There’s a common misconception that Paint Protection Film and Vinyl Wraps are the same things. They’re not! In this week’s blog article, we thought we’d set out a few of the differences. Yes, we’re going head-to-head with PPF vs vinyl!
PPF vs Vinyl:
Essentially, we install PPF for protection from stone and debris impact damage, whereas vinyl wraps are an aesthetic application.
Whilst PPF can (and always used to be) installed using the ‘bulk’ method (see our blog on PPF jargon!). These days, it’s more common to use specially designed patterns for each panel. Patterns are cut out of large rolls by a wide format plotter.
Vinyl is entirely bulk installed and used for a colour change wrap; it also involves significant car disassembly to hide the original colour.
Vinyl is around half the thickness of PPF, or even less, and has a very different memory effect when manipulated. Vinyl can be stretched or crumpled up, then returned to its original perfect, flat form, using gentle heat. This process is known as the memory effect. But it’s also possible to create a new memory point, and this means vinyl can be wrapped around pointed panel edges, stuck to the back and heated. It will shrink to fit tightly, which becomes the new memory point that it wants to retain. This means vinyl can comprehensively wrap more complicated shapes in one piece, with less risk of it wanting to pull away and return to its original flat form.
PPF doesn’t have this property and won’t shrink. So, it requires a different skill set to understand how best to install it onto a swoopy, curved panel and get it to stay there! PPF is less tolerant of being under tension in concave areas and so requires more relief cuts or using multiple pieces placed closely together to achieve the necessary coverage.
Cost & Durability:
Now, this may be like comparing apples with oranges, as we’ve already explained that when it comes to PPF vs vinyl, the products do different things. But there are product differences when it comes o cost and durability.
As a raw material, vinyl is cheaper than PPF. But, PPF needs to be strong and remain flexible. It must not distort, or more specifically, allow its adhesive to distort badly because it will be visible through the clear material. PPF is made up of many thin material layers using a polyurethane base. It must retain excellent optical clarity, it must not turn yellow, and its party trick is to retain its self-healing top surface, which vinyl doesn’t have.
Vinyl is relatively fragile compared to PPF. It is approximately half as thick and made of polyvinyl chloride (PVC). A vehicle wrap is usually a ‘cast vinyl’. This means that all the ingredients to make it are mixed at the point of manufacture, the PVC, the colour pigment, UV stabilisers, and an ingredient to dictate whether it will have a gloss or matte finish.
Benefits of PPF over Vinyl:
Just to reiterate, both products offer different things. So, a side-by-side comparison is difficult, but we’ve listed a few considerations below.
- Vinyl might offer a small amount of protection for your paint. However, overall it’s pretty fragile. It will tear easily under the stress of a stone hitting it, or dragging a hedge down the side of the car.
- PPF, using templates at least, avoids the risk of film being cut on your car, and the obvious risks associated with that if the installer isn’t careful and experienced.
- PPF should be carefully visible on your car, vinyl is all about making a statement.
NOTE: Remember, if you’re changing the colour of your vehicle, you need to declare this to DVLA and your insurers.
PPF and Vinyl, does it happen?
We’ve seen customers use PPF over vinyl when wrapping their car temporarily for an event like the Gumball Rally.
We’ve also seen PPF applied over very rare and expensive vinyl, such as chrome finish vinyl. However, it makes for a risky and challenging install, and we wouldn’t recommend it.
News from Xpel PPF!
Xpel Black PPF is now available! The best application for us is on piano black trim, which is very easily marked.
We already install regular clear PPF to these areas, but there is no doubt that the black PPF has the most gorgeous, super-rich, glossy black finish that looks sublime. The material is expensive, approximately 60% more so than clear, but when used in carefully chosen areas, it gives a superior finish. Get in touch to see what we can do for your car!