Every year, Americans buy tens of millions of cars. About 40 million of those are used cars and around 17 million are new cars. While getting a new car is exciting, it doesn’t mean you always get exactly what you want.

A big problem with used cars is that you can often find the kind of car you want, but not necessarily the color you prefer. For a very long time, the only real solution to this problem was a new paint job.

In the last few decades, though, vinyl wrapping has become a viable alternative. What is vinyl wrapping and how does it work?

What Is Vinyl Wrapping?

Vinyl wrapping is, quite literally, putting a layer of vinyl over the existing finish on your car. This kind of car wrap adds a layer of protection to the existing finish, while also letting you alter the look of the car. You can get a wide variety of car wrap colors to suit your tastes.

As an added bonus, the wrap protects your car’s current finish from UV damage and small scratches. When you’re ready to sell the car, you can remove the wrap and show off the incredibly well-preserved finish. That can help boost the resale value a little.

How Does Vinyl Wrap Work?

Car wrapping uses large rolls of vinyl wrap sheets. The sheets are very thin, often only a few millimeters thick. The rolls of vinyl include an adhesive on the back.

Applying the vinyl requires that you cut the vinyl to the approximate size and shape of the area you want to cover, such as a panel, hood, or roof.

You’ll put the vinyl in place and use a small squeegee and a heat gun to smooth the vinyl over the chosen part of the car. For DIYers, it’s almost always more practical to do the work with a friend on hand to help you maneuver the vinyl into place.


For those few brave souls who take on applying a car wrap at home, your main costs come from the vinyl itself. The exact cost will vary based on the make and model of your car. You can typically expect to spend between $500 and $1000 on the vinyl, as well as any cleaners and tools you need.

If you get it done professionally, the custom vinyl car wrap cost will vary by the shop and your location.

Vinyl Wrapping and You

Vinyl wrapping lets you dramatically change the look of your car without getting a completely new paint job. You can get custom colors, such as metallics and pearlescent colors, or go with more basic colors.

The vinyl itself gives your car’s finish a bit of extra protection from UV damage and minor scratches.

Automotive DIYers can take on applying the vinyl wrap themselves and potentially save a bit of money. In general, it’s more practical to use a professional.

Looking for more automotive tips? Check out the posts over in our Auto section.