All Spun Up: Dressing Up Your Truck

September 2020 Column Colin Peterson

This article originally appeared in the August 2020 issue.

Many of us love to dress up our trucks with a special finish as part of our builds, in the form of an aftermarket coat of paint or vinyl wrap. We also might use paint schemes and wraps for company branding if we use our vehicles for work. Among the reader base of this magazine, though, snazzy looks are basically the dominant objective. So many of the trucks we feature in our magazine have had paint jobs, wraps, or even both completed on them. I can recall at least four trucks from our last two issues combined with major paint jobs or wraps. One of those was a rebuild of salvaged pieces from two run-down trucks.

Color Schemes

As colors have so many different meanings, the special color schemes give trucks much of their unique personality or character, which is quite meaningful especially for when truck owners put their rigs on display at shows. Sometimes even just the stock paint scheme can go a long way for someone depending on how it symbolically fits with his or her lifestyle, especially if the truck is newer. If the stock paint is all dinged and scratched up and the truck needs to be ready for display, some truck owners will just redo their existing schemes. Some will paint-match the stock color into other vehicle areas such as the suspension components, differentials and their covers, grille and headlights.

Ryan Hillman, the shop manager of Custom Auto in Idaho Falls, Idaho, helped to provide some perspective on the pros and cons of both painting your truck or wrapping it.


Wraps are the way to go if you’re looking for a less permanent color scheme for your ride. The biggest benefit is they can protect your vehicle’s exterior without the need to repaint it in the long run. Wraps can be changed fairly easily; while paint jobs are very labor-intensive and time-consuming.

“Additionally, wraps tend to cost about $3,000 to $7,000 depending on the design and color, making them less expensive than most premium paint jobs,” adds Ryan who wraps trucks in-house at Custom Auto. “They also take less time to complete and they’re less susceptible to damaging UV radiation than paint.”

One downside, though, is they can wear out over time, especially when you take your truck off-road frequently. Another downside is they require a lot of meticulous handling; if you’re not careful with your wrap, you may peel the paint off your truck when you decide you don’t want the wrap anymore.

Paint Jobs

Paint jobs are the best way to go if your truck’s paint has seen better days, or if you just really want your truck to change its looks and internalize its appearance. Also, if you want to color-match other parts of the vehicle such as your engine bay or suspension components, then look no further than paint. Although it varies depending on the quality of paint you use, most high-end paints tend to last a lifetime on a vehicle, whereas most wraps don’t. There are cheaper, lower-end paints out there that can get your truck coated for about $500 at a minimum, but they have an even shorter lifespan than many wraps as they get penetrated by the sun’s UV rays.

“The higher-end paint jobs tend to run at least $15,000 to $20,000 and are less susceptible to that damage,” Ryan adds. “A major downside to paint though is the time the entire process takes.”

Decision Time

Hopefully this gives you some meaningful perspective. If you’re still not sure what to do, maybe choose a wrap over of a coat of paint. You’ll save yourself some money, and many people end up changing their minds later. Wraps can also still make for a decent quasi-permanent color scheme if you take good care of them.

“If you’re done with the truck and want to sell it, you can just peel the wrap off, and that makes it even better,” Ryan adds. However, if your vehicle is already so scratched up, then a paint job is hands-down the way to go as a wrap would not work so well. In this issue, one of the featured trucks has a full custom wrap on it, and another has a custom paint scheme with color-matched components, so you’ll see good examples to help you decide.

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