If your boat is in need of an updated look, consider vinyl wrapping it. Paint, gel coating are always options but vinyl wrapping allows you to get creative with your boat’s appearance and may even be (far) cheaper than repainting. Read on to find out the advantages of vinyl wraps and what one might cost for your specific boat.
What Is a Vinyl Boat Wrap?
It’s like a big, high-quality sticker that can change the color and finish of anything which it’s applied to. You’ve probably seen vinyl on race cars, company vans, and other vehicles, displaying brand logos or other signage. Vinyl is durable, it won’t fade or peel from sun or water damage, and it’s long-lasting. It protects your boat’s paint job from those hazards, too.
Vinyl has been popular for a while with cars, and it’s also an option for boats. You can choose to wrap the entire boat, which will give it a like-new appearance and also protect the underlying paint job from fading and sun damage, or wrap part of it, the hull up to the waterline, say. You can even add decals and customizable graphics, essentially turning your boat into a floating billboard for your business.
What Are the Advantages of Vinyl Wrap?
Why should you choose vinyl wrap over painting or gel coating if your boat needs a facelift? Practical Boat Owner magazine counts the ways:
- Affordability: Vinyl is less expensive than a new paint job. See below for details on pricing.
- Customizable: If you’re going with graphics, you can unleash your inner designer. Advertise your business, or get creative and artistic. Tired of the color? It’s fast and easy to change it up.
- Durability: If it’s professionally installed, the vinyl should not peel, rip, or lift. Warranties can vary, but you can expect to get about seven years of life from your vinyl.
- Ease of repair: Vinyl is not as expensive or difficult to repair as gel coat. If you find a rip or tear, it’s an easy fix to apply new vinyl to the spot. Simply cut the damaged area off and apply a patch of vinyl with a heat gun.
- Facelift: Vinyl will give your boat a sleek, clean, new look.
- Options open: If you paint your boat, you can’t choose to go with gel coat down the line. But with vinyl, you can remove it if you want to apply paint or gel later.
- Protection: Vinyl protects your boat from sun damage and fading, and doesn’t fade itself. It’ll keep that “like new” look.
- Time off the water: It depends on the size of your boat and whether you want to wrap the whole thing or just part of it, but a wrap job usually takes less than a week to complete, whereas a professional marine paint job can have you out of the water for a month.
- Easy to clean: No special cleaners are necessary — soap and water do the job — and there’s no buffing involved. Just be careful if you’re using a pressure washer; the stream can get under the vinyl and lift it off.
How Much Does It Cost to Wrap a Boat?
You can wrap your boat for a fraction of the cost of painting it, says BoatUS. Some estimates put vinyl at one-third of the cost of painting. The exact cost will vary greatly depending on your specific boat and what sort of wrap you are buying.
According to Ultimate Boat Wraps, a professional boat wrapping company: full wraps start at about $1,400 for a 14-foot fishing boat and go up from there depending on size and type of boat. If you’re just looking to add vinyl graphics to jazz up your boat’s exterior, pricing starts at about $750 before the cost of installation. Check with your local vinyl installers for exact prices. Also, keep in mind that you’ll incur the costs of pulling your boat out of the water and transporting it to the installer.
Also, one thing to note: You may be tempted to DIY, but wrapping your boat yourself can void the warranty on your vinyl. For example, M3, a popular vinyl brand, warranties its vinyl for five to seven years. That’s a lot of time in and out of the water, and you want to protect your investment with that warranty.
Factors affecting the cost of vinyl wrapping your boat include:
1. The Size of the Boat
The biggest factor in determining how much you’ll pay to vinyl wrap your boat is the size of the boat itself, especially the topsides. The larger the boat, the more expensive it is to wrap. Many installers give price estimates based on feet, not square footage. If you’re wrapping a 14-foot fishing boat, prices start around $1,400 and go up from there.
2. The Type of Boat
It’s not just size that matters. Is it a fishing boat/bass boat, a pontoon, a speed boat, a cabin cruiser? The type of the boat matters because of the contours and complexity of the wrapping job and the amount of wrap it takes. Think in terms of wrapping a gift. If it’s in a rectangular box, it’s relatively easy and straightforward to wrap. But if it’s oddly shaped, the extra corners and crevices can make wrapping tricky. It’s the same concept with boats. An 18-foot runabout will ballpark at around $2,400 for a full wrap, while an 18-foot fishing boat will start at around $1,800. A 24-foot high-performance speedboat can run around $3,000, says Ultimate Boat Wraps. Vinyl comes in specific widths, so if your boat is bigger than the standard size you’ll incur more cost.
3. Full Wrap vs. Partial Wrap
Are you wrapping the entire boat or just a part of it? The size of the wrap help determines the cost. If you’re wrapping half your boat, expect to pay roughly half the cost of a full wrap. According to Custom Graphics and Designs, a partial wrap covers part of your hull, but not the whole thing, and is designed to flow with the contours of your boat. Again, cost depends on the type of boat and size of the wrap. At Ultimate Boat Wraps, half wraps start at about $750 before the installation fee.
4. Graphics vs. Single Color
Many boaters choose to wrap their boats in a single-color vinyl, simulating a paint job or gel coat to make their boat’s exterior look like new. But some choose to include graphics, designs, company logos, and other identifiers, to turn their boat into a floating billboard of either their business (think of charter fishing services with their logo emblazoned on the boat’s hull) or their personalities. A single-color wrap will generally be less expensive than one with a design, but this varies by installer. Some have stock designs that are cost comparable to single color vinyl, so check with your installer for details.
In terms of designs, the sky’s the limit. Many installers offer both stock and custom design options, and you can even design your own signature look online. Pricing for graphics and decals is extremely reasonable, starting as low as $12 for a single, stock decal that you can order online and affix to the hull yourself. Vinyl graphic kits start at around $200, according to Ultimate Boat Wraps.
Wrapping your boat, whether it’s a full or partial wrap, is an investment and should be done by a qualified installer. You can find lists of preferred installers near you on the websites of vinyl manufacturers 3M and Avery Dennison. Also, many qualified, professional installers will also advertise they are certified installers favored by vinyl manufacturers, so look for that designation on their websites. The pricing of vinyl boat wraps will vary from installer to installer, and by region of the country as well.
Ballpark Price Breakdown per Boat Type
To give you an idea of what you might expect to pay for either installed vinyl wraps or DIY, here’s a price breakdown for a full wrap based on type and size of boat from Ultimate Boat Wraps. Keep in mind these are prices from just one source and meant to give you a ballpark guideline, not exact prices.You can get an estimate online for your boat from many professional boat wrappers, who will want to know the size and type of your boat, whether you want a full or partial wrap or just lettering and graphics, and other factors. For an exact quote for your boat, and contact an installer.
- 18-ft: $2,400 installed, $1,300 materials only
- 20-ft: $2,600 installed, $1,500 materials only
- 22-ft: $2,800 installed, $1,700 materials only
- 24-ft: $3,000 installed, $1,900 materials only
2. Fishing Boat
- 14-ft: $1,400 installed, $800 materials only
- 16-ft: $1,600 installed, $1,000 materials only
- 18-ft: $1,800-$2,000 installed, $1,200 materials only
- 20-ft: $2,000-$2,400 installed, $1,400 materials only
- 24-ft: $3,000 installed, $1,600 materials only
- 26-ft: $3,200 installed, $1,800 materials only
- 28-ft: $3,400 installed, $2,000 materials only
- 30-ft: $3,600 installed, $2,200 materials only
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Can You Do It Yourself?
Yes, you can. Whether you should is another question.
The main argument for DIY is cost. Doing it yourself can save you about $1,000 on the labor that would be involved in a professional installation of your vinyl. But, boating professional don’t advise DIY wraps. Placing the vinyl is tricky. You don’t want any bubbles or bulges, and you need to make sure it’s watertight. It’s a skill honed by professional installers. The first time out of the gate, it’s easy to get it wrong.
The warranty is another reason to have a professional do the wrap — non-professional installation can void the warranty. For example, one of the most popular and durable vinyl wraps on the market is made by 3M, and installing 3M’s vinyl yourself voids the warranty.
If you’re interested in DIY, you may want to start with small graphics or decals to get the hang of things. Make sure your boat is clean, dry, and smooth. Decide where you want your graphics to go, grab a heat gun and have at it. Check out this video for more guidance on how to install your own vinyl wrap.
How much does it cost to wrap a boat? You’re looking at between $1,400 and $3,000, depending largely on the size of the boat. If your boat needs a facelift, wrapping it in vinyl has many benefits. It’s far cheaper than painting and it is typically warranted for five to seven years. Vinyl is also easy to clean and protects your boat from sun and water damage. If you want a customized design or advertisement on your boat, vinyl is definitely your best bet.
So whether you’re someone who only boats in the summer and thus your boat from the 1980’s runs just fine but needs a new look or you’re someone who’s on their boat so much you’re sick of the same old look — a vinyl wrap is worth considering.