I recently sent an email out to 10 different vehicle wrap companies to see what advice they had to give about wrapping two vehicles. The results were interesting and revealed some insights about the vehicle wrap industry.
1) 65% of the companies were unresponsive
Of the 10 companies contacted, only six replied to a request for a quote. In addition, one company sent an auto-reply and then followed up to tell me they would be back to me the following week. They never did.
If a company is unresponsive you really need to ask yourself about choosing to do business with them. Either they don't really want your business or they are not organized enough to stay on top of new business inquiries. Your contact is an opportunity for them. If they are unresponsive on the front end, I would have serious concerns about their willingness to be responsive if there are any issues down the line. Work with companies that act professionally and treat their customers with respect. For me that includes being responsive and acting with courtesy, accountability, and transparency.
2) Quotes did not line up with the pricing on the website
One of the companies that replied to my request listed prices on their website, but the quote I received did not line up with those prices. For one of my vehicle the quote was a little lower than the prices stated on the website and on the other vehicle, the quote was significantly higher.
Very few wrap companies include pricing on their website. This may be frustrating for a prospective customer who wants to make some quick comparisons. But there can be even more frustration when the price that is quoted doesn't line up with a price on the website.
There is no "one size fits all" pricing in the industry. It is a custom business. The majority of wrap companies price on a "dollar per square foot" basis. Every car, van or truck has unique square footage requirements. And some vehicles have complex curves that can require more labor for installation. Additionally, the amount of vehicle that you ultimately choose to wrap may not be 100%. You may choose to go with a partial wrap or just cut vinyl graphics. Installation for a color change wrap requires a more comprehensive wrap and finish are often priced at a premium. And there are some specialty wrap materials that can be priced well beyond the premium 3M or Avery cast vinyls. Examples include specialty laminates, chrome or carbon fiber finishes, and iridescent, among others. A simple price on a website cannot address all these variables.
It isn't that the companies are trying to sum you up to see what you might pay. It is just not meaningful information until the design, vehicle and materials are identified. Unfortunately, when the price is provided on the site and the quote don't match up, the integrity of the company is in question. When you do request a quote, ask these essential questions to be sure you are comparing apples to apples - otherwise your price comparison is not really meaningful.
3) Promises that vehicle wrap would last for 10+ years
One very friendly company assured me that "Our pricing includes production and installation using 10 year outdoor premium vehicle wrap vinyl material." I was assured that my vehicle wrap would last for 10 years. That's an impressive claim! And not completely untrue. But let's take a closer look.
This company uses 3M Controltac Graphic Film. This is an excellent top-of-the-line vehicle wrap material. When we look at the 3M Specifications Sheet for this product we discover that ONLY Vertical Surfaces are warrantied for 10 years. A full vehicle wrap includes both vertical and non-vertical surfaces. In fact, 3M Controltac Graphic film is only warrantied for 5 years on non-vertical surfaces. You will find similar results if you research Avery's premium vehicle wrap materials.
It is the experience of many vehicle wrap companies in the industry that vehicle wraps tend to hold up well beyond the manufactures warranty period. It is likely you can expect 5+ years of quality performance from your vehicle graphics, just be sure you understand the specifics about your wrap warranty.
Most vehicle wrap companies pass the manufacturers (3M, Avery, etc) warranty along to their customers. The large manufactures like 3M and Avery invest heavily in R&D - so I'm sure some day there will be a 10 year manufactures warranty for all surfaces on a vehicle application. Until they do, make sure the wrap company is offering their own warranty to back up their extended year claims.
4) Unspecified wrap materials
I was pleased to see that all the companies that replied provided specific information about the vehicle vinyls they use. This is great news for the industry. If a company does not give you specifics about their materials - ASK! Your vehicle is a valuable asset (maybe even leased to be returned in top condition) so make sure you know what materials your vehicle is being wrapped with.
Reputable brand names include 3M, Avery, Arlon, and MACtac. There are two types of vinyl in the industry - cast and calendered. Listen for the term cast - these vinyls are designed to conform and adhere to complex shapes. Alternatively, calendered vinyls are design for flat surfaces. Calendared vinyls can work for box trucks or trailers or other large flat surfaces, but for paint quality conformance around rivets and seams a cast vinyl is recommended.
If your project is very short term or conforming details are not important on your flat surfaces discuss your options with your wrap company. Calendered vinyls are less expensive than cast vinyls and you may be able to save some money - just make sure you are making an informed decision and understand the trade offs. A wrap company should help you find the best solution while respecting your budget.
Here's a great resources to learn more about vinyls and the differences between cast and calendered vinyls and their intended uses.
5) Save money by not laminating before wrapping
This is a problem we hear about a lot. To save money wrap companies may not laminate their printed vinyls before wrapping. Now it is true that you can save money by not laminating your printed vehicle wrap - but we don't recommend it. Latex inks are excellent and very durable, but even after they cure, they are still only printed on the surface of the vinyl. As such they are susceptible to abrasion or scratching. Laminates (cast laminates for cast vinyls) provide a protective layer. Environmental elements or hand washing cannot penetrate the laminate and cause damage to your graphics. Additionally, laminates provide UV protection to slow down the potential for any fading due to sunlight.
Note: Laminating is critically important for DIGITALLY PRINTED vehicle wraps. There are other specialty wrap materials, like the chrome, matte colors, or carbon fiber that do not require or even recommend laminating. If you feel unsure, just ask your vehicle wrap company to supply you with the manufacturers specification sheet which outlines their recommendations based on extensive testing.
Do Your Homework to Get a Great Wrap
There are many great companies out there doing absolutely amazing vehicle wraps. And, with a little homework, you will end up with a great vehicle wrap too. Check out these important questions to ask before you wrap, by Riveting Wraps our vehicle wrap division and make sure your gut is telling you that the company will be responsive to your needs and act with integrity. In the end, that's what we all are looking for in our business relationship.