Colorado Switching to Screen-Printed License Plates for Better Visibility

Chris Teague
by Chris Teague

Having a visible license plate is a big deal in most places, but the paint and coatings on the plate can wear and become hard to see over time. Here in Maine, it’s a common sight, as the road salt and sand can quickly shave off the more visible parts of a license plate. Colorado receives similar winter weather, and lawmakers in the state want to change the type of plates allowed to be more durable and visible over time.

Screen-printed plates will replace the old raised-letter plates, as the coatings used on previous designs can wear off over time, reducing visibility and cutting the reflective coating that makes them stick out at night. Beyond law enforcement, damage can make it impossible for automated toll systems to accurately read the plates.

As The Drive pointed out, Colorado is the latest in a long line of states making the shift. New Jersey, Ohio, Texas, and many others have made the switch to screened plates, and New York backed out of a contract renewal with 3M after seeing its license plates peeling and wearing in the state’s poor winter weather. Colorado is also one of several states that require front license plates. Drivers in Maine, Iowa, Idaho, Connecticut, California, and many others must have a second plate on the front bumper. 

[Image: 360b via Shutterstock]

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Chris Teague
Chris Teague

Chris grew up in, under, and around cars, but took the long way around to becoming an automotive writer. After a career in technology consulting and a trip through business school, Chris began writing about the automotive industry as a way to reconnect with his passion and get behind the wheel of a new car every week. He focuses on taking complex industry stories and making them digestible by any reader. Just don’t expect him to stay away from high-mileage Porsches.

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7 of 36 comments
  • Spamvw Spamvw on Sep 19, 2023

    Here in Minnesota we did it some time ago, 3M being located here might have had something to do with it. There are security features printed on the plate holograms, barcodes, and plate number repeated, also it's very reflective. It also allows you to make pretty much any plate you want and sell them for more money. We have colleges, teams, veterans, ham radio operators, critical habitat, you get the idea.

    I remember there were some problems with the printing flaking off the plate at the beginning and I have seen other states having similar issues.

    While I'm not in favor of number plate readers, I see that Alaska is looking at getting rid of renewal stickers and some other states have as well. Mine go on in February which can be a cold month here and the sticker doesn't go on as well.

    Yeah I know, first world problems.

    • See 2 previous
    • Theflyersfan Theflyersfan on Sep 21, 2023

      @Jeff - at least anything is better than what Kentucky had right before the Unbridled Spirit plates - the smiling sun and "It's that Friendly" plate. Wow... I understand some motorists had great fun in modifying the sun on their plate! I do remember seeing some with a Mr. Yuck poison sticker plastered on the sun.

      But since you can't really have bourbon on a license plate, what else is Kentucky known for besides barnyard drugs and embarrassment US Senators? Horses. Horse racing. And to this day, I wish Churchill Downs wouldn't have forced Kentucky to remove the twin spires from their plates. I know that was over 25 years ago, but they were still a nice, classy plate and given today's imaging tech, it'd be nice to see what they could do today. It's like the 1980s California "Sunset" plate that became iconic. Sometimes a classic design just doesn't need to change or change much. And now California, on the standard issue, just has some generic MS Word font splashing out California and that's it.

  • Jkross22 Jkross22 on Sep 19, 2023

    My 07 wagon has plates from 2010. The paint on the plate is peeling off, it has lost all of its reflective coating (must be 13 years of near constant sun exposure) and I would like one of those cool screen printed plates that seem to age better. Not sure if CA has them yet, but I would be motivated to switch out my tired plates for new ones when they do.

  • Funky D Funky D on Sep 19, 2023

    Tennessee has switched to screen printing for the new blue plates.

    Florida plates are replaced every 10 years. They have changed the stamping since we first moved here, but they are otherwise the same. However made, they hold up quite well.

  • CoastieLenn CoastieLenn on Sep 20, 2023

    Our South Carolina plates were also printed from what I remember. I lived there from 2012-2016.