Penny Williams-Ware, a 59-year-old business management major at Wilmington University in Delaware, has a lot of school spirit. So when the university sent out a mass email looking for students willing to slap a big “WilmU works” logo on the side of their car, she didn’t hesitate.
Williams-Ware works part-time as an Instacart driver, and is now making an extra $100 a month to drive her SUV around to all the places she normally would — a nice little financial cushion she’s padding her savings account with.
“I just put it in the bank, and if I need it for school, I’ll use it,” she says.
Car wraps, as they're called, come in the form of large vinyl decals that partially or completely cover a vehicle's exterior. Advertisers use them to reach people as they go about their daily lives; kind of like a mobile billboard, says Mac Macleod, CEO of the fleet advertising company Carvertise. (If you’ve ever seen a car driving around covered in a logo for Red Bull or your local bank, you’ve seen one of these in the wild).
It's a marketing method that attracts a lot of eyeballs: In a 2019 Nielsen survey, 64% percent of respondents said they had noticed a wrapped vehicle within the past month, compared to 44% who said they'd noticed a stationary billboard. And amid news of another less-than-stellar U.S. jobs report, more people are willing to participate. When Carvertise first launched in 2015, the company got about 20 new drivers a day, according to Macleod. Now, the company's network totals more than 500,000 drivers, and more than 200 new drivers sign up every day, he says.
Thinking of turning your car into a drivable Netflix ad? Here’s what you need to know.
How much can you make wrapping your car?
Corporate advertisers like AT&T and 7-Eleven, and local businesses like hospitals and universities, partner with fleet advertising organizations to find drivers.
The rate drivers are paid depends on the campaign they're chosen for.
Carvertise drivers earn an average of $200 to $300 a month, and get a signup bonus of $100 to $300, Macleod says.
Another fleet ad company, Wrapify, pays drivers an average of $400 a month, says CEO James Heller. Bonuses are sometimes awarded to people who drive around a specific area at a specific time of day, he says.
Who gets chosen?
Anyone with an active driver’s license can sign up to get their car wrapped, as long as they're at least 18 years old (or 21, depending on the company). But preference is often given to high-mileage drivers.
Nickelytics, a fleet advertising company that pays drivers up to $250 a month, prefers applicants who drive at least 150 miles a week, according to CEO Judah Longgrear. This makes people who work for ride-share or delivery apps like Uber, Lyft, and DoorDash a better match than the average driver. Some locations, especially big cities like Los Angeles and Atlanta, are more in demand by advertisers than others.
The condition of your car matters, too. For quality control, Wrapify drivers submit photos of their car during the onboarding process, and bi-weekly after that, Heller says. Drivers are told to keep their vehicles clean and in good condition — free of chipped paint, dents, and scratches that can stand out from under the wrap.
New model vehicles are also preferred: Wrapify typically requires cars to be manufactured no earlier than 2010, Heller says.
How to get started
New car wrap drivers are asked to fill out an application with details about their vehicle, location and how often they drive. Drivers also undergo a background check that looks at their driving record and criminal history.
If they're selected, drivers are connected with a local car wrap installation company, a service that's free for the driver. (Wraps are temporary, and installed by professionals, so they don't damage your paint job).
After drivers are onboarded, fleet ad companies often keep tabs on them through GPS, geolocation and mileage trackers — metrics that are used to keep drivers accountable and provide advertisers with insight on a campaign's effectiveness, Macleod says.
Ad campaigns typically run for three to 12 months; then the wrap is removed.
Watch out for scams
Like most passive income opportunities, the car wrap industry is laden with scams.
If you get a text or email out of the blue from someone offering you a chance to "get paid to drive," be wary — especially if it's from a well-known brand like Mountain Dew or Amazon. Real ad campaigns vet drivers and vehicles before they're approved, and will never ask you to pay a fee before signing up.
Car wrap scams typically flaunt much larger sums than a real company would ever offer. Again, most drivers receive $200 to $400 a month from legitimate fleet advertising gigs — if you're offered thousands of dollars a week, it's a scam.