No boat is complete without the boat name proudly displayed on the transom. You can purchase boat lettering in a variety of ways including hand crafted lettering or machine made high quality vinyl. If you decide to have your boat name hand painted, expect to spend $50.00 to $150.00 for the average two color boat lettering job. If you want a graphic, plan to spend more. If you don't mind paying a little more for your boat lettering, one good source is to search is your boat dealer directly. Most of them already know the local craftsman and possibly even have a schedule with one. However, if you want to save a little money, you can't plotted and cut vinyl boat name lettering.
Boat Name Lettering Decals
Getting the most for your money
By Bill Aggie
Streetglo Reflective Decals and Graphics
VINYL BOAT LETTERING
Raw Vinyl comes in roughly 5 different grades. Not all grades are suitable for marine applications. The grades range from "promotional grade lasting only a few months through the engineering grades at 8 years or longer durability Just keep in mind that hand painted or cut vinyl boat name lettering will not likely last as long as your boat. Eventually you will have to replace your boat lettering but later is better than sooner, and that's the purpose of this article. Of the two types of boat name lettering, plotted and cut vinyl letters has become the standard today. The advantages of cut vinyl are lower prices and perfectly cut letters. They install easily and can be removed, but with some elbow grease. The primary disadvantage of vinyl boat lettering is the vinyl itself. Because pricing is very competitive, many sign shops and online boat name decal companies are forced to use cheaper grades of vinyl. The most important part of buying vinyl boat lettering is understanding the grade of vinyl you will be receiving.
PROMOTIONAL GRADE RIP-OFF
Promotional grade vinyl is extremely inexpensive raw vinyl stock which is normally used only for outdoor banners. This vinyl has a welcome place in the vinyl banner business whereby expected banner lifetime is rated in months, not years. This vinyl has no place at all in boat lettering, or for any kind of signage for that matter. You could believe that no vendor would slip some promotional vinyl into your boat name decal, but you would be wrong.
For any of you that know, I am in the graphics business. Streetglo manufactures a large line of motorcycle, car and truck graphics. Before we tooled up for boat name decals, I had to shop for my boat graphics just like everyone else. Not long ago I ordered a rather large two-color vinyl boat name decal from a vendor on EBay. It was an amazing deal. A two color outlined boat name with 6" high letters and 40" wide would normally cost $80.00. This vendor made the decal for $30.00. No, I didn't expect the best grade of vinyl, but the vendor's EBay advertisement indicated it was a high grade of vinyl. In fact, he guaranteed it would "look as good as any other boat name". In all honesty, I should have known better that I wasn't going to get a quality grade of vinyl. The decal arrived and was immediately inspected. Frankly, it looked terrific. It wasn't apparent to me he had used a promotional grade of vinyl. So I as installed the decal and within 3 months it began to break down. It was suffering with shrinkage and blistering problems. The blistering came from the adhesive breaking down from constant sunlight on the transom of the boat. In reality I didn't spend $30.00 on a fair decal, I wasted $30.00 plus a few hours of my time when looking back at this bargain.
A BETTER GRADE 5-year vinyl - SIMILAR RESULT
I repeated the same purchase, but this time with a well-known Internet vendor of signs and boat name decals. This time the decal cost me $45.00 and the web page clearly indicated I was getting "marine grade vinyl 5 year vinyl". They did state on the web page an expected lifetime of 5 to 7 years but then disclaimed it by saying your mileage may vary. It appears that I should have paid more attention to the disclaimer! In only 18 months, the decal developed terrible sunspots and began to lift at the edges again. While I did get more mileage from this purchase, it was still a waste of money. I certainly did not get anywhere near 5 to 7 years of life. You might think that sunspots aren't all that bad. However, mine were reddish looking splotches on gold finished vinyl I guess you just can't believe what you read when it comes to product quality statements.
The right choice - Engineer Grade 7-8 Year vinyl
Now after I scraped off the 2nd boat lettering decal I decided to buy from someone I really trusted to look after me…. my own self! For years now my company has made highly durable motorcycle graphics and car/truck decal kits using our own brand of 7-8 year engineer grade reflective vinyl. Engineer grade vinyl is simply the best available and most major manufacturers have an engineer grade. Our engineer grade reflective vinyl is safety reflective vinyl which is used in traffic signs and roadway reflectors. It is really good quality because it has to be. Highway signs must hold up for very long periods of time and in every type of weather. I cut my boat lettering decal in an outline format with reflective black underlayment and bright reflective gold overlayment (you can see this decal here:)
The boat is named "Candolina" and the boat name has a depth and brilliance that no hand painted or standard vinyl lettering can duplicate. It is bright and has a brilliant depth to it's appearance.
Under daylight the decal at times will have a fiery quality to it. However, the real surprise (treat) comes at night and it's visible to other boaters approaching my vessel. We tested the reflective boat name vinyl on the open sea and in the inland waterways. You could see the reflections under searchlight long before you could see the watercraft. This is a terrific safety feature especially when anchored or moored. As long as an approaching watercraft has lights on, there will be some reflection from a direct view of your boat name decal. You can improve the safety aspect of this by using reflective vinyl in your registration numbers. This will give several angles of view covering most of your watercraft.
Reflective boat lettering name decals can be purchased from a variety of local sign shops and online Internet vendors. Any grade of reflective vinyl is generally better quality than ordinary vinyl counterparts. Fortunately there are no "promotional grades" of reflective vinyl. However there are Standard, Commercial and Engineer grades, so you can't assume that any reflective vinyl will be the best vinyl for your boat lettering decals. Just remember that highway traffic signs are made with Engineer Grade reflective vinyl only. Nothing else will last. So if you want your boat lettering decal to last, insist on Engineer grade reflective vinyl.
If you would like to reach me, I am happy to answer any questions about boat name lettering decals and boat graphics. I can be reached at http://www.streetglo.net (Click: E-MAIL US at the bottom of the page). I will be happy to discuss boat name lettering decals or any subject for that matter related to boat lettering, truck lettering, vehicle decals, or motorcycle decals.
And remember, boat safely!
Streetglo Reflective Decals and Graphics