Car Wrap vs. Paint: What are the Differences?

by Joshua Thomas

Car Wrap vs. Paint: What are the Differences?

Should you wrap or should you paint your car? While both methods are meant to keep your car's exterior looking new and shiny, they are very different from each other in terms of application and final look.

Basically, a car wrap is usually a vinyl covering that is layered over an existing paint job so as to offer a protective coat.

On the other hand, paint usage is quite self-explanatory. To get a clear picture of the difference between the two, this article covers both bodywork methods in detail below.

Car Wrap vs. Paint: What are the Differences?
Car Wrap vs. Paint: What are the Differences?

Close Up Look at Wrapping (Vinyl)

Car Wrap
Car Wrap

Vinyl wraps have become very popular in recent times because they allow you to protect your car's exterior without repainting. Coming as an invisible thin film, it helps to protect the underlying paint job against damaging debris such as rocks, which can cause scratches.

Close Up Look at Painting

Car Paint
Car Paint

Of course, painting involves the use of paint and the main advantage of this is that you can get almost any color and it can be used to repair damages as a result of rust, chipping, dents, scratches, etc.

Differences Between the Two

Car Wrap Paint
Installation Shorter installation time (about 3 days to cover a whole car) Requires quite some effort to apply and takes about a week to dry
Removal Easy to remove and does not damage the paint Must be scraped off, which is a lot of work
Cost Costs about $80 for a DIY project. About $1500 for a professional installation. Costs about $100 for a DIY project. About $1000-$2000 for a professional job
Washing Wipe using a soft cloth Wash using a soft cloth and wax regularly
Durability Can last up to 5 years with proper care Can last up to a lifetime with proper care
Appearance Available in different designs and you can get custom designs Requires quite some effort and skill to achieve a customized look

1. Installation

When dealing with paint, the application is quite cumbersome because you have to scrape off the old paint first so that the new layer sits on the bare metal.

You may also need to apply several coats and then wait for up to a week on average for it to dry.

On the other hand, car wraps take a lot less time to apply because the outer surface only needs to be washed and dried first.

After that, apply the wrap then activate its adhesive by applying heat. Overall, covering the whole car should take about 3 days maximum.

Note : Make sure you only apply the wrap over paint that is not scratched or dented.

2. Removal

When paint dries up on your car, removal can only be done by scraping, which is a lot of work. Additionally, this removal will have a negative impact on your car's resale value because it slowly damages the exterior look of your car.

When it comes to wraps though, this film can be easily removed and won't damage the underlying paint job.

3. Cost

There are two ways to look at the cost factor.


You can decide to paint or wrap your car as a DIY project and this means you only have to incur the cost of buying the required installation materials.

Though this is a cheaper option, you can end up doing a shoddy job, especially if it's your first time.

If you decide to use this option, painting will require the following:

  • Enough quantity of paint.
  • Paint thinner.
  • Sandpaper
  • Electric sander
  • Spray gun
  • Masking tape
  • Safety glasses and a face mask
  • Newspapers

Combined, these will set you back around $100, and they can be found in online stores such as Amazon, as well as the hardware store in your neighborhood.

Note : This value may change depending on the quantity of paint that you need.

On the other hand, a car wrap installation kit consisting of a blade, squeegee, scraper, etc. will cost you an average of $20, while the actual wrap comes at around $10-$20 per 5 x 1-foot roll.

Most cars will require about 3-4 rolls, totaling roughly $60 on average. Adding the kit's cost, you get $80 and therefore, it is slightly cheaper to install car wrap.

Note: These prices are based on Amazon and thus, they might be different depending on where you source the products.


If you decide to go the professional way, car painting can cost you about $600 for a single paint coat and it can go past the $2000 mark if a lot of prep work is to be done first (dent removal and the like).

On the other hand, professional car wrapping can begin from about $1500 going upwards, and this depends on the size of your car and the complexity of the wrap among many other factors.

Read More: Car Wrap Cost

4. Washing

Paint is more sensitive that vinyl wraps because it can be easily scratched. Therefore, you should ensure that your car is kept clean, with the washing being done using a soft cloth or sponge so as to prevent swirls and scratches from forming on the surface.

On the other hand, car wraps require significantly less maintenance and all you need to do is keep the surface clean by wiping using a soft cloth. If any damage occurs, you simply have to reapply vinyl on that area, which should take very little time.

5. Durability

Car paint can be very durable if you use high-quality paint and maintain the finish properly by cleaning and waxing. Ideally, it can last up to a lifetime when applied in the right way and taken care of.

Extreme weather conditions can quickly damage car wrap. For long-lasting use, it is recommended to keep your garage covered or in a garage when not in use. When properly maintained, you can get up to 5 years of service.

6. Appearance

Lastly, customization of your car's exterior using vinyl wrap is much easier than using paint. This is because you can get the film in different colors and designs, and you can also get one custom-designed for different purposes such as vehicle signage.

With paint, you need to put in a lot of work so as to achieve a customized design and finish. It also requires a lot of skill if you want to create artistic designs on your car's surface.

Conclusion: When to Wrap Vs When to Paint

Vinyl wrapping is recommended when:

  • The existing paint job is spotless and you want to protect it from damages.
  • You want unique high-quality graphics that custom painting cannot achieve.
  • You want a finish that you can easily remove and change later on.
  • You want the job to be completed as quickly as possible.

As for paint, it is recommended to apply it when:

  • The current paint job is severely worn out and damaged by scratches, swirls, etc.
  • You only need to do some minor touch-ups on small body sections.
  • You want to change the color of your car.

About Joshua Thomas

Joshua Thomas just simply loves cars and willing to work on them whenever there's chance... sometimes for free.

He started CarCareTotal back in 2017 from the advices of total strangers who witnessed his amazing skills in car repairs here and there.

His goal with this creation is to help car owners better learn how to maintain and repair their cars; as such, the site would cover alot of areas: troubleshooting, product recommendations, tips & tricks.

Joshua received Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering at San Diego State University.

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