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What would you get for this pair of tow trucks?

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

For almost every issue of SignCraft for the past 30-plus years, we’ve sent a scenario for a fictitious sign project to several highly skilled sign professionals. We’ve asked them to do a quick sketch of the sign they might have produced and estimate a selling price for the job, then shared it all in SignCraft.

In the latest issue, it’s the graphics for a pair of new white tow trucks for a salvage yard. The owner wants a new look, and likes the idea of incorporating a salvage hook into the design. But he’s flexible and is willing to leave the design decisions up to you.

Take a minute and jot down your estimate for doing these two trucks. Then read on to see what these four sign pros came up with. You’ll find their complete comments and drawings in the latest issue of SignCraft.

Bob Stephens, Skywatch Signs, Zephyrhills, Florida:

I prefer to do all my renderings on photos of the project. This really helps the client visualize exactly how their truck or sign will look in real life.

My first obvious instinct was to incorporate a tow hook into the loop of the J, but I decided against that. The older I get, the more I like to design a clean, crisp look and most important, legible copy and design.

This layout would take 30 minutes, then I would print, laminate, cut and apply. I would have no problem selling this lettering job for $800 for each truck. Total time from start to finish would be 5 to 6 hours for both trucks.

I would remind the customer when it’s done that he will make more money off of his trucks than I would for doing the lettering on it. Thanks to Mike Facemire for that little bit of wisdom!

Jim Arsenault, Smokin’ Signs, Sanford, Maine:

I immediately saw the letter J as a multi-task element. I would make the copy as large as possible on the sides of the truck—ignoring the seams and using the truck’s entire body as the canvas rather than limiting it to just the door panel. I didn’t lay out the phone number here because I would put it on the front fender or rear side panel, leaving the entire door panel to display the name and graphic. The colors are negotiable.

My price for the two trucks, with large-as-possible copy, would be $535 each. I would use high-performance 9-year vinyl.

John Deaton, Deaton Design/, Ages, Kentucky:

Tow trucks are great because most companies like flashy, eye-catching stuff. I provide custom cartoon graphics via my website,, and I always look for an opportunity to sneak one of my ‘toons into a layout that I think would be helped by one.

I used a convex style lettering called Quadrex from for J&M, and Cardiak from for the secondary script lettering. I used one of my tow truck ‘toons, and added a tow hook that I drew and vectorized.

I’d probably use digital prints on premium vinyl with overlaminate for these and charge $300 per truck for two doors, including installation. Any other lettering on other parts of the truck, like 24 Hour Service or the phone number, would be priced additionally.

Russ Mills, Russ Mills Signs, Pineville, Kentucky:

When I am approached by a new customer who doesn’t have a logo, I try to sell him a design that he can use on all his advertising—not just his trucks. Usually they’ve come to my shop because they’re familiar with other signs or logo packages I’ve done for other customers, so the sale is usually pretty easy. If not, I’ll show examples of other jobs I have done, and educate him on the benefits of a good advertising package.

I always take digital photos of the vehicle to be lettered so that I can show the customer exactly what an impact the design will have on their vehicle. These trucks would be done with layered vinyl film.

Initial design fee: $200

Logo package, additional: $400

Two tow trucks lettered: $800

Practical SignCraft articles like these can help your sign business be more successful. Click here to make sure you get every new issue of SignCraft.   --Tom McIltrot


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