Sign Buying – How Much Does a Sign Cost? Things to Consider

Many business owners are aware of the need for a sign, yet few are aware of the unique marketing potential a sign investment represents. Your business sign is the #1 way your customers will interact with your brand. Even potential customers, who have never stepped foot into your organization or visited your website, will be aware of your brand by routinely by passing by your sign. How many cars pass your business each day? Week? Year? How many pedestrians? That’s exactly why signs are one of the best sources of return-on-investment (ROI) and lowest cost-per-thousand views (CPM) of all marketing methods.  

So how much can you expect to pay for a sign?

According to HomeAdvisor, the national average cost for a sign is around $408, with prices ranging beween from $10/sq ft to $1200/sq ft. While this may seem like an impossibly wide range, there are several variables that  cause the cost of a sign to vary, and when shopping around there are several things to keep in mind. We’ve compiled a list of factors to consider when sourcing a sign for your business:  

Indoor vs. Outdoor Use

When purchasing a sign for indoor use, you can generally expect to pay less than you would for an outdoor sign. Why? Outdoor signs must be able to withstand a variety of conditions that indoor signs don’t have to. A high-quality outdoor sign will need to withstand environmental hazards. Harsh weather conditions and bright sunlight can take a toll on a sign’s appearance. Ensuring that your outdoor sign is able to withstand the onslaught of the elements is vital (and relatively costly).

Warranty vs. No Warranty

A warranty is a promise, from the company to you, that it will stand behind its product and fix any issues that may arise, within a given period of time. Most sign companies offer a one year warranty on their signage products. Other companies offer longer warranties, which have an economic value of their own and should be considered when comparing prices of multiple sign companies. What if you paid $5,000 for a new sign that falls apart in 13 months? What’s the value of having peace of mind? Elmark’s clients, for example, enjoy a 5-year warranty on all sign products.

NOTE: Always check the fine print when buying a sign. Before accepting any price offer, be sure to get a formal, written estimate detailing the terms and conditions related to your purchase. Steer clear of any sign company that won’t offer the “standard” one year warranty.

Electric vs. Non-Electric

Illuminated, or lighted, signs can be anything from a bright neon sign to a lit billboard. Lit signs often come at a higher cost than a sign that doesn’t use electricity. Crafting a sign that requires wiring is always a more difficult undertaking. These signs can cost more in labor and parts than a sign without lighting. Lighted signs can range in price from $30 and up per square foot. Neon or LED lit signs can cost the most, with commercial prices ranging from from $200 to $1200 a square foot. While this is a significant cost increase, neon and LED signs are great attention grabbers.  

Temporary vs. Permanent

Many businesses use temporary signs for special events such as sales or promotions. These temporary signs don’t need to withstand the ravages of time in the same way permanent signs do. Temporary signs are often made of wood or plastic materials, which are considerably less expensive than materials used in permanent signs such as aluminum, steel, or high density urethane (HDU). A permanent sign will drive traffic and increase revenue over a long period of time. They often include the business name and other information. These signs generally take more time and craftsmanship than a temporary alternative. Local rules and regulations are generally more relaxed for temporary signage, when compared to permanent signs.

Size and Materials

The size of your sign, as well as the materials required to build it, are also important factors as far as cost. For example, a simple sign crafted from aluminum or plastic can range between $10-$50 per square foot. A custom-made aluminum sign can range between $100-$300 per square foot or more.


The painting of your sign is often one of the biggest factors in determining price. Painting is both an art and science, which requires highly skilled craftsman who often use structured internal processes which can take several days, or weeks.The number of colors and complexity of design will have a drastic effect on the cost of a sign.

Complexity and Design

It goes without saying that the complexity of the design also factors into cost. The number of letters used and the number of colors used are relevant. The amount of detail required also plays into the time needed to create the sign. 2d signs are usually cheaper than 3d, for example. If 12you’re using a complex, 3D and multi-colored logo for your business, this may not suit your purposes.

Design and Installation

Business owners often have some design elements in mind, for example a specific logo. Yet sign companies can also help with the design process. An experienced company may have suggestions about font types, color contrasts, viewing ranges, etc. They may also help with advice on placement, the best shape for a sign and a variety of other factors. This also goes for installation. Sign companies are experts at ensuring safe and effective installation, and coordinate with local regulators to ensure proper installations.

Regulations and Zoning

One of the most important aspects of having a sign made is meeting regulations and zoning codes. These regulations are often based on local bylaws. They can be quite specialized depending on location. In some cities, for example, billboards are not allowed. It’s so important to be aware of what you can do and what you can’t. A good sign company will be aware of regulations on both a local level and a national level. They’ll be able to help you based on these requirements. Many business owners may be aware that there are regulations applying to signs. Yet it can be difficult to keep up on all the rules, especially if it’s not your area of expertise.  

The Full Service Process

A full-service sign company will work with you through the process of designing, manufacturing and installing your sign. They should also be able to handle permitting and project management for you. Once you’ve settled on the type of sign you’d like, a graphic designer will work with you in creating the perfect design. At that point,  the sign company should have already conducted a field survey of your site to ensure proper measurements and placement. If permits are required, the company will file the permit application for you and should not begin making your sign until your permit is approved. Depending on the design complexity, production time could range from a few days to several weeks. Once the sign is complete, your sign company will call to schedule a date/time for installation.