Wrapping a Tesla Guide: Costs, Process, Risks & More!

Have you ever noticed just how criminally dull car colors are nowadays? This isn’t a mere theory or a misconception. It’s the absolute truth. More than 75% of cars in the US come in just four colors: white (23.9%), black (23.2%), gray (15.5%), and silver (14.5%). The monochrome mess has made our roads and parking lots more dull to look at than ever, not like the technicolor dream that it was back in the 1970s and 1980s, right?

But thank goodness! Here comes Tesla to offer some more variety for us! Actually…no they aren’t. Tesla used to offer anywhere from 10-12 color options on their cars, but given their production woes and furious customers waiting almost into the next model year to get the Tesla they ordered, they have cut down on colors to a mere 5:

  • Pearl White Multi-Coat – the standard included paint for no extra cost
  • Midnight Silver Metallic – also offered as standard on models
  • Deep Blue Metallic – $1000
  • Solid Black – $1500
  • Red Multi-Coat – $2000

So, not only are options limited but they’re set up in a way that makes it hard to even justify veering from white or silver. What can we do, then? How can we stop our premium EV from just becoming another faceless vehicle in the monochrome crowd? One answer is obvious – get a vinyl wrap!

Background: What is Vinyl Wrap? How Does it Work?

Someone cutting vinyl wrapping off the edge of a door panel
Someone cutting vinyl wrapping off the edge of a door panel

Vinyl wrap is a protective film applied to the surface of a car in order to both change the surface color or pattern and provide protection from various contaminants and physical dangers that can otherwise impact the car’s paint such as rock chips.

Vinyl wrap is applied in a similar fashion to paint protection film. It takes quite a lot of skill and patience, as well as a careful eye, steady hand, and the right tools. The two methods used most commonly are known as the dry and wet methods. The dry method is the most common, and is considered easier and cleaner among professional applicators.

The dry method involves first cleaning and drying the surface, and then ensuring an ambient temperature of 70-80 degrees F in an indoor setting away from direct sunlight. Film comes in rolls, and is aligned on a designated area, pressured down and positioned using a squeegee to remove any air pockets. The film lining can then be removed and stuck down, using the squeegee again to smooth out the film and ensure no air pockets.

The wet method is similar, but involves first spraying the surface with an application fluid, as well as the back of the vinyl. You might wonder why they’d bother using this method if it’s more challenging, but one way it helps is that it prevents premature adhesion of the film, allowing you to get it into place more securely before applying pressure and using the squeegee. It’s messier, though, and can make the film harder to remove later on, which could be a problem if your Tesla is leased (see below for more).

Does Tesla Offer Vinyl Wrapping?

Tesla service ahead sign outside a dealership in Germany
Tesla service ahead sign outside a dealership in Germany

Yes, since August 2020 Tesla has offered in-house vinyl wrapping service to its customers. There’s just one important condition you have to meet first, and that is you have to be a customer in China!

To date, only Tesla China is offering wrapping services in-house. The reasons people are getting their vinyl wrap are the same in the Chinese market, and vinyl wraps are already a big market there for other cars.

It’s quite common, for instance, to be walking through a wealthy area of Beijing and seeing a high-end Mercedes-AMG, Porsche, Audi, or other luxury car with a unique pattern of vinyl wrap around it. It makes sense that Tesla China would start there where it is a highly sought-after measure, not just for style, but also added protection from dirt, pollution and other contaminants common to Chinese cities.

In the US, Tesla wrapping is also quite common and there are many providers, but to date it’s not offered in-house by Tesla. Even though it’s offered by third parties, vinyl wraps will not invalidate the warranty, but if a poorly done vinyl wrap job impacts the paint, then the paint correction won’t be covered by the warranty.

The standard body/paint warranty only covers 12 months or 12,500 miles for paint anyway, so there’s little chance you’d be in warranty when trouble arose.

Cost of Wrapping

A wrapped Tesla Model X with galaxy color wrapping effect
A wrapped Tesla Model X with galaxy color wrapping effect

How much it costs varies from supplier to supplier, and according to what kind of vinyl wrap you choose. Naturally, the higher you go on the quality ladder, the more you will pay. The main part of the cost when doing vinyl wrapping is in labor, since it’s a job that often has to be completed over a few days.

You should fully expect to have to pay around $2,000 to get the job done, but possibly as much as $3,000 or more on a larger model like the Model X or Y. More surface to cover means more time, more labor and therefore more cost.

These are only estimates, but if you have a budget in the range of up to $5,000 to modify your car’s exterior, you should be able to accommodate a very high-quality, lasting and well-executed vinyl wrap.

Benefits of Wrapping Your Tesla

Now that talk of the costs are out the way, what are the benefits of vinyl wrapping?

Protecting OEM Paint

Just like paint protection film, a vinyl wrap works to create a physical barrier between outside contaminants and dangers like rock chips and grit. If you want to not only help your Tesla stand out from the crowd, but also add this great practical element to it, then why not?

Boost Resale Value

By protecting the original paint, vinyl wraps can also help you to preserve the resale value of your Tesla. A great deal of the price that a buyer is willing to pay for your car is based on the first impression they get when they see the car for the first time.

A well-placed and then properly removed vinyl wrap can leave you with a pristine paint job that some might find hard to believe belongs to a car 3 or more years old. This can help boost resale price.

Hundreds of Patterns and Styles

Major producers of car vinyl film include giant companies like 3M, who offer car film in dozens and dozens of colors and shades. Besides block colors, you can also get different effects, and different patterns like camouflage, for instance. You can also wrap in two-tone colors to create a sporty effect – as the below “top 10 Tesla wraps” YouTube video shows:

Basically, whatever film you’re willing to pay for can be wrapped around your vehicle.

Removable – Can Work Even for Leased Teslas

Unlike a custom paint job that can only be redone from scratch, vinyl wraps are completely reversible. This makes it a viable customization to do, even when your Tesla is leased.

As long as the wrap is applied properly, and sufficient steam and the right tools are used when removing it, then there’s nothing to stop one wrapping even a leased car, keeping it on for 3 years (or however long the lease period is) and then removing it before returning the car. The lease company would never even need to know you’d done it!

Risks of Wrapping Your Tesla

Someone inspecting a Tesla Model S being delivered
Someone inspecting a Tesla Model S being delivered

As with anything to do with car modification, there are always risks that one has to consider.

High Cost

Let’s face it, it’s not a cheap endeavor. You might think an extra $2000-3500 on top of a $50,000 Tesla car really is nothing, but that’s not true if you’ve really maxed yourself out buying or financing that car. For those who can afford to finance a Tesla Model 3 over 4 years or so, another big lump sum like that might not be a feasible expense.

Risk of Paint Damage if Done Poorly

When vinyl wrap jobs are done poorly, they can be highly problematic. If they are applied badly, you can get bubbling air pockets which look hideous on your car’s surface. You can also get uneven edges where slivers of the original color can be seen underneath the wrap at the edge where it hasn’t been aligned and cut properly. These are the hallmarks of cowboy vinyl wrappers, but they do exist…everywhere.

Even worse, if you get the job done, but improper care is taken when adhering it to the surface and later (before selling) trying to remove it, the vinyl can end up doing damage to the paint. Removing the vinyl requires a good amount of steam and proper tools to ensure a smooth and safe lifting away of the material. Those cutting corners might end up leaving stains and marks on your original paint.

Drawing Attention of Vandals

Getting a vinyl wrap can — in some markets — be nothing but a good way to draw the attention of vindictive or petty vandals. Stealing your car outright may not be on the cards because such a distinct wrapped car would stand out like a sore thumb after being reported stolen.

However, to bitter vandals who want nothing more than to hurt a Tesla owner, getting a vinyl wrap could just be an invitation for them to do so.

Conclusion: Is it Worth Wrapping My Tesla?

There must be a good amount of merit in car wrappin, otherwise Tesla China wouldn’t be offering it in-house, trying to get in on the action. The car wrapping market is big, and in a world of boring car colors, it is an excellent way to not just help one’s car to stand out, but even add a bit of practical paint protection into the mix, too, which never hurts.

It is a pricey customization to make, however. Some might argue that if you have the budget to buy a Tesla, then adding a few thousand dollars for a wrap job probably is no big deal. When it is done well, it can really add a new dimension of “cool” to the Tesla vehicle. If one is going to get a Tesla wrap, it is critical that you invest money to get the job done right. Guarantees of experienced hands and quality results are worth any additional price (within reason).

About Tristan Perry

Tristan is a software developer who is passionate about eco-friendly lifestyles - and products, such as green cars! He has loved seeing Nissan and Tesla sell loads of quality EVs over the last decade - with every other car manufacturer finally following suit.

EV adoption seems to be at a tipping point now, with 'ordinary folk' starting to order them too. This is naturally aided by very expensive gas prices, but also a genuine desire for people to try and improve the environment.

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