Wrap party: Adding vinyl to your car could save you in the long run
In a world of grey and black cars, vehicle wraps are a cheap way of changing colours
‘For an average car, it costs around €1,400 to do a full-body wrap,’ says Kon Makovoy of wrapping specialists Car Style. Photograph: iStock
Jay-Z has a Pagani Zonda Roadster. Drake has a Rolls-Royce Phantom. Cardi B has a Bentley Bentayga. Nicki Minaj has a Lamborghini Aventador Roadster. There has long been a link between bling and... Oh, wait, not that kind of rap.
Go and check the available paint options for most cars on sale. With very few exceptions, you’ll find that most are a dreary succession of greys, silvers, blacks and blues. On occasion, red or dark green pops up to enlivening effect, but for the most part our colour choices are stagnating. Grey paint covers 37 per cent of all cars sold in Ireland. You can blame the Germans: an obsession with gunmetal and metallic finishes on premium German cars has become an industry standard, and colours be damned.
Wrapping your car in vinyl sheets may seem like something of an extreme reaction to such monochromaticity, but it’s fast becoming the go-to vehicle modification for those wanting a quick change for not much cash. Given that the coronavirus crisis is likely to hole many of our bank accounts below the waterline, changing the colour of our cars might just be a cost-effective way of giving us a “new-car feeling” in the months ahead.
A wrap can also give your wheels a stylish, even wild, finish without actually affecting the resale value. After all, if you fancy having your family wheels in an eye-searing yellow or orange (or camouflage, or replica John Player Special Lotus colours, or, or...), well, now you can do that and then, come trade-in time, peel off the wrap to reveal the dull but sensible original paint colour underneath.
Kon Makovoy runs Car Style, a wrapping and detailing service based near Citywest in Dublin. Speaking to The Irish Times, he said that the age range of customers is, perhaps, predictable, but changing all the time. “On average, I would say that our customers are aged between 25 and 35 and, most of the time, they’ve seen something on the internet that they want to copy on their cars. But it’s not always the case. I have one customer who’s 70, so it’s never the same thing all the time.”
Makovoy started by wrapping his own Audi A6 estate in a dramatic blue chrome finish. “It transformed it from a normal-looking Audi A6 in blue to something very, very nice. I get compliments on the car all the time, and people come in to look at it and ask about it.” He’s even wrapped a boat, with a gold-foil finish around the cabin. Yes, really.
“For an average car, it costs around €1,400 to do a full-body wrap,” says Makovoy. “That would cover, say, a Volkswagen Golf or something like that. Obviously, you have bigger cars and smaller cars, so maybe the cost can come down to around €1,100 or go up to €1,800, but €1,400 is a good average.”
Wraps have become more popular in the wake of the craze for matt paint finishes. matt paint can look amazing on a car, but taking care of it is a massive faff.
In a matt wrap, you don’t have the problems with abrasion that you have with a matt paint
“Matt paints need to be cared for in a totally different way,” BMW’s ColorSystem expert Martin Jaworski told The Irish Times. “For example, polishing is a no-no. This is because the abrasives in polishes remove a matt paint’s distinctive rough surface. Over the long term, the brushes of car washes also have a smoothing effect on matt paint, and wax sealants damage matt paint, too. For this reason, we emphatically recommend washing by hand or pressure washer, with specialised cleaning and care products.”
According to Makovoy, a matt wrap has none of those drawbacks (and is much cheaper than the cost of some factory-original matt finishes). “In a matt wrap, you don’t have the problems with abrasion that you have with a matt paint. So you can wash the matt wrap regularly and it’s much easier to maintain.”
Wraps are also more durable. They are less likely to be damaged by stone chips, as the inherent flexibility of the vinyl (which can stretch by up to 40 per cent to allow it to wrap around complex curves and body panels) can absorb more of the impact. If you do get a scratch, then it’s also easier to replace the affected panel than to respray damaged paint. “There’s no need to wait in a body shop, which could take one day, maybe a day and a half” says Makovoy. “With us it can be one hour and the job is done.”
Most vinyls come with a five-year warranty, while some – depending on the manufacturer – can be guaranteed for as much as nine years. Are there downsides? Well, there is good wrap and bad wrap, so make sure you are certain that you’re buying the good stuff. There is the option of doing it yourself at home (which could make for some entertainment during lockdown) but you need to prep the bodywork of your car in the manner of a professional re-sprayer - even a tiny fragment of dead insect stuck to the paint could leave an unsightly lump or bump if you don’t get rid of it.
There’s also the potential for a wrapping boom now that we’re all buying our cars on PCP plans
You should also inform your insurer. There shouldn’t be any issue with increased premiums for simply changing the colour (unless, perhaps, you’re getting it wrapped to look like Colin McRae’s Subaru), but you might be tripped up if you go to make a claim and you haven’t told them about the alterations. You’ll need to inform the vehicle registrations office in Shannon as well, unless you peel the wrap off and return to the car to its original colour before you sell it.
Clearly, there’s a whiff of the backward-baseball cap modified car about the whole idea of a wrap, but perhaps that’s just giving in to cliche. Increasingly, wraps are commonplace for commercial vehicles, allowing vans to be decked out in a company’s colours, or with advertising, which can then be peeled off to reveal the simple white paint beneath for resale. Equally, Makovoy told The Irish Times that one of his regular customers drives a Ferrari 458 Italia, which was originally white, but which has been wrapped in yellow, black and red finishes. Wrapping a Ferrari is a long way from wrapping a modified Honda Civic.
There’s also the potential for a wrapping boom now that we’re all buying our cars on PCP plans. The fine print on a PCP stipulates that you must keep your car looking shiny and fresh, or there may be penalties to pay come trade-in time. A vinyl wrap, as well as giving you access to some more exciting colour options, might also help protect you from such charges by keeping the paintwork clean and fresh.
Wrapping, it seems, is not just for boy-racers – or indeed rappers – anymore.