All Custom Licence Plates Are Terrible (Yes, Even Yours)

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Personalised licence plates (also known as 'custom' and 'vanity' plates) have moved firmly into the mainstream. In Victoria alone, around 30,000 sets of custom registration plates are made every year, around 10 percent of which end up on registered vehicles. They’re easy to think up while you’re stuck in traffic and they’re surprisingly affordable for a vanity product. Also, people are complete morons.

All personalised plates are bad. This includes yours, even if you think it’s clever. There are three good reasons why:

Reason #1: We get it, you’re clever

We get it, Tesla guy. Your car is electric. You do not need to put LOLGAS in all caps on the back of your car for everybody else to read on the highway. And we get it, Honda bro. Your car is low. You do not need to put LOLSLOW on your plates for us to read while you dodge potholes.

There has never, in the history of all time, been a personalised license plate that had the genuine sparkle of humour beyond a light chuckle. Usually what you get are painful in-jokes. I don’t know how many Nissan GT-Rs there are across the country that say GDZLLA on the back but I can assure you it is too many.

Reason #2: How much did you spend to tell me how clever you are?

Even if you have successfully found an in-joke or a piece of trivia that your car communicates to the rest of the world, going all the way to put it on your license plate is too much.

Oh-ho! your plate reads. I am familiar with the racing history of the Nissan Skyline GT-R during its touring car campaigns in Australia during the 1990s when it was given this nickname! I will put it on the back of my car so that you can see it, and recognise it! Then you will recognise that I also know this piece of trivia! You will see me and know that I am clever! I am clever! I am!

You do not need to shout out to the rest of the world that you’re keyed in on some piece of nerdcore arcana. Even the very absolute most obscure and most clever and most in-jokey in-joke (it’s this one) gets real bad when you realise somebody paid their state road authority to let them shout to the rest of the world, emblazoned in all caps on their license plate, that they get it.

There’s also an interesting obsession that has popped up with license plates in the United Arab Emirates. Rich people over there realised they could look extra cool if they had very low numbers for their plates, and the state realised they could make a ton of money by auctioning off the very lowest ones. The high demand/limited supply nature of this affair, coupled with how completely weird rich people get once they get stratospherically wealthy, is what led to one person spending some $4.9 million to get the license plate "1" last year. If there was ever a signifier for the emptiness and madness of lots of money, it was this.

Reason #3: The whole point of license plates is they’re meaningless

The whole fun part about a license plate is that it’s a random collection of letters and numbers. You have to memorise it, and that’s a pain, so you have to ascribe some meaning or rhythm to it. GFG 3224 is not a set of letters or numbers that I would normally keep in my brain, but it was my old car’s plate, so it makes me happy every time I think of it. Whenever I see a GFG anywhere or a 3224, I think of my old VW.

License plates are inherently meaningless. We bring meaning to them. That’s a bond, one that you miss out on with every CHVYSKS you put on your F-150.

This story originally appeared on Jalopnik.


    Can I add reason no# 4
    Why on earth would you want a number plate thats easy to remember?
    If some monkey comes flying past me driving like a maniac and has a number plate like DMB455.... I have no problem remembering that when reporting it to the police.. but if it's some random license plate it makes it alot harder to remember!

    I don’t know how many Nissan GT-Rs there are across the country that say GDZLLA on the back but I can assure you it is too many.Surely, like the Highlander, there can be only one?

      One in each state, sure. Not counting small variations either. GDZILA, GDZ1LA etc

      Plates aren't unique nation-wide... could easily be one per state.

        Huh. I had assumed the point was to make each car uniquely identifiable nationwide.

    Will push back on this. Have a Japanese grey import car, the license plate 'slot' on the rear doesn't fit a standard AU plate. Got the Japanese style custom plate in order to not have to cut/bend the AU one (which is illegal).

      Custom style plates = Win
      Custom content plates = Lose

      Last edited 04/07/17 12:30 pm

    I prefer the custom ones that are something like: 1I1II11 or 0O00OO0 or B8BB88B

    Last edited 03/07/17 3:05 pm

    That's an awful lot of vitriol for something that isn't even connected to the author. Why are you winding yourself up about somebody else's idiocentricity?

    My pet hate is the tossers that have a plate like HOLDN and it's on a Holden. I feel like going up to them and asking if that's a Holden.

      Maybe they've put chev badges on, so need a reminder that they're still driving a Holden. Double tosser!

    Why Minnesota plates for an Australian article? Can't find a local one crass enough?

    Fully agree that custom content on plates is for insufferable tools.

    In the ACT you can create a custom slogan to replace the "Canberra - The Nations Capital" slogan

    The best one I have seen is "ACT - Not as bad as you think"

    I did see a Ferrari one time with the numberplate "EARNED" - that was pretty awesome and gave me a good chuckle.

    Not that I have/want either, but I really see no difference between having a personalised number plate and having a tattoo.

    To each their own.

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