The Gist: 18% of U.S. Adults have had a vanity license plate in their lifetime, and these folks report they are happier than non-owners. Even though owners of vanity plates are more likely to make more money, income is all across the board for those who opt for more than a random license plate. But is this group truly vain? 

If you’re like me, you love spotting vanity plates, taking photos of goofy ones, and are generally fascinated by the commitment a personalized plate entails. Taking the next step of profiling these folks who have had or currently have one on their vehicle was a clear as day decision.

Grouping our results by U.S. adults who haven’t and have had a vanity plate, 18% have had one in their lifetime.

Who are you?

These vain(ity) drivers are more likely to be suburbanites, married and parents, and Generationally, the majority are of the Generation X and Baby Boomer age range.

When we compared this age data to the gen pop, 55+-year-olds are more likely to be vanity plate owners:

Conversely, comparing age data to the entire gen pop, it’s the 18-24-year-olds who are less likely to have one. Perhaps Millennials don’t have strong enough convictions about life yet to drive them to choose a vanity plate. Or maybe they don’t think these plates are hip enough for their lifestyle.

Vanity plates aren’t too costly, but certainly are not crucial or a necessity, and not cheap. It appears most states could charge upwards of $100 annually to keep a personalized plate on the road.

Looking into the money, one’s income plays a factor. People who have them are more likely than the general population to make $100k or more per year.

However, surprisingly, the income buckets among specialized vanity plate owners are pretty even:

While 19% of owners make more than $150k (makes sense as a vanity plate seems like a splurge item) a surprising and still solid 12% of vanity plate folks make under $25k. Maybe vanity plates are an aspirational item or a way to live like the other half lives?

It appears that having a vanity plate has less to do with money, though, and more to do with the mindset owners have.

Even though age group for vanity plate owners is on the older side, active Snapchat users are much more likely than others to have had a vanity plate at some point:

Same with smartwatch owners/wannabe owners:

People who have had a vanity plate in their lifetime may know something non-vanity plate people don’t. Because they’re happier:

Of course, this claim of happiness could come down to life stage (older, retired, grandkids), and having more money, but it could also be all about mindset, living in the moment, and wearing one’s heart on their sleeve–or at least ‘wearing’ 7 characters on a license plate– everywhere they go. 

When we found this last correlation, we’re sold on the mindset theory. Perhaps the grand slam you’ve all been waiting for:

Yes, owners of vanity plates are more likely to consider themselves much more physically attractive than others their age/gender.  Go figure: people with vanity plates are vain. Cue the Carly Simon, I’m out.