Why You Shouldn’t Put Emojis in Your License Plate

Vanity plates have been around since 1965. Allowing for the customization of license plates, vanity plates are popular for drivers who want to show off their unique style while they drive around town. In the United States, Virginia takes the prize as the state with the most vanity plates. There are even some vanity plates that have been banned in America for one reason or another.

While there are no currently known totals on the number of vanity plates, approximately 9.7 million license plates across North America were vanity plates in 2007. The rules surrounding vanity plates are state-dependent, with changes to one state’s laws coming down the pipeline.

Vermont’s new license plate legislation

Recently, Vermont announced proposed new legislation that would allow drivers to add one of six emojis to their vanity plates. Representative Rebecca White introduced the bill. Drivers can’t have a plate with only emojis, however. The emojis would be in addition to the letter and numbers assigned already.

It’s unknown at this time which six emojis drivers could pick from, but if the bill passes, it will make Vermont the first U.S. state allowing emojis on license plates. The reason behind the proposal? White considers it a win-win as it’s not only fun but a potential new way of generating revenue. 

The problem with vanity plates

Vanity plates can be more trouble than they’re worth. Some people try to get cute with them, pushing the limits of what the DMV will allow on a vanity plate. While each state has differing rules, the basic rule of thumb is that nothing offensive, vulgar, or misleading can be approved. There have been technology glitches with vanity plates in the past. They also cost more, with an extra fee tacked on to secure your vanity plate.

And the court of public opinion? Many people roll their eyes when they see vanity plates. Those cute plates you think are so funny? Not so much. Some might say that you’re also putting a target on your back. That expensive car with a plate that says ‘RICHGUY’? It might just attract thieves with an ax to grind. Some things shouldn’t be on a license plate. 

Why emojis on license plates are a bad idea

While they may raise money for the state or seem like a good idea at the time, there are several reasons why emojis on vanity plates aren’t such a great idea. Vermont isn’t the first to come up with the concept; Australia already has emojis on license plates after approving it in 2019. They offer five options, including a sunglasses face and a winky face with costs up to $320 for the addition.

Local law enforcement isn’t convinced it’s a good idea. Some wonder if it would make reading the numbers and letters more difficult. Others think bumper stickers are the place for emojis. The emojis would likely also need to be non-reflective to avoid interfering with the auto-readers in police cars. As far as the public? Australians have had mixed reactions, with many wondering if it’s a step back for society. Will Americans feel the same?

Should you order vanity plates?

"OUTATIME" license plate from the "Back To The Future" DeLorean at the Hollywood Museum's "Back To The Future" Trilogy: The Exhibit
“OUTATIME” license plate from the “Back To The Future” DeLorean | Michael Tullberg/Getty Images

If you’re excited about the potential changes to vanity plates and you live in Vermont, here’s how you can check to see if a vanity plate is taken or not. As for if you should order one or not, do you really want to stand out in such a visible and permanent way? You can’t change your plate for a year, and sometimes, it comes with even more fees to do so.