Wrapping a car with vinyl protects the paint job, maintains the vehicle’s resale value, and provides you with the opportunity to change its look without having to repaint.
Despite the benefits of car wrapping, I’m often met with skepticism concerning its longevity.
Most people ask “how long does a car wrap last?”.
The answer is simple — it depends on how you treat your vehicle.
Car wraps have an average life expectancy of around five years. With proper upkeep and maintenance, it may last up to ten years or longer. Keep your car wrap in good condition by regularly hand-washing the vehicle, using only wrap-safe products, and parking your car in a garage, carport, or under a car tarp.
Wrapping a vehicle is an excellent way to create an aesthetically pleasing design without damaging the paint underneath — and once you’re finished with it, it peels right off.
In this article, I’ll explain how long car wrap lasts, its durability, and how to safely optimize its longevity. Keep reading to learn more.
How Long Does A Vinyl Vehicle Wrap Last?
Wrapping a car takes significantly less time than painting one. According to Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART), they can wrap a train car in as little as one day.
However, due to the short amount of time it takes to install a car wrap, some people assume that there’s no way it could possibly last — but they’re wrong.
A high-quality car wrap lasts around five years. Prep, installation, technique, and other factors, including the weather and upkeep, affect the overall lifespan. With meticulous care and attention, a well-installed vehicle wrap may last up to ten years or more.
The truth is, not everyone cares for their cars the same way. There are extremely conscientious car owners who “baby” their vehicles, taking great care to prevent even the slightest stains, scratches, or other damages.
On the other hand, there are more laid-back car owners that get a little lazy with their upkeep.
It’s not hard to figure out which car owner is more likely to have a longer-lasting car wrap.
With that said, even the laid-back car owner should expect their car wrap to last for a minimum of five years.
I’ve compiled some data showcasing what different experts and YouTubers have to say about the lifespan of car wraps to give you a better understanding of what to expect, on average.
Lifespan Of A Vinyl Wrap – Experts’ Opinion
|Automotive Training Center||5 – 10|
|Phenomenal Vinyl||3 – 5|
|Premier Xpress||5 – 7|
|Chucky Wright (YouTube)||5+|
|Nikolai Aksenov (YouTube)||5+|
Using only the above data, a car wrap should last between 4.6 and 7.3+ years. This is roughly comparable to a paint job.
However, if properly cared for, an automobile’s wrap could last 10 years or more.
Types of Vinyl for Car Wraps
In terms of longevity, the type of vinyl used in car wrapping matters.
High-quality vinyl car wraps cost several hundred dollars to cover the full surface area.
Combine that with labor costs (which include detailed cleaning and hours of thorough application), and you’re looking at around $3,000 minimum for a full-sized sedan.
Expect the price to increase if the vehicle includes a body kit or if you’re looking for specialty vinyl (i.e., color-changing, chrome, etc.).
Additionally, you’ll have to pay extra for a protective ceramic coating.
If you want to learn more about how expensive car wraps can be, make sure to read my in-depth article about it.
I contacted lots of different car detailing shops to answer the question of how much a car wrap is. Click here to read the article.
Some companies opt for calendared vinyl due to its budget-friendly pricing.
While this type of vinyl is adequate for adding accents to wrapped vehicles, it’s not ideal for covering the entire body of the car.
In fact, calendared vinyl may last for a maximum of seven years, and if you use the vehicle daily, expect it to last for only one year or so.
Cast or dual-cast vinyl is the preferred choice for wrapping the entire vehicle body. It’s durable and more resistant to damage due to the extra plastics used in the manufacturing process.
This type of vinyl does, however, require a high-viscosity adhesive.
If you use a thick adhesive glue, it’s going to be prone to air bubbles, ridges, and other imperfections.
However, the saying is true: You get what you pay for.
While some companies opt for cheap vinyl to save on overhead costs, others invest in only the best of the best.
The final look of your vehicle depends on the type of vinyl used, as well as the technique and talent of the technicians applying the wrap.
Does Vinyl Wrap Fade?
Car vinyl wraps use a blend of PVC, or polyvinyl chloride polymer. According to Purdue University, vinyl chloride is made with chlorine, hence the name.
The addition of chlorine makes the polymer fire-resistant and more durable.
Manufacturers may also choose to add other additives, including plasticizers, fillers, and dyes, or chemical additives to ensure fade resistance.
High-quality vinyl car wraps should last at least five years without fading, cracking, or peeling. Over longer periods, however, exposure to the elements and sun exposure can cause fading to appear in the wrap (the same way that paint fades over time). Thinner vinyl films tend to fade more quickly than thicker wraps.
Thick, dual-cast vinyl is more resistant to fading than thinner, less expensive materials.
Dual-cast is both durable and flexible and usually includes additives to prevent fading, making it the best choice for longer-lasting car wraps.
It’s essential that you know what kind of vinyl a company uses before choosing them to install your car wrap.
If, once installed, you find that your car wrap fades before your warranty expires, reach out to the company that installed it and have the issue remedied as soon as possible.
Do Car Wraps Scratch Easy?
As technology advances, vinyl manufacturers find it easier to create more durable products.
While today’s vinyl is more resistant to damage than vinyl of the past, it’s not invincible.
As a general rule, vinyl is prone to scratching. You can, however, reduce the likelihood of scratches in your car wrap by investing in high-quality vinyl.
Car wraps can scratch, especially if you use the thin, inexpensive vinyl varieties. Dual-cast vinyl offers the greatest durability, protection, and resistance. It’s best to opt for a thick vinyl and invest in a ceramic coating. This provides a hard, sturdy surface to further prevent scratches.
As mentioned in the previous section, different additives make for a more durable vinyl.
Many manufacturers of inexpensive vinyl car wraps don’t include these additives, as doing so increases the overall manufacturing costs.
However, this will inevitably lead to a lower quality product.
Does the Cold Damage Car Wrap?
Temperature can often affect different materials, so you might be concerned about damaging your vinyl in extreme cold.
Because of the way that manufacturers produce car vinyl, it’s unlikely that cold temperatures will affect your car wrap — at least not in any noticeable way.
Cold weather should not damage your vehicle wrap. Manufacturers use additives to create high-quality adhesive vinyls designed to withstand the elements, including cold temperatures, rain, sleet, snow, ice, and even the damaging effects of road salt.
While vinyl isn’t typically affected by the cold, a technician should never wrap a vehicle outdoors.
Not only does this expose the car to dirt, debris, and other contaminants that may end up stuck beneath the vinyl (creating unsightly bumps and ridges), but vinyl also becomes brittle and non-pliable in cold air.
True professional car-wrappers understand this, so when seeking a professional to wrap your car, ensure that they have a designated shop for vehicle wrapping.
Wrapping a car in the elements is sure to leave you with a shoddy wrap job that’s hardly worth the money.
Does the Heat Damage Car Wrap?
Considering that heat is what makes vinyl pliable and adhere to the vehicle, you’re probably concerned that heat from the sun may damage the material.
This is a legitimate concern because the sun could, in fact, damage the vinyl.
Heat may damage a car wrap over time. Vinyl is sensitive to high temperatures, so regular exposure to heat and ultraviolet light may cause the vehicle vinyl to fade and warp. However, heat shouldn’t damage a car’s wrap job before the warranty expires. It should still last for 3+ years.
With that said, there are ways to protect your wrapped vehicle to prevent damage from heat exposure.
Cover your vehicle by parking it in a cool garage or carport, or by covering it with a car tarp when not in use.
If you don’t have access to any of these options, choose to park in the shade whenever possible.
Additionally, a wrap-safe wax may provide additional protection against heat and ultraviolet light, slowing the fading process.
How To Make Your Car Wrap Last Longer
Considering how much it costs to wrap a vehicle, I’m not surprised when people come to me concerned about how to take proper care of it.
However, as I’ve stated throughout this article, a well-done wrap job shouldn’t show signs of damage for years to come, as long as it’s properly cared for.
Below, I’ve outlined some tips for keeping your wrapped vehicle in good condition for as long as possible:
However, the best way to increase the longevity of your vinyl wrap is to invest in a technician that does the job right.
I highly recommend researching reputable local companies. Check out their reviews on social media and consumer report websites.
Ask about their warranty — if they don’t offer at least a three-year warranty on their wrap jobs, then find someone else.
Before committing to the purchase, ask to see photographs of their past work to guarantee that you’re getting a vehicle wrap of high quality.
Most car wraps last an average of five years; however, with exceptional care, some jobs may last you up to ten years (or more!).
As long as you invest in a high-quality wrap, the vinyl shouldn’t fade within the warranty period, even if under challenging conditions.
By following a few simple, yet crucial steps, you’ll be able to optimize the longevity of your car wrap and keep it vibrant and scratch-free for years to come.
Bay Area Rapid Transit: Let’s Talk About Train Wraps
Automotive Training Center: Adhesive Vinyl vs. Paint
Phenomenal Vinyl: How Long Will My Wrap Last?
Premier Xpress Wrap and Tint: How Long Does a Car Wrap Last?
YouTube: Chucky Wright – How Long Does a Car Wrap Last?
YouTube: Nikolai Aksenov – How Long Does Vinyl Wrap Last?
Eli’s Auto Body: How Long Will a New Paint Job Last?
GRIMCO: Vinyl Basics – Cast vs Calendered
Arlon: Cast or Calendered Film – What To Use for a Vehicle Wrap
Purdue University: Types of Polymers