Can I Ask a Dealer To Remove Its Branded License Plate Holder From My New Car?

It’s so common that new cars have dealer branding–both dealership decals and branded license plate surrounds—that we’ve come to accept it as the way things are. But this is actually a clever trick that dealerships use for free advertising. It’s even illegal in some states. So, stand up to your dealership and ask them to remove their branded license plate holder before you agree to buy their car.

You don’t have to let dealers use you for free advertising

Row of GMC and Chevy trucks with custom license plate surround holders, parked at a dealership.
Dealership | Brandon Bell/Getty Images

Branded license plate surrounds, and dealer stickers, are a pet peeve of mine. But I almost can’t blame dealerships for trying: If they can slap a $4.00 custom license plate holder on every new car they sell, that’s hundreds or even thousands of shiny new cars wearing their business name and contact info.

Who knows whether someone hankering for a new car will take a look at yours and call the dealership on the license plate holder. Or maybe they’ll just remember that dealership and, after seeing the name a few times, go check them out.

But there’s no reason you should have to do the dealership’s advertising for them, you’ve already paid them for the car and don’t owe them a thing.

In addition, you may like the look of a sleek new car with minimal accessories and graphics. In this case, a single-color license plate holder, or no license plate holder at all, may be more your style.

In many states, license plate surrounds are illegal

A dealership employee washing a Toyota and Mercedes with custom license plate surround holders installed.
Used car dealership | Spencer Platt/Getty Images

If law enforcement officers can’t read your license plate, there’s not a lot of reason to even have one. For this reason, most states have a law against obscuring parts of your license plate.

It doesn’t matter if you block the state motto, name, or even your plate’s expiration date: obscuring it is obscuring it. Most models of license plate holders block some bit of the plate. Plate holders chunky enough for dealerships to print their name and number almost always block part of the plate.

If you dig into your local laws, you may find it’s actually illegal for dealerships to slap on a license plate surround before selling you a car—according to Doug DeMuro over at Jalopnik. Considering this, it is even more shocking that so few buyers request the plate holder removed.

You can simply request a car with no branding

Closeup of the dealership license plate holder surround on a GMC SUV.
Dealership | Brandon Bell/Getty Images

You don’t have to be rude to your car salesperson. If you simply mention that you want a vehicle with no dealership branding, or dealership license plate holder. They’ll probably set you up during the car’s final preparation, without hesitation. The customer is, after all, always right.

So next time you go into the dealership to buy a new or used car, simply request the “sleek” package with no branding. Maybe if enough of us do it, it will become the new normal.

Next, find out whether custom license plates attract police.