License Plates: Way More Interesting Than You Thought

by AutoExpert   |  2 May, 2024

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Remember when there were, like, NO cars? Yeah, neither do we. But in 1900, owning a car was a rich-person flex. Governments realized they needed to track who owned what, hence the first license plates:

  • DIY Plates - OG Style: New York was first. Back then, you literally made your own plate, just your initials! Massachusetts got official plates in 1903.

License Plates

  • Back to France: Guess who beat us? The French. Turns out, they made carriage drivers have nameplates on their rides way back in the 1700s!
  • Boring but Useful: Early plates were dull – state name, number, maybe the year. Way more about tracking cars than being pretty.

License Plates

The 1950s: Things Get Standardized

That's when we got the size we still use today! Also, the VIN was invented (that long number on your dash), making it even easier to tie cars to owners.

License Plates

What's Your Number Mean?

Depends on the state! Some are random, others use codes for your county. And don't forget the fun ones:

  • State Pride: Local slogans, landmarks, whatever the state's known for.
  • Vanity Plates: Spell It Out: As long as it's not rude, you can get custom messages. That's why you see weirdness like "LOVTOFU" on the road.

License Plates

Prison Labor – Yeah, It's a Thing

Most US plates are made by prisoners. Super cheap, but also controversial – they get paid almost nothing. On the plus side, some argue it teaches them useful skills.

License Plates

The Future is... Digital?!

Some states now let you get an electronic plate – it's like a tiny screen! Pros: update registration online, fancy stuff. Cons: monthly fees ON TOP of what you already pay, so kinda a ripoff. Good for businesses tracking fleets, though.

License Plates

License plates: who knew they had so much history behind 'em?

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