Can Boats Be Vinyl Wrapped: The Pros, Cons And Cost

A bowrider boat that is vinyl wrapped with a crazy design sitting on it's trailer in a driveway.

Everybody has seen cars vinyl wrapped in a cool color or design, but can that be done to a boat? The odds of seeing a really unique design graphic on a boat these days is getting more commonplace, but that’s not usually paint or gelcoat.


Boats are being vinyl wrapped more often as the cost and simplicity of the process has gotten better. As the vinyl wrap material has improved, many boats can be wrapped by their owners. Many different designs of vinyl wrap are very affordable on Amazon, Ebay, and many other websites, then shipped right to your door.


Whether you want a business name on your boat or you just want your boat to stand out from the rest, vinyl wrapping is the answer. But how long will your vinyl boat wrap last?



Pros And Cons Of Wrapping A Boat



First off, the “Pros” far outweigh the cons in my opinion. I like being unique with my toys and a vinyl wrap is a great way to express yourself through your vehicles.


1: A vinyl boat wrap will protect the boat’s original paint/gelcoat finish. You won’t get UV damage to the original finish and the vinyl will also help protect from minor scratches to the original finish as well.


2: If at any point you decide to return your boat back to the original finish, removing the vinyl wrap will not damage anything. Not only is removing the vinyl wrap safe, but it is also quite easy and fast. It removes easy if you want it off, but don’t worry about it coming off on its own. When correctly applied, it will stay in place.


3: Actually, if you are very careful when removing the vinyl wrap with a heat gun and you have another surface prepared, you could apply the wrap onto another surface. This isn’t done too often, but if you want to use a section of graphics on a smaller item, you could. After a section of wrap is removed, heat it to remove the stretch, then reapply to the new surface. This can be done with full sections or individual logos or graphic portions.


4: Since a vinyl boat wrap can be easily removed, you could opt for a different look to your boat as often as you are willing to pay the price.


5: If your boat’s original finish is in rough condition, you could do some hull repairs to even out the surface, then apply a new vinyl wrap relatively quickly and have a boat that looks virtually new.


6: If you have a business and your vinyl boat wrap has your company name on it, you can deduct a portion of your boat, the vinyl wrap, and boat expenses off your taxes (consult your CPA). In fact you could be getting 100’s if not several 1000 views to your striking company graphics whether your boating or not. Your boat is seen wherever you drive it, park it, or keep it slipped.


7: The cost of a custom printed vinyl wrap is going to be less than having the same design painted on a boat.


8: You could also offer to have other boats wrapped with your design and companies marketing. While boating is mostly seasonal, the right boater can create a lot of exposure for your company. Consider making a deal with someone who have many followers that would benefit from your companies product or service.


9: Applying a vinyl boat wrap to your boat is more environmentally friendly that spraying marine paint. (Though if you consider manufacturing of the vinyl material and the disposal when finished using it, it may just be a wash).


10: If you don’t need custom printing and only want a color change or a stock pattern vinyl, you could actually wrap your boat yourself and save the high labor cost of application. There are some good videos that show the process quite well. With new advancements in the vinyl materials, it isn’t complicated, and if you make a mistake, you can just lift the vinyl off the surface and reapply.


11: The cost of vinyl wrap material varies quite a bit, but I just purchased 5′ x 60′ roll of vinyl wrap for my boat. I will be applying it this summer. That roll of GLOSS RED METALLIC cost me just under $500. I used a coupon and bought it off the Instawraps website. It was (at the time) less than buying it off Amazon. Though it really is hard to beat Amazon’s price with so much competition between sellers.


12: With one or two people working, a medium sized boat can be wrapped from the waterline to the rub-rail in a matter of hours. The investment of a color or pattern change can be relatively economical and time efficient. Get on YouTube and watch several different boat wrap projects to be sure you are comfortable with the process.


13: The tools needed to apply a vinyl boat wrap are minimal. (Amazon links to choice products and kits)

This is all you need to do a great vinyl boat wrap install job. You don’t need a “backing cutter”, but it sure is nice for cutting the backing paper in the middle of your run (creates your hinge for installation. Trying to separate the backing and the film to cut the backing with scissors isn’t easy.

A vinyl wrapping tool kit including a heat gun, needle pen, razor knife, squegee, sizzors, knifeless tape, and a pull vinyl cutter.


The “Pen Tool” in the picture is a very sharp needle/pin that is retractable so you don’t get hurt. If you happen to get stuck with a bubble that won’t release, this ultra fine needle can be used to let the air out and you can squeegee it down. Yes I forgot to put the masking tape in the photo, lol.


It is also good to have a tape measure for laying out a patterned vinyl or other location and size dependent wraps. While there are these other tools that make the job easier, you still can do a vinyl boat wrap with just the tools in the list.




1: Having a boat “professionally” wrapped can get pricey. Good thing that the materials have gotten easier to work with for non-professionals, because hiring a vinyl boat wrap done for a stock solid color on the side of your hull can be between $60 and $150 per foot of boat.


Of course there are several factors that come into play on pricing even a simple solid color boat wrap. The lower end of the pricing will limit the height of the wrap material to a couple feet. The hull design and hull condition are also factors. If there are decals currently on the boat and other prep work needed, that is an extra charge.


If you want a custom printed vinyl boat wrap, then the cost escalates and can only be quoted based on the amount of color print and the complexity of the design work needed. This also can affect the installation charge because of the installer needing to precisely align and position the design on the boat.


While you absolutely can have your vinyl custom printed and sent to you for self installation, you have to remember you are working with much more expensive material and if you damage it during install, you pretty much have to order another one.


You might want to consider having an expensive custom design wrap professionally installed. But remember, if this has your business information on it, you are writing it off on your taxes, so in the end you could be saving 1/3 of the cost (consult your tax professional).


2: Vinyl boat wrap life expectancy is generally 7 years if it doesn’t get damaged. With that said I know of boats that have had their wrap on longer than this and it still looks great.


So if you consider the 29′ boat I am about to wrap for under $500 as an example. Even if it only lasts for 7 years, that breaks down to costing less than $72 per year! So not only does the boat have a new look for 7 years, it is also protecting the original boat finish for the same 7 years.


The other option would be to repaint. Some say that marine paint has a similar life expectancy. And again, a custom design printed on vinyl will cost less than the same design custom paint job.



Do It Yourself Boat Vinyl Wrap


There are some great videos on YouTube that show you how to apply vinyl wrap to a boat. It’s not much different than applying to a car or anything else. Watching a professional installation can provide many tips and shortcuts that deliver a well installed vinyl boat wrap.


Boats are generally easier to wrap than cars, because boats don’t have many complex or compounding curves. A car on the other hand has many difficult curves that require significant stretching of the vinyl.


Wrapping a car’s side mirror is more difficult than a hood and you have to be sure you shrink back the material before trimming. Otherwise the vinyl will slowly retreat over time and look bad. Boats for the most part, are longer and have more straight, flat areas.


You won’t have to stretch the vinyl a lot for a boat install. But if you want to see just how much you can stretch vinyl on a boat wrap, check out this video below. The vinyl gets stretched by a few feet and still looks great. Watch for the pointers on how to keep it in place without the vinyl retreating back over time.



Preparing A Boat For Wrap


Getting a boat ready to be vinyl wrapped can be labor intensive if there is hull damage or a lot of decals to be removed. Removing stickers can be a pain. Sometimes when you use a heat gun to warm the sticker, the glue will sometimes stay behind.


A 3M eraser wheel and arbor on a white background.If you are left with glue residue on the boat, you could use a chemical to remove it. The problem is, this can take a long time depending on the type of adhesive that was used. There is another option. The 3M Stripe Off Wheel and arbor, with part number 07498. (Buy it on Amazon with the link)


This is a 4″ rubber wheel and a matching arbor to put into your drill. The rubber is like an eraser type of compound and really strips the decals right off quite easily and cleanly. I removed the decals off my boat with a lot of labor and a heat gun. I got the 3M wheel to remove the leftover adhesive.


I wouldn’t go through this again. I should have just used the 3M Stripe Off Wheel from the beginning. It would have saved me a ton of time. You can remove stickers from virtually anything, so its a great tool to keep around.


As far as scratches and gouges in the hull, you will want to repair them so that the surface is nice and even. Any significant scratch may show through your vinyl wrap. You can always test the area by applying a small piece of your vinyl over the scratch to see if it shows. Once you know the results, just peel off the vinyl.


Once the surface is clean and even, wipe the entire area down with isopropyl alcohol where the vinyl will be applied. Use a lint free rag and don’t spray too much on to the point that is running down the surface. Work small areas at a time and be sure there are no drips hanging anywhere.


Any isopropyl alcohol left on the boat when the vinyl is going on, will cause that spot to never stick. The isopropyl alcohol will eat the adhesive off your vinyl wrap. So simply be sure you dried it off everywhere. However it should evaporate rather quickly.



Installing Vinyl Wrap On A Boat


The video above shows how to install a vinyl wrap on a boat very well. Just a couple reminders to be thinking of before you begin. First, it would be best if you can find a place indoors to do this project. A controlled atmosphere can be a big benefit.


My boat is large and I am going to be wrapping it outdoors (not by choice). I am going to be battling:

  • Wind blowing my wrap material around.
  • Sun beating down on me and causing glare.
  • Rain delays possible.
  • Dirt, dust, bugs, and bird poop potentially getting on the surface.


If you have the ability to find an indoor location for vinyl wrapping your boat, you will save yourself some potential headaches. 


Before you hang your vinyl in preparation for application, be absolutely sure you have ALL you tools ready. Don’t try to wrap your boat by yourself if at all possible. Wait for a time when you can have another person with you.


A helper should also take the time to understand the vinyl wrapping process also. It is going to be easier if you don’t have to explain everything you are doing and that they should be doing. Have them at least watch the above video.


Lastly, don’t be in a hurry. Pick a time for the project so that you won’t feel rushed at all. If you have a deadline to get the boat wrap done, expect mistakes.


I bought my first boat while in high school 1981. I had more hours working on it than using it in the water. I can't count how many boats I've had since, but I really enjoy reviving boats. I've had so many boats that I could never use them all. Once I fix a boat up, I play with it a couple times and sell it. My goal is to use my many years of experience, and help as many people Begin Boating.

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