So, what are the hidden costs of fleet graphics? That’s a good question because there’s more to it than printing the adhesive vinyl graphics and applying them on your fleet. Unfortunately, many fleet owners don’t understand or learn this until they’ve committed to a fleet graphics project. The true cost of fleet graphics is complicated. Here are a few of the contributors to the cost of fleet graphics.

The Hidden Costs of Fleet Graphics


Logistics can be a huge drain on resources. Think about it. When your fleet vehicles are out of service, they’re not making a profit; they’re losing money.

“For many company fleets, downtime is tangible and can be translated into dollars. In fact, downtime costs a fleet an average of $448 to $760 a day, per vehicle, and those figures add up fast.” — The true cost of vehicle downtime.

(I recommend you read the post to understand the formula used to calculate the lost income. It’s scary what even one hour can cost.)

Show me the money

$400 to $700 is a lot of money and adds up fast. If you’re a small operation with a small fleet, it can be disastrous. However, imagine if you have 4,000 vehicles out one day for graphics removal and surface prep and then another for new graphics installation. Two days at the low end of $400 X two days X 4,000 fleet vehicles is more than 3 million dollars. And in many cases, it’s more than two days. Poor planning can lead to installers with no vehicles to install, vehicles with no installers to apply the graphics, and vehicles, and installers waiting on graphics.

TKO Case Study 

“A national lawn care company wanted to de-identify and rebrand over 4,000 vehicles without losing work time. The vehicles were used from 6 am to 6 pm daily, except Sunday. Adding to the challenge, the vehicles were in over 200 cities throughout North America.” — Case Study: Rebranding 4,000 Vehicles at 200 Locations with Zero Down Time. We completed the job on time, after hours, at 200 locations. Their trucks didn’t experience any downtime.

Design Costs 

Design cost isn’t only the hourly rate a provider charges for design work. It’s how prepared you, the customer, are. Have you given the graphics provider the correct information about your fleet vehicles and everything the designer needs to fit the design to your fleet? If not, it can be costly. On the low end, it could add more hours to design work, but on the high-cost end, it could mean reprinting graphics.

“One of the best ways to help a graphic designer serve you and meet your needs, as well as your expectations, is to furnish the designer with accurate and complete specifications in a timely manner.

But what model is it?

For example, to say you have a 2018 Ford F150 isn’t enough information. The F150 is available in at least a dozen packages from XL, XLT, and Lariat to the Platinum. They’re available in regular cab, extended cab, two-door, four-door, and with multiple options. One graphic design will not fit all the variations of the 2018 F150.” — FAQ: What Does a Vehicle Graphic Designer Need to Know About My Vehicle?

A good place to begin proofing your layout is checking the vehicle. Do the serial numbers match? Do they have the correct year, model, and package? If it isn’t a full wrap, is the color of the vehicle correct?

Measure twice, cut once

“Please, do not underestimate the importance of checking this. I can’t tell you the number of prospects that have come to us for help because another provider printed graphics for their extended cab that wasn’t an extended cab. So, be certain the right vehicle template was used for your design.” — How to Proof Your Vehicle Graphics Layout, so it Doesn’t Cost You Time and Money

And be sure to involve everyone in your operation who could veto the design. We once experienced a CEO who had never seen the design, which had been approved, signed off, printed, and installed told his team he didn’t like it and to take it off. Well that was expensive.

The Vehicles

Several factors can affect the cost of fleet graphics. In October of 2012 we published this post, How Much Does a Vehicle Wrap Cost? At that time, we shared ranges of vehicle wrap costs and a few of the variables that affect the price. In 2012, we stated a full wrap could run $1500 to $3000 or more. Since then, we’ve completed wraps for under $1500 and more than $4000. Although it’s impossible to create a one-size-fits-all price tag for vehicle wraps — you can come pretty close when you take in a few considerations.

“So, how much do vehicle graphics costs? It begins with the type of vehicle. Is it a compact car or a 53-foot trailer?” — How Much Do Vehicle Graphics Cost? Also, the number and type of vehicles impact cost. The cost of set up and design for one full wrap is absorbed into that one wrap. However, if it’s the same design and set up for 100 wraps, it is divided among the 100.

The condition of your vehicles affects the surface prep and, therefore, the cost. For example, low-end adhesive graphics often use permanent adhesive, which are difficult to remove and may damage the surface when removed.

You can’t hide from it 

There’s also a misconception that vehicle graphics can cover or hide damage. In most cases, that’s not true. Anything more than a slight scratch will show through the wrap.

3M’s 1080 series wrap material is one of the most popular, here’s what they had to say, “1080 Series wrap is recommended for new or reconditioned cars. Ideal candidates for 3M’s 1080 vehicle wrap film are luxury, sports cars, exotics, and track cars. Older vehicles that have dents, scratches, rust, and other damage may be visible through the wrap. These defects may cause the wrap to look bad. 3M’s warranty only covers vehicles that have an excellent paint to substrate bond. Vehicles with clear coat issues, scratches and dents will need to be sanded and prepped before it is wrapped.” – All about 3M 1080 Vehicle Wrap Film

However, it’s not only damage and dents – it’s the paint as well. If the paint on your vehicle is faded, peeling, or rubbed out, the adhesive will most likely not adhere to the surface, which means it needs to be fixed before applying adhesive vinyl graphics.

Coverage Options

Another big factor in the cost of fleet graphics is the amount of coverage. A full wrap is more expensive than a partial wrap, which in most cases costs more than plotter cut decals.

One day while walking through our installation bay I saw a truck getting decals and met the owners Ernie and Isaac. I told them it was smart to use contrasting color decals on their dark vehicles as well as less expensive. “They shared that TKO Graphix COO, Denny Smith, had advised them of this. It’s why they decided on decals on their dark vehicles. Denny told them that in their case, decals would be cost-effective and as good for branding and marketing as a more expensive full wrap. I think Denny was correct, and so do Ernie and Isaac.– 2 Brothers Pressure Washing — Effective Vehicle Graphics without Breaking the Bank

What are my options?

There are full wraps, partial wraps, window film, and even magnetics.

“There are several fleet graphics coverage options depending on your needs and budget. The term “wrap” is liberally used to define adhesive vinyl graphics. But a wrap is only one of the options available. Knowing the options helps you determine what’s best for your needs.” — FAQ: What Are My Fleet Graphics Coverage Options?

The Hidden Costs of Fleet Graphics Exposed! 

There’s more that could add to the cost of fleet graphics, such as material options (the lowest priced material may end up being more expensive in the long haul) and installation (you don’t want amateurs). But this is good place to start. If you plan logistics to reduce downtime, know what you want before you go to the design team, and consider your coverage options, you’ll be ahead of the curve.

We make sure you won’t have any hidden costs of fleet graphics during the process. If we can answer any questions or what to learn more, please Contact Us for a quote today!

Photo by Damir Spanic on Unsplash