Manufacturer Versus Aftermarket Racing Stripes

racing stripes on red dodge car

Many auto manufacturers now offer custom racing stripes or brand decals available as an add-on to your new vehicle. We in the graphics industry have been seeing more interest from private auto-owners looking to buy these custom graphics. Most auto dealerships will sell you mass-produced kits, custom designed and fabricated to fit your specific vehicle model. It’s easy to ask for this when you’re purchasing a new car. Often times the decals can be built right into the purchase price of the new vehicle and the dealership will get them professionally installed for you prior to purchase.

Problems arise when you are on the hunt for aftermarket racing stripes for a vehicle you already own. A quick internet search will bring up hundreds of sellers offering a variety of racing stripes styles. To the lay purchaser, one supplier might look like the rest. They post a photo of a vehicle similar to yours, with professionally fitted and installed striping and promise quick shipping and a low price. Unfortunately, without more information about vinyl brand and type and installation templating, the only thing purchasers really have for comparison is the price tag. It should come as no surprise that more often than not the cheapest product is the one that people buy.

Racing Stripes are too Short!

Earlier this week we installed after-market striping on an SUV. The kit sold online from an Ebay seller and was priced at $60 plus tax and shipping. It wasn’t until the package arrived in the mail and the purchaser opened the box that he realized he had a dilemma. He held up three giant stickers, each 6 feet long by 20″ wide. There were no instructions, no installation tools, and no diagram or measurements to show what went where on his vehicle. The gentleman called us and we accepted the job. What we discovered was that, even with the installation know-how and the correct tools, we were trying to install graphics that weren’t sized correctly. They were also made of an inexpensive material that wasn’t designed to follow the contours we were asking it to follow. An installation that should have taken an hour, instead took 5 frustrating hours of bubbling and stretching, pulling up and reinstalling over and over until we could get it looking the way it was meant to look. Despite all this, the job isn’t finished, because the length of the vehicle is actually 4′ longer than the racing stripes that were supplied. Now the vehicle owner has the option of either driving his car around unfinished, or ordering a matching set from the same supplier that jipped him the first time around.

This car owner would have been better off contacting his local dealership and ordering racing stripes directly through them. He may have even been able to get installation included with the purchase, saving himself the frustration and added cost of having to seek out his own professional graphics installer. Working with the professionals at the dealership may cost more at the onset, but the result is always going to be better.

The Wrong Vinyl!

This morning another vehicle owner came into my office with an Etsy package, asking me to install aftermarket racing stripes on her new sports car. I opened the box, immediately seeing that the material she’d purchased was interior-grade economy vinyl. Now let’s drill into this. Vinyl is a plastic-based product, so even the lowest-quality vinyl material can technically be used outdoors. Any seller can rightfully claim that the vinyl is outdoor friendly and waterproof. The distinction comes when you start looking at the vinyl’s resistance to sun-fade, heat-cracking, shrinkage, and its ability to contour. Inexpensive vinyls are best for interior use where they’re applied to a flat surface and mounted away from a heat source and out of direct sunlight. When you try and use these materials on a car, which may sit outside in the sun all day and will certainly see major temperature swings as the seasons change, you’re going to see cracking, peeling, fading and shrinking. I explained the situation to this particular vehicle owner. She’d spent approximately $100 on her kit. She told me she’d looked at a dealership kit but it was close to $400, so in her mind there was no contest, she was going with the cheap one. I told her I’d be willing to take on the job but she’d need to understand that I couldn’t promise against bubbling, wrinkling, shrinkage, or adhesion longevity given the sub-par product I was being asked to work with. After some thought, she threw her Etsy package away and purchased premium wrap vinyl directly from me, along with the installation, for a price tag of $350. In the end, this particular vehicle owner spent more money than she would have if she had just purchased the right product from the start.

Do It Right The First Time

I’ll take a moment here to touch on why I am directing you toward dealership racing stripes versus asking you to come to my office and order them from me. Every car is shaped differently. The dealers, by working directly with the vehicle manufacturers, are selling custom fitted striping sets, designed and sized specifically to the models of car they sell. Sure I can create that same set here on my computer, but it’ll be a custom job for me, requiring at the very least an hour of measuring and drawing, then some trial and error with cutting and fitting before I have each set correctly designed. I don’t work for any car manufacturers or dealerships. I have worked with dealerships when they have contacted me from time to time to install dealer-provided racing stripes on vehicles they’re selling. My point though is that I’m not gaining anything from directing you toward dealer-provided graphics. Anything except maybe the peace of mind of knowing the installations I do with those dealer-supplied graphics are going to go more easily for us, look better on the car, and last longer for the vehicle owner. I know it’s more expensive guys, but please trust me when I tell you it’s worth it.