Can You Buy a Billboard? Plus Other Considerations

Posted on



Buy a billboard depicted by digital drawing of a shopping cart with a billboard leaning out of it. A price tag dangles on the side of the board.

Every so often, we get calls from individuals and businesses interested in buying a billboard. It’s not surprising. Billboards have an effective way of grabbing attention in a world that is so often on-the-go, making them an excellent advertising method

No matter what motivates someone to want to own a billboard—whether it’s passive income, permanent advertising space, or something else — the question remains: is it a smart investment to buy a billboard?

Read on as we dive a little deeper into billboard ownership. Here’s what we’ll discuss:

3 Common Ways to Buy a Billboard

To become a billboard owner, there are typically three ways to go about it:

  1. Buy one that is already in existence
  2. Have one built on your land (requires permitting)
  3. Negotiate with a landowner to place a board on their land

Naturally, this decision shouldn’t be taken lightly. Buying a billboard is a significant investment that will likely require a good amount of attention. That’s why a majority of advertisers choose to lease a billboard. We’ll get into renting vs. buying later.

When identifying a good billboard location, there are a few things to consider:

  • Volume of traffic in the area
  • What sort of traffic passes by (vehicle, public transit, pedestrian)
  • Viewer demographics
  • Visibility of the board (which side of the road, height, potential obstructions like trees or other structures)
  • Density of other billboards in the area

If you plan on becoming a billboard owner, there might be some “give or take” on the above factors. Perhaps you decide on a billboard that doesn’t see a ton of traffic, but is surrounded by your target audience. It’s worth it to draw up a priority list. 

How Much Does It Cost to Buy a Billboard?

The factors that impact the cost to buy a billboard are similar to those that come into play when renting. The billboard cost will also depend on how you go about purchasing. 

For instance, if you decide to build a billboard on your property, you have to consider permits, installation and maintenance costs. Likewise, if you plan to build a billboard on someone else’s property, you may need to allocate a certain percentage of your monthly earnings to the landowner.

Factors such as location, type of board (digital vs. static), size, visibility, and local regulations all play a role in determining the price tag. In major cities or high-traffic areas, the cost per square foot tends to be higher.

Suffice to say, buying a billboard is rarely a one-time payment since there may be annual taxes, fees, and maintenance costs to account for. It can cost anywhere from several hundred dollars at the onset to tens of thousands or even more than $100,000. 

What About Building a Billboard?

Considering building a billboard from scratch? Be prepared to do your research. Laws regarding building a billboard or other advertising sign on your property are very local in nature. It can vary greatly from city to city.

Your best bet will be to check your local municipality’s website. Otherwise, you can check out zoning resources to learn more about regulations and requirements. Failing to follow these requirements could result in hefty fines or a mandatory takedown.

Not to mention, you’ll likely have to contract professionals to get the job done. There are companies dedicated to constructing, installing, upgrading, manufacturing, and performing maintenance on both LED and static billboards. After all, you want to ensure the longevity of the board.

Rent vs. Buy: A Side-by-Side Comparison

There are pros and cons to both renting and buying. We’ve outlined some of the key points below so you can compare the two.

AspectRenting a BillboardBuying a Billboard
Upfront CostsLower initial investment with monthly payments.Higher upfront costs (sometimes including purchasing land and construction)
FlexibilityExceptional flexibility for short-term campaigns and location changes. Digital boards could allow for real-time creative changes.Long-term commitment; limited flexibility in changing locations.
ControlHassle-free billboard management without ownership responsibilities.Control over design, messaging, and maintenance.
Revenue PotentialNo financial burden as the billboard owner; focus solely on your campaign.Potential for additional income through renting ad space to others.
MaintenanceResponsibility lies with the owner, not the advertiser.Responsible for ongoing maintenance and repair costs.
Navigating RegulationsOutdoor media company helps inform you on regulations for certain campaigns (e.g. cannabis and political)Complete customization options to align with brand and message.
Risk ExposureLower financial risk due to lower upfront costs and no ownership responsibilities.Higher financial risk, but potential for higher returns over time.
Data InsightsOutdoor media companies can offer more information on view time, estimated traffic, and more.Responsible for seeking out and interpreting data sources.