I drive past a house each day on my commute. There are two cars parked in the drive, and each appears to have the exact same vanity plate (from the same state). It's a six-letter word, such as COWBOY. As far as I know, each license plate in a given state should be absolutely unique, so how can this be? And since the vehicles are parked in plain view, wouldn't any law enforcement officer driving by be likely to see them and investigate?

The only possible explanation I can come up with is that since license plates in this state can have 7 characters, perhaps one plate is in the system as _COWBOY and the other as COWBOY_. But they look identical. Could an extra space before or after a word in a vanity plate be used to make 2 unique plates out of the same single word?

  • 1
    Are they indeed state-issued license plates mounted in the required location? Some states don't require front license plates, in which case you may be able to put whatever you want there. Sep 13, 2023 at 16:01
  • Yes, state-issued, and both were seen on the rear of the vehicles.
    – nuggethead
    Sep 13, 2023 at 16:04
  • 1
    Well, O and 0 look pretty similar…
    – Jon Custer
    Sep 13, 2023 at 16:16
  • They do, but i made up that word to protect the innocent... The plate in question does not include the letter O. It does include I, but the font in use on plates makes the letter I easily differentiated from L and 1.
    – nuggethead
    Sep 13, 2023 at 16:18
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    which state are the plates in? In Germany, there are special Interchangeable license plates
    – Trish
    Sep 13, 2023 at 16:19

1 Answer 1


Made up words (but close enuff), but I know a person who has "HISPEED and "HI SPEED" on two of his cars in Virginia. Same plate design.

Details matter.

And H1SPEED and HISPEED are also 2 different combinations.

From the Virginia DMV, all it says is that the characters must be "unique". The style of plate does not enter into it.

"Personalized character combinations for license plates registered to a vehicle must be unique."


  • Can you provide a legal citation beyond just your anecdote? Right now, this seems more like a comment. Sep 14, 2023 at 14:58
  • From the Virginia DMV: "Personalized character combinations for license plates registered to a vehicle must be unique. " dmv.virginia.gov/vehicles/license-plates/personalized-policy
    – WPNSGuy
    Sep 14, 2023 at 15:49
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    I would recommend including that with relevant citations in the answer. Sep 14, 2023 at 16:05
  • In the OP's answer, you could also have something like COW_BOY and C0W_B0Y and it would be valid (The second plate tag uses Zeroes and not Capital Letter "O".
    – hszmv
    Sep 15, 2023 at 9:38

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