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Vanity License Plate
Margie: Hey, Lou, did you hear the one about the guy who couldn't afford personalized plates, so he changed his name to J3L-2404?
Lou: Ya, that's a good one.
Fargo

In much of the world, national or local governments fund public roadways and highways, in part, by charging an annual fee to every vehicle owner. To prove the vehicle owners have paid the fee, a metal plate with a unique identification is affixed to the rear or front bumper (often both) of the vehicle (this also gives a useful way of identifying each vehicle). Usually, the identification is a short string of random or semi-random figures, letters or both. Sometimes, the first few or last few digits may identify the sub-region where the car is registered, but usually the digits are assigned sequentially.

However, always eager to express their individuality or the depth of their pocketbooks, some vehicle owners want to have cooler license plates than everyone else. Equally eager to charge rich idiots more money, most governmental units let them order custom plates, for a fee.

As a result, many jurisdictions that issue license plates will, for an extra fee, allow you to choose the alphanumeric string on your license plate, rather than assigning you a random sequence of letters and figures. Outright profanity is usually banned, although some drivers manage to sneak things like PHA Q through the cracks.

Writers and production designers will often include a vanity license plate as visual shorthand for the personality of the car's owner. A Corrupt Corporate Executive may have BIG BOSS on his BMW or Lexus. A Jerk Jock may have UR MY FAN or BEST QB. Rich bastards in general are likely to have a Cool Car with a plate along the lines of MY TOY. Heck, the Cool Car in general almost certainly has a vanity plate of some sort.

For obscenely rich characters, '[Name of character] 1', '2', '3', and so on is also popular, as it gives the character a chance to bring attention to the fact that he has several cars, and has to keep them numbered to keep track of them. Any character with such a plate can generally be assumed to be a total dick.

Of course, this trope is often Truth in Television. It inspired Wink Martindale to create the Game Show Bumper Stumpers for the USA Network. This trope is not to be confused with Vanity Plate, which was named after the same real-world phenomenon.

Different cultural reactions to these kinds of plates come from how much they cost. In the USA, this is seen as "mostly harmless" (if a mite gauche) since most vanity plates cost within the range of $25 to $50 extra (with extreme ends of $10 in Virginia and $100 in Minnesota). One of the reasons Top Gear et al. are so dismissive of vanity license plates is that they cost more than 10 times as much across the pond. Not only are you an attention-seeking bore, but you also have more money than is good for you.

Note: When adding an example that's heavily abbreviated or requires netspeak to understand, translate. The message may not be obvious to other readers.

Examples

    open/close all folders 

    Advertising 
  • An ad for the GSN show Inquizition featured the Inquizitor riding a motorcycle with the plate I QUIZ U.

    Anime 
  • Don't forget Akio Ohtori and his Cool Car — not only does the plate say OHTORI, but it actually bears his/his school's seal. In the movie, the cars that people become all have their names on the plate, leading to a bit of Fridge Horror — it's quite possible that the Akio Car is his ever-tired and much cheated-on fiancée, Kanae Ohtori, transformed.
  • A subtle example exists in the Kodocha anime, in which the license plate for Rei Sagami's car is a numerical reference to series creator Miho Obana.
  • Section 9's Nissan minibus/concept car in Ghost in the Shell Solid State Society had the license plate NH-3923 (San-kyu-ni-san).
  • in Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei, Itoshiki is seen driving a car with the license plate "Z2BOW" (zetsubou)

    Comics 
  • Werner once encountered a biker with a motorcycle that was beyond lame, supposedly 100% original, and the exact opposite of a thoroughly customized chopper (almost vertical fork, huge taillight, fat seat, massive exhaust muffler with a tiny outlet, etc.). His German license plate read, "TÜ-V 0815". On a side note, leading zeros are not possible on German license plates, but "TÜ-V 815" could actually exist in Tübingen.
    • To elaborate: TÜV is one German organization which hands out road safety certificates for vehicles. 08/15 is German slang for 'run of the mill'.
  • Tim Drake is the first, if not the only Robin to be given a CoolCar, complete with a vanity license plate. He calls it the RED BIRD.
  • In the non-Paperinik New Adventures stories, the main difference between Donald Duck's car and that of his Anti-Hero alter ego Paperinik was the switch of the licence plate from 313 to "X", as a visual sign that Paperinik places himself outside the law in his quest for avenging himself (some but not all stories would also have the car change colours from red and blue to black).
    • Averted in Paperinik New Adventures, where Paperinik switches from the 313 to the futuristic Pkar... That has no licence plate.

     Fan Fiction 
  • Although it wasn't actually featured on a car, one MS Ting gave us "3M 3T18"; reverse it and consider Crow T. Robot's Catch Phrase...

    Film 
  • James Bond's Aston Martin DB 5 in Goldfinger has switchable plates, with JB 007 on its Swiss plate.
  • The Ghostbusters have ECTO 1 on the Ectomobile.
    • The plate was modified to ECTO 1A in the sequel, and ECTO 1B in the new video game.
  • The sports car that comes in for much abuse in Con Air has AZ KICKR on its plates.
  • In Back to the Future, the time-traveling De Lorean has OUTATIME (Out of Time) as its plates, which would not actually be legal in California due to character limits.
  • Johnny Storm's plates from the film Fantastic Four read TORCH'D.
  • Bruce's plates in Bruce Almighty after he transforms his car read ALMITY 1.
  • Tony Stark's various cars in Iron Man have STARK 1 through at least STARK 6.
  • Adventures in Babysitting ridicules a guy whose Porsche has the tags SO COOL.
  • In Weird Science, Magical Girlfriend Lisa changes her plates once she gets named by the geek heroes who created her.
  • Michael Douglas' character in Falling Down is known by fans as D-FENS after his vanity plates, as his character's actual name is barely mentioned in the film.
  • In the 101 Dalmatians live-action movie, Cruella's license plate reads DEV IL.
  • Claw's hearse in Inspector Gadget 2 has "CRYMPAYS" (crime pays) as its license plate. The Gadgetmobile, of course, has "GADGET" as its plate.
  • In Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure, Bill's stepmother has a licence plate with her name on it: MISSY!
  • Bandit, of Smokey and the Bandit fame, has "BANDT-1" as his plate.
    • The plate is Georgia plate BAN ONE in the first movie.
  • In the classic 1985 John Cusack film Better Off Dead, rich bully boy Roy Stalin's Trans Am has the plate "ROYS AM".
  • In another Cusack film, 1986's One Crazy Summer, rich bully boy Teddy Beckersted has sportscar with the plate "CUL8R".
  • In Innerspace, Igoe's BMW has the license SNAPON. Also Scrimshaw's Rolls-Royce has the license plate SUB-ZRO.
  • In Cobra (no relation to the anime), the Cowboy Cop hero Marion Cobretti has a car with "AWSOM".
  • Cleopatra Jones drives off in the movie, with her car having a U.S. Government official plate reading "CLEO".
  • Being an inhuman purple man-eating winged monster, the truck driver from Jeepers Creepers did not likely get his plate reading BEATNGU legally (as funny as that image is). One character guessed the meaning as "Beating you"; the other said that it seemed wrong for some reason. It's actually "Be Eating You".
  • In Tremors, survivalists Burt and Heather Gummer have "UZI 4U" on their 4×4.
  • Austin Powers' license plates read SWINGER and SWINGER2. His dad's reads GR8SHAG.
  • References to THX 1138:
    • Luke's landspeeder in Star Wars has a license plate reading "THX 1138"
    • American Graffiti: John Milner's '32 Ford: "THX 138".
    • Jon Favreau's license plate in Swingers is "THX1138"
  • All the vehicles in Follow That Bird have these. Oscar the Grouch's reads "SCRAM".
    • The Count's is "12345678910", which way exceeds New York's usual character limit.
  • Mean Boss Lumbergh's Porsche in Office Space has the tags MYPRSCHE.
  • Addams Family Values: the villain has 2 cars, one with the plate reading DEBBIE1 and the next reading DEBBIE2.
  • In The Nutty Professor, Buddy's car reads PNS CAR.
  • In Speed Zone, the Van Sloans drove a Bentley with the license plate RICH KIDS. The character Vic tries to report the car and it goes something like this:
    Vic:Uh, the license is as follows: R, I, C, H...uh, I think that spells "rich"..."KIDS"...with a K...for..."kids".
  • Parodied in Not Another Teen Movie: rich Jerk Jock with a heart of gold, Jake Wyler (aka Johnny Storm), drives a sports car reading "FILTHY RICH"; Janie Briggs, the pretty ugly girl, gets dropped off for school by her dad in a beat-up old truck reading "DIRT POOR".
  • This game can be played with German license plates, too. The licenses of two of the main characters' cars in Manta Der Film are "E-FG 18" on Fredi's Manta (E for Essen, FG for Fred Grabowsky, 18 for his 18th birthday) and "BO-EY 1234" on Phil's GTI (BO for Bochum, BO-EY is a license plate-compatible transcription of the Manta driver's Catch Phrase).
  • Spaceballs: Princess Vespa's ship has SPOIL'D ROTT'N 1.
  • The German Herbie knockoff Dudu was registered in Duisburg so it could have DU-DU 926 in some of its movies.
  • Ivan in Tapeheads has "MEFURST" - The joke might be that he wanted "MEFIRST" but it wasn't available.
  • The lawyer in Cellular has a vanity plate that says WILL SUE U 2
  • Real Genius - Chris and Mitch approach nemesis Kent's car:
    Chris: Kent puts his name on his license plate.
    Mitch: My mom does the same thing to my underwear.
  • Tank Girl has got two of them on her tank: TANK and KANT on front and back respectively.
  • An A113 license plate actually appears on every single vehicle featured in the animated Disney film Lilo & Stitch.
    • Also on Andy's mom's minivan in Toy Story. A113 is a common Pixar in-joke.
  • Both Mrs. Davis and Mater also have A113 license plates.
  • Oliverand Company: "DOBRMAN."
  • Monsters vs. Aliens: "XQU53M3" - "Excuse me".at reads "DOPE". Of course, he is a frequent marijuana smoker.
  • In the 1989 fantasy/comedy Limit Up, Nike (Danitra Vance), a rep. for Lost Souls Inc., has a plate that reads "CU-N-HELL."
  • Smokey's car in Friday have plates that say "FCK IT".
  • The vehicle hijacked by Keanu Reeves in Speed have plates that say "TUNEMAN".
  • In Sex Drive the license plate of the 1969 Pontiac GTO reads "NOFATCHX".
  • In Date With An Angel, Mr. Winston's plate reads "WINSTON". Patty's plate reads "PATYKAT".
  • Mickey Haller, the defense attorney protagonist of The Lincoln Lawyer, has a vanity plate reading "NTGUILTY".
  • The license plate on protagonist's weaponized Land Cruiser in 1980's action movie parody Jake Speed read SPEED. As an added bonus it was a New Hampshire plate with that state's "Live Free or Die" motto emblazoned across the top.

    Literature 
  • Joe Hill's NOS4A2 (that's the license plate of the villain).
  • Chitty Chitty Bang Bang has the license plate GEN 11. The book has the children mention how oddly similar this is to "genii," or genie as we'd spell it now. Of course, Chitty is a magical car, but they didn't know that at the time.
  • In the German comedy film "Bang Boom Bang", the protagonist has a car with a license plate th
  • Deconstructed in Red Storm Rising, where The Captain of the USS Pharris gets a license plate with its designation (FFG-1094) on it. After the Pharris is badly damaged by a Soviet torpedo, he reflects that he gets to carry his failure around with him.
  • The book Blue Avenger and the Theory of Everything included this as a plot point: the main character has to figure out how to get the word "suck" past the license plate censor. The end result? SSCHWAK.
  • In the Sweet Valley High series, the rich high school jock has a 1BRUCE1 licence plate on his car.
  • In the Lincoln Lawyer series, the plates on defense lawyer Mickey Haller's Lincolns include: NTGLTY and IWALKEM
    • The film version presents the NTGLTY plate as NTGUILTY despite the fact that California state plates can only have seven characters while NTGUILTY has eight.
  • In the Bailey School Kids book Santa Claus Doesn't Mop Floors, Mr. Jolly's car has the plate HOHOHO.
  • A minor character in a Tim Dorsey novel got a vanity license plate reading 'UNKNOWN'. Unfortunately, the police record 'UNKNOWN' as the license plate for any vehicular incident in which they couldn't get a plate number, so he ended up getting blamed for all of them.

     Live Action TV  
  • KITT from Knight Rider has KNIGHT as a vanity plate.
    • As one of the many James-Bond-vehicle-like feature of KITT, the vanity plate can be flipped over while driving to show "KNI 549" (or maybe it was KNI followed by 3 other numbers).
    • KARR does not have a license plate in "Trust Doesn't Rust", but in "KITT vs KARR" he has inexplicably gained one reading "KARR"
    • in Team Knight Rider, each of the vehicles has an abbreviation of its name followed by "-1" as its plate number: DNT-1 for Dante, DMO-1 for Domino, BST-1 for the Attack Beast, etc.
    • The KITT of the 2008 revival can change his plate numbers at will, but his default plate number is "KR", short for "Knight Research"
  • One of the Mythbusters' donation cars had ENVY DIS.
    • The same car has another one that said NODOUDT. (Adam made a point of pronouncing the D).
    • The mockup for the Jato Car revisit said MYTBUSR.
  • A rare example of it being bad for a character was HSEMKNY on an episode of Law & Order - the custom plate meant the perp was tracked down in no time at all. Lennie Briscoe even stated "What kinda dumb crook uses a vanity license plate on a getaway car?"
  • Cordelia's car in Buffy the Vampire Slayer has plates that read QUEEN C.
  • The Third Doctor's car "Bessie" has the plates WHO 1, which is especially odd, as the United Kingdom at the time was a nation with especially rigid rules for license plate numbers that didn't generally allow vanity plates.
    • Vanity license plates of the kind XYZ 1 were not unheard of at the time. Possibly the most famous was Sir Gerald Nabarro's NAB 1, but there were others.
      • While the licence number WHO 1 was legal, it just wasn't available. See this page.
    • The "Whomobile" did have legal licence plates, but the closest they could get to "WHO" was WVO 2M. (The DVLA considered the Whomobile to be "an invalid tricycle".)
    • No explanation has ever been given for Bessie's licence number suddenly becoming WHO 7 when driven by the Seventh Doctor in "Battlefield".
  • In Dark Season the vans of Abyss Modem have ABY55 (and a random number) on their number plates while Mr Eldritch's car has NEME5I5 written on it.
  • Lex on Smallville has all his cars with the plate "LEX(number)".
    • Similarly, Tess Mercer's license plate reads "NOMERCY"
  • A character in Frasier had his name in vanity plates. It was made funny by the fact that he was acting all mysterious and Deepthroatish to Frasier just before he sped off.
    • Martin's Winnebago has the custom plate RDWRER. Neither Fraiser or Daphne could work out this meant "Road Warrior".
      Daphne: Of course. A retired man with a cane in a Winnebago. I don't know why my mind didn't go straight to it.
  • The Adventures of Pete & Pete: the Petes' dad wanted a plate reading "KING OF ROAD", but it was taken, leaving him to settle for "KING O FROD". During a family trip to the Hoover Dam, he encounters the owner of the "KING OF ROAD" plate and challenges him for the title.
    • When Dad wins the challenge, the two switch license plates.
  • Sir Alan Michael Sugar's Rolls Royce with the number plate AMS 1 features prominently in the opening credits of the UK version of The Apprentice.
  • The Batmobile licence plate in the 1960s Batman series is BAT 1 (sometimes).
    • In most other media, the Batmobile is too cool to have a licence plate. It's an armour-plated, jet-propelled racer with an opaque windshield, with extras including knockout gas sprays(internal and external), Ejection Seats, and a harpoon for turning sharp corners. And, according to some sources, it's also a Transforming Mecha. All that, and the guy who drives it has a Secret Identity. So it's unlikely it ever got taken to the Gotham Department of Motor Vehicles...
    • The villains get their own plates too. The riddler has three question marks for his plate.
  • In the Chuck episode "Chuck vs. the DeLorean", Morgan gets "DEMORGAN" plates for the titular car.
  • OL1 V3R from Top Gear. "He got it a custom license plate? What a pikey." This, however is a fake as it is not a valid plate in the UK.
    • The Top Gear gang just hate vanity plates, poking fun at real life examples used to be a recurring segment.
  • "The Jackal", videogame-villain brought to life in the short-lived series Deadly Games, has the license plate "JKL". The final scene of the series reveals that the same plate belongs to Johnathan Kenneth Lloyd, father of The Jackal's programmer (both were played by Christopher Lloyd).
  • In one episode of Empty Nest, Charley gets a vanity plate intended to convey that he is a lover of the sea. Since "Sea Lover" is too long, and he's The Ditz, he shortens "Sea" to "C" and omits the space. He doesn't notice that his plate actually reads "CLOVER".
  • The 1989 ITV Game Show Interceptor had the titular bad guy drive a Maserati car with INT 1, a motorbike with INT 2 and a Black Helicopter with the legitimate registration G-MEAN.
  • On NCIS, forensic scientist Abby Sciuto has the plate "4NS CHIK".
  • Kramer in Seinfeld once mistakenly received a plate that read "ASSMAN". He decided to keep it, and people on the street loved it. "Hey, the Assman's in town!" "You know it!" At the end of the episode, we learn that the plate was intended for a proctologist.
  • One episode of Eureka has Nathan Stark reporting his stolen car, stating that the license plate read 'Stark1'. (It should be noted that Nathan Stark had this plate before Tony Stark did.)
  • Tracy Jordan on 30 Rock was incensed when his wife called his vanity plate inscrutable: 0ICU81MI. Short for "I see you ate one, am I?".
  • A car on The Wire that is falsely reported to be smuggling drugs gives the first hint that its driver is actually a minister with its Vanity Plate reading "PR8Z G0D". The cops don't notice this however...
  • The X-Files. A man who claims he can make it rain has RAIN KING.
  • Tood Packer's license plate of The Office US reads WLHUNG, which everyone seems to affiliate with novelty musician William Hung.
  • In Doctors, Vivian had some trouble in a driving test when she had to read a license plate from far away - X565 BUM. It was probably legitimate, but still.
  • Thomas Magnum's Ferrari (that belongs, in fact, to his boss, Robin Masters) in Magnum, P.I. has plates reading "ROBIN 1". And the other cars were "ROBIN 2" & "ROBIN 3".
  • Carbug, the Starbug-shaped smartcar in Red Dwarf: Back To Earth, has the licence number ST4 B11G.
  • In Supernatural, the Horsemen of the Apocalypse all upgraded from steeds to cars, and we saw two had vanity plates. Pestilence's was SIKN TIRD ("Sick and Tired"), and Death's was BUH*BYE. War and Famine would presumably have similar plates, but we never saw them.
  • Martial Law
    • Sammo Law from has the plate "DA BOMB".
    • A random one-off character sees him in the driver licensing office, and laments about another he'd seen — DNT N V U (Don't Envy You).
  • The 1990s Australian skit comedy show Full Frontal once feature a character called "Captain Yobbo", whose 4x4 bore the plate 'FKNGR8'
  • The 60's TV version of The Green Hornet Black Beauty had a number-letter plate keeping that Black Beauty looks like a normal car on the outside. The new movie it has a plate that says "HORNET" in green.
  • A Running Gag on Reno 911, two of the deputies would be pursuing a suspect and trying to report their vanity plate over the radio. They would get so engrossed in trying to figure out what the plate meant, that they wouldn't notice the suspect stopping...
  • Lady Penelope's Rolls Royce in Thunderbirds had the plate 'FAB 1', "F.A.B" being a seemingly-meaningless Catch Phrase of the titular organisation.
  • This was the premise of the 1980s game show Bumper Stumpers. The contestants had to decipher vanity plates, given clues about whom they might belong to.
  • Perky Goth Dasha on Daddy's Daughters had the vanity plate E-666-MO (read as "EMO-666").
  • In the intro to The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air: "The license plate said "FRESH" and there were dice in the mirr'r".
  • The La LAW title card.
  • The Carsey-Werner Vanity Plate for That '70s Show.
  • Breaking Bad:
    • Jesse Pinkman, initially cooking meth under the name Captain Cook, had a car with THE CAPN.
    • Walter White encounters a rich guy with the plate KEN WINS. And blows it up at the end of the episode.
    • Amoral Attorney Saul Goodman's car has LWYR UP.
  • In an episode of Mind of Mencia, Carlos Mencia spends some time trying to get NIGGER on a license plate. That's rebuffed for obvious reasons, as is NIGGA, and NEEGA (he claimed to be Indian, and that was his last name). Finally, he tries to get a plate with WETBACK, and finds out it's acceptable. Cue Precision F-Strike.
  • The revived series of Dallas has John Ross driving EWING V.
  • In Season 4 of Arrested Development, Tobias gets a plate celebrating a new start: ANUSTART.

     Newspaper Comics 
  • Steve Dallas in Bloom County at one point drives a gold jeep with a license plate that spells out HORNY.
    • Opus gave us NTITLED (on a cool sports car) and HUM-HER (on a Hummer).

    Pinball 

    Theater 

    Toys 
  • Transformers often have humourous or meaningful license plates. For example, the Universe toyline's version of Hotshot has the license plate JaAm.
    • Universe Sunstreaker's plate reads "WE R 84" while Sideswipe in the same line reads "SWIPE".

     Video Games 
  • The Need for Speed series has different plates for each game, including the likes of UNDRGRND. Allegedly, these were originally planned to be customisable for online play, but the consequences of that would have been fairly predictable.
    • Lampshaded with a hint of Continuity Nod in Pro Street. One of the menu commentary pieces is a call for the owner of a blue Subaru WRX with the plate "NFSCARBN" to move it.
    • Some earlier Need for Speed parts did allow for custom plates. They read the driver's name.
    • Most Wanted 2012 is the first game to bring truly customizable license plates to the series.
  • Vladimir Lem's license plate in Max Payne reads "VODKA".
  • When a player mounts the Hellbender Jeep in Unreal Tournament 2004 its license plate changes to the driver's name, dropping vowels to fit if needed.
  • Grand Theft Auto: Vice City is the first Grand Theft Auto game to feature vanity plates by featuring "LUVFIST" plates on hair band Love Fist's custom limousine. Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas upped the ante by including a far larger number of vanity plates on specifically parked or mission-specific cars.
    • Presumably the result of a failure to implement randomized license plate numbers in the final game, every road vehicle in Grand Theft Auto IV features license plates that read "LIBERTY CITY".
  • In Deadly Premonition, every named character with a car has a vanity plate. Even the otherwise generic patrol cars you drive around town have vanity plates.
  • In Mafia II, you can change the plates on the car you're currently driving as one way to get the police off your trail. Empire Bay doesn't seem to have restrictions on plates.
  • In World of Warcraft, the Mekgineer's Chopper / Mechano-Hog (different factions' versions of the same motorcyle) has a plate on the back reading PWN.
  • In The Godfather 2, the cars waiting for your use at your safehouses or compounds usually have "GDF-250" or some variant thereof.
  • Dr. Cortex's mooks in the motorcycle levels of Crash Bandicoot 3: Warped drive cars with license plates that read CRTX.

    Webcomics 

     Web Original 

     Western Animation 
  • The end of one episode of Batman: The Animated Series showed Penguin making license plates in prison, after his attempt to extort the identity of Batman from the Batmobile's mechanic/co-creator. Penguin lost it when he saw one of the plates read 1 BAT 4 U.
    • Poison Ivy has a car with the plate ROSEBUD and one with BADSEED.
  • The Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons has the registration number NCC 1701.
    • As does Kaito Nakamura of Heroes, played by George Takei.
    • Marge tries to get one with her name on it in "Homer's Enemy", but "Marge", "Marjorie", and "Mitzi" were all taken. But she could have "Nitzi".
    • In "Itchy and Scratchy Land", Bart tries to find one with his name but the only ones availiable are "Barclay", "Barry", "Bert" and "Bort". Bart expresses incredulity at the latter only for there to be two people named "Bort" at the store. And later on a supervisor offhandly mentions that the "Bort" license plates sold out.
  • Duckman's license plate reads "PSSDOFF"
  • The licenses on all the cars in Cars have some sort of hidden meaning, either an inside joke or a reference to the character. Mater's plate is A113, the number of the animation classrooom at the California Institute of the Arts, where many of the Pixar animators studied. (It appears in other films as well.) Fillmore's (51237) is the birthday (May 12, 1937) of George Carlin, the actor who played him. And, interestingly enough, the zipcode for George, Iowa.
    • One of the minor characters is Fred, whose name is also his license plate, and who acts thrilled when famous racecars somehow know his name.
  • In the Flash show Gotham Girls, Ivy's plate is BADSEED.
  • In the early-1990s X-Men cartoon, Professor Xavier's car had the license plate "THX 1138".
  • It's hard to catch, but in the sequence in Disney's Aladdin when Genie is turning Abu into various modes of transportation, one of them is a car whose license plate reads ABU-1.
  • The number plates on Postman Pat's postal van read "Pat 1" and the number plates on his seldom used "post bus" read "Pat 2". This is actually even more vain than usual when you consider that his full name is Pat Clifton, meaning that he's used his FIRST name for the plates...
  • Brian in Family Guy has BRI-DOG.
    • Similarly, Alpha Bitch Connie D'Amico has a plate reading "C DAMICO."
  • SpongeBob's boatmobile from "No Free Rides" has one saying IMR-D, mimicking his often-uttered catchphrase, "I'm ready!"
    • Another episode has the villains driving in a vehicle with a plate that reads "Mean 2 U"
  • Dan Vs.: Chris' car has the license plate "PUSHOVER". In another episode, a dentist's car has the license plate "INCISOR 1".
  • Boog from Fanboy and Chum Chum has a licence plate that reads "BORN 2 BOP".
  • Miss Finster from Recess has "DA FINSTER".
  • In the animated version of Dilbert, the main character's license plate reads "DILCAR."
  • An episode of ALF Tales has Alf as a detective searching for the name of a suspect who helped a woman spin straw into gold. Upon seeing the guy's license plate, he declares that "his vanity will be his undoing." What does the plate read? RUMPLESTILSKIN.

     Real Life  
  • An inversion of sorts: It's possible to purchase any license number ever issued by the British DVLAnote , so if you have a non-vanity plate that spelled out something that amuses you you can transfer it between vehicles, at a price. The exception is any registration number that was applied to a vehicle used in a film or on television, as they could be used to fraudulently pass off another vehicle as the original prop.
  • Tim Conway has/had the plate 13WEEKS, refering to the typical number of episodes of one of his failed sitcom attempts.
  • While filming the show, William Conrad had CANNON.
  • In the Philippines, license plates have three letters and three digits. The president's car has the digits "1000".
  • The governor of Texas has a limousine with the license plate "1".
    • On a related note, so does the Governor of California... which makes it doubly funny when note  he received a ticket for speeding.
    • The license number "1" is one of the perks of the Mayor of the District of Columbia, who can either assign it to themselves or assign it to a friend. This particular plate number is exempt from all parking restrictions. Sharon Pratt Kelly (later Sharon Pratt Dixon when she got married) was the only mayor who didn't have '1' on her official city vehicle, she assigned the number to her father. Her official limousine, however, had the license tag "ONE".
  • A Polish poet living in the United States attempted to invent the shortest poem able to fit on a Vanity License Plate. He came up with "THERE IS".
  • A man, who was asked to give his three choices for a vanity plate, wrote in BOATING, SAILING and NO PLATE (meaning if they were both taken, he'd just take a normal plate like everyone else). A couple weeks later he received a plate reading, you guessed it, NO PLATE. He was amused and decided to keep it. Then the traffic tickets started arriving, from police who had reported cars with no plate.
    • Washington DC channel 4 reported about the guy who gets thousands of dollars worth of fines a month and has to go to court every few months because his District of Columbia plate reads "NO TAGS", which is what is written on parking tickets of vehicles without license plates. After the TV station spoke to the city's Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), they referred the station to the District Department of Transportation, who referred them to the District Department of Public Works, who referred them back to the DMV. After the station ran the news report, the head of the DMV issued an order saying to stop writing "NO TAGS" on tickets for vehicles without license plates.
    • A guy in California used this to try and get out of tickets by ordering the tag "NONE" so that he wouldn't have to pay his own tickets. Apparently while he did get lots and lots of tickets for other people he had trouble getting out of the ones legitimately written on his own vehicle.
  • Germany has very strict rules on license plates, so usually this doesn't work. However, similar to the Philippines example above, high-ranking officials go for recognizable numbers instead. Also, high-ranking government officials have 0 instead of the usual letter combination at the start of the plate. Both tactics combined yield the license plate for the President's car: "0-1".
    • Oh, it works, it works quite well actually, as the option to freely choose the letter combination after the local identification allows a lot of puns which are unfortunately, as they are not funny, used quite often.
    • Because they are running out of combinations, you can now choose your complete combination. some people have their name and phone number -area code on their licence plate. (Germany has long, complicated area codes.)
      • To choose your own letters after the local identification is now charged with a fee. The change was accompanied by some general grumbling.
      • German law still requires a combination of one or two letters followed by at least one but no more than four digits, not starting with a zero. Therefore it's not possible to put the area code on a license plate because those always start with zero.
    • The letter or letters before the (now discontinued) dash depend on where the car is registered, so this part of the license cannot be chosen. And it has become impossible to get a license with the letter X after the dash in Segeberg (SE).
      • Or EX for people living in Stuttgart (giving S-EX nnnn).
    • The second set of letters is limited, too. Potential allusions to the Nazis (SS, SA, NS, etc.) are banned. And before a couple of years ago, the letters I, O, and Q were left out because they could be confused with digits.
    • As mentioned before, the first part of the identifier designates the Kreis (county) where the car is registered. Since 2012 counties are allowed to let applicants choose reintroduced designators of former counties that have been abolished and annexed by the county where they want to register their vehicle.
  • The official limousine used by the President of the United States has in the past used the license plate "USA-1". Now it's routinely issued a District of Columbia tag instead of a US Government tag.
  • In Singapore, the president's car has the licence plate S1.
  • The official vehicles of the reigning monarch of the UK have no licence plates.
    • The same is not true of United States Postal Service (USPS) vehicles, while some USPS vehicles do not have tags, if the vehicle does not have a plate the vehicle's postal service serial number will be the same as the tag number would have been.
    • The same is true of fire engines in the District of Columbia. It's said, sardonically that if fire engines in DC had tags on them, the (extremely efficient) ticket writers would ticket them for being parked in front of a fire hydrant.
  • A woman in Denver wanted to express her love of tofu on her license plate, but because "ILVTOFU" looks more like "I love to fuck you", the DMV's not allowing it.
  • The Virginia DMV issued, then recalled, a license plate reading "GOVT SUX". The applicant sued and won on the grounds that the plate was constitutionally protected political speech.
  • On a Toyota MR2 sports car: "RUMRS2?"
  • On a tiny green sports car: Ribbit
  • Difficult in Ireland, as all plates are [last two digits of year]-[one or two letters for county]-[sequence number], e.g. 03-CE-6755 would be the 6,755th car sold in County Clare in 2003. The Lord Mayor of Dublin traditionally gets 09-D-1, 10-D-1 etc. and a wealthy Offaly couple bought 07-OY-1 and 07-OY-2, etc. for several years. This system also means that the age of someone's car can be known instantly, leading to a glut of purchases every January and a corresponding falloff in November and December.
  • The now defunct car styling and tuning dealer D&W in Bochum always mounted the same license plates on their "model" cars: "BO-DW 1". The same license appeared on the red Mercedes 190 E 2.3-16 in Manta Manta.
  • British magician and Game Show host Paul Daniels has the number plate "MAG1C". This was noted on an episode of Have I Got News for You.
    • Similarly Jimmy Tarbuck (stand up comic and game show host) has "COM1C"
  • Although the "obscenely rich character" example at the top of the page would be accurate if said character did have more than one vehicle; in Illinois, personalized plates that contain at least one number are significantly cheaper than vanity plates, which do not contain numbers at all. In fact, unless it has been changed recently, personalized plates cost the same as regular plates - with vanity plates costing extra.
  • Rotten.com has license plates with 1337 and H4X0R.
  • "ME N MY" on a Dodge Shadow.
  • On a white Infiniti SUV: "NBEYOND"
  • A few years ago, a woman who wanted her license plate to say "GAYSROK" (as in "gays are ok" or "gays rock") had to wait while the state of Utah tried to decide whether or not it was offensive. They eventually decided it wasn't.
  • Spotted about ten years ago: "LSNZPL8"
  • The Mercedes-Benz tuner Brabus seems to have certain licenses reserved for their show cars. For example, every generation of the E V12 (an E-class with a tuned-up V12 from the S-class shoehorned under the hood) since 1996 had BOT-EV 12.
  • The Governor of Queensland (and also New South Wales), has no numbers or letters on their official licence plates, but only has a crown. Seriously.
    • The Queen gets a similar plate on her vehicle in Canada when she's visiting, though in gold on a red background.
  • The best place in Germany to register a K.I.T.T. clone is Kiel where you can get KI-TT ***. This has been done at least once so far.
    • Generally license plates of the form XY-TT 123 are found on Audi TT cars.
  • Possibly the most famous plate on the internet: Florida A55 RGY, with the orange design filling in a critical letter.
    • Note that this one was not a vanity plate. Florida issues plates in order, and that just happened to be the random one he got. The generic Florida plate design has been changed since to include two smaller oranges and a flower.
  • Romanian license plates' shape is legally-mandated to be either xx-12-yyy or xx-123-yyy, where the first two digits are the county code (Bucharest having a single digit - B) and the numbers and letters can be either freely chosen for a small fee or given in sequence by a computer. This meant a lot of people started to speak Leet overnight, to translate their names and other distinguished wording and fit the limited format - up to a rap singer having the plate "B 505UGI" ("s-o sugi" meaning "you suck it").
  • Similarly, Brazilian license plates have a fixed format (three letters, four digits), and you can order a specific combination. (Cue every BMW apparently having a "BMW-XXXX" license plate.) It's free, subject to availability, but each state is assigned a range of letter combinations that your choice must fall within. (So we were talking about BMWs from the state of São Paulo.) Many cars owned by all three branches of government have completely different plates that do now follow a standard. A common one is black, with a city's blazon and the number "1", meaning it's meant for the mayor's use.
  • Years ago the Washington, DC DMV issued a plate reading "MERDE," without realizing what it meant. (It's French for "shit".)
  • Seen years ago in Michigan on a Dodge Ram 4X4 with huge mudder tires: 3M TA3. It was a little disconcerting to look in the rear view mirror at a stoplight and seeing this huge truck behind you with the words "EAT ME" on the plate.
    • A guy had the same number in California back in the late 1970s or early 1980s.
  • Seen on a Mini Cooper: TARD1S.
  • In Lebanon, president has 1, prime minister has 2, etc. So low numbers are for high-ranking officials, and people who wish to appear important, cash out for plates with low numbers. Forgot the actual numbers, but here's the rule of thumb: numbers lower than 200(+/- 20) are reserved for state officials, and 200+ are on sale. One plate with a low number around 200 can cost the owner many times more than the car, it goes up to 17.000 € for numbers 200-300.
  • In a similar trend, most places in the U.S. now offer a variety of license plate designs for a nominal fee. The state of Arizona, for example, has special plates for police, firefighters, or former Prisoners of War to use on their personal vehicles. Charity designs are available to the public, with most or all of the fee benefitting a related cause, such as animal shelters, child abuse prevention, cancer research, or universities. While the former group is generally well accepted, the latter group is seen as almost as dickish, and just as smug, as regular vanity plates.
  • Delaware license plates started low and counted incrementally. As in many places, plates 1-3 are reserved for the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and Secretary of State. Unusually, though, other low-numbered plates can be transferred to other drivers, leading to a secondary market in low-digit plates. Though they are completely unpersonalized they are ridiculously valuable - plate #6 was auctioned off for $675,000.
  • Vanity license plates are ubiquitous in the Virginia, due to the aforementioned low price. You can barely drive a mile to the nearest grocery store and back anywhere in the commonwealth without seeing several.
  • It's been said that one way to tell if someone's a geek is to show them a Volkswagen Beetle with a vanity plate that says FEATURE and see if they laugh. note 
  • For the UK launch of the Porsche 928S, the company obtained the vanity plate "THE 928S", UK registration plates following at that time the ABC 123A format.
  • When cars are being roadtested in the UK, manufacturers tend to put a fake vanity plate on their press cars, as often shown on Top Gear. For example, all of Aston Martin's press cars bear the plate V12 AML (The 'L' referencing Lagonda, one of Aston Martin's marque's purchased in the late 1940's). Porsche 911's tend to have 911 GB.
  • Sighted recently in Portland OR: a fluorescent green compact, license plate "KERMIT".
  • Ask any of the 600,000 citizens of the german city Dortmund and chances are they have at least once seen a car with a license plate that read either "DOOM", "DOPE" or "DOOF" (dumb/stupid).
  • Dean Martin's said "DRUNKY."
  • With the increasing availability of electric and hybrid cars comes an upswing in vanity plates reading LOL GAS or similar.
    • A Prius in NY had one reading: "LE55 GA5".
  • When California first implemented 7 character personalized plates in the early 1980s, they had to hold a lottery as more than 300 people applied for the first 7-character plate to be issued: PORSCHE.
  • There is a car in Virginia with the license plate "OKCAHA." It is a Bilingual Bonus as in the Cyrillic alphabet "OKCAHA" reads as "Oksana," a Russian woman's name.
  • Amateur (ham) radio plates - amateur callsigns themselves can be vanity, occasionally leading to vanity vanity license plates.
    • Some jurisdictions even offer callsign plates at no additional charge over normal/randomly generated plates.
  • The Governor-General of Canada can use plates depicting the Governor-General's flag.
  • Matt Farrah of Drive.com once had a Shelby Cobra kit car with a vanity plate that read "Make U Poo" (with "POO" spelled "P00"). When asked how he was able to get away with it when he registered it, he said it was "officially" "MAKE UP 00." You can see the clip (and the reason for the vanity plates) here.
  • It's Older Than They Think! During the Red October era, Makhnovist anarchists often put "license plates" with Badass Creeds on their tachankas (horse-driven gun trucks). The variation most well known in folklore is "No Fuckin Way You'll Escape" on the front and "No Fuckin Way You'll Catch Me" on the rear.
  • In modern Russia, you cannot have true vanity plates with anything on them, but there are two other options. First, you can arrange with the motor registration office to have license plates which conform to the standard format (letter-three digits-two letters-region code) but nevertheless combine the letters and numbers into something funny or badass. Second, you can buy "fake license plates" which are worn in addition to the standard ones.
  • On an Acura Legend: "OF ZELDA" See here.
  • On a Cadillac with North Carolina plates, D0CWH0; and a Civic, ASUWISH, here.
  • At least one driver has a license plate called HSADIGA, which means "Fuck you". Presumably, the corresponding plate reads EEB 0 Y.
  • Nevada Kedavra!


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