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Colorado is making car owners turn in their current license plates, but we’re not sure of the reason. The state says it’s because those raised letters are the problem. By sticking out, they are susceptible to wear, ultimately making them unreadable by license plate readers and the police. It’s out with the old and in with the new, flat, screen print designs. 

Why is Colorado demanding old plates be turned in now?

Colorado red and white embossed license plates
Colorado flat license plates | Cyrus McCrimmon/The Denver Post via Getty

But the plates with the letters and number embossing have been around for decades. It only seems to have become a problem in the last few years as other states’ flat plates have found favor. So now, new car buyers can’t transfer plates but instead need to go with the flat versions the Centennial State is now mandating. 

If you want your old plate’s number, that’s fine with Colorado. But it will cost the same, which is $93.06 after title and transfer fees. To make this all just a bit more palatable, Colorado is offering several new plates, and some old too. Of course, there are vanity plates that now come as flat plates.

And besides its two new 150th Anniversary plates, it is also offering four retro plate designs. According to the Colordoan, the most popular of which is the black version mimicking the 1945 plates. Funds from the sale of these plates go to the Colorado Disability Funding Committee.

Why doesn’t it just go with the new ALPR technology?

Colorado retro flat license plates
Colorado flat license plates | Colorodian

There is also another type of license plate that Colorado offers, something more “high tech,” if you will. It will sell vehicle owners digital plates. If this is the future and is where states want to go moving forward, it seems that Colorado should just offer them up and skip the flat plates altogether. But then it would be blowing a great opportunity for profit selling these once it deems flat plates obsolete.

Because more and more toll roads use Automated License Plate Recognition for toll fees, we expect to hear that eventually, the ALPR technology has problems reading flat plates. Then, states have an opening to charge for all of the digital license plates necessary to replace those bad flat versions. Almost half of all states offer digital plates. 

Why not eliminate license plates altogether and use in-car sensors?

Colorado flat screen-printed license plates
Colorado flat license plates | Cyrus McCrimmon/The Denver Post via Getty

Drivers With Vanity License Plates Are Dumber With Lower IQ in Study

In Kansas, it began switching over to flat plates after the director of vehicle and property evaluation found embossed plates were bubbling, as well as the paint wearing off. In 2019, the state said it had 2.3 million registered vehicles. And just like that, a new revenue stream was born. It appears that Colorado was eyeing its adjacent neighbor’s license plate bonanza. At least some of the funds help certain organizations.

Maybe someday, all vehicles will be built with sensors that can signal to police and toll roads their VIN number. Then states can mandate you turn in your obsolete digital plates. And the cycle continues.