Is your RV exterior faded or discolored, or maybe you want a customized design that is unique to your motorhome? The two most popular choices for RV exteriors are paint or vinyl wrap and both options have their own set of advantages and disadvantages. I researched the costs and pros and cons of RV paint versus vinyl wrap and wrote this post to share what I learned.
Should You Paint or Vinyl Wrap Your RV?
If your RV exterior is in good shape and doesn’t need any body repairs, you can save a significant amount of money and time by having a vinyl wrap professionally installed.
If the exterior of your RV does have noticeable physical damage, a vinyl wrap will not hide it. So if your RV’s current paint job really needs repair, a paint job (along with the preparation work) is probably your best option.
In addition to the cost savings (typically half the cost of a paint job), a vinyl wrap can be installed much quicker than painting an RV.
RV Wraps can offer you unlimited color choices and the ability to create your own personalized designs at a fraction of the cost of paint. You also have the ability to select full wraps (which cover the entire RV) or partial wraps designed to fit specific areas on your motorhome.
How Much Does It Cost To Wrap A Motorhome?
The cost to wrap a motorhome varies based on the size of the RV and the level of customization that you want. There are basically three phases that factor into the cost of wrapping an RV- Design, Production and Installation, and each can dramatically affect the overall cost.
RV Wrap Design- The First Step
In the Design Phase, the most cost effective way is to choose from the standard colors and designs available from the company providing the wrap. When working with a company experienced in designing RV wraps, you have a wide range of options that can select, just ask the designers.
Some of the standard options include the ability to do partial wraps which only cover the sides or back of the RV, all the way up to full wraps that include perforated films that cover the side windows.
If you want a completely custom RV wrap, you can work with the designers to add personalized graphics or even a textured look to the color scheme. This will of course increase the price.
RV Wrap Production- The Second Step
After the Design Phase comes the Production Phase. You want to make sure that you have selected a quality vinyl that includes a manufacturer’s warranty. Your design will then be printed on the vinyl product and cut out into patterns for ease of installation. If you chose to upgrade to a premium Chrome Wrap or Matte Wrap, there is generally an additional cost for the material. If you did not upgrade to one of the premium materials, then the cost is normally included in the overall price.
RV Wrap Installation- The Most Important Phase
The last phase, and one of the most important pieces of the process is the Installation Phase. Make sure that the wrap provider you have selected offers certified, professional and experienced installers. Installing the wrap can be somewhat of an art and improper installation can dramatically affect the longevity and appearance. Ask to see examples of their work.
Since personalizing your RV Wrap is just that- personal to you, it is impossible to provide an estimate based on full customization with your own custom graphics. Below is an itemized quote to give you an idea of what each option can cost.
RV Wrap Cost Estimates
This is the estimate to wrap a 40 foot RV using the standard colors and graphics:
Side Coverage- Both: $9,360
Front Coverage- Full Wrap: $548
Back Coverage- Full Wrap: $822
Slide Outs- 3 Slideouts: $822
Windows Drivers Side- 2: $186
Windows Passenger Side- 2: $186
Windows Back Side- 1: $93
Total estimate to do a full wrap on a 40 foot RV including perforated window coverings is $12,560 and, once designed, can normally be done in about a week.
Tips for wrapping your RV
- Insist on a brand name, industry recommended vinyl (like 3M and Avery Dennison) and ask that the name and product specifications are listed in the quote.
There are replica films that are not of the same quality that may be cheaper to initially install but will cost more in the long run when you have to replace them much sooner than expected.
- There are two different categories of wrap films: Calendared and Cast. Calendared vinyl is thicker than cast and usually contains a more aggressive adhesive. Cast vinyl conforms better, is repositionable and clean-removing. Calendared films should not be used to wrap vehicles because they cannot conform to concave and convex curves of vehicles the same way cast films can.
- Ask what type of printer brand and model will be used to print your wrap and what type of inks they use. You want a shop that uses Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) inks, NOT 3rd party inks for improved quality, appearance, and longevity.
- Only use an industry certified, professionally trained and highly experienced vehicle wrap installer. Professional wrap installers know techniques and tricks to properly install wraps and how to maintain them. Insist on meeting your installer(s) and talking to them personally about their experience. If you cannot talk directly to the installer or the shop uses third party contractors for installations, you should probably look for a different wrap provider.
How Much Does It Cost to Paint an RV
As with the RV Wrap, the cost to paint a motorhome varies depending on the size and color schemes selected. If you are going to invest in painting your motorhome, you will want to use high quality paints and proper surface preparation.
Surface Preparation is Key to Quality RV Painting
Before painting, the surface of the RV will need be prepared which may include pressure washing, sanding, scraping and removal or masking of exterior features to protect them from paint overspray.
Estimates for a quality paint job for a 40 foot motorhome including clear coat coverings are in the $30,000-$35,000 range.
Often slideouts are not included in the pricing, and adding multiple color schemes can raise the price by 20 percent or more.
RV Paint Costs Can Vary- A Lot
Estimates will also depend on the type of paint being used and the geographical location of where the job is performed. The main reasons the costs are so high is because of the extensive prep work involved in preparing the RV for painting. A high-quality paint job on an RV can take weeks or even months depending on weather and painting schedules. A high-quality wrap can usually be done in a week after design.
How Long Does An RV Wrap Last
If you use a high quality vinyl wrap such as 3M or Avery, the estimates for the lifespan are 5-7 years without noticeable fading. If your RV is kept under cover, you may get as long as 9 years but it does depend on how well you maintain it. You won’t need to wax the vinyl wrap, but you will need to keep it clean and wash off any road salts.
Repairs Are Easier With RV Wraps
A big advantage of wrapping your RV is the ease of replacing or repairing small sections without rewrapping the entire motorhome. If your RV wrap becomes damaged, you can replace the one damaged section. If you have a painted RV and you need a repair, it can often require extensive surface preparation and a much larger section be repainted in order to properly match the overall paint.
Does RV Wrap Damage the Original Paint
No, if a quality vinyl is used and applied by a professional installer it acts more like a paint protectant. Applying a vinyl wrap is basically just placing another layer over the top of your RV’s body panels.
A correctly installed vinyl wrap will not damage the factory paint underneath, but will protect the paint from sunlight, small scratches, and dings from rocks and debris.
Wrapping your motorhome can also help preserve the value because it can easily be removed and then the original paint is in pristine condition underneath.
Personalize Your RV With a Vinyl Decal
If your RV doesn’t need a complete wrap, but you still want to personalize it, you do have options.
We found this seller on Etsy that will personalize an RV graphic for you. She is 5 star rated and can make any custom design that you want.
Can I Wrap My Own RV
Yes, there are companies that you can order vinyl wrap from, but unless you are an experienced installer you may be wasting your money.
Can RV Wraps Be Removed
Yes, if the product used was a high-quality vinyl then it can be removed using a heat gun. The high-quality films are designed to not leave a residue.