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Vehicle Wrap Pricing

How much for a wrap?

A question I hear a lot: “How much do you charge for a vehicle wrap?” And that is from other professionals in the graphics business!
Wraps are relatively new to the graphics world and prices for vehicle wraps can vary greatly from shop to shop. Quotes can be all over the map. I will examine three variables of the wrap cost to see where the differences are coming from.

Variables

One of the biggest variables in wrap pricing is design cost. Some wrap shops include design in the quoted price, and others separate the design fee.
Another variable is material choice. Inferior wrap materials look good at first but deteriorate quickly in the elements.
The third variable we will look at is installation cost. Installing a wrap properly is very difficult and requires significant training.

But first let’s look at what a vehicle wrap actually is and when a wrap is a good investment.

What is a vehicle wrap?

A vehicle wrap consists of printed adhesive-backed vinyl sheets. The printed sheets are applied manually to the vehicle. Modern ink, vinyl, and installation technology allow the sheets to be installed amazingly flat. The material can be heated and stretched to fit compound curves. A complete vehicle wrap leaves none of the original paint visible. A partial wrap excludes some portion of the vehicle – often the roof or other less advertisement-worthy areas of the car.

When is a wrap the right choice?

A vehicle wrap is most effective when it reinforces or creates brand awareness. A wrap is a very good way to build brand awareness in conjunction with other marketing efforts. It is also important to note that a wrap is not a rolling brochure. A wrap is not the place to detail your services – small text on wraps is never legible and only takes away from the main purpose of achieving brand awareness. A good logo is the cornerstone of a good wrap design. I prefer to use the logo as a super-graphic (oversize) and focus the design around it.

So how much is a wrap?

A professionally designed and installed vehicle wrap will typically run between $2,000 and $3,500. Some of the variation can be explained by vehicle size but potential customers will still find a rather wide price variance when shopping around. The wildcards are the design process, the materials used for the wrap, and installation.
Designing an effective wrap takes some time. In a complex design, fees can range over $500.
As for materials, quality is at a premium. A wrap done with inferior materials will not last. There are several material choices for ink, vinyl, and overlaminates.
Installation of a wrap is an art form. Heat is used to stretch the printed vinyl graphics around curves and corners. Pre-planning of the installation process results in a seamless (almost) work of vinyl art. Professional level installation does have a fairly set pricing structure.
Let’s take a closer look at how each of these variables affect the overall cost.

Design
The design process is the biggest wildcard and it is also where most wraps fail. I ask clients to visualize their potential wrap as if it were a billboard. Well-designed billboards are quite simple – one quick message that can be digested at a glance. The tendency is to want to add too much to the design. When that happens the wrap more resembles a brochure than a billboard and the effectiveness goes down dramatically. I use the “2 second” test to judge a wrap’s basic effectiveness: if I can’t tell what a wrap is advertising within 2 seconds, I don’t like it. As noted earlier, I prefer to use a supersized version of the company logo to build the wrap design around. That assures the major benefit of a vehicle wrap, brand reinforcement, remains in place. Since the design is so critical I prefer to list it as a separate line item in my wrap quotations. My typical charge for a wrap design is $200 to $500 and I would consider that on the low end.

Materials
Materials used for wraps must be near premium. It is hard to cut corners on wrap materials. Most wrap shops use a charge based on square footage of vinyl printed for the wrap. Printers prefer to use solvent or latex ink for wraps. Both inks provide excellent color and flexibility. The vinyl used should be a “cast” removable material. Cheaper vinyl, or “calendared” vinyl, will work when paired with a cast overlaminate. However this combination may not last the full 5 years expected of a wrap. A removable air-release adhesive will allow the wrap to be removed at the end of its useful life. The overlaminate used on the printed vinyl is critical as well. A high-quality cast gloss laminate is required for proper durability. So there are really only a few material combinations that will work for a vinyl wrap. The thing to note is that there is a substantial price difference between cast and calendared vinyl. Thus if one shop is quoting cast/cast while another is quoting calendar/cast quite a difference can creep in.

Installation
Proper installation is critical to the success of a vinyl wrap. Most wrap shops use a charge based on square footage, and as noted earlier, a standard price scale has emerged in the wrap industry that actually includes both the materials and installation. So most shops know what they should charge for installation. The actual time taken for the installation depends greatly upon the skill of the installer.

Summary
The answer to “How much do you charge for a vehicle wrap?” is $2,000 to $3,500. After vehicle size the key variables are design, material choice, and installation.
We see that the design process has the tendency to be the largest variable. Some shops include design in the wrap price while other shops break the design out. And the variance in amount charged for wrap design services is large.
Material choice basically comes down to the difference between an intermediate durability wrap and a long term durability wrap. A low price quote may indicate the use of inferior materials.
As for installation, standard pricing based on square footage is well-known in the industry. Installation costs should be pretty similar from shop to shop.
So the variation in design costs explains most of the variation in quoted prices. If a wrap shop is quoting less then premium materials that can also explain some of the difference. It is impossible to quote an accurate price without considering design cost and knowing which materials are being used.

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