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America’s Obsession with the Vanity License Plate.

Drive just about anywhere in the United States and you’ll quickly see just how many people like to personalize their vehicles. Wreaths, antlers, headlight eyelashes, light-up rims, sticker collections, fender flames — they’re all examples of common sightings on American roads these days, but one particular kind of bling has long been a popular way to give a car personality and attract eyeballs: vanity license plates.

We took a look at a few surveys, industry lists and other data sources to learn more about these trendy pieces of bumper bling, and it turns out you can tell a lot about a person based on those little metal rectangles. Here are a few “FASTFAX.”

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The rejection list is long in the world of vanity plates.

You can’t put just anything on a vanity plate. Motor vehicle departments are often quick to ban letter or number combinations that they feel are over the line, according to a report from Washington, D.C.-area news station WTOP: “DMV employees are likely regular readers of UrbanDictionary.com.” Sample vanity plates rejected by the state of Maryland, according to WTOP: GTFOVER, DJTSUX, KILLARY, FUOBAMA

Sample vanity plates rejected in Virginia: MIDFNGR, GOMFGO, DMVWTF

Vanity plates as a percentage of all registered plates in Virginia: 12%

Vanity plates as a percentage of all registered plates in Maryland: 1%

Vanity plates as a percentage of all registered plates in Maryland: <2%

Barred in all three jurisdictions:
sexually explicit, vulgaror obscene phrases

Also on at least one DMV blacklist: references to certain bodily functions, including BEDWETR and FARTMAN.

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Age begets vanity plates.

A recent survey from opinion-research firm CivicScience shows that Millennials are less likely than other people to get vanity plates. "Perhaps Millennials don’t have strong enough convictions about life yet to drive them to choose a vanity plate. Or maybe they don’t think these plates are hip enough for their lifestyle," the report noted. Income also increases the odds of having vanity plates.

Percentage of U.S. adults who have ever had a vanity plate: 18%

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Percentage of baby boomers (55+) who have ever had a vanity plate: 47%

GENX

Percentage of GenXers (35-54) who have ever had a vanity plate: 39%

MLLNIAL

Percentage of millennials (18-34) who have ever had a vanity plate: 21%

Percentage of people earning $100,000+ per year who have ever had a vanity plate: 24.6%

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Tech lovers and social media mavens tend to be bigger fans of vanity plates.

Active Snapchat users are more likely to have had vanity plates at some point, as are people who own or want a smartwatch, according to CivicScience.

Percentage of U.S. adults who have ever had a vanity plate and are active Snapchat users: 26%

Percentage of U.S. adults who have ever had a vanity plate: 18%

Percentage of U.S. adults who have ever had a vanity plate and own or want a smartwatch: 23%

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Vanity plate owners are, well, vain.

That might not be a huge shocker, but vanity plate owners tend to be happier, too, according to opinion-research firm CivicScience.

Percentage of people who say they are "much more physically attractive than most people their age and gender”:

With vanity plate: 21%
Without vanity plate: 7%

Percentage of people who have ever had a vanity plate who said they are “about average”:

With vanity plate: 39%
Without vanity plate: 46%

Percentage of people who have ever had a vanity plate who said they are happy today:

With vanity plate: 72%
Without vanity plate: 57%

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Some license plates don’t need the extra flair of a witty phrase.

Sure, vanity plates can liven up an otherwise dull or unattractive license plate, but many people apparently think some states’ standard-issue plates already look good on their own, according to a survey of 2,000 people by Carinsurance.com.

America’s favorite license plate design: Wyoming

2nd Place: Hawaii

Next Three: Utah, Alabama, Oregon

Third to Last Place: Michigan

Second to Last Place: Arkansas

Last Place: Delaware


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