your vehicle. While not a crime, some wraps might go against your Homeowner’s Association regulations. Generally, though, standard wraps in regular colors are perfectly legal.
Q: How long does vinyl car wrap last?
Some vinyl wraps purportedly last for up to seven years, but five is a safer bet. The wrap’s exposed to rain, dust, sunlight, and the constant wear and tear of everyday life. If your area is prone to extreme temperature changes, the adhesive will likely lose its integrity more quickly.
Q: Is it cheaper to wrap or paint a car?
Assuming this is a DIY project and you want professional results for the least cost, vinyl wraps are preferred. A paint job requires the tools (including a compressor) and multiple layers of paint. Vinyl, conversely, is a simpler process with more consistently smooth results. Vinyl results in less waste and more time savings as well.
Q: What can I wrap with vinyl?
You can wrap almost anything you want. All you need is a clean flat surface. Avoid wrapping parts that get very hot, such as the engine and exhaust. You can wrap the entire exterior of the car and several of the interior pieces. Many people choose to wrap the trim pieces in their dash for a custom look.
Q: Is this a DIY project?
Wrapping your car can be a complicated and time-intensive project. However, it’s a project you can do yourself. Look for a repositionable wrap to make the installation process easier. You also want to plan on having patience to remove all of the air bubbles for a smooth finish. It’s also best to have someone help you when you’re wrapping large car body parts.
Q: How do I prep my car for wrapping?
You need to thoroughly clean the surface of your car. You could wash the car yourself or take it to a professional cleaner. Be sure to not apply any wax after washing, as this will hinder the vinyl’s adherence. Pay attention to areas where you have pits or chips in your paint. These will become amplified when wrapped. Before you apply the wrap, you can wipe down your surface with isopropyl alcohol to remove all residue.
Now that you know the nuances of tracking down the best car vinyl wrap, you can overhaul your ride’s look. The 3M Carbon Fibre Black Vinyl Wrap offers a sturdy, reliable option that provides a sleek look. If you’re looking to save some money, the Anself Stretchable Glossy Vinyl Film provides a lot of value at a reasonable price.
With car vinyl wraps ranging from bright and shiny to matte and mature, you are in full control of your ride’s look. Happy wrapping!