What do professional parking sign buyers look for?
3M Inks & Reflective Films
There are two main US film suppliers, with 3M leading the way based on product quality and strength of warranty. Professional sign buyers specify 3M films and 3M matched inks. Only then, do they guarantee the validity of their warranty. 3M signs are the real deal – and specified by thousands by governmental customers across the US. Compare these signs with low-cost ink UV jet’d signs that can be scratched off or fade in a few years or appliqué signs that will delaminate over time. 3M parking signs have been proven to last for 10 years + (and many of their signs are still going strong after 25+ years outside).
All parking signs used in a lot that is accessible to the public must be reflective. Non reflective parking signs are not allowed.
The edges of the parking sign should be burr-free and have rounded corners. Many lower cost parking signs have square corners (that are often sharp) or use a radius that does not follow the official DOT guidelines. Rounded corners follow MUTCD standards. The radius of the printed inner border and width of the inner border should also match the exacting MUTCD standards.
Heavy Duty Aluminum
In virtually all of the 100’s of governmental bids for parking signs each year, an aluminum thickness of 63 mils is used for 12” x 18” signs and 80 mils thick for 18” x 24” parking signs. Certain smaller sign companies only stock one thickness – as a way to simply their own inventory. Watch out, also, for parking signs using 40 mils aluminum which, while much cheaper, bend too easily.
Pre-punched and Pre-cleared Holes
Professional parking sign buyers demand that their parking signs come with holes that meet the industry 1.5” spacing rules and holes that are pre-cleared. Beware of parking signs that do not come with pre-punched holes or with holes that are knocked out with a low-impact hand press (that results in a sloppy, burred and inconsistent hole). Parking signs need to be stamped out on high tonnage presses with new tooling.
Ships in One Day
Most established companies can ship their parking signs in 2-3 days. The best ship from their stock on the same day of the order or on the next day. Unfortunately, many parking sign companies do not tell you when they will ship. From our study, we found actual deliveries varied from a few days (which should be your expectation) to several weeks (which should be a red flag). Larger parking sign companies have the inventory to ship even large orders in a day or two.
Free Shipping and Fair Pricing
The fairest and easiest way to purchase parking signs is from a company that transparently states their shipping policies and pricing, up front. A classic reflective parking sign on aluminum should cost from $14 to $24, depending upon the size, reflective film used and the quantity ordered. Many mail order firms charge over $40 for the same signs (but try to convince their naïve customers that they are “getting a deal” with an offer of “30% off” or “Free shipping for orders over $100”. The best parking sign companies offer signs for under $20 and offer free shipping for all commercial orders.
Huge Range of Stock Signs
Make sure that the parking signs are available in all three different grades of reflective film. Also, check out the range of designs offered. Stock parking signs ship faster and can save you money over having to design and then pay the premium for a custom parking sign. As parking lots get evermore complex, the range of parking sign messages have also expanded. The best parking sign companies offer an extensive range of in stock designs and fast ways to scan through their library of designs.