Our Blog

Paint protection film vs wrap – How to choose?

Both vinyl wrap and paint protection film, are thin layers applied to your vehicle’s paint, but there is a lot that separates the two.

Although the cost of both is certainly worth it, you want to be sure you’re choosing the right one before forking up the money. You must consider if your goals are more protection oriented or cosmetic orientated, what durability you expect, and what your out of pocket expectations are before deciding which is the best option for you and your vehicle.

Are Your Goals Cosmetic?

Vinyl wraps are primarily for cosmetic purposes. With many different series to choose from such as 3M’s Wrap Film Series, APA Vehicle Wrapping Filmes, Avery Supreme Wrapping, and Hexis Wrapping Films, you can find a vinyl wrap for any color or pattern you could possibly imagine.

Multi chrome color wrap on Lamborghini

Multi chrome color wrap on Lamborghini

The options are seemingly limitless, with carbon fiber films, chrome, chrome deletes, color shift, metallics, pearlescent, and camouflage. There are even options that would transform your vehicle paint into a beautiful galaxy, bright paint splatter, various animal prints, rust, or stone! On the other hand, paint protection film will only enhance your paint.

Whether your paint is matte, frosted, or glossy, some paint protection films such as XPEL’s Stealth Paint Protection Film will increase your paint’s appeal.  It will not completely change the color of your vehicle.

Are Your Goals Protective?

As the name suggests, paint protection film’s main purpose is protecting your vehicle’s paint. Most paint protection films (also known as PPFs) should be invisible on top of your paint, only enhancing it with some PPF products. Paint protection films act as a self-healing top coat, protecting your vehicle from the dangers that lurk on the freeway, scratches from the grocery store parking lot, and paint abrasions from a nearby vehicle flinging their door open.

If a scratch or abrasion is superficial, heat is applied to the area and it will melt itself back into perfect form. Sometimes, even the heat of the sun can eliminate an abrasion before you even notice it’s existence.

Paint Protection Film

Paint Protection Film

That’s a stark difference to having to bring your vehicle in to the shop and have the paint corrected. Some PPFs can also be applied to the headlights and fog lights. On the other hand, although vinyl wraps are primarily for cosmetic purposes, they provide a small amount of protection with about half the thickness of PPFs.

Although you should not expect to have protection against scratches and hurled rocks, vinyl wraps give some protection against “sandblasting” on the roadways. It also helps keep the sun’s UV lights from fading or otherwise damaging your paint. If you want more protection than can be expected from vinyl wraps but also still want to drastically change the appearance of your vehicle, ceramic coating on top of vinyl wrap is a great choice. Some ceramic coatings are made specifically to go over paint protection films and vinyl wraps, XPEL Fusion Plus being one.

Are You Willing to Have Application Performed by a Reputable Professional?

It is possible to find do-it-yourself kits for both vinyl wraps and paint protection films but unless you have prior experience and are willing to risk damage to your paint and the overall aesthetic of your vehicle, it is best to have it installed by a reputable professional. 

paint protection film installation

paint protection film installation

There are two types of applications possible with vinyl wraps, wet application or dry application. The wet method can only be used with some materials but is more forgiving for the installer because it allows for repositioning. Unfortunately, it isn’t the best option for curved surfaces, takes more time, and is really only appropriate for small projects like placing lettering.

Conversely, the dry method is less forgiving but is the appropriate method for large applications that we’re looking for. If the vinyl makes contact with the surface of the car, it will immediately adhere, making careful and skilled application necessary.

To get the best possible outcome, you also need to have your paint protection film installed by a certified professional, especially if you want to take advantage of the warranty. Installing SLiPLO to the underside of your vehicle to protect your paint from potholes may be a good DIY project, but unless you want to only apply a small vinyl decal yourself, going to a professional is the only safe bet for application of vinyl wrap or paint protection film.

How Long Do You Expect The Product To Last?

Paint protection film generally comes with a manufacturer guarantee that can range between 5 and 10 years, with some considerably longer. The manufacturer’s guarantee covers staining, cracking, and fading.

Vinyl wraps have a significantly lower life span, with hotter locations having warranties down to 3 years for vertical panels, like the wrap on your doors, and 1 year for horizontal panels like those on your hood because of the increased heat exposure. Most reputable installers will also give you a warranty that covers flaws like bubbles and peeling, but this will vary from place to place.

What Are You Willing To Spend?

Despite which option you choose, you are going to get a better quality, longer laster product if you invest more. When it comes to vinyl, you will find that the price depends on labor costs, the life expectancy of the materials used, and the size of the vehicle.

XPEL FUSION PLUS Ceramic Coating studio install 1

XPEL FUSION PLUS Ceramic Coating studio install

Depending on how many panels you wrap, the expense will go up. Of course, if your vehicle is larger, it will require more materials and labor and will also increase the price. The more unusual colors and textures available will also be more costly than typical colors.

Paint protection film is much the same when estimating cost. If you are only planning to protect the most likely to be damaged areas such as with an XPEL clear car bra with the added protection of a skid plate, you will be paying less than if you have paint protection film applied to the entirety of the vehicle.

Labor and material costs are proportional to the size of the vehicle. Most of all, you get what you pay for. Your vinyl wrap or paint protection film likely will not hold up if you have it installed by a non-professional, even if it is cheaper.

So Which One Do You Choose?

To “wrap it up” ;), vinyl wraps are primarily cosmetic and a means to completely change the appearance of your vehicle. From just wanting a simple color change to transforming your vehicle into a literal work of art, vinyl wraps are the way to go. Paint protection film will enhance your paint’s appearance but will not substantially change it. Instead, it will protect your existing paint job from the wear and tear that comes with vehicle ownership. A possible option to get a taste of both worlds of cosmetics and protection is to have a ceramic coating placed over vinyl wrap. 

For more info on how to get PPF installed in Los Angeles plus a full FAQ about it, check out this page. For vinyl wraps, follow this arrow to happiness ——-> :)

Did you enjoy this article? Check out our blog. Have questions? Contact us.