January 12, 2006 1:39 PM   Subscribe

Which state has the most vanity license plates?

I've been in Maine a few years, and have seen more vanity license plates than I ever saw in California or New York. I'm wondering what percentage of registered cars in Maine have vanity plates, and how this percentage ranks with the other 49 states.

Searching brings up a bunch of blogs saying "wow, I bet we have more vanity plates here in [Maine | Montana | Virginia | New Hampshire] than any other state," but no actual statistics.

Any thoughts on how to find this out, aside from contacting each state's motor vehicle department individually?
posted by mikepop to Travel & Transportation (26 answers total)
I know Florida has the most "special" plates such as conserve wildlife, various colleges etc...

I don't know if that reflects any regular vanity plate trend or not but I bet it is up there...
posted by UMDirector at 1:55 PM on January 12, 2006

I remember seeing a ton when I was in Virginia. My friend I was visiting said they're so cheap there almost everyone gets them.
NY charges quite a bit. I almost never see vanity plates as a result.
posted by Kellydamnit at 2:02 PM on January 12, 2006

Anecdotally, I have never seen more vanity plates than in Virginia (I grew up there). They're cheap and there are are hundreds of different types you can personalize -- as I recall, pretty much any interest group can get their own plate design.
posted by killdevil at 2:12 PM on January 12, 2006

I think it might be New Hampshire. They're extremely cheap and very common. I've heard people say that NH has more than any other state, but I can't find that substantiated for you anywhere just now.
posted by Miko at 2:12 PM on January 12, 2006

Ever-so-slightly an improvement on calling up each state's DMV might be to use Google's "Uncle Sam" search feature -- searching only government sites, for a simple string like license plates, and look at each state's DMV page where it mentions specialty plates.

As an aside, I sure would like to see someone put up a site that collected this information in once place, with pictures of the plates and so on. If it turns out not to exist, maybe mikepop will cobble it together for us. :)
posted by Gator at 2:13 PM on January 12, 2006

Missouri used to have a ton. I think the fee was only like $5 or so. It's gone up quite a bit so you don't see as many. When we lived in St.L when I was a kid, my dad's company car had "ElvMan" So everyone was always making elvis comments to him. He worked for an elevator company, elvis had nothing to do with it.
posted by muddylemon at 2:25 PM on January 12, 2006

Also anecdotally, there are way more in California than in Texas.
posted by unknowncommand at 2:25 PM on January 12, 2006

the most i've seen is virginia as well, someone told me he had to use a german word in his because all the english words he wanted were taken
posted by yeahyeahyeahwhoo at 2:28 PM on January 12, 2006

Non-anecdotally... I believe it was Southwest's in flight magazine sometime last year, noting that the state of Illinois had the most per capita. It was in the back of the mag where they give a numbers wrap-up. I don't recall where that particular bit of information came from though.

Sorry, I can't find any linkage, but I recall thinking that I was not at all surprised by this. There's a stupid amount there.
posted by FlamingBore at 2:31 PM on January 12, 2006

See here.
posted by FlamingBore at 2:36 PM on January 12, 2006

Alabama has a metric buttload. My mom-in-law issues them and I was astounded when she listed them off.
posted by Kickstart70 at 2:37 PM on January 12, 2006

Yeah, baby!
posted by fixedgear at 2:43 PM on January 12, 2006

Anecdotally, I would also say Virginia. I can remember seeing a whole wall full of specialty plates at the new DMV in Charlottesville. Maybe a hundred or so different flavors.
posted by mbd1mbd1 at 2:47 PM on January 12, 2006

We need to make a distinction between a 'speciality' plate, like a college alumni association, Purple Heart Veteran, Masons, and a 'vanity' plate which uses some combo of letters and/or numbers to spell or say or mean something, like RU4ME.
posted by fixedgear at 2:50 PM on January 12, 2006

Also Virginia. Everyone has one, it seems. I was surprised when I moved to Minnesota, and saw very few, but it turns out the plates are mucho expensive here.
posted by Zosia Blue at 2:54 PM on January 12, 2006

Not so anecdotally, I recall a CNN trivia bit which stated that Virginia had the most vanity plates. We also have the most special theme plates [universities, humane societies, jimmy buffet fans, chesapeake bay, wildlife shootin' people etc.].

Anecdotally, I think it's Virginia.
posted by cloeburner at 3:00 PM on January 12, 2006

I believe it was Southwest's in flight magazine sometime last year, noting that the state of Illinois had the most per capita.

I would believe that. When I moved to Illinois from the East Coast, the first two cultural things that really struck me were the preponderances of cigarettes and vanity plates.
posted by zadermatermorts at 3:11 PM on January 12, 2006

I agree it's probably Virginia. I live in Northern Va., and, while neither my wife nor I has a vanity plate, not a day goes by when I don't see at least twenty just going to and from work.
posted by cerebus19 at 5:27 PM on January 12, 2006

I would've said Florida, but a brief look seems that FL has 91 but VA has 180. 180! Dizzam.
posted by ch1x0r at 5:33 PM on January 12, 2006

ch1x0r: See above re: the difference between vanity plates and specialty plates.
posted by FlamingBore at 6:02 PM on January 12, 2006

Up until last year, I lived in New York, and then I moved to North Carolina. It seems like a lot more people here (not just NC, but the south in general) have vanity plates. I think there may be several reasons. One, vanity plates are cheaper here than they are up north, at least in NY. Two, my impression is that southerners are less formal with strangers (a lot!) and so almost relish sharing personal info with complete strangers, whereas northerners tend to be more reticent. As for finding exact statistics, you'll probably have to resort to each state's DMV.
posted by katyggls at 6:47 PM on January 12, 2006

Based on first-hand evidence (14 years in Texas and 3+ years in Montana), I can tell you that Montana has WAY more vanity plates per capita.
posted by davidmsc at 6:52 PM on January 12, 2006

No hard data, but I do recall hearing that VA has the most.
posted by bh at 7:42 PM on January 12, 2006

In Illinois it is dirt cheap if it follows a few restrictions (ending in a number is the one I remember). So they are "vanity" plates but there are restrictions on how you must combine the letters and numbers.
posted by cushie at 8:43 PM on January 12, 2006

I grew up in Virginia, spent a year and a half in California, three years in Missouri (with close access to Kansas), and now have spent about three years in Arkansas. Throw in some cross-country driving to get a sample of a couple other states...and I'd still have to go with my home state. Virginia simply has a ton of choices, and its cheap too. If you want to have fun, go to the DMV website. It has a feature that lets you choose what vanity plate you want, then attempt to see if the wording/phrase/etc is available. In the past, my sister had to resort to Tolkien elvish to get what she wanted. Here's the site. Have fun.
posted by Atreides at 9:38 PM on January 12, 2006

I found this site when I googled for "vanity plate statistics". It's ancient, but there may be some follow up studies.
posted by acoutu at 11:00 PM on January 12, 2006

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