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7 Different Types of Decals for Cars

Car on street with car wrapping decal.

We can all remember the joy of being a little kid with a full book of stickers. Much to our parents’ dismay, we probably went a little overboard with stickering our bedroom walls as a kid.

If you are anything like me, your childhood bedroom still contains your favorite childhood stickers to this day. Despite years of scrubbing, these stickers refuse to fall off or fade. Stickers show our interests as kids–cartoon characters, dinosaurs, princesses, or stars.

They also reward us for milestones. Who could forget the gold stars teachers stamped on our assignments in grade school? Some college students still wish they got a gold star for high test scores or strong essays. 

For whatever reason, stickers glue themselves to a special place in our hearts. I believe you are never too old to have fun with stickers.

Car decals are a great way for adults to capture the youthful joy of stickers without getting teased by their friends. In this article, we will cover the different types of car decals, including stickers and transfers.

1. Vinyl Stickers

Vintage American Flag Vinyl Decal Sticker USA Old Glory Car Window Bumper 5-Inch by 3-Inch Premium Quality UV Resistant Laminate JMM002

Vinyl stickers are a popular choice for decorating the windows, doors, trunks, and even hoods of all types of cars.

Vinyl stickers are made with strong, permanent adhesive and vinyl, which is a plastic-like material that can conform to curvy surfaces while also withstanding the harsh weather elements.

Pros of vinyl stickers include their permanence, weather resistance, and low maintenance. A quick wipe with a slightly damp cloth keeps these decals clean.

Cons of vinyl stickers include their permanence for those who want a temporary design and their shiny texture, which might not appeal to people who want a matte decal.

There are many types of vinyl to create vinyl stickers. According to Top Vinyl Cutters, these styles, and brands include:

  • Oracal 651 Vinyl
  • Oracal 751 Vinyl
  • Siser EasyPSVpermanent Car Decals
  • Styletech Vinyl
  • TECKWRAP Permanent Adhesive Vinyl
  • Cricut Premium Vinyl
  • Oracal 951 Vinyl for Car Decals,
  • VviVidvinyl for Car Decals
  • IModeur permanent adhesive-backed Decals

Although Oracal 651 Vinyl is one of the most popular types, those who are making their own vinyl stickers should consider the tools, budget, and purposes they have in mind for creating vinyl stickers before going with a specific brand.

Doing our own research can help us find the vinyl that best suits our needs. With the rise of Cricut machines, Cricut vinyl is very popular among hobbyists and professional crafters, as well.

Vinyl decals tend to be permanent. While you could technically peel them off with a lot of patience and effort, this is not recommended by most car experts. To try to take a vinyl sticker off, you must be willing to risk damage to the car and the decal.

What’s more, vinyl decals may only come off partially. This means that you will end up in an even more unsightly situation than before. Covering vinyl decals is often easier than taking them off.

Think of a vinyl decal as a car tattoo–if you cannot see yourself enjoying it during the lifetime of the vehicle, consider getting a less permanent decoration with a similar style.

2. Static Clings

Service Due Static Cling Sticker, MeshaKippa Blue 60pcs 2"x2" "Next Service Due" Clear Oil Change Reminder Service Sticker for Windshield Without Residue

Static clings can look similar to vinyl stickers but they are incredibly temporary. Within seconds, car owners can put a static cling on their car and have the assurance that it will stay stuck to the window.

Seconds later, if the car owner does not like the look of it anymore, they can pull the static cling down. Static clings are a fun way to test out a new look without committing.

However, if you want a permanent change to your car’s appearance, static clings are definitely not the best option out there.

Static clings are also great for creating visual reminders of information that changes, such as when a car service needs to be done or an event that only happens once a year.

3. Printed stickers

Dill Pickle Sticker Cartoon Man Guy Food Vinyl Printed Car Cup Laptop Graphic Window Decal

Printed stickers are just like the stickers we all knew and loved as little kids. They are images or words printed on a sheet of sticky paper backed by a waxy sheet of paper.

Custom car decal makers print these stickers on the client’s choice of material, then they score around the edges of the design for easy removal.

Sometimes, these stickers are also cut into shapes around the design, such as squares, circles, ovals, rectangles, and even diamonds. Having white space around a design frames the artwork while cutting away the excess highlights of the details in a design.

The choice is up to the sticker artist and car owner. The main pro of printed stickers is their versatility in the materials used to create them. They also come in many different designs, which is another perk, and are usually relatively inexpensive.

A con of printed stickers is that they do not always last long. Especially when a sticker is not designed specifically for a car, it may fade or disintegrate after the first rain or long drive.

This is why it is important to choose car decals designed for cars by makers who have experience creating stickers and decals for cars.

4. Transfer Stickers

Woodland Scenics Pine Car Derby Dry Transfer Decal 3" X2-1/2 Sheet-Beveled Numbers

Transfer stickers are the most common form of car decal–some car decorating experts argue that transfer stickers are the only true type of decals, while stickers are a separate category of car art.

Regardless of what you believe, transfer stickers are a great way to permanently decorate your car. These stickers without a background are made by cutting a design out of vinyl and attaching transfer tape.

The result is high-quality decoration without the distraction of the background. Because they transfer, they can look smoother and stronger than a traditional sticker. 

Multicolored transfers have all the pizzazz of a full sticker with all the boldness of solid, plain transfer designs.

Colorful transfer stickers are made with the same process as regular transfer stickers–the only difference is the blocks of pigment. Transfer decals look best on windows and other parts of a car with a smooth, reflective surface.

Pros of transfer stickers include their permanence, easy set-up, and their ability to stand out on a surface. Cons of transfer stickers include their transparent backgrounds–some folks prefer an opaque background–and their permanence for those who like temporary artwork.

5. Bumper Stickers

IT'S A SKIN New Driver Sticker for Car - Decal for Laptop Tumbler Bumper Notebook Window or Wall | Funny Novelty Decal - 10 x 3.125

As one of the most common types of car decals, bumper stickers are the first decoration that most of us car enthusiasts stick onto our vehicles. Bumper stickers let the drivers behind you know exactly what you think, feel, and value.

They can be as benign and playful as an illustration of your favorite breed of dog or as politically charged as an endorsement of your preferred future presidential candidate. 

As the title implies, Bumper Stickers usually go on the bumper of your car. They can take up a lot of space or be as cute and small as a button. Bumper stickers are a great way for drivers to express themselves on and off the road.

They can add a little personality to an otherwise boring car. Bumper stickers also make great souvenirs that show where you have been–or where you plan to go next on your big road trip.

Pros of bumper stickers include their wide range of styles and therefore freedom of expression. Cons of bumper stickers include their potential to offend other drivers and their often permanent materials.

6. Other types of decals

Leasinder 49"x 8.7" Car Hood Stripe Sticker Auto Racing Stripes Body Side Decal Hood Stripe Decal Vinyl Stripe Sticker Decoration for Car Vehicles (A Red)

As discussed in the article “All the Ins and Outs of Decals: types, usages, installation,” decals are sometimes categorized by their placement. For instance, car roof decals take up the entire roof of a car, which makes them a discreet decoration.

Car hood decals, on the other hand, are “in your face” advertisements–literally, if someone is standing in front of your car. Car side and door decals also attract viewers’ attention in a big way. Anyone who gets into your car will see these decals and appreciate the artistic touch. 

Car window decals grab onlookers’ attention without taking up the whole car door. Since car windows are made of transparent material, it can be fun to experiment with opaque, clear, and frosted decals.

These will pop against the transparent background differently than they do on more solid surfaces. Front windshield decals stay tiny so that they do not block drivers’ vision.

No one wants the coolest car in a car crash, so in window decals, sizing is more important to consider than it is in other parts of the car decals.

Rear window decals can be a little bigger than the front windshield ones, but they still should be placed mindfully so that they do not obstruct important views.

Perforated decals are created for this exact type of situation–they allow for one-way visibility, which ensures clear views of the road and other drivers. 

Tailgate decals are ideal for personal and public expression, while custom mirror decals are mostly for the driver’s enjoyment.

Other drivers will not be close enough to see mirror decals, which makes them ideal for very personal designs such as a favorite quote or special date that doesn’t mean much to everyone else, like a child’s birthday.

7. Car Wraps

3M 1080 M13 MATTE RED 5ft x 15ft (75 Sq/ft) Car Wrap Vinyl Film

Car wraps are a wonderful marketing and advertising tool for business owners to plaster on their company vehicles. These decals are usually made of large sheets of vinyl and transfer paper.

The whole point of car wraps is to cover the entire vehicle in advertising graphics and information to stand out from the crowd.

While social media have made it easier than ever for companies to advertise to a wide audience, nothing beats grabbing potential customers’ attention while they are waiting at a traffic light or keeping their eyes on the road.

A pro of car wraps is that they get the message out there loud and clear. One downside to car wraps is that they are not subtle. If you do not like the car wrap after a while or change businesses, you may feel stuck with an outdated decoration.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Can I put anything in a car decal?

In the United States, where we have free speech, your car decals can say almost anything you want to say. 

Of course, laws surrounding libel, slander, and hate speech may apply to car decals, so keep these regulations in mind when creating custom stickers. Illegal images should also be avoided at all costs.

Plus, it may be best to avoid putting incriminating statements on a car decal. Additionally, considering whether a bumper sticker looks professional or family-friendly depending on your circumstances might not hurt. 

If you want to dec out a company car, check with the appropriate management members before slapping permanent decorations on your car. Your boss might not appreciate decals of funny memes you found on the internet as much as you do.

Your spouse might also prefer that you refrain from getting decals on the family car containing four-letter words until the kids leave the nest. As long as all owning parties agree with the content and usage of car decals, though, knock yourself out!

Are car decals permanent?

Many car decals are intended to be permanent. However, this does not mean that car decals are impossible to remove. Some companies provide specific instructions for how to remove their decals.

In other cases, it is not advised for users to attempt to rip off the decal from the car. This may result in damage to the decal, the car, or both.

Are car stickers and decals the same thing?

By many definitions, stickers are one solid piece while decals have transfer tape. Although they are technically different, most car owners use the terms “stickers” and “decals” interchangeably, so we have included both in this article.