Whether on the move, waiting for a green light or standing by the curb, your fleet vehicles’ signs tell viewers a lot about your business. The right signage prompts more phone calls, more Web hits and more visits. All this makes for more chances to sell goods or services.

Vehicle signage builds awareness and gets advertising messages out to a wide audience quickly and cost-effectively.

A study by the American Trucking Association found that 90 percent of drivers notice vehicle signage. In addition, 75 percent of those develop an impression about the company based on the signage. That doesn’t account for pedestrian traffic.

In a single year, one vehicle’s signage garners about 8.4 million impressions at a cost-per-thousand that’s far less than newspaper ads, stationary billboards and other forms of promoting your company.

Conveying the Message

“Owners and managers need to remember their vehicles are moving billboards,” says J.R. Kraft, director of business development for BuildASign.

Speed and traffic patterns affect the type of signage. In city traffic, drivers have more time to take in a phone number or a long Web address. At higher speeds larger signs and simpler messages are more effective. Studies show that viewers have a scant 1.5 seconds to see and read the message on the side of a fast-moving vehicle.

Another factor to consider, especially for fleets utilizing other media, is consistency. “We deal with customers who are looking to integrate this medium with the rest of their outdoor media,” explains Scott McLean, CEO for Di Graphics. “If consumers are seeing the same message on vehicles that they do on billboards, television, print advertising and the Web, there’s continuity in seeing the message from different channels. It goes a long way towards establishing an effective brand.”

The strategy is similar for smaller fleets.

McLean recommends keeping company messages and graphics consistent across Yellow Pages, Web site and fleet vehicle advertising.

Different-sized operations may want different types of signage. A vehicle wrap can cost $4,000 and make a big impression. However, for that amount of money, a lot of thought in communicating the message properly is necessary.

“Companies use this type of media in ways traditional media can’t,” says McLean.

Proper market research helps customize the message. Di Graphics can create a message geared toward a demographic and then use a zip code analysis to identify that audience on a fleet route or territory.

“We did some wraps on vans for Charter Communications that advertised ESPN Deportes to Spanish-speaking Americans,” McLean says.

Remember, effective vehicle signage means your drivers have to be on their best behavior, as other drivers are now more prone to associate your company with your drivers’ erratic or illegal driving.


Sign Design: Keep it Simple

When it comes to designing a sign, McLean recommends looking at good outdoor media. “Which billboards catch your attention? You need to pick the right visuals to convey a message,” McLean says. “Less is more.”

“What visual sends a solid message in a short period of time? You don’t want to clutter the vehicle with a lot of phone numbers, taglines and addresses. A tagline can be very important—if it’s simple.”

The type of vehicle affects the sign design. Sedans require more attention to the curves and moldings. Some vehicle bodies, such as the boxy Scion Xb, are unique to begin with and lend themselves to this type of messaging.

Sign experts agree that simplicity is key with sign design, whether it’s wraps, magnetics or window stickers. Sometimes even a phone number may be too much to take in.

Kraft says, “I see too many real estate signs that include the brand, phone numbers, list of credentials, as well as the face of the agent. I can see your face because you’re driving. Letters are easier to remember than numbers. So put that information on a Web site instead.”

A Moving Business Card

“Everywhere I park, people will walk up and ask for a business card. My workers get asked all the time. I don’t bother advertising any other way,” declares Tony Gallina, president and CEO of The Green Mop, a house and office cleaning service headquartered in Arlington, Va.

He credits vehicle signage—and ready business cards—for helping his 14-month-old company grow into an anticipated $850,000 business this year.

For Green Mop’s signage, Gallina went with 12 x 24” magnet signs and 3” x 3” stickers balanced on two sides below the rear window.

Gallina designed his signs on the Web in 20 minutes. The message is simple, and the lettering is easy to see from 30 yards away. Gallina estimates that about 75 percent of his clients saw the signs while his vehicles were parked and 25 percent while the vehicles were moving.

Impromptu Business

The Foreclosure Tour in Ventura County, Calif., specializes in tours showing houses that face foreclosure.

Says Michele Losey, one of the partners, “Foreclosure signs are popping up all over the country. We’re helping people understand they can buy those. They can get financing and buy a foreclosure house just like any other.”

The company started a month ago and isn’t even listed in the phonebook yet, making its vehicle signage all the more important.

Three personal cars and a 12-passenger van are used for tours. Each car has two signs per side and one on the back. Losey points out that the company’s vehicle signage has attracted others desiring to join the tour, even though that individual may not have had foreclosure visiting on his mind.

When asked what helped their company set themselves apart from other realtors in an area thronged with that type of business, Losey responded, “A lot of other magnetic signs are good, but people don’t see them because they’re too bland. You need bright colors, making sure there’s contrast between the lettering and the background.”

Like The Green Mop, The Foreclosure Tour has tried to make name and phone number lettering as large as possible.

Losey notes that nearly everyone joining a tour was attracted by the signage. “We got one sales referral within the first week,” she says. “We got five more just on the signs in the last four weeks. Signage has kept us very busy.”


Effective Vehicle Signage

BuildASign offers these tips for creating a sign that gets results:

  • Include the right amount of information. Don’t overload your car with offers, slogans and pictures. You have a maximum of three to five seconds to get your company’s information noticed, so make sure you are only displaying the important stuff like company name, phone number or Web site and your product or service.
  • Keep the color simple. Use bold, contrasting colors to make your sign easy to read. Red, white, blue, black and yellow can all be very effective when used in the right combinations. If you have corporate colors that are more pastel, think about adding a black outline to the letters to make them stand out.
  • Put your message on the back of your vehicle. Ideally, you want to have signage for each side and on the back. Putting a magnet on the back of your vehicle is a great idea because people who are stuck behind you in traffic will be staring at your sign for much longer than those who are just driving by.
  • Use easy-to-read fonts. Although curvy fonts may be more indicative of your company’s style, they are not easily read. Choose a plain font for your company information and save the curvy stuff for an image or logo. This way, you can keep your company’s identity without sacrificing readability.


Vehicle signage offers four major paint-free options: vehicle wraps, permanent and temporary vinyls and magnetics.

  1. Vehicle wraps: Highly visible and high impact, they envelope the vehicle either partially or completely, and can include window coverage. Must be professionally installed. Cost typically ranges from $2,500 to $4,000, usually based on square footage. Sign production takes three to four weeks. Can be removed without damaging original body paint if manufactured and installed properly. Not reusable.
  2. Permanent Vinyls:Professional installation not required. Lettering and graphics adhere to vehicle body or glass. Should last in good condition until vehicle is cycled out of the fleet. Cost is about $100.
  3. Temporary Vinyls: Ideal in severe climates. Safe removal from original body paint. Some paint may lift when removed from repainted surfaces. Costs depend on size. Prices start under $100.
  4. Magnetics: Price starts at $17 per square foot. Lasts two to four years. Immediate installation. Easily moved from vehicle to vehicle. Can be used—and stored—for temporary activities such as monthly or seasonal specials.