Vanity plates, or personalized plates, are a great way to make your car stand out a bit without actually doing anything to the car itself.  In the U.S., every state issues them, and the additional fee paid by vehicle owners can be a significant source of income for the states.

You Need to Know the Rules

Each state sets its own rules, so you’ll need to comply with whatever your state’s requirements are; however, obscenities and references to anything sexual are no-nos everywhere, as are hate speech, references to illegal activities and combinations that are too similar to existing license plates (e.g., exchanging a 1 for a capital “i”).

Approval Isn’t Necessarily Permanent

Just because your plate gets approved doesn’t mean you’ll get to keep it. States keep a list of banned combinations of letters and numbers, and sometimes even innocent combinations are rejected because they could be taken as references to something else. There have been quite a few instances of vegetarians being denied their tag of choice because I love tofu (ILVTOFU) is likely to be interpreted as I love to “F” you.

If the motor vehicles department gets complaints from people claiming to be offended, they may revoke the tag, which has also triggered some civil liberties suits. A Florida driver had “ATHEIST” on his tag for years before receiving a letter from the DMV saying it was being revoked due to complaints, but in that case, the decision was reversed. You can’t count on that, though, so unless you like a good legal battle, it would be in your best interest to avoid being controversial. On the other hand, for some folks, controversy is the fun of making an original statement, so to each their own.

How to Design Your Custom Tag

Vanity plates typically allow a range between two and seven characters. Some with a max that ends with “.5” for a half-character allotted for a hyphen or space. Plates with a logo in the center of the design may require two sets of two or three characters on each side, and if the design includes a logo or other image on one side of the numbers, it may reduce the total number of characters allowed. Plates with sports logos to the left of the numbers are popular in some states.

One popular way to make the tag is to spell a word without the vowels. DRVR is easily understood to mean “driver,” for example. Phonetic spelling is another technique that allows the use of fewer letters, such as spelling “rock” as “ROK.” Replacing a “C” with a “K” or “cks” with “x” are additional ways to create new spellings. Sometimes it’s necessary to shorten the word you want to say, but sometimes it’s been used before, so you have to come up with something unique.

Make It Look Sharp

After going to the trouble of finding out what’s allowed in your state and coming up with your own clever expression, you’ll want to make that new plate look sharp. Our stainless-steel license plate frames come in polished stainless steel and matte black finishes so you can match the style of your vehicle.