In the mid 2000’s, matte black car wraps exploded onto the scene as the hottest trend for customizing your car’s exterior. Exotic cars with matte black wraps came out looking like stealth fighters, with a unique look that set them apart from the traditional glossy finish of automotive paint. By the end of the decade, another eye-catching aesthetic appeared, and now threatens to rival the matte wrap in popularity – chrome. The controversial style of the chrome car wrap might be the loudest statement a car owner can make, popular with celebrities like Justin Bieber and Flo-Rida, or with oil billionaires in Dubai.

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Is Chrome a Fad? Or the New Matte Black?

But will chrome car wraps overtake matte as the most popular wrap amongst car enthusiasts? Or is chrome a fad, without the classic appeal of the matte finish? Chrome has many detractors in the industry, with installers reporting difficulties with the product. 3M is rumored to be pulling its chrome product from the market, at least temporarily, until a more reliable alternative can be found.

Mike Lawson, an installer at Absolute Perfection Vehicle Wraps in Baltimore, says, “I’ve seen problems conforming chrome to some of the aggressive lines in these exotic cars. When we heat chrome, which is the way that you stretch and fit wraps to the body of a vehicle, the product can turn cloudy and lose its luster. Bringing chrome around curves can kill the reflectivity of the product. It’s like breathing on a mirror, and it can almost turn matte.”

Chrome 2.0?

“At some point,” says Chris Fong, Absolute Perfection’s 3M Certified Installer, “3M will come out with a product that is more durable, and is better to work with. Until then, chrome car wraps are going to have more problems than matte wraps, with longevity and with overall quality. In the near future, though, I’m sure they’ll perfect the product. They may come up with a laminate that could be put on vinyl, which would give you a more reliable and durable chrome effect. Eventually, there will be a chrome product that conforms to curves, stays down, and continues to look good for years.”

But even if they do improve the quality and durability of chrome wrap products, will it stay popular? Is this a temporary craze, or is it here to stay? Some people would argue that chrome, especially a full chrome car wrap, is tasteless and garish. Will chrome become a product that’s more commonly used to accent accessories or details, once enthusiasts get over the initial excitement?

“Right now,” says Mike Lawson, “80 to 85 percent of the calls we get are for matte wraps, usually matte black. It’s still the most popular choice for wraps on personal cars. But we’re getting more and more requests for chrome. Some day soon, it may be 50/50, and it may overtake matte. Only time will tell.”

Which Would You Prefer For Your Personal Vehicle Wrap?

A highly unscientific, but revealing poll, taken on the Facebook Fan Page “Rate My Vehicle Wrap” found an overwhelming number of people voting for Chrome over Matte, 36 to 3. Granted, event though the question posed by the poll was, “Which would you rather have on your personal vehicle?” the respondents may have really been voting for the product they’d be most excited to see at a car show. And until a more reliable, durable product is found, car shows may be the only practical venue for the product. Car shows, and maybe Justin Bieber’s garage.

Do you think chrome car wraps will overtake matte wraps in popularity? Which would you rather have on your personal vehicle? Let us know in the comments!

Vehicle Wrap Basics.

  • Vehicle Wrapping – Affixing a vinyl covering that is thin but durable. The wrap can be applied to the entire vehicle or simply on specifically-targeted areas.

Vehicle wrapping is more practical than getting a new paint job — not only because the process is generally less expensive, but also due to the fact that the wrapping can be removed completely without damaging the original paint on the car (in case owners want to change colors or sell their vehicles). It also lasts for several years and resists bubbling, wrinkling, or folding.

Why Matte Wrapping is Awesome

One of the first popular choices for vinyl wrapping was known as matte wrapping. Instead of the traditional “shiny” look found in most automotive paints, matte wrapping is non-reflective and sleek. A matte wrapping can provide the illusion of a “stealth” finish, which draws attention to itself because of its understated look.

Why Chrome Car Wrapping is Amazing

But recently, some car enthusiasts have embraced the opposite philosophy by gravitating toward chrome wrapping. Where matte wrapping is subtle, chrome wrapping is shiny, brassy, and borderline “mirror-like” in its reflectiveness. Its name is derived from the fact that the finish looks almost exactly like real chrome at first glance.

Caring for Matte Wrapping

Of course, car owners who opt for vehicle wrapping must take measures to protect their cars from elements that can damage the wraps themselves. Because dirt, bird droppings, and other stains can penetrate the vinyl wrapping, it is recommended that owners of wrapped vehicles wash their vehicles at least twice a month. These car washes should either be done by hand or with a jet wash (rather than at mechanical washes) with a matte car wash soap. And for quick touch-up jobs, a can of matte final finish can eliminate staining caused by pollen, dust, or fingerprints.

Caring for Chrome Car Wrapping

Chrome vehicle wrapping is a much more labor-intensive process; and since the chrome vinyl materials are substantially more expensive, the bottom line cost will be pricier as well. That said, chrome wrapping is resistant to many ordinary substances like dirt, oil, grease, salt, and water. However, today’s chrome car wraps cannot be waxed or polished; and they are more susceptible to scratches, dings, and other blemishes. Put simply, even the slightest imperfection may not come out of a chrome wrap covering. But if your car is more of a car show display vehicle than your primary means of transportation, this issue may not be as important to you.

About the Author:

Lee Emmons is VP of Absolute Perfection Media, and an expert in automotive photography, video production, and online marketing.