State License Plates Rated by Drivers

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We’re a couple of lifelong New Englanders traversing the globe on weekends and vacation days. We hope whoever stumbles upon this blog can get some ideas for future vacations, weekend getaways, hikes or day trips. Enjoy.


3. Ohio

Luke: Ban all word clouds.

Susan: TLDR.

Liz: I had to ask Steph what that meant. I feel old.

Keith: Ohio is the only plate built by a WordPress plugin, so there’s that.

Doug: THE worst use of typography in license plates, and that’s saying something. WTF is in the background of that mess? Couldn’t decide on a theme, so we’ll just throw everything in there and make everyone happy? Yeah, this is complete trash.

Steph: Do not try to read this plate while driving. You will rear end the car in front of you while making a really ugly scrunched up “what the hell is going on here” face.

Susan: The North Carolina plate says “FIRST IN FLIGHT” but the Ohio plate says “BIRTHPLACE OF AVIATION.” So, who’s lying?

Luke: I know this! The Wright brothers were born in Ohio but flew in North Carolina. So both states are technically correct, but North Carolina is more badass.

Tier 7: Fine

31. Kansas

The color of this is nice. As we learned from Nevada, powder blue pairs well with just about anything. It’s also an uncluttered design with only six digits and has the unique graphical element of zooming in on the state seal. But that’s part of my problem with this. The choice of state seal is inherently an uninspired one (every state has one!), but worse, it’s the bottom bit of the Kansas seal that’s the distinctive bit … and that’s the part that’s been chopped off! Not bad, but ultimately anonymous.

32. West Virginia

32. West Virginia

This looks like it was inspired by a varsity jacket. The fonts, the stripes, the numbers … they’re very Friday Night Lights. West Virginia has been rocking this since 1995, with the only interruption being the inclusion of a website from 2000 to 2006. It saved itself a lot of spots on this list thanks to that correction.

33. Arkansas

33. Arkansas

This could use an update. Specifically, the “Arkansas” font is way too huge and the blue ombre is too Connecticut. But it’s still better than those in the “Bad Ombre” tier and just generally fine, so here it is. I like the font itself, and the big-ol’ honkin diamond makes the plate instantly recognizable as being from The Natural State. Which sounds like something women with hairy armpits espouse.

Tier 4: Vibrant, distinctive, symbolic, probably going to clash

15. North Dakota

This is similar to Nevada’s in general concept and I like it lot, however, the blue is darker (more likely to clash), the smear of orange depicting the Badlands is perhaps too bold and there’s just a lot going on. Still, when evaluating it by itself away from a car, it’s a tidy, striking design that seems appropriate for the place.

16. Oregon

16. Oregon

This instantly recognizable plate checks off most of the boxes. It’s stamped with six digits. There are mountains and forests that look like that in Oregon, and there’s literally a tree that looks just like that out my back window. The “Oregon” font is unique as is the general color scheme, but that’s ultimately a problem. Lilac is not a color that pairs well with much (besides the purple Aston Martin I ironically chose for this little exercise) and that tree draws too much attention to itself. A nice plate by itself, but once on a car, there’s a reason I paid extra for Oregon’s Delaware-like Pacific Wonderland plates.

17. Idaho

17. Idaho

Again, a terrific design indicative of the state. Idaho is scenic and it is famous for potatoes. There are mountains and forests there. The plate is aesthetically pleasing, even with as many as seven digits. The problem, besides being quite obviously printed rather than stamped, is that two bold, darker colors and white draw too much attention to that design once placed on the back of a car. It should complement, not distract. At least this is a much better example than others (cough, Pennsylvania, cough).

18. Utah

18. Utah

Arches National Park is in Utah, and there’s definitely not other plate like this. Yes, the orange is an awful lot and the illustration veers a little into Toon Town territory, but at least it’s not that busy. Six well-spaced registry digits, a four-letter state name and a good slogan of “Life Elevated” in a small font helps. This is actually one of two standard Utah plates, with the “Greatest Snow on Earth” plate being the other. I’m not sure where that would’ve ended up, but I like this one better.

1. Illinois

Keith: When you try to make everyone happy, mediocre design results.

Rafal:I just can’t get over Lincoln’s eye. And why is he peeking from the side? And where is his hat?!

Luke: I love living here. What a great state across the board.

Steph: I love that we all live here and without hesitation are all “ahhh booo this blows.” Way to go, Illinois.

Doug: OMG, where in the hell do I even begin with this dumpster fire? These are the plates that instigated this whole license plate project, as we have to now look at these every day when we drive. The old ones weren’t awful, but they weren’t very good, either. These move bad plate design to a whole new level.

First, we have a half-cropped face of Lincoln, because you know he moved here when he was 21 and he freed the slaves, so we claim him as ours (suck it, Kentucky). Then again, we did only take half of him. Kentucky can have the other half.

Next, the typography gets a failing grade in every respect. Bad typeface is stretched not only horizontally on the state title, but vertically on the “Land of Lincoln.” And if it wasn’t bad enough type already, they used it as small caps which distorts it even further. This is first-class flunky high school shit design. And can you read it from more than 3-feet away? Nope.

Now, throw in a silhouette of the state capital building and the Chicago skyline (because all of Chicago thinks that anything south of I-80 is “the south”), then make the stamped numbers a strange transparent red over a blue gradient, and you have this eyesore that we now must live with in Illinois.

Hot garbage.


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