What is the Difference Between Custom License Plates & Vanity Plates?

Custom Car Tags vs Vanity License Plates

If you’ve been considering adding a personalized touch to your vehicle, you may be questioning the difference between vanity plates and standard license plates.

Vanity plates and custom car tags are unlike your usual license plate, since they are able to be personalized.

So, what are vanity plates? How about custom car tags? Is there a difference between them? Well, the answers to these questions are somewhat unclear and there isn’t a black-and-white difference between them.

What is a Vanity Plate?

Car with a Decorative Front License Plate

There isn’t a clear-cut way to define vanity plates. Cyber Drive Illinois is one of the few places that provides a definition and contrasts vanity plates with other personalized license plates:¹

“Vanity plates contain up to 3 numbers or 1 to 7 letters only”
“Personalized plates contain both letters and numbers”

However, outside of this specific difference, the terms “personalized license plates”, “custom car tags”, and “vanity plates” are mostly interchangeable.

Vanity plates may apply to purely decorative license plates more frequently, but the term still applies to official tags you would get from the DMV.

Typically, these terms refer to personalizing required license plates to read specific phrases or names. An important distinction comes into play when considering which states require front license plates.

What States Require Front License Plates?

License Plate Art Featuring Many States

While many motorists seem to want novelty or unofficial front license plates, there are only a handful of states that allow them. 21 states require the rear license plate only. This means the other 29 states require both front and back license plates that have been issued by your state. See the following list for which states do not require front license plates

  • Alabama
  • Alaska
  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • Delaware
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Indiana
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Michigan
  • Mississippi
  • New Mexico
  • North Carolina
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma
  • Pennsylvania
  • South Carolina
  • Tennessee
  • West Virginia
Personalized Tropical Front License Plate

So What if My State Doesn’t Require a Front License Plate?

If you are living in one of the 21 states that does not require a state-issued front license plate, feel free to create your own personalized license plate. You can use this opportunity to:

    • advertise your business
    • show off your favorite sports team
    • display a design that suits you and your car

These front license plates do not need to show any array of numbers and are not regulated by your state government so feel free to get as creative as you would like.

Additionally, advertising with a custom car tag is an easy way to get your company’s name in front of potential customers or clients. Some organizations utilize business license plates as an additional means of marketing their products or services.

However, this does not mean that drivers within these 21 states have complete freedom. There may be restrictions on what phrases or designs are allowed. For example, plates that could be mistaken as official tags for police or government officials could potentially pose public security and safety risks.

Should I Get a Custom Front License Plate or Vanity Plate?

Your two main concerns are:

    1. Are you living in a state that requires a front license plate that has been issued by your state?
    2. Do you want a personalized car tag that is state-issued or simply a custom design front license plate?
      • If yes, you will have to ask about getting an official personalized license plate at your local motor vehicle service center.
      • If no, you have the option to design your own front license plate.

With these things in mind, you can now decide whether you’re looking for a state-issued vanity plate or a custom front license plate. If you are currently living in one of the 21 states that allow personalized front license plates, looking for front license plate ideas is a fun way to find inspiration.

Get 20% Off Front License Plates with Code CSIGNS20, Custom Auto Dealership Front License Plate

CustomSigns.com is your one-stop-shop for all of your signage needs including decorative car tags and political license plates. Whatever your signage needs, CustomSigns.com’s wide variety of signs, banners, and decals are sure to satisfy.

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