Those rectangular markers affixed to rear bumpers do more than identify the car's license: They can also make a statement about the issuing state.
That's the gist of an Internet pulse poll from CarInsurance.com auto rate information site.
"License plates used to be a calling card for your home state," said Des Toups, managing editor of CarInsurance.com. "The best ones still are."
The Foster City, Calif.-based company said it asked 2,000 drivers which state license plates they liked best and least.
Wyoming's plate with a "silhouetted cowboy on a bucking bronco," placed first. Close to one-third of the motorists picked the plate as one of their favorites. The rainbow-adorned Hawaii tag ranked second. Meanwhile, Delaware's plate - one of several with no design - stood in 51st.
The South Carolina plate, burnishing a blue and orange sunset image with the state flag's "palmetto moon" in the foreground, held seventh most attractive. The tags, changed several years ago, follow plates carrying the Smiling Faces, Beautiful Places logo and pre-World War II "The Iodine State" slogan.
Rounding out the top 10 were Utah, 3; Alabama, 4; Oregon, 5; Maine, 6; Florida, 8; Georgia, 9; and Oklahoma, 10.
"These plates are unique and uncommon, and their bright colors and graphic images are easily distinguished at a distance," Toups said. "Great if anyone still plays The License Plate Game."
The bottom group also included Arkansas, 50; Michigan, 49; Alaska, 48; Virginia, 47; New York, 46; Montana, 45; District of Columbia, 44; Massachusetts, 43; and Vermont, 42.
CarInsurance.com provided other tidbits about the license plate choices. According to the online information provider, women were clearly won over by Hawaii's rainbow design, while men were more taken with Wyoming's cowboy.
Also, 13 percent of motorists responding to the October survey said a license tag "had inspired a vacation or relocation." They cited Florida most often followed by Georgia, California, Hawaii and Alaska.
According to CarInsurance.com, "Cheap, fast printing on vinyl has largely replaced prison-stamped metal in most states." That's lead to a rise in affinity plates that governments and groups use "to raise money for colleges and causes." Still, the "no-cost, standard state plate winds up on most rear bumpers," the company says.
Another question asked of motorists revolved around their favorite license plate slogans. The top five were, in order, Alabama's Sweet Home Alabama; Live Free or Die for New Hampshire; Hawaii: Aloha State; Alaska: The Last Frontier; and Florida: Sunshine State.
The surveyed drivers "strongly disliked" tags with only a web address, such as California's dmv.ca.gov, the company said. The slogan that the highest percentage of people disliked was District of Columbia's "Taxation Without Representation."
At the same time drivers differed on whether special license plates should be used "to easily identify certain drivers."
More than 69 percent would favor license plates that ID'd drivers convicted of a DUI, while close to 60 percent would support a marker for people convicted of texting while driving.
Nearly 58 percent would back license plates identifying novice drivers but less than 50 percent would go along with singling out motorists older than 70.
Full survey results can be found at www.carinsurance.com/Articles/favorite-license-plates.aspx.
CarInsurance.com said it commissioned the survey of licensed drivers "distributed proportionately by region of the country." Each motorist "was given the option of five votes for most attractive license plate, then five votes for least attractive." The state rankings were based on favorable versus unfavorable vote totals.
Formed in 2003, CarInsurance.com describes itself as "a source for unbiased answers and data about what consumers should expect from an insurance policy. The site lets consumers compare multiple car insurance quotes online and purchase a policy online in minutes."
QuinStreet Inc., a publicly traded online media and marketing company, owns and operates CarInsurance.com.
According to the company, voting continues at www.carinsurance.com/best-and-worst-license-plates.aspx. For more, visit www.CarInsurance.com.
Reach Jim Parker at 937-5542 or firstname.lastname@example.org.