Some states have been forced to discontinue marking their rental car license plates due to the visible advantage that it gives criminals, seeking to prey off of tourists. Your safety is at stake if you are driving a vehicle targeted as a rental car, especially if you are out-of-state. However, some states still do mark their rental cars in various ways, depending upon the state and if it’s a new license plate. It is advisable to ask the rental car company if they mark their rental cars before renting and request an unmarked rental.
Rental cars that can still be identified are usually marked in three ways:
- Watch for sticker color variations on license plates. For example, Virginia rental cars use standard passenger plates, but use a white on orange sticker or decal to denote that the car is a rental car.
- Look for a license plate frame or placard that advertises a rental car company. Some companies use the frames instead of markings on the license plates themselves.
- Watch for symbols on the license plates that may seem unusual. For example, Idaho has the symbol of a small heart near the bottom of the rental car license plates. The rental vehicles may have bumper stickers that have the rental dealership’s name.
Usually the license plate numbers will not look any different, but different rental agencies may have different plate types.
Contact the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) in your state to find out if or how your state marks its rental car license plates.
Law enforcement and local police need to be able to do license plate lookups and vehicle history, so rental cars have normal vehicle registration and vehicle identification numbers. The car’s vin number will be associated with a history report that says it’s a rental vehicle. Your rental agreement should detail what the registration number is as well. Your driver’s license will be associated with the front license plate number of the rental car for the duration of your rental as well, as soon as you pick up your car and pay the registration fees for the rental.