Car Wrap vs Paint – Differences in Cost, Completion Time, & More!

Updated: | Author: Tyler Hilgeman | Affiliate links may be present.

Are you looking for a little more style in your life? Getting bored of your car’s color? Are you debating whether to wrap your car or paint it?

Car wrap is very customizable and provides a temporary change to your car’s pizzazz. On the other hand, paint is more of a permanent change and tends to have a nicer finish. Car wrap tends to be less expensive and it is easier to install than it is to paint a car.

What Wrapping Your Car Gets You

Before I show you both sides of the medal in the ultimate showdown on car wrap vs paint, let’s take some time to consider both for what they truly are – effective ways of customizing your car’s visual appearance.

Whenever wrap is mentioned, two lines of thought appear depending on the type of driver. Either you’ll completely adore it, or simply hate it, and this is mostly due to most drivers immediately thinking about a matte black wrap which is arguably the most common type.

Still, you should know that there are several types of car wrap finishes you can install on your ride:

  • Clear vinyl wrap
  • Glossy wrap
  • Matte wrap
  • Chrome wrap
  • Dual-color pearly wraps

If you hate matte wrap, I totally get you, but that doesn’t mean a clear vinyl wrap looks any less impressive on a car than a brand-new paint job. Plus, I bet you won’t even be able to tell the difference between the two if you let experienced professionals install the clear wrap.

Car wraps are usually more affordable than paint jobs, and they suit a variety of purposes from keeping the original paint coat protected from tiny dents, to lasting strains and weather damage.

Believe it or not, a wrap can also last longer than paint sometimes and it’s much easier and quicker to install, so perhaps you should rethink your perspective if you think it’s a no-go.

The Basics of Custom Car Paint

Now, I’m not saying you should take your car’s paint for granted, and that a wrap is a way better option if you wish to customize it. Putting on some custom paint can be quite satisfying for a few reasons:

  • Custom paint can even increase the value of your car on the used market
  • It may require less maintenance than wraps
  • It may be way more unique than using common wrap options (like matte black)

Sure, getting a new paint job will likely leave a larger mark on your wallet and it also makes a much more complex process. Plus, it goes without saying that it’s super important to get it done right, since poorly-installed paint can start to peel as soon as within a year or two after application.

So, both options seem to be working almost equally well, and it mostly depends on a driver’s preferences. However, can we somehow come to an ultimate conclusion on car wrap vs paint?

That’s certainly my goal and the reason why I listed all these pieces of info in the first place, so take a look at these comparison factors before we get to my unbiased take on the matter.

Car Wrap Cost vs. Paint – Which is Cheaper?

One of the key determining factors when comparing these two is the overall cost of putting on a wrap or a professional custom paint. The most important thing to keep in mind here is that both customization options can vary in pricing depending on the quality of the wrap or paint, and the car model you are applying it to.

Professional Costs

So, you can say that a car wrap can cost anywhere between $500 to $5,000, and the average price of a professional wrap is around $2,000 with the labor costs included. On the other hand, a professional custom paint job may cost you in the range of $3,000 to $10,000, depending on your ride.

Sometimes, the cost can get even higher up to $15,000 or even more if you are applying something extraordinary like a chameleon color paint for sportscars.

Before you invest $15,000 on a car wrap job, consider that you can:

  • Use that money for a down payment on a yacht
  • Buy 1,437.5 pounds of peanut-butter M&Ms
  • And (my personal favorite) donate it to my charity — which is definitely scam free

I also have to point out that you need to pay between $300 and $600 on average to get the wrap removed from your car, so that’s another thing to keep in mind when comparing the costs.

The DIY Way

If you want to save a decent chunk of money, you could wrap or paint your car for a lot less if you do it yourself. The material cost isn’t huge.

To buy just the wrap for your car, it can cost anywhere from $150 to $1,500. It really depends on whether you want a custom design or not. However, for a basic solid-colored wrap, you can expect to pay around $250 to $800 for just the wrap.

On the other hand, buying car paint is cheaper. The average car needs about two gallons of automotive paint for the exterior. Depending on the type of paint, you’ll be paying anywhere from $30 to $150 a gallon, so the total cost for paint alone should be around $60 to $300.

When it comes to wrapping a car, there is not much prep work involved other than cleaning and drying the outside of your car.

You will, however, need to buy:

  1. A heat gun to heat the wrap
  2. A squeegee to smooth out any wrinkles
  3. A precision knife like a razor to cut the wrap
  4. Wrap magnets if you are truly alone with no one to help you

So, you are looking at around, on average, $400 to $600 dollars to wrap your car yourself.

On the other hand, if you decide to paint your car, get ready for a ton of prep work as you’ll need the following items:

  1. A sander to remove the old paint
  2. Plastic to cover windows and other areas that you don’t want paint on
  3. Tape to secure the plastic

When painting a car, you have to remove all the old paint and thoroughly clean the areas that will be painted. Because of that, you’ll be spending a lot more time if you paint your car vs. if you wrap your car.

Overall, you’ll probably be spending anywhere from $300 to $700 dollars on average to paint your car the DIY way, but this figure drastically varies depending on the type and quality of the wrap and paint you choose.

Benefits of Getting a Custom Wrap

Now that you know a bit more about the essence of the car wrap vs paint debate, it’s time we get to the benefits and downsides of both, to show you if there’s a real difference here. By now, you can already tell that a custom wrap is way cheaper and it’s easy to build on as a foundation for further customizing your car.

These are not the only benefits of using a car wrap, so here’s a complete list:

  • A car wrap can protect the paint undercoat from UV rays
  • It can serve as a protective layer for the factory paint job
  • It’s faster to install than a custom paint
  • High-quality vinyl wrap can last for years, making it pay off in the long run

If you are into some NFS-like car designs, you can also use the easier application of a custom wrap to your advantage to get a dual-colored wrap or make a similar creative stunt.

Downsides of Car Wraps

As much as there are numerous benefits of a car wrap, there are also some slight disadvantages to it. It all depends on the way you look at it but I’ll let you decide by giving you an overview of each downside.

First, it’s likely that a car wrap will only last for around 3 to 5 years on average, assuming you aren’t using a top-notch premium wrap which is more expensive. You also have to count in all the maintenance work related to it, and trust me – there’s quite a bit to do here.

You have to carefully wash a car with a vinyl wrap and use a gentle cloth and non-abrasive methods of cleaning to preserve its condition. I also have to mention wrap removal costs once you get bored and wish to change things, and it’s also not the best thing that your OEM paint may get damaged if you leave the wrap for too long without proper care.

Benefits of Custom Car Paint

For those of you that don’t want to spare a dime to make your ride look astonishing, custom paint can be the most refreshing option out there. It will restore the original glitter to your car’s exterior but it also comes with quite a few other benefits:

  • Professional custom paint lasts much longer than a wrap
  • Custom paint job requires less maintenance
  • A quality paint job can increase the resale value of your car
  • No need to hand-wash for keeping the paint pristine

Of course, the fact that a new paint job can be much more durable than a wrap is one of the main things that make car owners resort to this option. It all depends on the owner since you have to be sure you’ll be driving the same car for years to come at this point, right?

Downsides of a Custom Car Paint

Not everything can be so great with custom car paint, so it’s only natural there are quite a few downsides to discuss. The most obvious one is the waiting time since you’ll likely have to give up on driving your car for a week or so to get the paint done right.

Every new coat requires the previously-applied one to dry out and the process can be rather lengthy and tedious, so it’s obvious why the installation costs are higher. Plus, even slight exterior damage will easily get visible in this case, while you can repair a wrap dent by doing the wrapping of the entire affected component again (for instance only applying new wrap on the hood).

Finally, the one thing that makes most drivers give up is the cost of painting the entire car which is often much higher than that of wrapping a car.

Which is Better for Protection?

Putting on a custom wrap is a great way of protecting the undercoat of your car’s original paint. While it won’t keep the paint layer safe from large dents and cracks caused by collisions, it can serve as great protection against the sun and rough weather conditions.

On the other hand, many car owners decide to go with a new paint job due to the fact that it’s possible to apply a ceramic coat to protect the paint layer. What you may not realize is that you can apply a ceramic coat on a vinyl wrap as well, so the result is tied there.

Finally, we have to count on other types of damage that may occur after improper washing may leave streaks as car soap stains dry out on the sun, and it’s much easier to repair a wrap in this case.


After your car is painted, there is not much maintenance needed other than washing your car every once in a while.

On the other hand, car wrap is much more delicate and therefore needs to be washed by hand. If you take your car through a car cleaner, your wrapping may come off!

So, you’ll want to use a soft washcloth and gently wash your car — preferably with special car wrap soap. Also, it may go without saying, but you’ll want to stay away from using high-pressure water to wash off your car.


When it comes to painting your car, there is a lot more work that goes into it than wrapping a car. The actual painting is easy, but there is a lot of prep work needed to get to that stage.

Then there is wrapping. Wrapping a car is a lot easier. There is not much prep work other than cleaning the surface of the car. After that, you can start spreading and laying down the wrap.

As far as time goes, for a paint job, you are looking at a multiple-day project as you will have to prep the car, paint the car, wait for the paint to dry, and then add the final touches. You can expect it to be a 3 to 4-day project.

With a wrap job, you can expect it to take 1 to 2 days. It really depends on experience level, but some professionals can get it done in less than a day.


One final thing to keep in mind when making a final decision here is the functionality, and we’ve seen quite a bit of debate on whether car wraps are more practical than new paint.

While this is true when it comes to applying it and fixing minor dents, a car wrap is in reality much more demanding. You have to hand-wash it in most cases and it may peel off over time and that could be a pretty bad sight, especially if you aim to achieve an admirable visual effect of the exterior.

Paint is meant to last, and wraps are meant to shake things up a bit. A wrap does not destroy the paint underneath and is easy to remove and install.

Wraps can be used as an extra layer to protect your car’s paint. You can also have your company logo or just a cool design printed on the wrap for a low price compared to having it painted on.

It’s also important that the original paint of the car is perfectly preserved underneath, so that may come in as more practical when selling the car or if you simply prefer to take off the wrap. As you can imagine, that’s not as easy to do with custom paint, even though it may boost the value of your car a bit.

How Much Does It Cost to Wrap a Car in Matte Black?

Your car could be matte black… let that sink in. But, even better, matte black is a premium color; however, it is not a color with a premium.

So, you’ll be paying about the same as your average wrap job — $2,000 to $3,500. If you are doing it yourself, then it will probably cost around $450-$600.

Wrap vs Paint – The Final Showdown

So, is it better to paint or wrap your car? It depends solely on your preferences, and if done right, both can look just as good. That’s why my unbiased opinion on the car wrap vs paint dilemma is that both may work pretty well.

Overall, having your car wrapped or painted is really up to your plans for the car. Both options provide unique pros and cons.

The biggest mistake you could make is thinking that they are both the same and just go with the cheaper and easier option. So, you’ll want to consider their individual uses and then choose accordingly.

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About Tyler Hilgeman

Tyler is an automotive and DIY research writer. He revels in saved money from DIY jobs and screeches at “cheap” estimates from auto body and mechanic shops. Part of his life’s work is to create a better world where automobiles are more understood and appreciated for who they are (R.I.P. My Beloved Toyota Camry — “Betsy” 1998-2021).

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