The Real Cost of an LED Sign

An LED Display is not a commoditized product. Most commodities have a standard baseline build and expectation of quality. For LED displays, this can vary quite a bit depending on the manufacturer, use case, and deliverables. This question really has multiple layers as well. There is the upfront cost (sticker shock beware) and then there’s the TCO (Total Cost of Ownership). Let’s address both:

Upfront and Associated Costs

The cost of an average 3’x6′ or 4’x8 LED sign can vary depending on the pixel resolution from a low of about $12,000 to $40,000 or more, including permits and installation. Associated cost factors are the display warranty, content, permits, installation, electrical and communications. While the display itself may cost about $8,000 – $16,000 the additional costs vary and add up quickly.

Total Cost of Ownership

This is the question many people fail to ask and few will point out.

Service: A strong warranty that covers both parts and service is highly recommended. the industry standard is 5 year parts, but we offer up to 7 years parts with onsite service. Over a 5 year period, a few service trips can add-up to $1,000 – $3,000 with an average cost of $250 per trip with 2 trips as the industry average.

Power: Power on a 3’x6’ will likely be negligible, however on a larger system like 4’x8’ or larger, power is something to pay attention to as some manufacturer design at lower power efficiencies, meaning additional costs of over $1,000 – $2,000+ in power per year. Our design uses 2-3 times less power that the industry standard, reducing this cost significantly. Make sure to compare power requirements as a new LED sign at an existing site may require more power to be run, adding more cost which may not be quoted (as power is typically the client’s responsibility).

Content:  The display will need someone to program it and create content. Make sure to evaluate the manufacturer’s software. This will be the feature you interact with the most and difficult software can cause less usage of the sign your investing in. Does the manufacturer offer custom content at the start so the display looks great from the beginning while you’re learning the system? Custom content services can cost upwards of $5,000 – $20,000 per year.  We include 1 year of professional custom content creation with every display, integrated into our SM Infinity cloud-based system.

Overall: Don’t just look at the initial cost. Consider the value of on-premise advertising and the return on investment your display will bring. Take into consideration the deliverables from the provider like warranty length and coverage, professional custom content, easy-to-use software, lifetime performance, and total cost of ownership.

Bottom Line

A low cost display may come with a lot of after-installation costs which make that initial ‘savings’ seem worthless. Be sure to compare multiple systems and don’t just take the first thing on the table. When you compare – you’ll see the full picture and who really delivers value and performance vs. someone who’s pushing for a quick sale.

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