Vehicle wraps are becoming very popular for small businesses these days. There are a lot of options out there, and the details can be a bit confusing. Review the pros, cons, and what you should be aware of when considering a vehicle wrap for your business.

Why wrap or letter your work vehicle?

When you're considering making a business investment, you should always be asking "Why?". Usually, business owners decide to wrap or letter their truck for a few simple reasons:

  1. They want their work/service vehicle to have a professional look to help sell jobs and give the appearance of a legitimate, professional business.
  2. They want to use their vehicle as a mobile billboard to help advertise their business and services.

What are the differences between a wrap and lettering?

A wrap is pretty much exactly what it says—an adhesive-backed vinyl that has your design, lettering, colors, and just about any kind of imagery and information printed on it. It's then applied to and wraps your entire vehicle, including side/back windows if you choose. There aren't really any limitations to color, design, etc. Think of a wrap as turning your car or truck into a mobile billboard.

Example of wrap

Lettering is more like a sticker. Vinyl lettering can be cut in the outline of your number, logo, services, etc using a single color. You can also have vinyl printed with colors, much in the same way as a wrap would be printed. Think of lettering as turning your car or truck into a big mobile business card.

Example of vinyl lettering

Cost

One of the biggest downsides to a car wrap is the cost. Wraps can range from $1000 to $5000 or more. There are reasons the cost is higher: it takes more time to design a wrap, there's more material, more labor, etc. Because wraps are more material, design, and labor-intensive, the cost is MUCH higher than vinyl lettering. With vinyl lettering, you can start cheaply with just a company name and contact number. You can then add services, website, logo, etc as you see fit at a later time. Typical vinyl lettering can range from $20 to $500 and up.

Protection

Because wraps cover your entire vehicle, you'll get the benefit of the wrap itself protecting your paint from dings and scratches that might otherwise cause damage. Vinyl only sorta offers this in the areas that letters and logos cover, and it's typically a lot thinner, which offers less protection overall.

Time

Both wraps and vinyl lettering have to be designed, either by the shop or an outside designer. Typically, wraps take more time to design because a wrap has to be designed in three dimensions, with every part of the car, truck, or van considered. Wraps also need to be professionally installed, which usually means you'll need to leave your vehicle at the shop for a day or more. Vinyl lettering, on the other hand, can typically be installed in under an hour, or you can do it yourself if you're the DIY type.

Repairs

Wraps can't really be repaired, and eventually, they'll begin to fade and deteriorate. Even premium wrap material has a lifetime that's around 5 years, but can be a lot less if the vehicle isn't garage-kept and taken care of. Vinyl lettering can be removed and replaced relatively cheaply and easily, and typically has a shorter lifespan than a wrap.

Advertising

Wraps do a great job of grabbing attention. This is largely due to the fact that your entire vehicle can become a colorful billboard. Vinyl lettering can be eye-catching, but it's hard to compete with the possibilities a wrap offers you.

Is it worth the cost?

Here's the thing wrap and vinyl companies aren't going to tell you:

You're not going to see huge advertising returns from anything you put on your work vehicle.

That's not to say you won't eventually earn your money back, it's just that you're likely to get a very small amount of calls as a result of advertising on your service vehicle. Of course, if your wraps are particularly eye-catching, you may just become well known in your area, and that can have a positive impact on people knowing who you are—we know of a construction company that wraps their equipment in a bright pink leopard print, and they're easy to spot all over town. But wraps and vinyl lettering aren't going to be magically effective, and this is largely due to the way service businesses are found—usually through referrals, word-of-mouth, or a customer searching google or somewhere else online.

For advertising to work on your car or truck, you're relying on a potential customer saying, "Oh, I need a landscaper, let me write down this number I see on this vehicle over here." Sure, a customer stopped at a red light or seeing your truck in a parking lot might do something like that (or take a picture). Chance are, though, as a service business owner, your vehicle is more likely to be on a job somewhere, not left parked in a lot to act as a billboard.

Which is right your business?

To really answer this you'll need to ask yourself why you're doing it. If you have the extra money, and really want your work vehicle to act as a mobile billboard, the wrap is the only way to go. With a wrap, your work car, truck, or van becomes a blank canvas, and you can do whatever you want with it. If you're just wanting to distinguish your vehicle as a work vehicle, look a bit more professional, and turn your vehicle into a business card, vinyl lettering is the safer and cheaper option. If your cashflow is limited, or you're looking for a way to open the floodgates of customers, you're better off holding out on the wrap and lettering for now. Put that money into business cards, post cards, flyers, and other much cheaper options that you can leave behind and get into people's hands.