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The A-Z Guide to Vinyl-Wrapping Your Vehicle

mike Advertising & Marketing, Branding, Vinyl Vehicle Wraps

The first thing other people notice about your vehicle when you take it out for a drive is the way it looks. If you want to show off your car or truck to the world, you’ll need to invest in an exterior that turns heads. If you’re a business owner who wants to use your vehicle as a mobile advertisement, the way you decorate it matters even more.

Vinyl-wrapping is one of the most practical and cost-effective ways to detail your vehicle for any reason. Read on, and learn all you need to know about vinyl-wrapping vehicles so that you can decide whether or not this process is right for you.

How Are Vehicles Wrapped (and What Does that Mean, Anyway?)

Many people assume that customizing their vehicle’s exterior means getting a custom paint job — but that’s not your only option. Vinyl-wrapping your car is another way to change the way it looks, and it even protects the paint underneath!

Vinyl is a synthetic plastic polymer used around the world for a wide range of applications. Vinyl-wrapping a vehicle involves applying a thin layer of vinyl to some or all of the vehicle’s finished surfaces. Since vinyl is easy to colour and manipulate, you can use it to give your vehicle nearly any combination of shades and textures.

If you have a newer vehicle, some parts of it may already have a vinyl coating. Many modern cars already come with a thin protective layer of vinyl on their hoods and bumpers since those parts are most easily damaged by debris on the road. When you vinyl-wrap an entire vehicle, you can protect the whole body the same way while giving it any appearance you want.

The Benefits of a Wrap


Many businesses wrap their fleet vehicles with vinyl layers displaying vital information about their companies (such as their names, logos, and contact information). These vehicles essentially become mobile billboards that spread awareness of their owner’s businesses wherever they go. How effective is vinyl-wrapping a vehicle when compared to other advertising strategies? You might be surprised. Mobile advertisements get 2.5 times more attention than stationary billboards and have a recall rate of 97%.

Paint Protection

When you put a layer of vinyl on top of your car or truck’s existing paint job, that paint is no longer exposed to the elements. Therefore, vinyl-wrapping is ideal for vehicle owners in cities with harsh climates — such as Calgary, with its long winters and high prairie winds.

Vinyl coatings also protect the paint on your vehicle from minor impact damage, which means that pebbles and other debris kicked up while you drive will be less likely to damage the body. It might even survive one of the city’s infamous summer hailstorms, although we don’t recommend leaving your vehicle outside while chunks of frozen water are falling from the sky. After all, you want to keep the windows intact!

The Process of Getting a Vehicle Wrapped

Quotes & Estimates

The first step in vinyl-wrapping your vehicle is to find a shop whose work you trust. Look for a well-known local business that understands the conditions you’ll be driving in and has experience wrapping vehicles appropriately for them.

Next, schedule a consultation with the signage company you’ve chosen so that you can get a quote for their work. The following factors will influence their estimate:

  • How much of your car do you want the wrap to cover? A partial wrap will be cheaper than wrapping the whole vehicle but will only protect the vinyl-covered areas.
  • Will your wrap be in full colour? Single-colour or black and white wraps are cheaper to print than multicolour wraps (just like it’s cheaper to print black and white documents than to print them in colour).
  • What brand of vinyl do you want? High-quality vinyl brands are more expensive, but they offer a broader range of customization options. For example, 3M™ Print Wrap Film Series 1080 can be purchased in more than 100 different colours and offers numerous textures such as matte and gloss. Click here for 3M’s online customization tool, which allows you to design and visualize your ideal vinyl wrap before you buy it.

Investing in a better quality vinyl film can also offer your vehicle better protection. The 3M™ 1080 series provides resistance to acid, salt, fuel spills, and other nasty substances that would otherwise damage your vehicle’s paint.

The final price will also depend on your vehicle’s size and the labour required for the installation. At Summit Signs & Design, we typically charge between [X AMOUNT] and [X AMOUNT] for a full vinyl wrap. When you consider that the average cost of a high-quality custom paint job is close to $5000, vinyl-wrapping is likely to be far more cost-effective.

Graphic Design, Review, & Approval

Once you’ve chosen a company to wrap your vehicle and explained your needs to them, they’ll begin creating the artwork. You should receive a mockup of the initial design so that you can approve it or request changes before it gets printed.


The company creating your wrap will use a large-format printer or digital press to turn your design into a vibrant, high-resolution vinyl sheet. The next step is to run the vinyl through a cold-press laminator, which makes the wrap more durable and helps it last longer. After lamination, your wrap is checked once more to verify it’s quality before installing it on your vehicle.


On your installation date, you’ll bring your vehicle in so that a team of technicians can prepare it for the vinyl coating. Our application process includes the following steps:

  • We wash and dry the vehicle so that no dust or debris is caught underneath the wrap.
  • We heat the vinyl wrap with a blowtorch as we stretch it over each part of your vehicle.
  • We use a squeegee to press out any air bubbles while laying down the vinyl so that the finished product is entirely seamless.

Installations can generally be completed within one or two business days. The majority of the time spent on a vinyl wrap goes into creating the design. Custom paint jobs can take weeks since time must be spent preparing the vehicle, priming it, and drying it between each coat of paint.

Writing Off the Cost of a Vinyl Wrap

Vinyl wraps are more durable, more affordable, and faster to apply than custom paint jobs — but that’s not all! If you’re using a vinyl wrap to advertise your company, you may even be able to write off the cost as a business expense.

Most vinyl wrap jobs qualify as tax-deductible expenses, as long as you follow a few easy steps:

  • Make sure the design of the wrap visibly promotes your business.
  • Make sure the wrap is installed in such a way that the information promoting your business is legible.
  • Ensure the vehicle you are wrapping is a company vehicle and not a personal one (sole proprietors may need to incorporate and transfer their car into their company’s name before they can write off the cost of a vinyl wrap).

Learn more about writing off motor vehicle expenses here.

Treat Your Vehicle to a Vinyl Wrap

Vinyl wrapping is an easy and reliable way to protect and customize your vehicle’s exterior while spending less time and money than you would on a custom paint job. Use what you’ve learned above to start planning the perfect vinyl wrap for your personal vehicle or business fleet today, and enjoy the benefits for years to come.