An old license plate is one of those things that you never want to throw away but also struggle to figure out what exactly to use it for. Most license plates come in bright colors and are made out of high-quality metal, so they are crafting goldmines.
A license plate may be the perfect, rustic and vintage addition to your home, and you have a myriad of fun ideas to play around with. Additionally, this is a great way to upcycle with materials you already own, so you don’t have to pay out of pocket for extra materials for your crafting projects.
However, if you’re having trouble thinking of how to alter your license plates we have some great home decor and art project ideas that will help you get started.
If you don’t have any spare license plates yet, read our guide below on buying license plates for crafts.
Dig out your tools and read on for our top ideas of how to repurpose your old license plates!
Top 8 License Plate DIY Craft Ideas:
1. License Plate Map
One of the more creative ideas for your old license plates is to use them to create a map! Whilst this may take more than one plate, it’s a great and creative way to honor your home country or continent.
A lot of artists have taken on this project, and there are many how-to guides online. The United States is the most popular country to replicate this artistic idea, but it really can be used for any landmass in the world that has unique local license plates.
2. License Plate Bird Feeder or Bird House
This is a great idea if you only have one license plate. Making a bird feeder or a birdhouse out of a license plate requires little work, but creates an amazing result. The final product is practical, aesthetically pleasing, and a great conversation starter.
You don’t have to be a master at woodwork to complete this project, and a metal license plate is very durable. The extra protection this will grant the birds in your garden will make this project so much more satisfying!
3. License Plate Clipboard
A reworked license plate makes an amazing clipboard. It also looks adorable!
All you need to do for this project is secure a clip to your clipboard, and then you’ll have a great new addition to your home. You could use this practice, as decoration, or give it as a gift – whatever the result you’ll be sure to have fun when making this great craft!
4. License Plate Lamp
Using old license plates as a lampshade makes a great addition to any car enthusiasts room. The great thing about license plates is that they come in so many different colours, so this craft can match the decor of any room you choose!
This is another relatively easy craft to make, but the result is awesome!
5. Personalized License Plate Keychain
If you would rather not use the entire license plate for your crafts you can always cut out the different letters to make a personalised keychain.
License plate keychains make amazing gifts and are also extremely practical. They’re rustic and super unique, so they’re perfect for anyone who wants to create a fun and original craft.
6. License Plate Toolbox
Reworking your old license plates into a toolbox would make a perfect gift for your husband or boyfriend, and are a sure conversation starter.
A license plate toolbox is a perfect addition to any garage or workspace. The license plate look blends in seamlessly, and also adds a bit of colour and excitement to these spaces. They’re also super durable, so they would protect any tools or instruments that someone would place inside.
You can accomplish this project with household tools that anyone has, and there are numerous DIY guides online, but that doesn’t make it any less satisfying!
7. License Plate Dustpan
Do you want a dustpan that’s a little bit more exciting? Are you bored of the same old plastic dustpan that everyone else seems to own? Why not craft a dustpan out of old license plates!
These dustpans look super classy and add a little bit of interest to an otherwise dull household item. You can show some love to your favourite state or country with this great craft, and it’s super unique!
They’re also easy to clean and lightweight, making them extremely practical and much better than any cheap, boring plastic dustpan owned by anyone else.
8. License Plate Planter
A license plate planter is one of the best crafts that you can make. Not only does it looks super cute, but the metal of the license plate is a great material for your garden. It doesn’t degrade or get stained like wood, doesn’t crack or smash like terracotta, and the colours are durable, brightening up your garden for years to come!
All you need for this project is adhesive and silicone, making this one of the easiest, but best looking, license plate crafts you could make!
Where to Buy Old License Plates
We’ve created a quick guide to help you narrow down the best choices for finding old decorative license plates online to use for your at-home crafts.
Buying Old License Plates Online:
1. Rustic Plates – rusticplates.com
A site solely dedicated to the sale of old license plates. Sound too good to be true? Nope.
The domestic plates range anywhere from $1.95 (Washington State) to $19.95 (Alaska).They even have European-style plates from $19.00 (Germany) to $99.99 (Italy).
Additionally, Rustic Plate’s Etsy shop is filled with great reviews. This is a safe bet if you are looking to acquire a plate or two. Also, they also offer free shipping on order over $35.00. Not a bad deal considering all of their plates are relatively inexpensive.
Lastly, Rustic Plates enables you to save time a TON of time searching for the exact plate you want. You can quickly search from their inventory and see all of the states listed. Even some unique and rare ones to make a one-of-a-kind piece.
2. License Plates on Etsy – Etsy.com
Traditionally, Etsy sellers have been known to only ofter crafts or pre-cut/pre-sculpted pieces of license plates. However, their actually is one shop (believe it or not) that only sells unaltered license plates. Who could this be? The seller is “Rusticplates” who we’ve also mentioned in above as our number 1.
Turns out, you can purchase from their Etsy shop, or their website directly (above). Either is a great choice and our #1 recommendation. One advantage buying from Etsy is they do have additional buyer protection in place versus purchasing directly from Rustic Plate’s website.
3. License Plates on eBay – eBay.com
A great choice, but not nearly as much of a selection as RusticPlates. Also, you may end up paying more, or less, depending on how many other buyers are involved in the auction. Unlike Rustic Plates who offers a fixed cost, on eBay you are potentially bidding among hundreds or thousands of other buyers. You may be able to sneak out a few better prices on eBay, but it may not be worth the additional time investment. There is great variety, but with that also comes price uncertainty and highly variable shipping costs. Not a bad choice if you truly find very unique plate listed.
4. License Plates on Amazon
Well, not exactly. Be careful on Amazon. At the moment, Amazon does not offer the official US license plates and it does not appear they allow their sellers to offer this type of product within the marketplace either. At first glance, of a quick search of license plates, you will find many license plates available. However, these are replicas ONLY — despite having a “vintage” look.
If you are OK with non-authentic (replica) license plates from Amazon, here are three great examples below:
- 1st Warehouse Assorted Replica Plates Lot
- PEI Retro Vintage Replica Tags Lot of 5
- Prop License Plate – Replica Tags – Lot of 2
Additional Options for Buying Old License Plates (In-Person)
There are usually a decent selection of plates on Craigslist. However, it is VERY important the seller took the necessary precautions to deactivate the plate (even though they are to be used for arts and crafts). Craiglist is decent and there are fair prices, but you may end up driving up to an hour to find the one you want.
2. Yard, Garage, and Estate Sales
It’s very common for a yard or garage sales to include old license plates. Most people have a few extra plates left over from old vehicles laying around in their garage that they will include. This is a great option, however, the seller usually only has one or two variations of states available.
Pro Tip: Even if you don’t see any plates on display, ask the owner of the yard sale, they may have some tucked away in their house they are willing to sell.
3. Flea Markets
Similar to garage sales, it’s common for sellers at these markets to have old license plates for sale. The only downside to this strategy is that usually these markets are quick large and you might spend some extra time sifting through a TON of stores and inventory. You might also spend a bit more on these since the sellers have to cover the costs of renting their lots at the flea market.
4. Antique store
One of the best local locations for old license plates. It’s a very common item among these shops. The only potential disadvantage to using an Antique store to source your license plates would be that (usually) they are stocked with very old, vintage, plates that have not been used for 30+ years. If you are seeking to make a craft with a more modern-style plate, your best best is most likely online (see recommendations above)