Finding an unsolicited business card on your windshield can be annoying.
But is this common marketing tactic actually illegal?
While not explicitly banned in most places, leaving cards on random cars risks violating litter laws and irking property owners.
Read on to understand the legalities and explore better alternatives to promote your business effectively.
Is It Illegal to Leave Business Cards on Cars?
In most areas, there are no specific laws prohibiting leaving business cards on cars. So in that sense, it is not explicitly illegal. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t potential legal issues surrounding the practice.
Although not outright banned, placing cards on cars may violate certain local ordinances.
For example, many cities have anti-littering laws that require proper disposal of advertisements, fliers, and other unsolicited materials. Windshield fliers and scattered business cards could be penalties for repeat offenders.
There are also often municipal codes against unauthorized soliciting and advertising on public and private property without permission.
Leaving cards indiscriminately on all vehicles in a parking lot would likely constitute a violation.
|California||Putting flyers on cars is legal as long as no damage is done to the vehicle.|
|New York||Putting flyers on cars is illegal without the owner’s consent.|
|Florida||It’s legal to put flyers under windshield wipers but not on the body of the vehicle.|
An exception is if the vehicle is parked on private property where the owner has specifically prohibited unauthorized solicitation.
For example, signs in a mall parking area might clearly state that any unapproved advertising on vehicles will be treated as trespassing.
There have also been some cases where card distributors faced civil lawsuits if their actions caused any damage, like scratches or cracks from stuffing them forcibly into door jambs. So while it may not result in criminal charges, there are certainly legal risks involved.
Did you know?
🚀70% of people say receiving a business card makes them more likely to remember that business.
🚀Only 2% of business cards received eventually lead to a sale.
🚀Placing business cards next to the cash register leads to 9 times more calls than leaving them on tables.
In most cases, police won’t go out of their way to investigate and charge someone leaving cards on cars unless it’s connected to more serious offenses, like a theft or break-in spree.
But overall, placing unsolicited cards on cars exists in a legal gray area that businesses should be aware of.
Why Do Businesses Place Cards on Cars?
Given the potential legal issues, why do some businesses still resort to leaving cards on cars? There are a few presumed benefits that drive them to take the risk:
- Hoping to gain new customers – The primary reason is to advertise their business to large numbers of people frequenting busy public areas like shopping malls, supermarkets, airports, and downtown parking areas. Even if only a tiny fraction follow up, that could still mean more sales.
- Seen as a low-cost marketing tactic – Having cards printed in bulk is relatively cheap compared to other forms of advertising. For some small businesses, a couple of hours placing hundreds or thousands of cards feels well worth it.
- Claims of effectiveness – Some business owners in industries like auto repairs, detailers, and local services swear by the tactic and say they’ve gotten regular new business from windshield fliers.
- Targeted locations and demographics – Placing cards in specific areas allows businesses to target their messaging to those they want to reach based on geography, income level, age range, etc.
- Quick, easy, and avoids confrontation – Dropping cards on windshields takes little time and effort while avoiding uncomfortable direct pitches.
Pros and Cons of Putting Business Cards on Cars
|Inexpensive marketing||Annoys some car owners|
|Targets potential local customers||Potential littering/damage to cars|
|Allows wider reach than handing out cards||Low response rate expected|
|Can be done quickly||Legality questionable in some areas|
Potential Problems With Placing Business Cards on Cars
Beyond the basic legal concerns, there are some unintended consequences and risks businesses should consider:
- Generating litter – Cards left behind that aren’t picked up mean more trash on the ground that has to be cleaned up by someone. This contributes to environmental issues and clean-up costs.
- Risk of vehicle damage – Jamming cards in doors or windshield wipers could lead to paint scratches, chips, or even cracks in windows. Businesses are opening themselves up to complaints or lawsuits.
- Bad publicity – Drivers annoyed by unsolicited cards are likely to have a negative view of the advertiser, which could dissuade them from ever giving them business.
- Privacy/security issues – Cards with QR codes meant to be scanned could pose unanticipated privacy or data security risks to those who scan them.
- The burden on drivers – In aggregate, it ends up costing drivers time and effort to dispose of all the unwanted cards placed on their cars over time. This gradually eats away at goodwill.
Alternatives to Leaving Business Cards on Cars
Instead of leaving business cards on cars, companies have many other better options to advertise and reach potential customers:
- Printed fliers – Carefully placing tidier fliers under windshield wipers looks more professional than scattered cards. Just be sure to check local ordinances first.
- Local publications – Placing ads in regional newspapers and magazines can give visibility and establish a community presence.
- Radio ads – Short radio spots on local stations are highly targeted and let businesses communicate messages and offers.
- Online ads – Google, Facebook, Instagram, and other digital ads allow pinpoint geo-targeting along with performance tracking.
- Event sponsorships – Sponsoring local sports teams, concerts, and community events helps with outreach and goodwill.
- Partnering with similar businesses – Strategic partnerships on co-marketing campaigns introduce each business to the other’s customer base.
- Excellent customer service – This indirectly markets the business through word-of-mouth as happy customers refer friends and family.
In summary, casually throwing business cards on random cars in public areas exists in a legal gray zone and risks generating backlash from irritated drivers, property owners, and authorities.
Any potential benefits to advertisers should be carefully weighed against the negatives.
With all the available marketing channels today, it’s wise to brainstorm more creative, effective, and lower-risk alternatives.
- Is It Legal to Put Business Cards in Mailboxes
- Places to Leave Business Cards
- What to Put On Back of Business Card?
FAQs On Is It Illegal to Put Business Cards on Cars
Is Putting Business Cards on Doors Soliciting?
Putting business cards on doors without permission could be considered soliciting and trespassing. Get permission first.
Is It Illegal to Stick a Business Card on a Mailbox?
Sticking business cards on mailboxes is illegal per USPS regulations. Use proper channels like mailers instead.
Are Business Cards Soliciting?
Handing out business cards is not illegal soliciting. But leaving cards places without permission is improper.
What to Do if Someone Hands You a Business Card?
If given a business card, review it. Follow up if interested. Otherwise discard respectfully. No need to keep unwanted cards.
Is It Illegal to Leave Business Cards on People’s Windshield?
Leaving cards on windshields can be littering or trespassing. Check local laws. Better to hand out cards respectfully in proper settings.
Rahul is a former medical student turned business blogger who founded NamesPilot to share his passion for entrepreneurship. After successfully launching several online ventures, he now runs his blog full-time, providing tips and insights to help others build their own businesses.