Turn a Car Into a Moving Advertisement

Advertising on cars has been shown to be quite cost effective. An ad placed on a car that travels busy city roads can be seen by up to 70,000 people a day, thereby reaching more people at lower cost than billboards, radio, direct mail, or mass transit ads. [1] These ads work so well that businesses will sometimes pay $200 a month or more for you to put them on your car.[2] In addition, they are an effective and inexpensive way to advertise your own business. If you plan your route and design your ads carefully, you will maximize their impact.


Advertising Your Business on Your Car

  1. Choose the form of advertising you will use. Ads you can put on your car range from relatively unobtrusive license plate frames or bumper stickers to eye-catching car wraps or roof toppers. Generally, the more you pay, the bolder your ad will be. Ask yourself what you are trying to accomplish. A simple bumper sticker is often all you need to let people know what your business is about. Modest advertisements tend to work better with an older audience. However, if you’re trying to build a brand with younger audiences, a car wrap might be the way to go.
    • License Plates: You can get a promotional license plate for the front of your car, if you live in the U.S. in one of the 19 states that don’t require front plates. You can also get a vanity plate that references your business. Ones that take a moment to decipher will garner attention, like MR 2TH for a dentist, 1099 for a CPA, or BUYLOW for a stockbroker. A vanity plate paired with a custom license plate frame can be an effective advertisement. [3]
    • License Plate Frames: Custom printed frames start as low as $1. Give them away to your friends and clients in order to multiply your advertising reach. For around $50 you can get a digital LED frame if you want to attract attention and also change your message from time to time.[4]
    • Bumper Stickers: It costs only around $10 to print a bumper sticker, though you may want to consider hiring an artist for the design, thus increasing the cost. If you order in bulk, you can get big discounts. 1,000 stickers may cost between $600 and $700. [5] Then you can turn the cars of friends and customers into moving advertisements, too.
    • Magnets: These can provide larger, more complex ads with the added bonus that they can be easily removed for times when you don’t want to advertise (like when driving your car on a date). You can use your company logo, or hire an artist to design an eye-catching magnet.
    • Decals: Like magnets, decals are an inexpensive way to create larger ads. While they cannot be easily removed like magnets, they can be placed on windows.
    • Roof-Toppers: A simple, illuminated box with printing starts around $150, or you can go all out and get a video roof-topper starting around $1300.
    • Car Wraps: Wraps are eye-catching, but they are also the most expensive form of advertisement for your car, costing between $500 and $5,000, depending on the materials used and the extent of the wrap (quarter, half, or full). A high-quality wrap will save you money in the long run, as cheap wraps last no more than about three years. Better-quality, solvent-based print with a good, protective overlaminate can last up to eight years. [6][7]
  2. Set aside a marketing budget. This will determine the type of ad – license plate frame, bumper sticker, magnet, wrap, etc. – and the amount you spend on the design. Custom license plate frames can be purchased for as little as $1, while a full car-wrap will cost $2500 or more.
    • License Plates: Promotional plates cost as little as $5. Vanity plates range from $10 to $195, depending on your locality. Consult your local DMV or see here for the cost in your state.
    • License Plate Frames: These start as low as $1. LED frames with customizable messages start at $50.
    • Bumper Stickers: These cost $5 to $10 per sticker, depending on how many you order.
    • Magnets: They start at about $10 per square foot. [8]
    • Decals: Start at $10 to $25 per square foot. [9]
    • Roof Toppers: Cost around $150 for a basic roof topper. Video toppers are $1300 and up.
    • Car Wraps: $500 to $5000, depending on the vendor, the quality of the job and extent of the wrap. [6]
      • Back Window: $100 to $130.
      • Half wrap, compact car: $1100 to $1300.
      • Half wrap, SUV:$1300 to $1500.
      • Half wrap, van: $1400 to $1600.
      • Full wrap, compact car: $2200 to $2500.
      • Full wrap, SUV: $2600 to $3000.
      • Full wrap, van: $2800 to $3200.
      • Roof wrap: add $350 to $450.
  3. Find your target audience. Think about your product and what type of audience you want to target with your ad space, then plan your ad and your commute accordingly. For instance, a flashier ad might be appropriate for younger audiences, while you might opt for something more traditional if you are aiming at an older market.
  4. Plan your route.
    • Drive through well-off, suburban neighborhoods if you're advertising home improvement goods.
    • Drive through dense business districts (generally downtown) if you're promoting professional goods or services, such as office furniture, office cleaning, accounting services, etc.
    • If you’re a plumber or electrician, consider driving past places that attract contractors such as Lowe’s, Home Depot, and construction sites.
    • Create modern, bold ads for computer services or electronics.
    • A more traditional look might be appropriate for businesses that wish to emphasize stability and experience, like accountants or contractors.
  5. Design the advertisement. For decals, magnets, license plates, and wraps, consider hiring an artist if you want to achieve an impressive graphic-art design. Most companies that print advertisements may have someone to help guide you through the design process. You want an effective, eye-popping, attention-grabbing, colorful graphic that conveys the identity or message of the business you're advertising. Make sure to share your budget with the printer company in order to maximize your options and still stay under budget.
    • List your company or product. Make sure that every driver, no matter how briefly they see your car, will be able to tell what your advertised product is. Make the letters large and bold.
    • List a website or phone number to contact. Often cars will drive by too quickly to see more than a product name and a website to visit for more information. Make sure that if they want to web-search for your product when they get home, they will know what they're looking for. A phone number makes it easier for customers to reach you without having to go online or write down information.
    • Draw attention to your car. Use graphics, colors and/or text to grab customers. A dark background with lighter letters is easiest to read. Using a different color can help draw attention to important information like your phone number or web address. [10]
    • Consider the type of car you use. An ad on a VW bug or a vintage car will get more attention than an ad on a white van. Painting your car bright colors will draw attention. [3]
  6. Plan a commute that targets your market. If you are advertising tech gadgets or tutoring services, swinging by a college campus is a good idea. If you have a family-oriented business, try to drive past grocery stores and family restaurants.
    • Stick to busy streets with lots of traffic.
    • Stop lights and traffic jams are your friends, as they will give the drivers around you more time to look at your signs.
  7. Be sure the car advertisement you choose is legal.
    • Many states regulate tinting on side or rear windows, meaning placing a wrap over them might get you a ticket.
    • Some cities (San Francisco, for one) regulate moving advertisements.
    • If you live somewhere with a Homeowners Association, it may have rules preventing you from parking on your street or in your driveway if your car is covered with advertisements.
    • In some states using your car as an advertisement will mean you have to re-register it as a commercial vehicle and acquire additional insurance. Check with your city hall and DMV before wrapping your car. [11]

Wrapping Your Car for Another Company

  1. Determine your eligibility. Paid-to-drive programs have become less popular recently because of increased gas prices and the rise of Internet advertising. Companies are now more selective in wrapping cars. The best candidates drive newer vehicles long distances through populated areas during busy traffic hours, ensuring maximum exposure. To improve your chances of being hired, you’ll need to: [2]
    • Drive {{safesubst:#invoke:convert|convert}} per month.
    • Commute through areas relevant to the advertiser’s market.
    • Complete an interview and pass a background check.
    • Drive a car with lots of ad space such as SUVs, vans, and VW beetles.
    • Have a car with GPS so the company can monitor your movement.
  2. Find the right car-wrapping company. Search for advertising companies in your area via the Internet or the Yellow Pages. Ask about any partnerships they have with local businesses. Read the proposed contract carefully. Most importantly, make sure that the company legitimately advertises in your area and that it isn't just a scam.
    • Spot car-wrapping scams. Fraud is on the rise. A common technique scammers use is to send prospective clients a substantial check and then request that a portion of the check be wired back to them to cover the cost of wrapping. The catch is that the check will eventually bounce, but your wire transfer will not. As a rule of thumb, never pay someone money just to get them to pay you. In other words, if the plan sounds convoluted, don’t trust it. [12]
    • Avoid sign-up fees. If an online site claiming to represent a car-wrap advertising company asks you to pay them in order to register, then it is probably a scam. [2]
  3. Decide the level of wrapping you are comfortable with. If you're willing to go all out, order a full wrap. If you wish to retain some autonomy, a half-wrap might be more appropriate. If you just want to dip your toe in the water, aim for a windshield decal or even a modest bumper sticker. [6] The more space you offer, the more you’ll get paid. A full wrap can earn you from $200 to $900 a month, [2] while a bumper sticker might bring in about $5 a month. [13]
  4. Be sure the car wrap you opt for is legal. See the information on this topic outlined above. [11]
  5. Negotiate your car-wrap deal. Competition for big-name car wrappers is getting stiff. If your car or route isn’t up to their standards, think about local businesses your commute might appeal to instead. If you drive around a college campus, for example, a store that buys and sells textbooks may be just the thing. Put an ad in the paper or on Craigslist describing your car, commute, and monthly mileage to see if anyone else steps forward with an offer.


  • Check with local sign shops before committing to an expensive vehicle wrap. A good one might be pricey, but it might be overpriced if it's outsourced. Always use a sign shop that has their own solvent printer and experienced installers. Ask to see a portfolio of their work.
  • While the cost of ads for your car is tax deductible, putting ads on your car does not mean you can deduct all expenses related to that car. Only trips made specifically for your business are deductible. [14]


  • Check with local enforcement before pursuing illuminated messaging in the dark. Some states disallow blinking or animated lights. Others will permit only certain colors (perhaps red, white, or amber) to be used inside a moving vehicle. There may also be laws against anything restricting front-window visibility.You can always put illuminated signs in your car when parked or while at shows or expositions to grab attention.

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Sources and Citations