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Vanity License Plate

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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.

In much of the world, one way national and local governments fund their public roads and highways is by charging an annual fee to every vehicle owner. The license plate which you see on every car is just proof that you've paid the fee, and the string of letters and numbers identifies each individual car. But one way to get a little more money is to offer, for a higher fee, the car owner the opportunity to customise that string of letters and numbers so that it reads something cool. This is the vanity plate.

It's a useful trope because it serves as a shorthand for the kind of character who would get one, usually someone with more money than sense and a lot of self-absorption. A Corrupt Corporate Executive might have one reading "BIG BOSS", a Jerk Jock might have "BEST QB", and an Upper-Class Twit might have "MY TOY". An obscenely rich character might have a number at the end to signify that he has more than one such car. Almost every Cool Car on TV has a vanity plate of some sort.

It's definitely a thing in real life, but it depends very much on where you are. In the United States, with its pervasive car culture, they tend to be easy to get and relatively cheap, and they're considered "mostly harmless" (if a mite gauche). California has one of the world's most famous car cultures and thus its most famous license plates, and for a period of time they even offered 8-character vanity license plates (more than basically anywhere else). Elsewhere in the world, though, license plates must follow a specific format, and vanity plates are either restricted to that format or not permitted at all. And even where it is allowed, it tends to be more expensive, so whoever owns a vanity plate is seen as an attention-seeking bore — compare how Americans treat vanity plates to how the British Top Gear hosts see them.

Also, on TV they tend to get away with more than you can in real life. Many vanity plates on TV have more characters than are allowed in real life, or they use invalid letter combinations that spell profanities that real life vehicle registration offices are all too experienced at catching.

See also Phone Word. Compare Bumper Sticker. Not to be confused with Vanity Plate, which is named after this but refers to something else entirely.

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


    open/close all folders 

  • An ad for the GSN show Inquizition featured the Inquizitor riding a motorcycle with the plate I QUIZ U.
  • An ad for a divorce-specialized law firm displayed a sport car with the license plate WAS HIS.

    Anime and Manga 
  • In Revolutionary Girl Utena, Akio Ohtori's Cool Car not only has a plate that says "OHTORI", but it actually bears his/his school's seal. In Adolescence of Utena, the people turned into cars all have their names on the plate — which introduces the uncomfortable possibility that Akio's Car is his ever-tired and much cheated-on fiancée, Kanae Ohtori.
  • 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)
  • In Love Hina Seta's van has the licence plate R2-D2.

    Asian Animation 
  • Crazy Candies: The cooking car Marshyo and Jackey drive in Season 6 has the license plate "FKXT", short for the series' Chinese title, Fengkuang Xiao Tang.

    Comic Books 
  • Robin (1993): 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.
  • In one Archie Comics strip, Reggie gets a new license plate for his car that says NUMBAH1. Archie becomes interested in buying one for his own car but doesn't think that any of Reggie's suggestions (CLOD, PIPSQK, YO-YO) or Veronica's (REDHED, R-CHEE) are right for him. The punchline comes when Archie learns that his car is being towed away and dashes outside in a panic, causing Jughead to comment that his plate should be FFFAAST instead.
  • Teen Titans Go!: Cyborg once had a car with CBG - 010 as a license plate. Surprisingly, it was before he became Cyborg.
  • Gotham Academy: Headmaster Hammer's roadster has a license plate personalized with his surname.
  • It's probably just a gag by the artist rather than intended to be the case in universe, but the Rivers of London comics give Peter's "Ford Asbo" the licence number ASB02.
  • Batwoman's Porsche Boxter has the plate RACER K.
  • Plants vs. Zombies: In the comics, Crazy Dave's license plate is SMTHNFNNY.
  • In ''Over the Garden Wall: Distillatoria," Jason Funderberker drives a car with the plate TTL-PACKG ("Total Package"). Presumably not in the real world, though.

    Comic Strips 
  • Bloom County
    • Steve Dallas drives a gold jeep in one strip with a license plate that spells out HORNY.
    • Opus had NTITLED (on a cool sports car) and HUM-HER (on a Hummer).
  • The Far Side: Godzilla has a car with a plate with "I 8 NY".

    Fan Works 

    Films — Animated 
  • 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 the Toy Story films. A113 is a common Pixar in-joke.
  • Becomes a plot point in Toy Story 2. After Al swipes Woody from Andy's mom, Buzz Lightyear tries to catch up to his car whose license plate reads "LZTYBRN". Buzz punches in different attempts in Mr. Spell before realizing it stands for "Al's Toy Barn" and that the culprit is Al, the owner who dresses up as a chicken in its commercials.
  • Oliver & Company: "DOBRMAN."
  • Monsters vs. Aliens: "XQU53M3" - "Excuse me".
  • 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 zip code 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.
  • 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 Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature: The Mayor has a license plate that reads MBZLN.
  • In Meet the Robinsons, Franny's frogs have their own little car with a plate that says "RIB-IT."
  • Minions: The Nelsons have one that reads LUV2ROB.
  • Zootopia: The street racer tearing up Savannah Central drives a sports car with a license plate that reads "FST NML".
  • The Boss Baby: Francis E. Francis, head of PuppyCo, has one on his limo reading "TOP DAWG."
  • In Onward, Barley's Guinevere van has one on it that reads "GWNIVER."
  • Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius: When Goddard changes into his flycycle mode, we see he has a rear plate reading "BAD DOG".
  • In Turning Red, the Lee family car has a plate that reads, "SYST3MS" in honor of all the hard work the Systems team did to allow filmmakers to work from home during the pandemic.
  • In The Super Mario Bros. Movie, the plate on Mario and Luigi's van reads "M4R10BR0".

    Films — Live-Action 
  • James Bond's Aston Martin DB 5 in Goldfinger has switchable plates, with JB 007 on its Swiss plate.
  • Ghostbusters
  • 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 DeLorean has OUTATIME (Out of Time) as its plate, which would not actually be legal in California due to character limits.
  • Johnny Storm's plates from the film Fantastic Four (2005) 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 Camaro has the plates SO COOL. The car and plates were actor Bradley Whitford's own, which he was permitted to use as compensation for being 26 and having to play a high-school student.
  • 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 (1996) 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 & 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 ("SNAPON")note  and Scrimshaw's Rolls-Royce ("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".
  • Jeepers Creepers: Being an inhuman purple man-eating winged monster, the truck driver 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.
  • George Lucas likes to reference THX 1138:
  • Jon Favreau's license plate in Swingers is "THX1138".
  • All the vehicles in Sesame Street Presents: 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 Catchphrase).
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • In the opening scene of Kick-Ass, a KICK-ASS license plate is showing on the crushed taxi in the opening scene.
  • In Kick-Ass 2, Hit Girl's motorcycle plate reads "HIT N RUN".
  • In Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, Katherine Brewster's van reads "PET DOC 2".
  • In the closing scene of The Cobbler, Max's father rides a limousine with the license plate "2Cobble".
  • As part of the backstory of Ant-Man, Scott Lang stole embezzled money back from a Corrupt Corporate Executive and drove the businessman's car into his pool. A tie-in viral video showing security footage of the theft shows that said car had a plate with "ONEPR¢R" (one-percenter).
  • In Mannequin, Hollywood's plate reads "BADGIRL".
  • In Suicide Squad (2016), the Joker's plate reads "HAHAHA".
  • In Ferris Bueller's Day Off, the license plate on Mr. Frye's Ferrari says "NRVOUS", which perfectly describes Cameron throughout the movie.
  • Charlie's Angels (2000): Corwin's reads CORWIN with the "win" part underlined.
  • At the end of Julia X, Jessica drives off in a car with license plate reading "JULIA Y".
  • In Joyful Noise, G. G.'s license plate says "GRGS GMA" (Gorgeous Grandma).
  • In The Peanut Butter Falcon, the Salt Water Redneck's license plate says "R3DN3CK."
  • In the German comedy film Bang Boom Bang, the protagonist has a car with a license plate that reads "DOPE". Of course, he is a frequent marijuana smoker.
  • 10: Samantha Taylor's license plate reads "SAM 1". George Webber's license plate reads "ASCAP". This acronym stands for the "American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers" - the guild for songwriters, which is appropriate since George is a composer.
  • In Voyage of the Rock Aliens, the Pack's convertible's license plate reads "THE PACK."
  • In The Hustle, Penny scams a man whose license plate says "BALLER."
  • In Hunk, when O'Brien transforms Bradley into the hunky Hunk Golden, the package deal includes a new Maseratti with avanity plate reading (what else?) 'HUNK'.
  • In You and Your Stupid Mate, Peter Rossiter, who works for the unemployment office, has a license plate that says "JOBS4U1."
  • Bedazzled (2000): Elizabeth Hurley's Devil drives a Lamborghini Diablo with the license plate "BAD 1". During Elliot's first wish there's a helicopter with the registration number "1GR8DVL".
  • In Nightmare at Noon, attorney Ken Griffiths has a plate that says "I SUE U."
  • In The Tripper, Jimmy, Samantha's conservative Republican ex-boyfriend, drives an SUV with a license plate reading 'REDST8'. This allows Sam to spot his car in the parking lot at the festival.
  • Return to the Batcave: The Misadventures of Adam and Burt: Adam West, playing himself, has a plate that reads "KAPOWWW!"
  • In The Big Lebowski, Bunny's license plate says "LAPIN," which is French for "rabbit."
  • Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers: Reverend Jackson P. Sayer's plate reads "AMEN".
  • The Killer (2023). The Killer tracks down The Client, a billionaire living in New York City, and has little difficulty stalking his target thanks to this trope.
    The Killer: The thing about real wealth, the more you've got, the harder it is to fade into the wallpaper. Of course, vanity plates don't help.
  • Boiler Room: One of the senior brokers at fraudulent chop-shop brokerage firm J.T. Marlin has a plate that says "2 RIP", a reference to the excessively high commission fees the Marlin shysters earn on their lousy stock deals.

  • 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.
  • Deconstructed in Red Storm Rising, where The Captain of the USS Pharris gets a license plate with its hull number (FF-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 includes 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.
  • The plates on defense lawyer Mickey Haller's Lincolns include: NTGLTY and IWALKEM
    • The "NT GUILTY" plate takes on special resonance for Haller in The Law of Innocence, after he himself was arrested and charged for a murder he didn't commit.
  • In the Bailey School Kids book Santa Claus Doesn't Mop Floors, Mr. Jolly's car has the plate HOHOHO.
  • Serge Storms: A minor character 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.
  • The Golden Hamster Saga: One of the illustrations in Freddy in Peril shows Professor Fleischkopf's license plate as saying "TST TUBE."
  • The Night Fire: 14U24ME or, as Ballard calls it, one for you, two for me.
  • A Series of Unfortunate Events: According to the illustrations, Count Olaf’s says IH8ORFNS.
  • In Grass and Sky, Grampy's jeep has a license plate that says "GOFISH."
  • In Zenobia July, Melissa's mom is a devout Christian whose license plate says "SOGR8FL."
  • In Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Sleigh!, Santa's sleigh has a license plate reading "HOX3." (Ho x 3 - i.e. "Ho ho ho.")

    Live Action TV  
  • KITT from Knight Rider has KNIGHT as a vanity plate.
    • As one of the many James-Bond-vehicle-like features 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.
    • A later car had one that said NODOUDT. (Adam made a point of pronouncing the second D). Jamie rigged that car with a device to change the plate, and used the old and by-then-expired ENVY DIS plate as the second plate.
    • 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. 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 Frasier 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 (1966) 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", video game-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".
  • Seinfeld: In "The Fusilli Jerry", Kramer mistakenly receives a plate that read "ASSMAN". The DMV refuses to correct the mistake, forcing him to keep it, and people on the street love it. "Hey, the Assman's in town!" "You know it!" Jerry, George and Kramer speculate who would order such a plate. 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.
  • Todd 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".
  • The series Matlock featured a title sequence concluding with Andy Griffith as the title character standing up beside his Cool Car Crown Victoria and a closeup of the front number plate reading MATLOCK. Funny thing: the US state of Georgia does not use front number plates.
  • Carbug, the Starbug-shaped smartcar in Red Dwarf: Back To Earth, has the licence number ST4 B11G.
  • In Supernatural, the Horsemen of the Apocalypse have kept up with the times and upgraded from riding actual horses to driving cars named after horses, and we saw two had vanity plates. Pestilence's is 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 has the plate "DA BOMB". Later on, the plate gets changed to "SAMMO".
    • 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...
  • 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 L.A. 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.
    • Gretchen Schwarz's car has GRAYMTR, a reference to Gray Matter, the firm she owns with Elliot, where Walt was a third partner before he sold his shares and the company went on to be worth billions. To rub salt in the wound, the car is a Bentley.
  • 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. Reading the plate as two four letter words shows just what a poor choice this was...
  • The Creepy Mortician Dennis Rainbird from Midsomer Murders has a Porsche with a custom license plate reading "RIP".
  • In one episode of Ramsey's Kitchen Nightmares, Gordon Ramsey went to help out a struggling restaurant whose head chef had bought himself an expensive car with the license plate "A1 CHEF". Gordon told him that he'd have been better off spending the money on cooking lessons.
  • One parody of The Famous Five by Russ Abbot has the Obviously Evil smugglers using the registration plate "SMUG 1", while the local dentist has "DENT 15T".
  • In an episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Skye scams a finance guy to track HYDRA's money trail. His license: "$BILS YAL" (Dollar Bills, Y'all).
  • In Speechless, Maya's car has the plate "SHE NUTS". Possibly subverted, however, as one cop states that she didn't ask for it - the DMV had heard about her and just gave it to her.
  • In The Magician, Tony drives a white Corvette with the licence plate 'SPIRIT'.
  • According to The Good Place having a personal license plate costs you afterlife points and increases your chances of being sent to the Bad Place. Jason Mendoza, a petty criminal from Jacksonville, cheerfully admits to having the license plate "I LUV BUTTS" which doesn't help his case as he's supposed to be proving that he should stay in the Good Place.
  • The Twilight Zone (1985): In "The Leprechaun-Artist", the "really hot" car that the Leprechaun Shawn McGool conjures up for Buddy, J.P. and Richie for their third and final wish has the license plate "Third Wish."
  • The first episode of the second season of American Gods opens with a golfer taking out his equipment from his car, which has the very on-the-nose license plate that says "PAR TEE" ("par" and "tee" being golfing terms).
  • Scoundrels (2010): Mr. Hong's car plate reads "The Hongs".
  • Lucifer's Chevrolet Corvette has plates reading "FALL1N 1" (Fallen One).
  • On It's Me or the Dog, host / dog trainer Victoria Stilwell is sometimes seen in a vehicle with a license plate that reads simply "DOG."

  • MAD had an article that assigned them to historical and fictional characters. For instance, Vincent Van Gogh had GO VAN GOGH, Gunga Din had H20TOGO and General Patton had one with obscenity symbols.

  • AC/DC's "Sink The Pink" video features a lady pool hustler with "SUZY CUE" on her license plate.
  • Greg Kihn's video for "Jeopardy" ends with him and his wife (the video depicts a wedding) driving off in a black convertible with the license plate "LIPS".
    • This would get parodied as well in "Weird Al" Yankovic's "I Lost On Jeopardy". At the end of the video, when Al gets thrown out of the TV studio, he lands in the back of the convertible from the original video (with Kihn winking to the camera briefly), only now the license plate reads "LOSER".
  • In "Weird Al" Yankovic's "Tacky", the narrator's car has a "YOLO" license plate (along with a whopping 43 bumper stickers).
  • When Squeeze appeared on The Old Grey Whistle Test, Jools Holland made an announcement asking the person with license plate "PEN1S" to move their car as it was in a fire zone. The band thought it was hilarious, but the audience didn't react.


    Puppet Shows 
  • Roland Rat's Ratmobile, first introduced in 1983's Rat on the Road had the licence number RAT 1.
  • S.A.M. the Robot from Sesame Street has one on his back that says "ABC-123".
  • In Thunderbirds, Lady Penelope's pink Rolls Royce has the licence FAB 1, referring to International Rescue's "F.A.B." callsign.
  • In Muppets Haunted Mansion, the car that drops Gonzo and Pepe off at the titular mansion has a plate that reads "2DIE4". At the end, when it picks them up, the plate has been changed to "D-END".


  • Transformers often have humourous or meaningful license plates:
    • 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 
  • Bayonetta:
    • Enzo's plate reads "ED N EDNA", the names of his children.
    • Jeanne's motorcycle plate reads "U1 QTJ" (Umbra #1 Cutie J).
  • Dr. Cortex's mooks in the motorcycle levels of Crash Bandicoot 3: Warped drive cars with license plates that read CRTX.
  • 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.
  • The red car in Death Rally's intro and title screen has the custom plate 2BAD
  • In Disney Speedstorm, you can collect four or five vanity plates for each character and use them to customize their karts. For instance, Goofy's possible plates say "GOOFY", "AHYUCK", "GAWRSH", and "WA HOO E".
  • Euro Truck Simulator lets you customize your driver and co-pilot's plates. You can also set your own truck's plate to say anything you want, and can choose any of the in-game country or state plates as the backing.
  • In The Godfather 2, the cars waiting for your use at your safehouses or compounds usually have "GDF-250" or some variant thereof.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Vladimir Lem's license plate in Max Payne reads "VODKA".
  • Midnight Club 3 let players customise their licence plates, giving them the option of using the plates of all 50 states, plus historical plates for the three states whose cities are represented in-game (California, Georgia and Michigan).
  • 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 ProStreet. 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.
    • Criterion Games' Most Wanted (2012) is the first game to bring truly customizable license plates to the series.
    • The entries developed by Ghost Games allowed players to change the background design (with the Racer designs in Rivals being used in every subsequent game since) and even add a frame to them. The 2015 reboot also added a real license plate design for the first time, though it was only California where that game's fictional Ventura Bay is set.
    • After they took back the reins, Criterion maintained Ghost Games' license plate designs and most of their frames. For their first new original entry Unbound, they added the real license plates of all fifty U.S. states, Washington, D.C., American Samoa, and even a couple of Japanese designs (including the red slash design used for unregistered vehicles with temporary registration, which has a history with Japan's street car culture).
  • The license plate on the Platypaws car mount in Ni No Kuni: Cross Worlds reads NK20210610 which is the original release date of the game - June 10, 2021.
  • Roadhog from Overwatch wears a Greater Australia license plate on his belt that says "ROADR8GE". His "Rudolph" skin turns it to "HOHOHOG".
  • In the Paranormal Files game series, protagonist Rick's car has a license plate bearing his last name, ROGERS.
  • The license plate at Crazy Dave's shop in Plants vs. Zombies frequently changes, but always reads something funny.
  • Rise Of The Triad 2013 has a few army-style trucks with the plates "R077 F7W".
  • Twisted Metal 1 & 2 have car license plates that reflect the over-the-top personalities of the drivers or just the vehicle itself. Thanks to the hardware limitations of the original Playstation, they don't show up on the cars' in-game models and are only detailed in the manual. For example:
    • There's ISKREEM for the ice cream truck Sweet Tooth, DRYVBY and NRSITYMN (inner-city man) for gang-banger Bruce Cochrane and SOLTAKR for the grim reaper's motorcycle, just to name a few.
    • The most complex one is REV13:10, Axel's license plate. It refers to a specific passage within the Book of Relevations in the Bible that calls for endurance and faith in the most dire of situations. Situations like being trapped inside an infernal 2-wheeled death machine as Axel is are probably not what the writer of that passage had in mind, but when your life is a living hell, you need all the faith you can get.
  • The license plate of the Hellbender Jeep in Unreal Tournament 2004 changes to the driver's name, dropping vowels to fit if needed.
  • Watch_Dogs: Aiden Pearce occasionally drives a silver car with the license plate "N3X U5 ", which a reference to the game's working title "Nexus". Additionally, JB "Defalt" Markowicz and Dermot "Lucky" Quinn use "D3F 4L7" and "LUC KYQ" as their plate numbers, respectively.
  • In World of Warcraft, the Mekgineer's Chopper / Mechano-Hog (different factions' versions of the same motorcycle) has a plate on the back reading PWN.


    Web Original 
  • Kitboga is a scambaiter popular on Twitch and YouTube. He often uses green-screened backgrounds as part of his videos. One of these backgrounds features him inside a car with a license plate that reads "kitboga" for the state and the vanity plate number "NOSC4MBR0."

    Western Animation 
  • Batman: The Animated Series
    • The Stinger of one episode showed Penguin making license plates in prison, after his attempt to extort the identity of Batman from the Batmobile's mechanic/co-creator. He 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 Simpsons:
    • The Comic Book Guy 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 off-handedly mentions that the "Bort" license plates sold out. (Truth in Television now at The "Simpsons Land" at Universal Studios Florida. If you go to the Gift shop, built into a Kwik-E-Mart, you can find a large stand of novelty mini plates, and yes, the peg for "Bort" is ALWAYS sold out.)
  • Duckman's license plate reads "PSSDOFF"
  • Futurama: Bender has a vanity plate on his shiny metal ass that reads "1DVS BSTD", short for "One Devious Bastard".
  • In the Flash show Gotham Girls, Ivy's plate is BADSEED.
  • In the early-1990s X-Men: The Animated Series cartoon, Professor Xavier's car had the license plate "THX 1138".
  • Postman Pat: The number plates on 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."
    • Quagmire has BUSHMAN.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants:
    • 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"
    • SpongeBob made one for Patrick's new boat that reads "PALS 4-EVER" in "Driven to Tears", before it's revealed Patrick trashed it.
  • 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 Dilbert, Dilbert's license plate reads "DILCAR."
  • An episode of ALF Tales has ALF has 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.
  • Gravity Falls:
    • Grunkle Stan drives a car with "STNLYMBL" ("Stanley Mobile") as the license plate. That it shows his name as short for "Stanley" even when Gideon calls him "Stanford" was a big hint that Stan pulled a Twin Switch.
    • Soos' car has a license plate reading "FIXINIT1", a call back to the "Fixin' it With Soos" shorts.
  • Lady Penelope's Rolls Royce in Thunderbirds had the plate 'FAB 1', "F.A.B" being a seemingly-meaningless Catchphrase of the titular organisation.
  • In the Merrie Melodies short "Little Red Walking Hood," the Wolf attempts to flirt with Red by turning his license plate—which reads 07734—over, where it now reads "HELLO."
  • In Littlest Pet Shop (2012), Fisher Biskit's limo's plate reads "LARGEST EV*R".
  • A flashback in King of the Hill shows Boomhauer's 1965 Mustang (before Dale drove it into a flooded quarry) had the license plate "MSSALLY" ("Ms. Sally"), after the Wilson Pickett song "Mustang Sally".
  • Archer: In season four, Archer buys a new Chevy El Camino with the plates "SPY GUY", being an Overt Operative. Occasionally "ISIS", the name of Archer's agency (until season six), appears on vehicle plates, such as the limo at Mallory's wedding in season four.
  • Kaeloo: Any car the main four have will have the letters PTM on its license plate. PTM stands for "Pays Trop Mignon", the name of the place the characters live in the French dub.
  • Be Cool, Scooby-Doo!: In "Ghost in the Mystery Machine", the heroes need a new vehicle and Daphne gives them one with a license plate that reads "EATMYDST".
  • Justice League: In "Secret Society", Giganta's plate reads "BIG BONED".
  • In one Robot Chicken sketch, a teenage boy is delighted to get a car for his birthday... until he realizes his dad pranked him by making the license plate "I ♥ PENIS". The dad then says, "Wait, that's my car. Yours is over there," and points to an identical car. The boy briefly gets excited again... until he notices that this license plate says "MY DAD ♥ PENIS".
  • In the Looney Tunes short "Porky's Romance", when he marries Petunia in a Fantasy Sequence, the car they drive off in has the license plate 130013, which due to the font used, looks like “BOOB”.
  • DC Super Hero Girls 2019: Commissioner Gordon's license plate reads COMMISH.
  • The Flintstone Kids: In "Freddy in the Big House", there's a license plate reading IMA CHEAT. It was ordered by Rocky.
  • Rugrats (1991):
    • In "Ruthless Tommy", Tommy is captured by Bob and Mike, a pair of criminals who mistake him for the son of millionaire Ronald Thump. The license plate on Bob and Mike's car is revealed to say "BRGLRS".
    • In "Monster in the Garage", Tommy explores the garage to find the titular monster who has been wrecking it and giving Spike the blame. The license plate on the Pickles' car says "PKLS".
    • In "No Bones About it", Grandpa Lou is revealed to have a license plate that says "I'MOLD" on his car.
    • In "Runaway Angelica", Angelica drives to Tommy's house in her toy car after Drew punishes her for making a mess of his office. The license plate on her toy car says "ANGEL1".

    Real Life 
  • Many jurisdictions in North America also have a provision for ham radio operators to get a license-plate with their radio call-sign on it; operators are required to provide a copy of their amateur radio license from their jurisdiction's issuing agency (i.e. the FCC in the United States or ISED Canada in Canada) . Some even feature the words "amateur radio" or the international ham-radio symbol on the plate as well. Unsurprisingly, vehicles with such a plate tend to be bristling with radio antennae attached to the vehicle-body. Many times, ham-radio operators are also given a discount on their license-plate fees because as amateur-radio operators they also perform a community-service during times of emergency (aiding in communications when the ordinary communication-channels are out-of-service).
  • The United States and Canada are considered basically the friendliest places in the world for vanity plates. In a number of other places, they're either not allowed entirely or must follow a specific format. Many places have a specific numbering scheme that allows you to easily tell based on the license plate information like which specific vehicle registration office issued it, which year (or even month) the vehicle was registered, or what type of vehicle it is (is it a car, a motorbike, an eighteen-wheeler?). However, in a few places, there are ways to get creative:
    • Germany is strict about this (what else is new?) — the first group of letters denotes the county (or Kreis) where the car is registered, and after that there must be a dash (and often a couple of fancy stickers), and then a sequence of two letters followed by between one and four digits. However, if you're willing to pay up and can fit your combination in that scheme, you can get a vanity license plate with a custom combination after the dash. Because certain localities have two- or even-three letter indicators followed by two more letters, this can lead to looking for specific localities to make the right pun. A few counties have been abolished and annexed by their neighbours in administrative shuffles, but these days you are still allowed to register a car in a formerly-existing county and use its former code if you ask nicely. It's still a bit limited — you can't use I, O, or Q as letters (so as not to be mistaken for 0 or 1), and a few politically sensitive letter combos are also forbidden (like "SS", "SA", or "NS"). In a few places, the Germans have pre-empted the obvious naughty ones (can't have a combo starting with EX in Stuttgart to get "S - EX", or with XY in Segeberg to get "SE - XY"). People have learned the distinctions quite well:
      • A few cities have distinctive combinations for test registrations — commonly used on locally-made cars for testing or promotional purposes. If you want your fancy-pants BMW to look really nice in a commercial, even around the world, you give it an "M - " test registration, showing it came straight out of the BMW design shop in Munich. A few experimental cars even have special local sequences, such as Audi TT cars (which start with "XY - TT").
      • Fans of Knight Rider in Germany make an effort to register their K.I.T.T. clones in Kiel, so that you can get "KI - TT xxx".
      • Dortmund offers a few somewhat sophomoric combinations with its code "DO"; it's not uncommon to see license plates with "DO - OM", "DO - PE", or "DO - OF" (meaning "stupid").
      • Even local governments occasionally get in on the pun thread. In the 1980s, the city of Essen used "E - AT xxx" for their buses, in part because "essen" is German for "to eat".
    • In Malaysia, private cars must have a certain combination of letters and numbers, but owners are permitted to choose the sequence of numbers. "Number booking" is usually a nod to the Chinese community, who can make interesting homophones with certain number combinations and have other numbers they prefer to avoid. A few buyers can make some pretty outstanding words in Leet Speak when combined with the surrounding letters. The main exception is that the government will issue vanity plates for a government-sanctioned project, which has led to plates like "BAMBEE", "PROTON", "PERODUA", "XIII OIC", "IM4U", and "PUTRAJAYA".
    • In the UK, license plates have three sections; the first for the issuing office, the second for exact age of the car, and the third for the specific car, leading to a car from London having "LA51AAA". This is actually quite useful, because the number sequence makes it easy to tell exactly how old a given car is ("01" would have been March-September 2001, "51" September 2001 to March 2002, and so on). However, if you're willing to pay a fair amount of money, you can bypass this scheme and get a vanity license plate — and it's actually easier to just get a real word than a different string of characters in the same format (to prevent people from hiding the true age of the car). There does have to be at least one digit in the custom plate, but the font on the license plates makes things easier, as the "1" and "I" look exactly the same, as do the "0" and "O", so it makes a few more combinations possible. Ireland uses a very similar system in a different order (e.g. 01-D-1234, with the year going first and the issuing office second).
    • In Romania, the specific sequence is "XX-12-YYY" or "XX-123-YYY", with "XX" being for the issuing county. But the numbers and letters can be customized for a small fee, as long as they fit within the scheme. If you're good with Leet Speak, you can get a nice custom plate — it culminated in a rap singer getting "B-505-UGI", where "so sugi" means roughly "suck it".
    • In Brazil, license plates have a fixed format of three letters and four digits. Furthermore, the first three letters are assigned in blocks to different states. However, within that scheme, you can choose whichever combination you want, as long as it's available and you're in the right state, and best of all, it's free. If you happen to be in São Paulo, where license plates can start with "B", it seems like every damn BMW has "BMW-xxxx" on it.
    • In Israel, there are no vanity plates at all for two reasons — first, all license plates are numbers only (except for special vehicles), and second, license plates cannot be changed from car to car, so it would be a huge pain in the ass to allow them.
    • In Russia, the sequence is "X-123-XX", with a separate three-digit region code. Not only must the license plate be in that format, but the letters are also limited to those that exist in both the Latin and Cyrillic alphabets — A, B, C, E, H, K, M, O, P, T, X, and Y (spelled "У"). (No, The Backwards Я doesn't count.) But within that narrow framework, you can get a custom plate, which can still be arranged into something funny or badass. And most people just buy "fake license plates" which are worn in addition to the standard ones as a sort of elaborate bumper sticker.
    • Vanity plates are not allowed in India, and the sequence is generally "XX-12-1234" or "XX-12-YY-1234", with "XX" being the for the issuing state. The first two digits are the vehicle registration office number that is allocated to a certain district, but due to the heavy volume of vehicle registration in recent years, many districts now have two or more vehicle registration offices. When the initial 9999 numbers are used up, the letter A is then added before the next unique 4 digit number and the cycle then repeats once the letter A is exhausted. In some states, the one or two letters also display the type of vehicle. While the last four digits are uniquely assigned to each vehicle, owners wanting a certain unique number such as 0001, 0786, or 3333 typically pay higher plate registration fees.
    • While vanity plates have been allowed in Hong Kong since 2006 (extending a tradition where the government withholds standard plate numbers with numbers that Chinese considered lucky for auction) and the rules are relatively liberal (8 characters, no I, O, or Q), there's one extra implication here: to avoid the plate being undersold, an application for a vanity plate merely means the applicant is suggesting the authorities to issue this plate and guarantee they will pay HKD 5,000 for it. There will still be a public auction on every plate issued that way, and some numbers can be really competitive: "1 L 0 VE Y 0 U" got issued for HKD 1,400,000 (USD 180,000), and even "GUNDAM" got HKD 110,000 (USD 14,000).
  • Vanity plates can lead to combinations that interact with other elements on the license plate (or even the car itself) in unexpected ways. Sometimes, this is just for cool effect. Other times, it's completely unintentional. And of course, in other cases, this is exactly what the owner is going for.
    • A woman in Denver, seeking to express her love of tofu, asked for "ILVTOFU". The Colorado DMV parsed it as "I LV TO F U" and denied it.
    • Spotted on an Infiniti SUV: "NBEYOND". Should have put a bumper sticker with a "2" on it.
    • In Florida (where else?), this happened once by accident — a normally-issued license plate had the combination "A55 RGY". It naturally became the most famous plate on the Internet. Not only did the government people not pick up on how "A55" might as well be "ASS", they didn't notice that in the middle of it was a big orange that could be read as an "O". And this was the generic plate design used on every car in Florida. Whoops. It was bad enough that the state changed the design.
    • In a couple of places in America, cars have been spotted with "3M TA3". It doesn't mean much — until it's behind you and you see it in the rear-view mirror, at which point it reads "EAT ME". If it's a tiny car, it might be endearing. At least one car that used it was a massive truck.
    • Virginia had a special plate design for child abuse prevention reading "Kids First" at the bottom. Someone used this design for their vanity plate: "EAT THE".
    • A geek joke: get a Volkswagen Beetle with a vanity plate reading "FEATURE". That way, you can say that "it's not a bug, it's a feature!"
    • A white VW Rabbit with plates reading "IM LATE" has been spotted as early as the rec.humor.funny days on the Internet.
    • Matt Farrah of once described his experience with a Shelby Cobra kit car with the vanity plate "MAKE U P00". That certainly warned him what he was in for. He said he was able to get away with it by "officially" asking for "MAKE UP 00".
    • On an Acura Legend: "OF ZELDA".
    • On a car in Nevada: "KEDAVRA". Presumably driven by He Who Must Not Be Ticketed.
    • The New Hampshire license plate has a picture of a moose on it: "&SQRRL".
  • Almost every state in the U.S. has special designs for their license plates. They were already very distinctive and colourful (compared to the boring European sameness), but you can make them much more colourful and interesting. Sometimes they even remove some of the alphanumeric characters to fit in a special design, which could range from a special designation for war veterans, support for a charity project (usually with the extra fee for the plate going to the charity), or something as banal as your favourite sports team. Whether this is seen as awesome or self-aggrandising depends on the design and the state in question. The king of custom designs is Virginia, which will essentially make any plate design that has at least 300 people signed up for it, and which accordingly has a dizzying variety of them, including for fox hunting, bowling, Class J No. 611 steam locomotive, and credit unions.
  • Given the range of possibilities for vanity plates in the U.S. and the country's famous protections for freedom of expression, sometimes it's a bit of a game to see what you can actually get away with. It's a bit of a thorny subject in some places:
    • A few states actually have Confederate battle flag designs available as possible vanity plates for the Sons of Confederate Veterans organization. When the SCV tried to get Texas to approve a battle flag license plate, Texas denied it; when the SCV sued, claiming that it violated their right to free expression under the First Amendment, the U.S. Supreme Court shot them down saying in the end, it's the government who's talking, because it's the government who owns the plate design — and if the government doesn't want you to have it anymore, you don't get it anymore.
    • The text of the vanity plate is protected speech and cannot be restricted just because it's politically inexpedient. This is how a court held it was unconstitutional for Virginia to recall a vanity plate reading "GOVT SUX".
    • A woman in Utah wanted "GAYSROK" (which could be either "gays are ok" or "gays rock", not that it makes much of a difference), and the state took a while to decide whether or not it was offensive. They eventually decided it wasn't.
    • Washington, D.C. accidentally approved a plate reading "MERDE", without realizing what it meant. It's French for "shit".
    • In 2007, a retired New York police officer received some media attention because the DMV had rejected his application for a plate that said "GETOSAMA". He successfully sued the state and got his plate, and he later secured another plate reading "GOTOSAMA" after Bin Laden was found and killed.
  • In many places, license plates with very low numbers are reserved for high-ranking officials. The number "1" is obviously one of the most prestigious you can get, and in most places it's for the head of government in that region — so it might be the country's prime minister, or the state's governor, or the province's premier, or in Washington, D.C.'s case, the mayor. In other places, it might be the nominal head of state — not necessarily the most powerful person, but the most symbolic person.
    • The Governor of California's "1" license plate made it quite funny when around 1990, he was ticketed for speeding.
    • One Mayor of the District of Columbia, Sharon Pratt Kelly, assigned the number "1" to her father's car, and her official limousine got the license tag "ONE".
    • In a number of U.S. states, members of the state legislature get a number on their official car corresponding to the number of the district they represent (which is almost always a one-, two-, or at most three-digit number).
    • The official limousine used by the President of the United States historically reads "USA-1". In the past, it was a special U.S. federal government plate, but that changed to the standard District of Columbia plate. This led to a little bit of hilarity, as since 2000, DC plates have borne the provocative slogan "Taxation Without Representation" (protesting how DC residents pay federal income taxes but have no representation in Congress), later amended to "End Taxation Without Representation" — you can pay to get plates without the slogan; only two presidents have done that so far: George W. Bush and Donald Trump (who had the plates changed after two years in office).
    • The President of the Philippines gets "1000" on their official car.
    • The Germans require a dash even on the official license plates — but instead of the usual letter combinations, the locality designator is just a 0, and on the other side of the dash you just have numbers. This is how the President's car had "0-1".
    • In Singapore, all license plates start with "S" (a relic of the old system from when it was still a part of Malaysia), so the president's car has "S1".
    • In Ireland, all plates must follow the system listed above, but since the last section is a simple number sequence, it's easy to just tack a low number on there. For instance, the Lord Mayor of Dublin traditionally gets "01-D-1" (the first number counting upward every time he gets a new car).
    • In Lebanon, the general rule of thumb is that numbers lower than about 200 are reserved for state officials, and low numbers in the 200-900 range are for people with more money than sense who want to make it look like they're really important. A number plate in the 200-300 range goes for about €17,000. It's a nice little revenue source for the government.
    • The state of Delaware has a weird variety, as only numbers 1 through 3 are reserved for government officials (governor, lieutenant governor, and secretary of state), and they just started issuing the rest at number 4. They figured they might as well; it's the fifth-smallest state in the country by population (even now they generally don't use letters, just six digits). This has led to otherwise unremarkable private car license plates becoming ridiculously valuable — plate #6 was auctioned off for $675,000.
    • New Jersey has three spins on this, two kinda normal/boring, and one quite interesting:
      • Like many states, high-ranking state officials (like the governor) get plates with low numbers. This is normal and (again) kinda boring.
      • N.J. also has special series of plates for things like legislators, judges, and the surrogate (a quasi-judicial official in charge of probate matters) in each county. The plate generally has a code that identifies the county and a fairly low number, and also generally has a full-color rendition of the state seal in the center. However, this style has fallen out of favor since the early 2000s as officeholders decided that the plates, while kinda cool, made them and their vehicles targets for disgruntled constituents and litigants.
      • N.J.'s most interesting plates are the "courtesy" plates. What makes them interesting is that if you don't know what you're looking at, they are completely ordinary-looking. The only thing that distinguishes them from standard NJ plates is that instead of taking the form "ABC 123",note  the number takes the form "ABC 1" or "ABC 12". Oh, and the numeric part can only go up to "20". That's it. But plates in this format can only be issued on the personal approval of the driver's state senator, so they are only issued to friends and allies of those state senators. The New Jersey Senate has 40 members—for an overall population of nearly 9 million. Thus to someone who does know what they're looking at—including most New Jerseyans and all Jersey cops—courtesy plates mean "if you f**k with me, you're f**king with a senator." On the customization front, while the "A" in the "ABC 12" is assigned to the driver's county of residence,note  the remaining two alphabetic characters are customizable and usually chosen to match the driver's initials.
  • In some places, very high-ranking officials get plates with no alpha-numeric characters at all — they just get a symbol. The reigning British monarch and their family get red plates with a crown (which is replicated whenever he goes to one of the other places where he’s King, like Canada or Australia). The Emperor of Japan and his family get plates with the chrystanthenum emblem of the Imperial family.
  • In some cases, a vanity license plate can cause errors because they activate keywords that stand in for license plate errors in official reports — usually along the lines of "NONE" being a real plate when this is also used to denote cars without plates at all. Since such cars tend to get written up in police reports, whoever owns that vanity plate is usually in a lot of trouble:
    • A man looking for a vanity plate was asked to list his top three choices and wrote in "BOATING", "SAILING", and "NO PLATE" — the latter because he wanted to say that if neither of the first two were available, they should just give him a regular plate like everyone else. A couple of weeks later, he received plates reading "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 police's practice of writing "no tags" on parking tickets of vehicles without license plates led to a single guy, who had DC plates reading "NO TAGS", collecting thousands of dollars in parking tickets. An exposé by a local TV station eventually led to the city's Department of Motor Vehicles to order police to stop the practice.
    • A guy in California did this deliberately to try and get out of tickets by getting a plate reading "NONE", thinking he wouldn't have to pay his own tickets. Not only did he end up paying for everyone else who didn't have plates at all, he still ended up paying for his own — and had a lot of trouble getting out of it.
      • Another man in California got "NULL", with a similar result (any tickets that the computer failed to parse correctly were assigned to him).
  • Other specific famous vanity plates:
    • Tim Conway had the plate "13WEEKS", referring to how long his attempted sitcoms tended to last.
    • A Polish poet living in the U.S. had "THERE IS", his attempt at creating the shortest poem that can fit on a vanity license plate.
    • British magician and game show host Paul Daniels had the number plate "MAG1C". This was noted on an episode of Have I Got News for You.
    • Dean Martin's said "DRUNKY".
    • 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.
    • Late 20th century British politician Sir Gerald Nabarro was famous for two things: his luxuriant moustache, and his eight cars with number plates running "NAB 1" through "NAB 8". His career was marred by a scandal involving a traffic violation in one of the cars, but that's another story.
    • Bandleader Lawrence Welk reportedly had "A1ANA2".
    • Gorilla Monsoon eventually got a plate that read "KAYFABE". It's a matter of debate whether it actually breaks kayfabe; the only people who would be surprised by it probably don't get it, so it probably doesn't.
  • It's not limited to cars, either — it can happen with aircraft registrations, too. Those are more internationally specified, in the sense that the first one or two characters must be the same for all aircraft registered in the country (e.g. "N" for the United States, "F" for France, "G" for Britain", "D" for Germany, "JA" for Japan). After that, it's up to the country — some use only numbers, some use a combination of letters and numbers, and many use a series of three or even four letters. If you're a private aircraft owner, this gives you some options:
    • Top Gear's James May has a plane registered in Britain as "G-OCOK".
    • When the Isle of Man was awarded the "M-" registration, a lot of rich people who don't live there but might keep their money there registered private aircraft with a lot of possibilities to choose from, leading to things like "M-ONEY" and "M-YTOY".
    • Even commercial airlines can get in on the act. While most like to have a very regular sequential registration scheme, the short-lived Icelandic carrier Wow Air had a bunch of "clever" registrations (after the Icelandic "TF-" header), leading to aircraft named "MOM", "DAD", "BRO", "SIS", "SON", "DTR", and even "CAT" and "DOG". They had a whole family! They also had "TF-GAY", which raised a couple of eyebrows (might have caused some issues if they ever flew that one to certain countries).


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Vanity Licence Plate, Vanity Number Plate



Roddy gets to his Subaru WRX STi. He boasts about his license plate BI6 ROD. Lamb's not impressed, but Rod thinks it can bag him girls.

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5 (3 votes)

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Main / VanityLicensePlate

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