Car Wrap Vs. Paint – Find the Better One

You may want to alter your vehicle’s exterior for many reasons, like upgrading its looks or body protection. There are several ways to achieve this, and you can pick a preferable option depending on your desires.

Car wrap vs. paint, which one should I go for? Many people ask this question when they want to upgrade their car’s exterior using one of the two methods. You are in the right place if you are facing this dilemma. Sit tight as we comprehensively compare car wrapping to painting.

Car Wrap

Car Wrap

Car wrapping is a popular way of changing a vehicle’s appearance and involves applying vinyl sheets over the car’s paintwork. Car wrap vinyl sheets are affordable and come in various colors, finishes, and patterns to meet the targeted aesthetics.

While mostly used to improve a vehicle’s appearance, wraps are handy for other applications, such as:

  • Protecting the vehicle’s paint job from dirt, UV rays, and other external degrading agents
  • Improving or retaining the car’s resale value
  • Branding, advertising, and promotion

Wrapping a car takes less time and is more affordable than painting, a reason many people opt for it. Moreover, it is easy to customize your car by wrapping, with some wraps coming with pre-cut designs. This method of exterior upgrading is temporary, and you can remove the vinyl sheets when need be.

There are two types of wrapping vinyl, calendared and cast vinyl. The former is the cheapest and is produced via calendaring, which involves pressing and stretching through rollers. Cast wrapping vinyl production involves pouring liquid vinyl into casting sheets and curing. The result is a high-quality wrapping material, though costlier than calendared vinyl.

Calendared wrapping vinyl is thicker and less strong than the thinner cast vinyl. The varying quality comes to play in their respective service lives: cast vinyl can serve you for 7-10 years, while calendared vinyl last between 3 to 6 years.

How To Install Car Wrap

Wrapping your vehicle is easy, especially if you have the skills. The following are steps to modify your car’s exterior with a car wrap.

Step 1: Material Selection, Designing, And Printing

You start by picking the preferred wrapping material, depending on your desired finishing and color. Special software will help design; then, you print the wrap on large vinyl sheets using special printers.

Step 2: Prepping the Car’s Surface

You prepare the vehicle’s exterior by cleaning and addressing imperfections like bumps and dents. The defects may affect the outcome by showing bubbles or tearing the wrap. Working on them ensures a clean finish and proper adhesion.

Step 3: Installation and Trimming

Once done prepping the surface, carefully wrap your car with the vinyl. It is a delicate process that needs qualified hands for the best outcome. Be careful when covering the edges to get a smooth finish. Trim off excess material after wrapping over the edges.

Step 4: Heating and Setting

Use a heat gun to gently warm the vinyl to make it elastic. The elasticity allows for the effortless setting of the material, especially around the vehicle’s contours and protruding components.

Finish up by inspecting the results to confirm that everything is in order. Smooth down any spot that seems to be out of place.

Car Paint

Car Paint

You paint cars using automotive paint, a special type designed for car bodies. It is the go-to mode of improving the vehicle’s exterior for those targeting permanent results. Painting serves many purposes, like:

  • Enhancing the car’s aesthetic appeal
  • Conceal minor imperfections like scratches
  • Branding and identity
  • Protection from external elements that can degrade the body
  • Improve visibility
  • Maintain or improve the resale value

Car paint comes in various finishes, such as solid, metallic, matte, and gloss. The paint job comprises multiple layers, each serving a specific purpose. The primary layers are the primer, basecoat, and clearcoat. Primer is the first layer applied to the vehicle’s body for the paint to adhere to the body. It may contain corrosion inhibitors to prevent surface degradation.

The basecoat contains color and is responsible for the body’s appearance after painting. The clear coat is the final and transparent layer that adds depth to the paint job and shields the underlying layers from UV rays, abrasions, and other external factors.

Automotive paint can be solvent-based or water-based. Solvent-based car paints have been a mainstay in the auto industry and contain a solvent base like enamel, urethane, or lacquer. The solvent base determines the type of paint, where we have enamel, urethane, and lacquer paints.

Urethane paints are the most common and do an excellent job in UV ray protection. Enamel paints are durable as they create a robust shell over the body. They can be single-stage or two-stage. Lacquer paints were standard in the past and are the go-to solution for classic cars.

Water-based automotive paints comprise water and a small portion of solvent. Due to strict environmental regulations, many people are shifting to this type of paint.

How To Paint a Car

Painting a car is intricate, and a simple mistake may mess up the final outlook. The following are the supplies you need to modify your vehicle’s paintwork.

  • High-quality automotive paint
  • Primer
  • Clearcoat
  • Protective gear like a facemask, goggles, and an overall
  • Different sandpaper grits
  • Spray gun and air compressor
  • Masking tape and sheets of paper

Once you have all the necessary utilities, you can paint your car by following these steps.

Step 1: Prepare the Work Area

Select a well-ventilated and dust-free area to work on your car. For the best experience, you can get an automotive paint booth, which is like a temporary installation for painting.

Step 2: Prep the Car

Prepping the car for painting is a daunting but necessary part of painting the car. Clean the vehicle and remove or cover parts you won’t paint using masking tape and sheets of paper. Follow up by sanding the surface you intend to paint.

Before sanding, you should address rust spots on the surface, as painted-over rust can spread through the vehicle’s body. Use a grinder to deal with the rust and apply anti-rust body filler on the resulting holes.

When sanding, you can go down to the previous primer layer. However, you can extend to the bare metal for the best out-turn. Use different grits of sandpaper to get a smooth finish, starting with 180-grit to 300-grit and finishing with 1200-grit and 3000-grit.

Step 3: Primer Application and Sanding

Apply primer to the sanded surface, going from top to bottom. Allow the coat of primer to cure for about an hour before applying one or two more layers. Wait another hour after the last coat before sanding with fine-grit sandpaper to smooth out the powdery finish. Be gentle when sanding to avoid digging into the bare metal.

Step 4: Apply the Basecoat

Spray the primed surface with multiple thin layers of basecoat paint. The first layer should dry before applying the succeeding coat, which can take 20-60 minutes, depending on the paint brand and provided instructions. You can do at least 3-4 coats of paint.

Allow the basecoat to cure, roughly an hour, before gently sanding the surface with a 1500-grit or 2000-grit sandpaper. Sanding will remove the powdery residue and prepare the body for the last coat. Wipe the surface as you sand with a wet cloth.

Step 5: Set the Clearcoat and Sand

You can apply the clearcoat once the basecoat sets it. The procedure is the same as the preceding steps, spray the first coat, let it cure, and repeat with 2-3 other layers.

Let the paint dry and cure. It will be dry to the touch within 24 hours, but you should give it at least a week to cure. During the curing period, the car should be in a safe spot, away from dust and other materials that can mess up the outcome.  

Once it cures, you can lightly sand the surface with fine-grit sandpaper to deal with minor imperfections. Finalize the upgrade by buffing the car and installing the detached parts.

Car Wrap Vs. Paint Differences

Car wrapping and painting differ in many ways. A look at the differences will help you know which way to go when presented with both options.

car wrap vs paint cost

1. Costs

Cost is a crucial factor to consider when upgrading your car. When comparing car wrap vs. paint costs, you realize the latter is relatively cheaper. How much does it cost to wrap a car? Your expenditure will depend on the vinyl type, quality, car type, and location.

A professionally done wrap job on a small car ranges from $1000 to $2000. The cost may be higher if you have many customization options or opt for top-grade material, like cast vinyl. The same job on a larger car, like an SUV or crossover, might cost between $3500 and $7000.

On the other hand, you may part with $2000 to $4000 for a well-done paintwork on a standard sedan. Larger vehicles like SUVs or vans might have a $6000-$10000 price tag for professional work.

The price of exterior upgrades will dip if you tackle the job yourself. Wrapping is still cheaper, costing around $500 to $750 for several vinyl sheets plus tools. DIY car painting will cost a rough expenditure of $200 to $1500.

2. Time

Wrapping a car takes a shorter duration than painting, though the waiting time varies depending on the vehicle size, the area covered, the size of the labor force, and experience. Typically, it takes 3-4 days to wrap a regular sedan. The time may be shorter if you have many experienced hands.

Painting is time-intensive and takes 3-7 days to work on a standard sedan. As earlier hinted, painting is complex and needs extended periods of drying and curing between coat applications. Once you complete painting the entire car, you must spare at least a week for curing. Larger vehicles will take more time.

3. Durability

Wrapping and painting protect the car’s body; thus, durability is crucial when choosing between the two. Paint jobs last up to 15 years before prompting a redo. Most car owners opt for paint due to their permanency essence.

Car vinyl wraps have a shorter service life, typically 3-6 years, though cast wraps can extend to 10 years. The durability of these car exterior altering solutions varies, subject to maintenance frequency, environment, and product quality. Proper and regular maintenance will improve their duration, similar to using high-quality products.

Poor environments may affect the automotive body mods, leading to fast degradation.

4. Customization

Both car wraps and paintworks allow for customization, but to different degrees. You can easily customize car wraps, mainly during the design stage, which is a simple process. Alternatively, you can tweak the wrap designs during and after installation, as it is easy to remove the wrapping.

Painting can present more detailed designs, particularly if handled by a professional. However, it takes a long time, and it is pretty challenging. Moreover, customizing painted surfaces is pricier than wrapped ones.

5. Maintenance

Well-done automotive paintwork is hardy and resilient to most exterior factors, making maintenance routines like cleaning hassle-free. No need to worry when working on the exterior, as the paint remains solid.

The situation is different when dealing with vinyl-wrapped vehicles. You must be extra careful when dealing with wrapped surfaces, as you may tear the coat.

The ease of maintenance depends on the quality of the body upgrade. It is more convenient to tend to high-quality vinyl covers than substandard paintwork, which may chip off or scratch.

6. Protection

Generally, painting adds a sturdier layer of protection against UV rays, mechanical damage, and harsh weather than wraps. Car wraps will protect the car body but won’t withstand mechanical damages as well as an excellently done paint job.

Pros And Cons of Car Wrap and Paint

A critical part of the car wrap vs. paint discussion is understanding the advantages and disadvantages of these two exterior mods. Let us look at each of them to see how good they are.

Pros Of Car Wrap

Wrapping is an inexpensive way of modifying your vehicle’s exterior. A professional job is way cheaper than other modifications, like painting. The vinyl wraps protect your paint job and body from UV rays, abrasions and other external elements.

Car wraps are easy to install and take a short time to complete. You don’t need complex or many tools to get the job done. With several experienced hands, you can complete the wrapping in a day, plus you don’t have to wait for it to cure.

The other advantage of car wraps is that they are easy to customize, which you can achieve at the designing step or after installation. The wraps are a temporary mod, though they can serve you for between 3 and 10 years, depending on their quality.

Regarding their temporary nature, you can effortlessly remove them. You can use a decal eraser wheel to remove wraps covering small areas.


While wraps protect the car body, they don’t match up to the excellence of a nice paint job. They are prone to scratching and peeling, especially if the vinyl wrap is low-quality or the wrapping is substandard.

Wrapping is simple but can get complicated when working around edges and contours. Maintenance of car wraps is challenging. For instance, you must be careful when cleaning, as bristles like those in car washes can wear the vinyl sheet.

Poor-quality installation may lead to an undesirable payoff, evident from scratches, bubbles, or wrinkles on the surface. Other car wrap problems include damage to the underlying paint and an ugly look when the vinyl starts to degrade.

Pros Of Car Paint

Painting your car is an excellent way of upgrading its aesthetic appeal and improving its resale value. Expertly-done paintwork will complement your vehicle’s features and make it stand out. Coating your car’s exterior will protect the body from rust, ultraviolet rays, and other harsh elements.

Paint is durable, with an average service life of 10 to 15 years. The robustness of automotive paint will strengthen some structures, especially those worn out due to corrosion. You can coat your car with fresh color to deal with imperfections on the body, like scratches.

Maintenance of painted surfaces is hassle-free, as once the paint fully cures, it forms a solid protective shell that is less prone to abrasion and the effects of harsh chemicals. Moreover, you will have an easy time painting contours and edges.


Car painting is costly, so many people opt for cheaper alternatives like vinyl covering. Additionally, this exterior upgrading solution is labor and time intensive. You need plenty of professional hands and ample time to get the best results.

The permanency nature of paintwork works against it when it comes to customization. Customizing paint jobs to your preferences is hard and expensive, especially once the coat sets in.  

Substandard paintworks are an eyesore, and you may notice bumps, cracks, and wrinkles on the surface. Non-original coats can lower the value of classic and vintage cars.

Is It Better to Wrap a Car or Paint It?

Painting and wrapping are excellent ways of revamping your car’s exterior. When choosing between the two modifications, consider cost, duration, durability, maintenance, and customization convenience.

Wrapping is the best solution if you want a cost-effective, fast, and temporary upgrade. Plus, the customization of wraps is a walk in the park. Painting is ideal if you are targeting strength, durability, and ease of maintenance.

Whether wrapping or painting your car, you should never compromise on quality. Always go for professional services to get the finest results.


Hi there, I am R. Hasan Tito, a mechanic, and owner of this website. My friend and I created this website to share our knowledge, expertise, and experience with our fellow mechanics' community and car users. I am a specialist and certified automotive mechanic (Both Heavy Commercial and Private Cars). I worked as a Mechanic and Mechanic Supervisor for over fifteen years at Global Rebound Automotive companies - Toyota, TATA, BMW, Nissan, TVs, and Others. Now, I enjoy my new role of leading a team of automotive experts (in their respective fields) and publish new content on a regular basis on my website and social media.

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