Plastic license plate frames give car dealers $137,000 in free advertising annually!

When you buy a new car, typically the dealer puts a plastic license plate frame on the back, and in many states and provinces, on the front too. Why should we care? Well first off its offensive - they do this without getting our permission. Second, the frames are ugly and detract from the cars appearance while covering up information on your license plate. Lastly, these dealer license plate frames are delivering more value to the dealer AFTER you just negotiated a deal with them. And they keep giving the dealer value until you take them off!

This leaves the question of how much this advertising on the back of our cars is worth. With the demise of printed newspapers and magazines as well as the slow but ongoing demise of network TV, advertisement spending has shifted quite a bit in the last few years. “Out of home” advertising such as what you see on billboards and bus stops has been a big beneficiary with this space being in higher demand and prices going up consistently. Other out of home advertising venues such as stadiums and sports sponsorship's are also seeing a surge in demand. Probably the best comparison for the back of a car though is the back of another car. Just like the other forms of out of home advertising, placement of ads on the back of taxi cabs is a fast growing business.

advertising on the back of a car and taxi

In an average size city this advertising is sold for about $250 per week. In large cities it goes for over $500 per week. We can’t take a direct comparison as the space on the back of a taxi is much larger than a license plate frame. It’s generally about 30 inches wide by 12 inches high for a total of 360 square inches of space compared to a typical dealer advertisement on a license plate frame being about 2.5 inches high (adding the top and bottom) and 12 inches wide for a total of about 30 square inches of advertising space. We also need to factor in that a taxi will consistently be driven more miles and thus generate more views of its advertising than a regular car.

So if we average all of this out, and apply the ratios I described above, we get the average car with dealer advertising on the license plate frame delivering the car dealer about $217 annually in advertising - FREE of charge. I wonder what will happen when on my next car purchase I offer to sell the car dealership the advertising space on my license plate for that amount?!?

On an individual basis $217 per year isn’t a huge number but it’s still $18 a month that theoretically could come off of your car payment. That may never happen but we still should thwart the car dealers from doing this. If we factor in that the average car dealership in the US averages about 950 cars sold annually, the car dealer is getting $137,000 in free advertising. On a material spend of about $2.00 per car for the plastic plate frames with their name, phone number and sometimes website address on them. That’s great value for the car dealership that their customers are letting them have.

So in the end I must commend the car dealers. They are smart for doing this.  They are outsmarting their customer who, for the most part, isn’t even aware of what they are doing. If you had the opportunity to take a quarter of a million dollars in free advertising for your business you would probably do it, however, if you are like me you wouldn’t be sneaky about it. This perpetuates the car salesperson stereotype for sure doesn’t it?

Time to change it. Stop the car dealer from putting their advertising on your car, or if they have, take it off. It’s very easy to do to just remove the frame. And if you want to enhance your car’s look, buy one of our StreamlineJK Ultimate License Plate Frames :)

**Note - This blog was originally published with preliminary data from the StreamlineJK license plate survey. It has been updated with the final survey results.

1 comment

  • Carter

    Good article. I never thought about this like this before but you are right in that it’s crazy we are letting car dealers advertise on our cars.

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