Exit sign

Do businesses pay to be on those exit signs?

Drive down any major interstate in the country and you’ll see signs near most exits with facilities such as food, gas and lodging listed. You may even see the names and logos for these businesses. Have you ever wondered who gets to be on those signs and who arranges all the details? Here’s the story.

Interstate Logo Signs

These exit signs are generally called these “Interstate Logo Signs.” They are unrelated to general, state-placed directional signs. Unsurprisingly, they aren’t solely there to help out motorists, as they make money for the state and the businesses involved. While some states administer their own advertising programs, most use third-party companies to perform this function. One of the biggest of these is a firm called Interstate Logos, which works with DOT agencies in 22 states to not only interface with the businesses but actually install the signs too.

Who makes the cut?

If you own a business that falls into one of these groups—local attraction, camping, lodging, food and gas—and your business is located near an exit on a state highway, then you’re eligible to get your business on an interstate logo sign. Individual states have different requirements for this and requirements can be pretty specific, things like distance from the highway, hours of operation, required services, and number of parking spots available.

For example, we gave a shout to our friends at chuckpattersondodge.net and they tell us that California requires that  gas stations on a service sign be within five miles of the highway and be open 360 days a year for 16 hours per day. In addition, the station must offer water, gas, and oil, as well as public restrooms. Requirements for food facilities are similarly specific, stating that facilities must be open for 12 or more hours a day, must be within six miles of the highway, and have a public bathroom and a public telephone

How much do they cost the businesses?

The cost of getting on a specific service sign varies by state, but in general, it ranges between some $1000 and $2000 per month. For some states, the annual fee depends solely upon which kind of sign a business is placed on, though other states base the annual fee on how much traffic travels by on the interstate.

For example, California charges a flat fee of $600 per sign so advertising on both sides of the road—one sign for each direction—which means businesses have to pay $1,200 per month to advertise on the highway. Add the annual fee to the cost of making the sign, and any removal/change fees, and businesses could end up spending over ten grand per year for the advertising for a pair of signs. Needless to say, if traffic is heavy enough, and the business is well-known, this could be well worth it.

State revenue

As for the states involved, they love the additional revenue that comes from Interstate Logo Signs. In Kentucky, for example, the state gets 35 percent of all logo sign sales and six percent of what are called “directional signing” (text-only directional signs). On the Kentucky DOT website it says that Kentucky made $619,904 in 2016. That’s great for the state, and according to the report, of the businesses on the 1,602 signs in the state, only 1 to 2 percent of the advertisers (businesses) leave annually. These Interstate Logo Signs obviously must be working!