What makes a good car wrap?
The two factors that determine the quality of a car wrap are the material used and the installation process (which can itself be broken into surface prep and the actual installation of the vinyl wrap).
Vinyl wrap brand
There’s a vast range of quality levels in the wrap materials on the market. Also, even among the “good” brands, a diversity of options means that the best vinyl for one project might not be the best for a different type of project.
For example, a full graphic wrap for a food truck, box truck, semi-trailer, or bus might have different UV requirements, adhesive profiles, and other minutia that specify a different wrap material as ideal than, say, for a sports car color change wrap. It’s all about understanding the needs of your particular application.
Let’s look at some of the more well-known vinyl wrap producers and retailers.
The gold standard of wrap materials. Began more than a century ago as Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company, 3M developed Scotch tape, reflective coatings, and other cool products over the course of the twentieth century. Today, it leads the car wraps industry.
The other big player, and their reputation is on par with 3M in terms of quality. They’ve been around the better part of a century in some form or another. Avery Dennison started as an adhesives company, and, in large part, that’s what they still are, given that the adhesive component is a large aspect of a vinyl wrap.
Other prominent vinyl players
Let’s call these the tier of vinyl brands under 3M and Avery Dennison—include Vvivid, Oracal, Arlon, Metrorestyling, and others. A search around reddit and other forums will turn up mixed responses on these, but mostly positive.
Avoid bad vinyl from unknown brands
Lowest of all are the off-brand, low-cost vinyls with poor laminate, low-to-nonexistent UV protection causing rapid fading, and other corner-cutting material features. These will fade, de-laminate, or otherwise suck, and you’ll be left regretting all the money you saved on them.
Vinyl wraps installation.
Whether you’re doing a car wrap, van wrap, truck wrap, tractor-trailer wrap, boat wrap, bus wrap, or any other type of vehicle wrap, proper installation is everything. Assuming you have a quality vinyl, the care you take in installing it will make or break the finished wrap. It’s important to have vinyl installers certified by major brands such as Avery Dennison or 3M.
Car wrap surface prep
This is a crucial aspect and one that many shops rush through way too fast. If you don’t adequately clean the car’s surface, residual oil or other substances will compromise the adhesive bond between the vinyl and the vehicle body. The wrap may seem fine for a while, but eventually, dis-attachment may occur, leading to a floppy area of the wrap.
The installation process
Beyond prep, the installation process itself is highly technical. Almost anyone can apply a wrap, but a trained and experienced installer can do it well. Again, having installers certified by the vinyl manufacturers gives you a degree of assurance in their technical wrapping skill.
Vinyl wrap styles
A bewildering array of styles awaits the vehicle owner considering a vinyl wrap. From chrome to carbon fiber, matte to gloss, hot pink to gunmetal, the choices can be…overwhelming. Let’s look at some options.
Custom graphics car wrap
Often, vehicle wrap customers want graphics. There are a couple common reasons for this.
- A company or small business owner wants company vehicles to broadcast the company brand and offering as a form of mobile advertising. Whether a single-vehicle mom-and-pop business or a massive operation with a fleet of 200 vans, getting their vehicles wrapped presents them one of the best advertising channels out there. Studies show that, especially for local service businesses, a branded wrap offers a better ROI than any other advertising or marketing spend. After all, most service business drivers pass thousands of potential customers per day. One could almost argue that businesses suffer a huge opportunity cost when they don’t wrap their company vehicles.
2. Artistic statement or personal brand. Many people want to make a splash by driving a vehicle unlike any other on the road. Certainly, a custom-designed wrap can do the trick. From animal designs to flames to blood spatters, bold drivers are turning heads with unique effects on the skins of their cars. Wrap designers can turn out original designs upon request, and local vinyl shops can print and install them.
Color change wraps
For someone wanting to personalize their car on a less artistic level than custom graphics, a color change car wrap can be a cost-effective way to update the look of their vehicle. Maybe the dealer didn’t have the right color in stock, or maybe a buyer doesn’t want to be constrained by the car manufacturer’s limited palette. Whatever the case, wrap manufacturers offer a wide range of color choices in different sheens, from matte to gloss.
An array of other car wrap options exists; these wraps don’t fall neatly into the custom graphics category nor the color change category, but do tend to fall into several themes.
Carbon fiber wraps
Carbon fiber composite autobodies are usually associated with high-dollar, exotic cars. The reason is simple: carbon fiber is expensive, so incorporating it into mid-range or low-price cars would not be cost-effective. However, a carbon-fiber wrap allows one to have the appearance of carbon fiber but at a lower cost. Carbon fiber wraps are usually not true composite laminate but rather a patterned print on vinyl film which can be nearly indistinguishable from the real thing.
If you want to really make them look, get a holographic car wrap. These are exactly what they sound like.
Camo wraps come in a wide variety of camouflage patterns and are one of the more popular vinyl wrap options. A variation on the camo car wrap is the drab olive green “military” wrap.
From chrome to gold, car owners can get a flashy metallic vehicle wrap for that futuristic robo-look.
So, what makes a good car wrap?
In summary, a good vehicle wrap will be one that utilizes a high-quality material with the right specifications for the vehicle and the job type, is installed properly, and that matches the aesthetic or personality of the owner. Or, in the case of a commercial car wrap, one that advertises the company effectively.
Check out “Choosing the right vehicle wrap provider” from our friends over at Expert Vehicle Wraps for more on this topic.