Guide to commercial vehicle wrapping for small business

If your company vehicle is in desperate need of a refresh, consider van wrapping. We'll take you through the basics.

You’ve probably seen loads of examples of van wrapping without realising what it’s called.

When you see a swanky commercial vehicle with a name, logo and image, it has probably been professionally wrapped.

Plenty of small businesses invest in this revamp and for good reason. First off, your vehicle will become a moving local advertisement which is incredibly effective in boosting sales and brand recognition. The wraps also protect your van’s paintwork from stone chips and minor abrasion, increasing the likelihood of a higher vehicle resale value.

Before you dash to your nearest wrapping company with a handful of sketches, have a read through this guide.

What is van wrapping?

Van wraps are pliable vinyl stickers that are fitted to your vehicle. Don’t fancy a full wrap? Part-wraps and decals for commercial vehicle signage are possibilities too. They’ll be substantially cheaper.

Can I use my own designs?

Yes, but check the van wrapping company’s specifications as each will have their own. Ask them about file requirements or printing processes that they use before you start on your design.

Include the fundamentals: the name of your company, the logo, your web address and your telephone number.

When sending images to the wrapping company, include the original photo files as well as the altered ones. It’s better to take your own photos or hire a photographer as they need to be as high resolution as possible.

Look at the colours of your design on an existing van or in a swatch book before you commit. The version you see on a computer or on Photoshop won’t reflect the final product.

The company you’re working with can discuss designs with you if you’re not confident in designing your own. Alternatively, you can go to an independent designer for something that looks extra slick.

How much does van wrapping cost?

It really varies depending on what you want. Decals cost anywhere from £75-£300 while full vehicle wraps are £1,500- £3,000. The final cost will be determined by the design and the size of your vehicle.

How long does it take?

Generally, van wrapping takes between one and five days. Again, this will come down to the complexity of the design, the size of your van and how much of it needs to be wrapped. Even the temperature outside could have a bearing on how long it takes.

Remember to factor preparation and resting into your timeline. You’ll need to drop off your van the day before so give it a thorough clean and then take it to the wrapping depot. The initial resting time allows your van to dry off and adapt to the temperature-controlled wrapping room. What’s more, the company you’re working with might want to get in some additional cleaning and preparation ahead of the wrap.

Once the work is complete, leave the van for 12-24 hours to let the adhesive set.

How long do van wraps last?

Depending on the type of wrap you have, they can last from five to ten years. In fact, the wrap will probably outlast your van.

Note that if you go for a block-colour vinyl it will last longer than digitally printed vinyl as the latter will fade over time.

One of the upsides to wrapping is that it’s flexible. If you don’t like the wrapping, are selling your van or only need the design for a seasonal promotion, it can be easily removed. You can easily do this yourself.

Do I need to notify anyone that my van has been wrapped?

By law, you need to inform the DVLA that your vehicle has had a colour change. You do this by updating your V5C log book. When you’re making your changes, choose the closest colour to the following:

  • Beige
  • Blue
  • Maroon
  • Red
  • Bronze
  • Cream
  • Multi
  • Silver
  • Brown
  • Green
  • Orange
  • Turquoise
  • Black
  • Gold
  • Purple
  • White
  • Grey
  • Pink
  • Yellow

Tell your insurance company too, even if you’ve only had your commercial vehicle part-wrapped. If your wrap gets damaged and you need to make a claim, your insurer will know more about replacement costs.

Ross Negus, managing director of Southampton Freight Services (SFS) talks about the company’s first van wrap. They even filmed it – watch the video below to see how it’s done. 

Southampton Freight Services got a good deal on van wrapping through a client

We got the idea when we were driving along one day and saw a Sky van with The Simpsons on – it looked amazing.

So, we started with some web research and found Bad Rap on Facebook. We felt that they were too expensive and kept searching. A couple of others came up through different searches but sadly they were also too expensive.

We got talking with a customer of ours and found out that they do van wraps and were willing to offer us a good deal. I was worried that the low price meant that the wrap wouldn’t be high quality, but it turned out well.

Our first van wrap was £1,500 and the others we’ve had done since were closer to £2,500.

Timescale challenges

The only real problem was that they said it would take three days to wrap but took about six in the end.

We knew our concept and worked with a lady we’ve known for years who helped us with the design. It took a few attempts to get it right as we had to work out practical things like the placing of door handles to ensure the design didn’t look odd. You can ask the vehicle manufacturers for a design template and work with them to ensure everything fits. The wrapping company should also have experience with this and advise you.

We cleaned it before we took it to their depot where it was cleaned again. They had to remove bodywork like bumpers, handles and lights on the side of the vehicle.

Being without the van for six days was tough! We spent a few hundred quid hiring another van but that was OK for us because we knew the wrapping was an investment. It depends on what you’re trying to get from it.

Having a wrap got our brand out there and I’d like to think it helped increase our sales. We had loads of people coming up to us and saying ‘Oh, I saw your van!’ At the time van wrapping was still fairly new and we wanted to keep ahead of the curve and do something really different – and striking.

I’d tell small business owners to go to two or three companies before you decide and make sure you get your message across. Some companies will just do a standard design and put you through the sausage factory. You really need to partner with someone who buys into your company’s ethos.

The next time we wrap a van it’s going to be next-level – the technology’s moved on so much now. Just ask the professionals when you’re looking around. They might be experimenting with something and give you a slightly discounted rate to try it out for them and possibly run a case study or advertisement to promote their services. This works out great for your business too.

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