Who Owns Billboards

Have you ever been in your car, waiting in traffic, looking at a billboard, and thought: who owns that? Not the advertisement, but the existing billboard itself, the actual physical structure. Who owns billboards?

Maybe you’ve even wondered if you should become a billboard owner yourself. 

Take this article as a sign to expand your knowledge. Here you’ll be able to take a closer look at billboard proprietorship so that you can make an informed choice about whether or not it’s a worthwhile financial investment for you. 

A Look at Current Billboard Owners

In theory, anyone can own a billboard. It’s similar to any other piece of real estate in that way. In practice, most billboards, especially those in high-traffic locations, are owned by large corporations called vendors. Examples of these large vendors include:1

  • Lamar Advertising
  • Intersection
  • JC Decaux
  • Clear Channel Outdoor
  • Outfront Media

Some smaller vendors tend to be more regionalized, but if you’re looking at a heavily-trafficked area like a highway, chances are one of these large corporations owns the billboard you’re seeing. Some of them will have signs at the bottom that designate the owner while others will have no outward signs of the owner at all. To find the proprietor of these spaces you may have to go through an outdoor advertising agency or get in touch with the city.

Buying a Billboard

How much does it cost to own a billboard? What if you want to become a billboard vendor? Can you dive into the billboard industry?

Yes. You can buy a billboard and lease it out to outdoor advertisers (or advertise on it yourself for free). Of course, not all billboards will be for sale. For those that are, you’ll need to ask yourself whether owning will be worth the cost. You should consider a few important factors when deciding on a potential billboard to buy:2

  • Billboard Location – How many people are likely to see your billboard will have a huge effect on advertiser demand. The more people want to advertise on your billboard, the more you can charge to lease it. Even the side of the road it’s on will matter. Just be aware, the better the billboard location, the more expensive the billboard will be to buy and the more likely you’ll face competition from large vendors such as the ones mentioned above.
  • Billboard Size – In billboard advertising, size matters. The larger the billboard, the more expensive it will be. Of course, once you own the billboard, you will also be able to charge more for larger advertising space.
  • Billboard Age – The older the existing billboard is, the more upkeep you will likely have to pay for to keep it operational. You might want to consider how this added overhead can affect your profitability going forward.

Building a Billboard

If you don’t feel like searching for a billboard to buy and you own some land, maybe you’re wondering if it’s possible to erect your own. The answer is a bit complicated. The Highway Beautification Act of 1965 puts limits on the placement of any billboards around highways.3 There are also state and local regulations that may prevent you from building on your land.

Another option is to lease land that already meets all of the regulatory requirements and build a billboard there. If you decide to go this route, be sure to negotiate certain terms in the lease:4

  • That the landowner won’t erect anything that would block the view of your billboard.
  • That the landowner won’t restrict any types of advertising on your billboard.
  • That the landowner will grant you access to the billboard for upkeep as well as to change advertisements.

You should also expect to pay about 10 – 20% of your billboard’s income to the lease, taking a cut into potential profits.

Is Owning a Billboard Profitable?

Owning a billboard can be profitable. Billboard advertising is in high demand and the ability to lease out your billboard space (assuming you find a desirable location) can provide you with a long-term, passive income. But, as with any investment, there are risks to consider. You may find your location is less desirable than you expected, you could face heavy competition, and other structures may be erected that obstruct your billboard. 

Owning a billboard also requires a large upfront investment that can easily add up to hundreds of thousands of dollars—or even millions— depending on your location. For example, purchasing billboards in Philadelphia or Los Angeles will cost significantly more than purchasing one in rural Wisconsin. This is one of the reasons it is difficult to compete with a large billboard company as they will have more capital to use on these initial costs.

Maximize Your Outdoor Advertising Potential with True Impact Media

Perhaps buying a billboard is the right business decision for you or maybe you’re interested in outdoor advertising options but aren’t in the position to buy right now. Either way, we at True Impact Media are here to help with your billboard 101

We have a team of experts in the outdoor media space that are happy to go over your options so you can get a better idea of cost and availability in your area. We’ll simplify the process for you so you can get your outdoor advertising campaign up and running in a way that will maximize your investment. Kick off your outdoor advertising campaign with True Impact Media today. 


  1. Dash Two. Can Anyone Buy Billboard Space? How? https://dashtwo.com/can-anyone-buy-billboard-space-how/ 
  2. Movia. How Much Does a Billboard Cost to Own? https://movia.media/moving-billboard-blog/how-much-does-a-billboard-cost-to-own/ 
  3. RLT Finance. Owning Billboards For Passive Income: A Beginner’s Guide. https://roadlesstraveledfinance.com/owning-billboards-for-passive-income/ 
  4. Chron. How to Be a Billboard Owner. https://smallbusiness.chron.com/billboard-owner-32969.html 

Kelly Sexton, based in Austin, TX, is a key Media Planner at True Impact Media. His expertise is built on a foundation of significant roles within the advertising and marketing sectors. A graduate with a Bachelor of Arts in Economics from Denison University, Kelly’s skills span Advertising, Social Media, Public Relations, Marketing, and Digital Marketing. His insights contribute substantial value and forward-thinking strategies to the industry.
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