The short answer to the common question “How long does it take to wrap a car?” is… it depends. To give an accurate answer to this inquiry is to give a comprehensive answer. But if you must have some sense of the end of the story now, three days is a safe estimate for a standard color wrap installation process.

The Start of the Vehicle Wrap Process – Choosing the Right Wrap

But of course that doesn’t mean you can decide you want to get your car wrapped on a Monday morning and expect to be cruising down the road with a fresh new vehicle exterior on Thursday afternoon. Just selecting the right wrap for you car, truck, or SUV can take days or even weeks to decide; there are literally thousands of different vinyl wraps to choose from, given the many different finish types (matte, satin, gloss, metallic, and so forth) and the dozens of colors or color shift wraps you can choose from. (There’s also the matter of choosing a custom printed vinyl vehicle wrap if your car is to be used for promotional or advertising purposes, or if you want a truly unique printed pattern or graphic for personal stylistic purposes; more on that below.)

When in doubt as to which vehicle wrap will best accentuate and enhance the aesthetics of your car, by all means consult with professional wrap specialists. Chances are they can help you make a decision that might have taken you days in a matter of an hour thanks to their extensive experience.

And even once you have chosen the right wrap for your car, you have to book an appointment with your car wrap installer during which the technicians have free blocks of time. With the most popular, busy vinyl wrap shops, that can require planning ahead by days or weeks.

How Long Does Car Wrapping Take Once the Vehicle Is at the Shop?

For a smaller or medium sized sedan without a lot of unique body features, a two or three person team of auto wrap installers can probably have the job done in two days, and maybe even in a single day if the car  arrives clean and in great condition and the wrap has been pre-selected. For larger vehicles like a truck or full sized SUV, or for specialty cars with multiple air intakes, downforce wings, retractable hardtops, and other such features, you will have to add at least a day to the wrapping process, and maybe even more. And in some cases, such as with luxury vehicles, car’s featuring multiple materials like metal and carbon fiber, or if you have selected an unusual or unique wrap, plan for the install to take up to a business week.

The reason wrapping larger vehicles takes longer is probably pretty obvious: there’s more vehicle there to wrap. But as for why wrapping a sports car with intakes and a wing and other elements takes longer, even if the car is not large, it’s a matter of all the many pieces of wrap that must be individually cut out, applied, and trimmed to fit. Every stage of the process takes longer for such cars, from the planning to the application to the finishing work.

Once car wrap is applied, most companies will want to hold onto the vehicle for at least one day before the customer retrieves it. This allows the wrap adhesive to fully set and prevents any of the film from being pulled back by airflow during driving before it could set entirely. It also allows for thorough, close inspection to catch any errors (unlikely though these are with great vinyl wrap installers) such as bubbling, scratches, or imperfect fits.

Why Custom Graphic Wraps Take Longer

If you are going to have a custom graphic vinyl wrap applied to a car for the purpose of brand promotion, product or service advertising, or if you simply want a very specific look for your car that you feel you need to create yourself, that will add some time to the process. But of course it also results in a one-of-a-kind car or hard-to-miss driving promotion.

First, you need to have the logos, graphics, text, or patterns you want on your car created and uploaded in such manner that you can transfer very high resolution files to your wrap specialists. It’s on you to determine how long getting that ready takes, and be ready to allow them a few days to transfer your images into a format ready for printing.

Even with the largest, most advanced printers around it can still take a day or more to print out all the graphic wrap that will be applied to a car. And once printed, these wraps should be given at least 24 hours to off-gas (also called out-gas by some people) which allows the ink to fully dry and prevents bubbling from occurring between the bottom layer of wrap and the top layer of laminate.

Once a custom graphic vinyl wrap is printed and laminated and ready to go, its installation should not take any longer than the application of any other color wrap, provided the install team had the time to go over and fully understand the design at hand and the desired final effect.

So, Now You Know How Long It Takes to Wrap a Car

Once the car is in the shop, probably one to three days. But there’s a lot more to it than just the actual wrapping process, isn’t there?

Fortunately, vinyl car wrap lasts for many years and protects the auto paint and underlying exterior while its in place, so great wrapping is worth the patience. And if you get lucky and manage to schedule your car wrap in the near future, your installation many well be done in just two or three days, and that’s not long to wait at all.

And by the way, it can take up to three weeks to get a car painted if you want a custom job that comes anything close to what you can achieve with color wrap. And even the fastest auto painting companies will usually quote you three days as their minimum.