Shrink wrapping a car involves using plastic film and a heat tunnel to wrap the entire vehicle in a tight, durable plastic shell. The plastic film is stretched tightly around the car using an industrial strength heat tunnel that applies heat to the film, causing it to shrink and form a hard casing around the car.
Benefits of Shrink Wrapping a Car:
- Provides an extra layer of protection from dents, scratches and other shipping damage.
- Seals the car in a waterproof and dustproof barrier.
- Secures loose parts like mirrors, door handles, antennae and emblems in place.
- Deters theft and tampering during shipment.
- Allows the car to be easily handled and moved by machinery without risk of directly contacting the vehicle.
How the Shrink Wrapping Process Works:
- The car is thoroughly cleaned inside and out to remove any dirt, dust or debris.
- All loose parts are removed and secured safely inside the vehicle.
- The car is driven into the shrink wrapping tunnel.
- Stretch film is wrapped tightly around the entire body of the car using an automated system.
- Infrared heaters in the tunnel emit targeted heat, causing the film to shrink tightly around the vehicle.
- The now tightly wrapped car remains intact inside the hard plastic casing until unwrapping at its destination.
When is Shrink Wrapping Necessary?
While shrink wrapping provides extra protection, it’s not always necessary for every vehicle shipment. Here are some factors to consider:
Type of Vehicle:
Shrink wrapping is most commonly used for high-end luxury and sports cars, collector cars or other vehicles with a higher resale value. For more basic passenger vehicles or trucks, traditional crating or enclosed transport may suffice.
Shrink wrapping is especially useful for ocean shipping where cars are exposed to harsher elements for longer periods of time. It’s less critical for overland trucking within a single country.
The farther the distance, the more appropriate shrink wrapping becomes since there’s an increased risk of damage, delays or accidents along the journey. Short domestic shipments likely don’t require it.
Newer vehicles in like-new condition have less need for shrink wrapping than older classics or project cars in partial disassembly that would benefit from extra armor.
While shrink wrapping offers peace of mind, it does represent an additional cost over basic crating. You’ll need to decide if the investment is worth it based on your vehicle’s value.
Alternatives to Shrink Wrapping
If shrink wrapping isn’t required or doesn’t fit your budget, there are still options to help protect a vehicle during transport:
Wood or metal crates with open tops and wrap-around sides secured with screws or straps. Cheaper than wrapping but still offers protection.
Securing the vehicle inside a enclosed shipping container, van, or car carrier provides protection from weather and limited manhandling.
Custom Foam Blocking:
Dense foam can be precisely cut and installed inside the vehicle to brace parts and prevent movement during transit.
Laying thick plastic sheeting over exposed areas like engine components or fenders before taping or tying it in place with straps.
Extra Padding & Bracing:
Using moving blankets, carpet scraps, cardboard or bubble wrap to pad vulnerable areas and install cross-bracing within the vehicle.
Cost of Shrink Wrapping a Car
The cost of shrink wrapping a vehicle can be $12 to $25 per square foot
Additional fees may apply for:
- Vehicle dismantling/reassembly (if required)
- Ocean/larger shipments requiring liftgate/ heavier wrap
- Rush orders with shorter turnaround times
- Remote/hard to reach pickups/deliveries
Most transport brokers/carriers can provide shrink wrapping as part of their shipment services. Be sure to get quotes from multiple vendors to find the best value.
Should You Shrink Wrap Your Car?
In summary, here are the key factors to consider when deciding whether or not to shrink wrap your vehicle for shipment:
- Higher value/collectible vehicles are best candidates due to increased protection needs
- Longer distance/ocean shipments present more exposure risks
- Newer vehicles in good shape have less to gain from wrapping than older/custom models
- Enclosed auto transport is a viable lower-cost alternative for many domestic moves
- Weigh the investment cost versus potential damages based on your vehicle’s worth
- Consult experienced transport providers for objective recommendations
While not always mandatory, shrink wrapping does deliver peace of mind through a seal-tight layer of durable shielding during transit. For irreplaceable classics or those hauling expensive exotics, the extra cost is often justified. But simpler shipping requirements may find equally protective solutions for less. Careful consideration of your specific vehicle and route can help decide. With the right precautions, any shipment can stay wrinkle-free.