State License Plates, Ranked
Does America's obsession with car culture and style extend all the way to vehicle registration plates? Yes....and no.
Before we even get started here, I’d like to get something out of the way: I’m not what you’d call a “car person.” If I had my way, I would simply never drive one ever again. Despite that fact, since moving from New York City to the biggest car city in the world (Los Angeles) a few years ago, everything about cars has become a much bigger part of my everyday life. And while I still regard them as mostly a nuisance and necessary evil, I find that there is one little treat to be had among the garbage pile of our automotive world: license plates, and in particular, vanity plates.
I don’t want to get too sentimental about it, but my god, what a sweet and precious thing we humans have done for ourselves, allowing this to be out there on the road:
And this one! A delight.
I digress. The point is that I pay close attention to license plates, and here in Southern California, I am regularly peeping ones from all over the country. Am I trying to make myself sound like some kind of an expert for no real reason? Yes.
Let’s move on to the rules. If I had all the time in the world, this list could have been a much more extensive ranking. There have been countless United States plates through time, special plates for special purposes, rare historical plates, limited edition plates, and everything in between. For our purposes, the variations had to be cut swiftly.
To keep things contained, we’re here to rank the current standard issue plates in each state and U.S. territory, and nothing else. Some states suffer for that reason, and they should rethink their choices in the future!! Some states offer MULTIPLE standard plates and I will be honest when I say that in those cases, the display photo on Wikipedia is the one we’re judging. Also, the first 15 to 25 or so might as well be looped together in a blanket “blah” category. The ranking there is almost entirely interchangeable. It’s also worth noting that many Native American tribes in the United States have their own plates, if such a rabbit hole is of interest to you.
Another note: Substack says this post is officially too long for email (lol) so if you’re reading this there and get cut off, please click through!
So without further ado, good luck to all, and may the best plate win. Beep beep!
I really hate this color to be honest. Also, this plate was far, far better in its previous version! Proof that change is bad.
I know, I know, this one is fairly inoffensive and perhaps undeserving of the second-to-last spot, but someone had to be second-to-last and today, that someone is Missouri.
I really tried my best to conjure some colorful commentary on this one, but I’m not a freakin’ magician.
53. North Carolina
Sorry, but this one actually kind of hurts my eyes.
I don’t know why my own home state would do this to me. It’s so, so, so boring. When Discourse Blog editor Jack Mirkinson saw this he said, “pure michigan lol, it’s like a bad Dasani bottle. this car…made from the finest spring water,” and goddamnit if he’s not right.
51. Washington, D.C.
I understand why Washington D.C. chose the AMERICA theme but I gotta say, I’m getting toxic energy off of this one.