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Evaluating the total cost of ownership for fleet graphics.

Companies rely on graphic films to help grow their business, but a poor upfront decision could end up cutting into their bottom line. When considering graphic applications, it’s important to approach your decision the same way you approach other major financial decisions—by looking at the total cost of ownership (TCO). For fleet graphics, the TCO includes costs and factors that are often overlooked when searching for the best option.

Let’s examine the four key factors that can affect your TCO so you can make an informed financial decision.

  • 1. Film Selection

    Great graphics start with great film, but not all films are created equal. Selecting a high-quality film is essential in helping you avoid issues down the road such as fading, peeling, lifting and/or cracking. Any of these problems could lead to excessive or unanticipated downtime while the wrap is being replaced, which would interfere with operations and accrue additional costs.  The surface a film will be applied to,  as well as your branding requirements, must to be taken into consideration, so it’s best to work with your graphics partner and/or a film representative to specify the best film for your needs.

    As a trusted industry leader, 3M offers a large selection of high-quality, premium films—all backed by 3M science. 3M premium films can be applied to nearly any surface and withstand various climates and outdoor exposures. They contain advanced film technology and undergo extensive testing to deliver long-term performance.  In addition, films with 3M™ Comply™ Adhesive and 3M™ Controltac™ Technology allow for easier and faster installation and removal of your graphics.


  • 2. Production

    The production of your finished graphics includes the cost of design, printing, color matching, graphic protection, converting and shipping. A reputable graphics partner with experience in fleet applications can guide you through this process and offer value added services such as coordinating graphic installation on your vehicles across multiple locations, minimizing downtime and improving overall project efficiency. Graphic partners who lack the expertise for the scale of your project and/or use cheaper graphic components to cut upfront costs may put you at risk of incurring additional costs in the long run.

    3M MCS™ partners go through a certification process each year to ensure their graphics are produced to the highest standards and are backed by the 3M™ MCS™ Warranty—the most comprehensive finished graphics warranty in the industry.

  • 3. Installation and Removal

    Be aware that film selection can affect your installation cost. Graphic installers often charge an hourly or square foot rate that may be dependent on the film that’s been chosen. If installers know a high-quality film has been selected, they may quote a lower rate because they’re confident it will handle well and be easier to install. Additionally, low-quality films are often difficult to remove, which can lead to unforeseen labor costs for removal and deidentification down the road.

    Film selection and production costs are often rolled into the overall project cost, so be sure to consider the labor costs, which are variable based on factors such as film and expertise of your graphic manufacturer and installer. Film selection not only impacts installation efficiency and removal of graphics, but aesthetics and longevity as well. Poorly installed films that suffer from issues such as lifting, misalignment or bubbles cost time, money and could potentially affect your brand image. 

    For quality installations, 3M has created a network of accredited installers to help graphic providers execute projects more effectively and efficiently.

  • 4. Warranty

    Finally, you’ll want to consider whether your film manufacturer offers a comprehensive or full system warranty. Many manufacturers only offer pro-rated warranties, meaning that if your graphics fail after a certain period of time due to film related issues, they will only cover a portion of the costs. You have to pay the remainder.

    Because graphic warranties are provided by the film manufacturer, it’s important to choose a brand you can trust. The 3M™ MCS™ Warranty assures that you’re covered from film to finish. It ensures that all 3M Graphics products and components – films, inks, adhesives, printers and graphic protection options – have been 3M tested to work together as a system to deliver consistent performance and unrivaled durability. Unlike other manufacturers, the 3M™ MCS™ Warranty is non-prorated, so you can receive full replacement coverage throughout the entire warranty period for film related issues.


    The total cost of fleet graphics should be carefully evaluated beyond the initial upfront cost. What may seem like a good deal initially could end up costing you much more over time.  Fleet graphics can be a great investment and when planned carefully, they pay dividends for the long haul. 

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