What drives vanity license plate owners?

April 27, 2018

Many Americans have a lot more on their plates than you would expect—vanity license plates, that is. The plates give clues to other drivers about the car owner’s name, attitude and more, if you can decode what they say, which is frequently abbreviated.

Among those we have recently seen: “I Gotta P,”  “OVR D EDG,” “L8R G8OR,” and “HOWIROL”

In fact, 18% of Americans say they have displayed vanity license plates on their vehicles at some point—and these folks are happier than non-owners, based on findings of a poll conducted among 2,625 U.S. adults by Civic Science and released on April 25.

The researchers say that, even though owners of vanity plates are more likely to be in a high income bracket ($100,000 annually), salaries are “all across the board for those who opt for more than a random license plate.”

While 19% of owners make more than $150,000 (which makes sense, because vanity plates are a splurge) a surprising and still solid 12% of vanity plate folks make under $25,000.

The researchers comment,”Maybe vanity plates are an aspirational item or a way to live like the other half-lives?”

 Demographically, vanity plate owners also are diverse—but they are likely to be suburban, married parents who are in the Generation X or Baby Boomer age range.

However, there is an interesting exception: Although the age group for vanity plate owners is on the older side, active Snapchat users are much more likely than others to have had a vanity plate at some point.

Maybe that means that they know how to have fun. But the fact is that 72% of those drivers who have had a vanity plate say they are happy, while only 57% of those who have never had one can say the same.

Finally, yes, respondents with vanity plates appear to be vain: Respondents told Civic Science that they consider themselves to be more physically attractive than others in their age group or gender.

Research contact: mary@civicscience.com

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