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Vanity License Plates in The United States

How to get a vanity license plate.

License Plate

The prevalence of vanity license plates varies by state, with Virginia having the most vanity plates in the United States. Vanity plates have long been a way for people to conveytheir personalities on the road, and roughly 20% of Americans have owned a specialized license plate in their lifetime.

How to Get a Vanity License Plate

The prevalence of vanity license plates in Virginia is due in large part to the cost of the plates. Virginia offers some of the cheapest vanity plates in the country at only $10 annually. About 20% of Virginians get specialty license plates due to the ease of the process.

In contrast, some states charge a steep penny, with Tennessee charging $70 and California charging nearly $100. Furthermore, vanity plate prices in Texas can become quite high, as they charge by the letter, and can max out at almost $200 in annual fees. 

Do Vanity Plates Reflect Income and Happiness?

While some people may assume that a vanity plate is more common among the upper class, vanity plate ownership is quite varied. An assessment was made on the happiness of individuals who tended to purchase these plates, and it was found that they expressed higher levels of happiness

Unique and Rare Specialty License Plates

There are some unique aspects of license plates that most people don’t know. In some states, the number 1 and 2 on license plates typically reflect that the car belongs to the governor or lieutenant governor. In other states, numbers 1000-5000 are under a “reserved status” and typically aren’t issued unless formally approved. 

Others that have low license plate numbers signify the issue date of the plate. License plates began to be issued when cars became more commonplace in the United States. This happened in the 1910s. A low license plate number, if not purchased recently, is usually one that has been transferred from one individual or car to another.

Some states, like Texas have even auctioned off some of their more unique license plate numbers. Most recently, Texas put two license plates up for auction. They were the last existing single digits available in Texas. The digits were “3” and “W”. The “3” sold for $33,000. 

The most expensive vanity plates to be sold in the United States were in New York and California. The one in New York was sold for $20 million, it said, “New York.” The plate in California sold for $24.3 million dollars and said, “MM.” Of the top 20 most expensive license plates ever sold in the world, these two rank first and third. No other American plates that made the list. The other most expensive plates purchased tended to be located in Dubai, Abu Dahbi, and Hong Kong. 

Vanity License Plates for RVs

Vanity plates have also been increasing in popularity among individuals that own RVs. Since 2019, roughly 4.4 million households have purchased RVs. Of those households, almost half of them have expressed interest in making the RV a full-time home. 

With this shift in culture, individuals in the RV lifestyle tend to find unique ways to express their personalities. One of the best and easiest ways to do this is through the purchase of a vanity plate.


Vanity plates in the United States have a unique history, but ultimately have become another tool that states can use to garner more money. While some states make the purchase of such plates easy and cheap, other states charge a higher premium. Specialty plates are typically a fun, easy, and cheap way for individuals to personalize their vehicles.

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  • Walter Seaberg September 28, 2023, 9:10 am

    Do you know which states allow purchases of souvenir personalized plates ?

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