License Plate Rankings
A license plate is an opportunity for each state to leave it’s mark on the roads of America but some states clearly do a much better job than others. There are a handful of these rankings floating around the internet, but most of them equate simplicity with ugliness, and in our opinion this is a big mistake. In some cases, simple is in fact boring, but a simple plate is always better than one with an absurd elaborate design (we’re looking at you, Montana). Our criteria aren’t complicated… If we like the plate, it ranks high. If we hate it, it ranks low. Every state has a host of alternate license plates, but we’re only including the standard issue plate as of 2016 in our rankings. Feel free to disagree with us in the comment section. You’ll be wrong…but we encourage you to make your case anyway.
Colorado is a state that seemingly does everything right, and their license plate is no exception. They know where their bread is buttered and that’s the Rocky Mountains. No cheesy tagline or ridiculous font. This is the best license plate on the road, and honestly, it wasn’t even a close call.
Delaware’s license plate gets a bad rap on a lot of the other rankings we’ve seen, and that is absolutely ludicrous in our humble opinion. It’s bold in it’s simplicity and they don’t pull any punches in reminding everyone that they basically invented America.
As residents of Massachusetts, we see a lot of these on the road (mostly on Priuses and Subarus), and they always leave us green with envy (pun fully intended). If you know anything about the state of Vermont or it’s residents, you know that this plate couldn’t possibly be more fitting. The white rectangle around the letters gives it a cool retro look, and you have to love the sneaky little tree in the top left corner. They have a few of those in the Green Mountain State.
As a kid on the east coast, this was the license plate that would make you stop what you were doing to acknowledge. Not only was it like spotting a rare creature, it’s easily one of best plates in the game. Since they also happen to have one of the best state flags, throwing that right in the middle was an excellent decision. Plus, “The Last Frontier” is as good as it gets when it comes to state mottos. They’re basically saying they’re the outer space of states. And they are. Well played all around by Alaska.
Some would say it looks inspired by Urban Outfitters. Others would say it looks like a UCLA jersey in license plate form. Those are both good things (I think).
If you put a volcano on your license plate, you automatically make the top ten. That’s a rule that we probably should have specified up front.
Mountains and trees. That’s what Oregon does.
NC won plate of the year back in 1982 with this design and they haven’t changed it since. Good decision.
Peaches are delicious.
This is one of the most iconic plates in the country. Probably because we’ve all been seeing it in the movies for years.
This plate just makes you happy. It also falls in the same category as the Alaska plate in that it’s such a rarity. Hawaii is on even another level because it leaves you scratching your head in confusion as to how and why they brought it over to the mainland. Is it an amphibious vehicle? It’s more likely that it came over by boat but we can’t rule out the amphibious vehicle possibility quite yet.
The solid navy and yellow bands at the top and bottom makes this one of the more recognizable plates on the road. The keystone symbol in the center is a nice touch. We have one bone to pick with this plate. Why would they put visitPA.com at the bottom? Do they think people sitting in traffic are going to whip out their phones to see what the Pennsylvania government has been up to lately? Just put “Keystone State” at the bottom and call it a day.
This is basically a slightly less visually appealing version of Pennsylvania.
Incorporating Mt. Rushmore was a no-brainer for South Dakota.
Wyoming is wise to put the “bucking horse and rider” on all things Wyoming-related.
Personally we would have put a moose on here instead of a bird, but the bird isn’t terrible. The treeline at the bottom is a nice addition and the all caps, bold, black “MAINE” at the top of the plate ties it together nicely (times new roman if I’m not mistaken…great font).
17. Washington D.C.
Well, at least they’re represented on our list…fairly high too.
The background looks strikingly similar to a scene from Wile E. Coyote vs. Roadrunner, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. With a better font, this could have been a contender for a top 10 spot on the list.
There’s a lot going on here, but it works. It’s hard to say exactly why this plate ranks as highly as it does, but when I look at it, I don’t hate it.
This one is admittedly difficult to judge. On one hand, the palmetto/moon combo is a classic, but the sunset is too much. With a solid blue this could be flirting with the top 10.
Some variation of this license plate has been going strong since the mid-80’s. It’s usually a good sign when it stands the test of time.
Virginia played it safe with this one. Not much to love or hate about it.
It’s not as good as some of the other mountain-themed plates, but it’s not bad.
photo source: Wikipedia
This one isn’t bad, but it looks too much like a temporary license plate.
Utah has two primary license plates so we chose the better of the two. Overall not bad. “Greatest snow on earth” is an incredibly bold claim.
26. North Dakota
This definitely wins the award for weirdest plate in the country. It’s so weird that it’s almost not that bad…
If you put your hand over the top half of the plate, it is an absolute A+. Potatoes, mountains, and trees make for a winning combination. Too bad the top half is so regrettable.
Top notch state bird on a mediocre license plate.
We may be biased, but even we can’t put the Massachusetts plate anywhere higher on our list. It’s average in every way.
There are actually 11,842 lakes in Minnesota so we appreciate their humility.
They couldn’t decide which tagline to use so they just put every single one they could think of in the background.
32. Rhode Island
The waves in Rhode Island aren’t that big. False advertising.
There are poor color choices…and then there’s this…
The whole faded color look is just a bad idea. Go with solid blue and this plate is actually not so awful.
35. New Jersey
The faded yellow makes this plate look like it needs to be washed. And it probably does need to be washed given that it spends most of its time driving around New Jersey.
Diamonds are forever, but I have a feeling this license plate isn’t long for this world.
There are a lot of farms in Iowa…we get it.
Indiana used to have a good license plate…Then they voted on a new one this year…This is what they came up with.
Is that a bar code on their license plate?
Lincoln’s floating head just looks weird. The fact that it’s so faded gives Abe sort of a “Ghost of Christmas Past” look, which I’m sure he would not appreciate. Besides, he only moved to Illinois when he was 21 years old so the whole “Land of Lincoln” thing is a bit of a stretch.
You either go with just a fruit (see Georgia) or just your state outline (see Texas). You can’t try to squeeze both in. That’s rule number one of license plate design.
State flower, state bird, and state website. Trying a little bit too hard here.
If I lived in Kentucky I would willingly choose to travel on horseback to avoid having to put this anywhere on or near my means of transportation.
We thought this license plate was bad, but the new one they’re rolling out in 2017 is somehow even worse.
Photo Source: WTOP
Um…What? I get that people in Maryland love their flag, but what on earth is going on here. Looks like they’re going for a cool modern look…Swing and a miss.
What’s going on with the S’s here? There are already far too many S’s in Mississippi. Let’s not confuse the matter by giving them all long intertwining tails.
This is absolute garbage. The font looks like it came straight off the cover of a Disney VHS case from 1995.
Missouri basically just ran a clinic on how to design an ugly license plate. 1) Faded background. Check. 2) Stenciled outline of the state. Check. 3) Try to squeeze state motto under state name. Check. 4) Random bird that looks hopelessly out of place. Check.
photo source: Wikipedia
What happened to the solid blue license plate that Michigan used to have? Who thought that this was a good idea? Why is everything so wavy? We need answers to all of these questions.
Not sure if anyone has bothered to scroll down this far…You’re better off scrolling back up to Colorado or Delaware to make you forget how atrocious Kansas’ license plate is.
51. New Hampshire
Let’s make one thing clear. We love the state of New Hampshire. We spend almost every weekend there, and as a state, it has a lot of things going for it. The license plate on the other hand, is a completely different story. That’s not a knock on the Old Man in the Mountain (RIP). This plate is just an overall aesthetic train wreck.
If you enjoyed this list, check out our state flag rankings.
*Unless otherwise specified, all images came from TheUS50.com.