Search Cars for Sale

Why Do People Leave on the Dealership License Plate Frame?

Hello and welcome to everyone’s least favorite weekly column here on Oversteer, which is called “Ask Doug.” The way “Ask Doug” works is, you email me a question you’d like to know the answer to, preferably about cars, and I take the best question each week and post it on here. And by “the best question,” what I mean is the one that praises me most.

Now, if you’d like to praise me and then ask a question, you may email me at, and I will consider responding to your question on the site. I will also consider replying with a string of profanity indicating how stupid you are. One or the other.

Today’s question comes to us from a reader I’ve named Frank, who writes:

Hello Doug,

I’m the type of person that once I buy a new/used car, the first thing I do when I get home is remove the dealer plate frame. I can’t stand the thought of advertising for them for free. Yet, when driving around town, I always notice people drive around with license plate frames or decals of car dealerships stuck to their cars. These aren’t new cars that just came off a lot, but these decals are baked onto the car’s paint, most likely leaving a silhouette if they were to remove it. Why would people leave it on? Are people just that plain lazy?

Looking forward to hearing from you,


For those of you who don’t want to read Frank’s email because it would disrupt your busy schedule of checking Oversteer so you don’t have to do any work today, what Frank is asking is simple: Why do people leave on their dealer license plate frames or dealer badging? Why don’t they remove this stuff? Why would they want to give free advertising to the dealership?

Frank, one quick point here, pal. I removed my dealership license plate frame when I purchased my Mercedes. But you know what’s still left on this car? The Mercedes logos. There are like six of them on the outside of the car, and everywhere I go, they’re there, “advertising for them for free,” to quote you. Same if you wear a Ralph Lauren Polo shirt, or if you use a laptop with the brand name or logo on the back of the screen, or whatever. You’re always advertising for companies for free. Removing your dealer plate frame doesn’t make you any less of a free advertiser.

Which brings me to my next point, which is: Most people don’t care. We advertise products so frequently that most people don’t even think twice about it. And it goes beyond that. Most people don’t even notice it. Most people don’t care about their license plate, and they never look in that area, and they never even really notice that the license plate frame is on there, which brings us to another interesting point: If people don’t even notice their own plate frames, it’s unlikely they’re noticing anyone else’s, which probably makes this advertising pretty ineffective. But that’s a different topic for a different time.

Here’s a different thought, Frank: Although I’ve always removed my plate frames, I’ve asked fellow car enthusiasts about theirs in the past, since most car enthusiasts are pretty antiplate frame. What I’ve discovered is, some enthusiasts leave their plate frames on intentionally if they’ve had a good experience at the dealership, or if they know the dealership personally. I plan on doing this myself: I love my local Land Rover dealership like a brother, if a car dealership could be someone’s brother, and so I will probably stick a “LAND ROVER CHERRY HILL” license plate frame on my Defender one of these days. And I will proudly advertise the dealership that does such great work on my trucks and provides me with a 2-door Range Rover Evoque in the meantime.

And you will see my plate frame, and you will think I was simply too lazy to remove it. And no one else will notice it. And so life will go.

Doug DeMuro is an automotive journalist who has written for many online and magazine publications. He once owned a Nissan Cube and a Ferrari 360 Modena. At the same time.

My 1985 Mercedes SL Has Been Continuously Broken for 15 Years
Here Are 5 Rare AMG Cars For Sale on Autotrader
Ownership Report: One Year With a Used Bentley Arnage


Doug Demuro
Doug Demuro
Doug DeMuro writes articles and makes videos, mainly about cars. Doug was born in Denver, Colorado, and received an economics degree from Emory University in Atlanta. After graduation, Doug spent three years working for Porsche Cars North America. Eventually, he quit his job to become a writer, largely because it meant that he no longer had to wear pants. Doug’s work has been featured in a... Read More about Doug Demuro

Sign up for Autotrader newsletters

The best cars and best deals delivered to your inbox

Email Address 

Where You Can Buy

Loading dealers...
  1. Word of mouth on a dealership (and social media) is the best advertisement.  I do recall a disgruntled customer that rode his car (always saw it parked in my church) that wrote on his back glass in big letters about not taking cars to the dealer he bought the car from… wish I had pictures because as an attention getter as that was, it was impractical blocking his whole rear view sights.

  2. I person really like seeing dealer plate frames on other cars because you know kind of where they’re from and maybe if the car was bought new or used. Something to keep the brain busy in traffic

    Also it’s really cool to see older cars with their original plate frames
    If you have a Carmax frame or a frame that doesn’t match your car’s make though, that’s just tacky 😛
  3. Same if you wear a Ralph Lauren Polo shirt, or if you use a laptop with the brand name or logo on the back of the screen, or whatever.

    False equivalency. An actual analogy would be Famous Footwear emblazoning their logo on your new pair of Air Jordans, or buying a North Face jacket with an REI patch slapped on it. Best Buy doesn’t slap their sticker next to the Apple logo on the lid of your new Macbook, but it’s somehow still acceptable for dealerships to do this to what’s most people’s most or second most expensive purchase they make. 
  4. I have a collection of random, fun dealer plate frames that I rotate on my cars…much to the confusion of people here in Dallas.  I’m currently using Land Rover-Jaguar of Honolulu and Mercedes-Benz of Maui on my 2 cars, though there are plenty of others (BMW of Anchorage for example) on deck for future purchases. 

  5. I’ve been employed by three car dealerships over the past four years. I have voluntarily put the dealer’s plate frame on my personal vehicles because it’s my employer and I don’t mind advertising for them. Currently I have dealer plate frames on the front plates of my cars (Illinois)- my Camry has a “Team Valvoline” plate frame in the back and my Odyssey has a “Fueled by Starbucks” plate frame. 

    Now that im in the service department, I only put our dealership plate frames on vehicles that have the plate frames of the previous owner of the dealer and even then I almost always ask. 

Leave a Comment

Most Popular Articles

Best New Cars for 2022

Here is our list of the best new cars for 2022 (presented in alphabetical order by manufacturer).

2020 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid: First Look

The 2020 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid jumps to the head of the hybrid class.

Best Car Deals: November 2022

This month's best new car deals include several attractive offers for qualified shoppers.

Search By Style

More Articles Like This