The Pros, Cons and Costs of Wrapping a Boat in Vinyl

Vinyl Boat Wrapping

You’ve surely seen cars wrapped in all kinds of vinyl covers with different designs and colors already, but could you wrap your boat in this way as well? People adding all kinds of design graphics on their boats aren’t all that uncommon nowadays, but, as you might expect, this usually is something else instead of the usual gelcoat or paint.

As boats are wrapped in vinyl more and more, the actual process continues to get better and easier. The vinyl wrap material and the way it is added to the boat have improved so much that many people are able to wrap the boat themselves without professional help. You will find a lot of different designs of vinyl wrap that are of good quality even though they are very cheap on websites like eBay, Amazon, and the likes. These can be shipped right to you in a matter of days.

Vinyl wrapping can be your answer if you want your boat to stand out at the docks or if you want to add a logo or business name for advertising purposes. One of the most asked questions is how much will the vinyl actually last on your boat.

The Pros And Cons Of Wrapping Your Boat


What you should understand from this article is that, in my personal opinion, there are considerably more pros than cons. I always like to add a touch that represents me on all my vehicles so the viny wrap is just that, a way to express myself in whatever way I want.

  1. Even though you will find that vinyl materials to wrap your boat have different price ranges depending on their types, I actually went for a 5′ x 60′ roll of vinyl wrap for most of the projects I have been involved with. I usually opt for a standard print and spend around $500 – $750 depending on the boat’s size. You can look for coupons on websites like Groupon or Instawraps. In this way, you will get the material even cheaper than what Amazon could sell it for.
  2. You will have no problem wrapping the boat in vinyl yourself, as long as you’re only interested in a stock pattern vinyl or a single color cover. Things get a little trickier when you go for a custom print that should be positioned perfectly. This is where you should ask for professional help. You will find plenty of videos about the best way to wrap a boat – or other objects for that matter – in vinyl. With enough practice, you will find it really easy to add the vinyl material, and if you make any mistake, you can always just lift it and reapply it for a perfect look.
  3. Vinyl wrapping is considered a lot more environmentally friendly than using the necessary paint to cover a medium-sized boat.
  4. If you like how your boat looks, you could always offer to wrap other boats as well, to use your company’s marketing and design. If you pick the right boats and boaters, they can bring in a whole lot of exposure, even if just for the summer period. If you’re offering a professional-looking wrap, most people should be OK with you wrapping their boats with vinyl for a sum of money. Picking out the right influencers might turn a considerable number of their followers into your clients.
  5. In normal conditions, it will be cheaper to add a custom printed vinyl wrap to your boat than to paint it with the same design.
  6. If you’re adding any business info, logo, or business-related details on your boat using a vinyl wrap, you can always deduct the expenses from your business taxes. You should talk to an accountant before doing this, though. Having your business contact info or other details on the boat will practically mean thousands of views and hundreds of possible clients, so it is a great advertising trick. Going with your boat on a ride will be a financial step, not only a fun experience. Not only that, but people will also see your boat when it is parked.
  7. Using wrap instead of paint means that you can recondition your boat or repair it fully and then simply add a new wrap and have the boat look even better than new.
  8. As long as the price isn’t something to worry you too much and since the vinyl can be removed easily, you could change the look of your boat as often as you’d want.
  9. You can even remove the wrap in such a great condition that it can be attached to another surface on the spot and it will look just as great. To do this, you will have to use a heat-producing tool. This isn’t something that a lot of people will want to do and most people won’t even consider reusing the wrapping, but it’s good to know that if you want to use the graphic on a smaller surface, this is easy and it will look great. After you’ve removed a piece of the wrap, just heat it to remove any stretches and add it to any other surface. You can do this with the full wrap, a part of it, an individual design, or just a small piece with the logo.
  10. It will usually be very simple to remove the vinyl and return your boat’s look to its original state, without causing any damage to the vehicle. The removal of the wrap will be fast, easy, but also very safe. Although you will be able to remove it with ease, a great thing about this wrap is that it won’t come off on its own. It will be pretty tightly fixed to the boat when applied correctly.
  11. The vinyl wrap is a great way to protect your boat’s gelcoat finish or original paint. The vinyl coat won’t just protect against some minor scratches, but it will offer a great level of protection against UV damage as well, keeping the original finish almost intact.
  12. You shouldn’t spend more than a few hours to wrap all of a medium-sized boat from the rub-tail to the waterline even if you’re working on this project alone. Having someone to help will surely speed up the process. The whole investment will be pretty affordable both in money and in the time needed to complete the job. This job can be performed even by someone without any official qualification; all you’d need is to watch some Youtube tutorials on different boat wrapping projects and you’ll be ready to start working.

If you’re ready to start working on the project yourself, you won’t need more than the wrapping material and the tools listed below:

  • Filament edge cutting tape
  • Masking tape
  • 30-degree razor knife
  • Felt covered applicator (It’s better to buy this as a kit)
  • Heat tool

These tools are really all that you will need to start – and finish – a vinyl boat wrapping job. You could always do things faster with a backing cutter, to cut the paper in the middle of the run, but it isn’t a must.

Also, read my article about boat upholstery.


1: If you choose to employ the help of a professional, the wrapping job can get considerably pricier. You could actually end up spending close to $150 per foot of boat when hiring a professional to wrap your boat with a stock solid color vinyl wrap. This is why you should consider doing the job yourself.

As you might expect, there are a few different factors that will influence the final price of wrapping your boat even in a simple solid color wrap. If you go for the lower end of the pricing table, you will usually be faced with a limited height of the wrapping material, which usually won’t surpass a couple of feet. The condition of the hull and its general design will also play a role in the final price. You will also be faced with an extra expense if there is any other prep work needed or if your boat has any decals.

Procedure for Vinyl Wrapping a BoatThe final price will raise more and more depending on how complex your vinyl wrap design is if you opt for a custom printed one. I can’t give you any information on how much the price will rise as the amount of color print and the design complexity will be very important for the final price. If you’re working with a professional, then their job will also be more expensive, as they will have a harder task of aligning and positioning the design on the boat.

When you’re using a custom printed vinyl, although you can request it to be delivered to you, you will have to remember that if anything happens to it while on the road, you will have to get a new one. This is why you should consider bringing it from the shop yourself.

Even though the print itself and the installation work will be considerably more expensive, you should keep in mind that as long as you use your business name, logo, or info on the print, you can write it off on taxes, which usually means that at the end of the year you will be able to get back around 1/3 of the final expense.

2: You shouldn’t expect vinyl wrap to last more than 7 years on your boat, and this is if it doesn’t get damaged by external factors sooner. I did come across wraps that kept longer than 7 years, but they didn’t look all that great as they got older.

Wrapping isn’t the only option – you could always repaint. If you choose to repaint your boat you should know that experts claim that marine paint has a similar lifespan as vinyl wrapping. You will also spend more to have a custom design painted on your boat than printing it on vinyl.

DIY Boat Vinyl Wrapping

You can get a lot of inspiration from YouTube, as there are hundreds of videos that will show you how to apply vinyl wrap on a boat as well as possible. It’s basically almost the same as applying vinyl to anything else, like a car, for example. It is always better to watch a professional do it before you try to do it yourself, even if you know what you are doing. Who knows? You might get some useful tips that will prolong the life of the vinyl.

As cars have a lot more compounding or complex curves, they are usually considerably harder to wrap than boats. All of those curves will make it really difficult for you to stretch and properly place the vinyl.

You might also like to find out how to repair rotten boat floors.

For example, it will be a lot easier to wrap a boat hood than it would be to wrap a car’s side mirror, and in the case of mirrors, you will also have to shrink back the material before you trim it. If you fail to do this, the vinyl will start to retreat in time and it will look really bad. For the most part, boats are straighter with a lot more flat areas.

When you wrap a boat, you won’t have to stretch the vinyl so much. You will only have to stretch the vinyl by a few feet for amazing results. When looking for tips on YouTube, remember to watch for pointers on how to keep the vinyl in place without having it retreat back in time.

How To Prepare A Boat For Wrap

It might turn out to be pretty complicated to prepare a boat to be wrapped in vinyl, especially if there are a lot of decals that have to be removed or if the hull is badly damaged. If you have stickers, you should know that most of them will be tricky to remove. They were glued to the boat to withstand really bad weather and age, so they will put up a fight when you try to take them down. When you use a heat-producing tool to warm the sticker, sometimes the glue just won’t melt.

An easy fix when you are left with glue residues on parts of your boat is to use chemicals to remove them. The only issue with this technique is the time aspect because it can take considerably longer to finish the job, depending on the adhesive that was used in the first place. The best, and only option by me is the 3M Stripe Off Wheel and arbor, which comes with part number 07498.

This tool is actually a 4″ rubber wheel with a matching arbor that you can put inside your drill. The rubber will act as an eraser and will strip the decals completely, cleanly, and with ease. Before finding this nifty tool I was used to removing the decals off boats with a heat tool and excruciating labor. It only needed to use this 3M wheel one time to remove some leftover adhesive and I got completely hooked.

I would never have the patience to go through this job without the tool. I don’t even know how I had done this type of project in the past without the 3M Stripe Off Wheel. I reckon that throughout my long history with boats, this tool would have saved me unimaginable amounts of time. And it doesn’t work just for boats and boat materials. You can remove stickers from basically anything, so it’s great to keep around, especially as your kids grow older.

In terms of gouges or scratches your boat has on its hull, you will have to fix them all and make sure that the surface is even before adding the vinyl. It might not seem like a big deal, but any scratch on the hull will usually show through the wrap.

If you see a few smaller scratches that you think might not show behind the vinyl, you can always test this out. All you have to do is apply a small piece of vinyl over those scratches and see if they show beneath. Once you see how the scratch will look when the project is finished, you can just peel the vinyl off.

As a final step, when you think that the surface is even and clean enough, just wipe everything down with isopropyl alcohol, especially the areas where the vinyl wrap will be applied.

You have to abide by a couple of rules when applying the alcohol as well: For example, you shouldn’t spray too much of it on your boat. If it’s running down the surface, you sprayed too much. You should also apply it using a lint-free rag. You should only work on smaller areas at a time and always make sure you remove any excess alcohol and are careful not to leave drips hanging around.

Places that still have a pinch of isopropyl alcohol left on them when the vinyl is applied will make it not stick properly. The isopropyl alcohol does a great job of eating old adhesive off your boat, so you surely understand how this same substance will also clean any adhesive off your new vinyl. So just make sure you remove any traces of this alcohol before you start applying vinyl. Don’t be too stressed about it though, because most of it will evaporate very quickly even without you doing something special.

Installing Vinyl Wrap On A Boat

You will find a video below that shows you a step-by-step guide for wrapping your boat in vinyl. Here are some things you should keep in mind before starting. First off, it might seem counterintuitive, but you should really find an indoor place for this type of project. You could use a controlled atmosphere to your advantage.

If the boat is large and can’t fit a designated indoor space, you’ll be battling a lot of issues like:

  • Bugs, dust, dirt, and bird poop potentially getting on the surface.
  • Rain might delay your work.
  • Sun beating down on you and causing glares.
  • Wind blowing your vinyl wrap material around.

This means that you will be able to prevent quite a few potential headaches if you’re able to find an indoor space to accommodate this type of project.

Make sure you have everything prepared and ready to go before actually hanging your vinyl in preparation to be applied. If you have the possibility, get some help with the project, because doing it yourself will be a pain. If people aren’t available to help you, it’s better to wait for them to be able to help instead of starting the project alone.

Your helper should have thorough knowledge about vinyl wrapping and the whole process or should take the time to understand what the project will be about and what their tasks will be. It will be a lot easier if you don’t have to tell them what they have to do each step of the way. If they don’t WANT to learn everything about this project, at least have them watch the video below.

The most important step is to do everything in a calm way and not hurry through any of the steps. Pick a time that will enable you to do everything in its own time and not feel rushed at all. You will almost surely miss some things and make a couple of mistakes if you’ll be in a hurry to finish this project.

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