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? Are you 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 pazazz. 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.

Car Wrap Cost vs. Paint (Material Cost)

To buy just the car 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.

Is It Cheaper to Wrap or Paint a Car?

Typically, it is cheaper to wrap a car; however, a wrap does not last near as long as a paint job. So, if you are looking for a permanent change, then you’ll want to go for a paint job.

Professional Costs

To have the average car wrapped, you can expect to pay around $2,000 to $3,500. If you want to be fancy about it, or you are wrapping something that is worth more than my life insurance plan, then you are looking at $7,000 to $15,000 dollars!

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

Anyway, if you want to opt for a paint job, you can expect to pay around $2,000 to $4,000 for your average paint job. If you are looking for a higher-end paint job, then it will cost around $5,000 to $7,000.

Lastly, if you want a more creative paint job with a design to it, then you are looking at astronomical numbers such as $10,000 to $15,000 (please refer to the above list regarding what you could do with that money).

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. 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. You’ll need:

  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.

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 — Pros and Cons

Wrap and paint are not meant to be used in the same way. They each have specific purposes. For example, paint is meant to be a long-term option; whereas, wrap is more of a short-term option but has more flexibility when it comes to individual customization.

Durability

As far as durability goes, paint easily beats car wrap. The paint should last for around 10 years; whereas, the wrap should last for around 2 years.

Car wrap is not meant to be a permanent option. Furthermore, car wrap does not fare very well when the sun is beating down on it. So, if you leave your car parked in the sun a lot, you may just be looking at 1 year of use.

Car wrap can also be prone to peel if installed incorrectly. Paint, on the other hand, is not going anywhere. Unless you went the cheap route and made the horrendous mistake of mixing water into your paint so you can get more use out of it, then you shouldn’t have any problems.

Maintenance

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.

Installation

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.

Functionality

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.

Style

Paint jobs tend to have a nicer finish than a wrap job — though it can be close. The nice aspect about wraps is that you can have your own design printed out on them.

However, if you want a design on your car with paint, then you will be paying a premium price for it.

Is It Better to Get Your Car Wrapped or Painted?

If you are looking for a permanent and durable change, then you should have your car painted. If you are looking for a temporary change or if you want to advertise for your company, then you’ll want to have your car wrapped.

Final Thoughts

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.

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).

Leave a Comment