Bumper stickers have become a hugely popular – and cheap – way of decorating your car, as well as a way of letting other motorists know about your happy family life, causes you support and your political opinions – and maybe even giving other drivers a laugh or two in the process!
Before 1927, there were no bumper stickers because there were no bumpers on cars, but it didn’t take long for someone to spot the gap in the market. The first bumper stickers weren’t stickers at all but were flags and pennants which were attached to the bumper by wire or string.
Forest P. Gill, a printer from Kansas, is widely accepted as the inventor of the adhesive bumper sticker in the 1940s. His first creations were made for tourist attractions to sell in gift shops so that motorists could advertise where they had been on vacation. Bumper stickers remain a popular purchase in tourist gift shops to this day.
However, bumper stickers are now much more widespread than Forest P. Gill could ever have imagined, and many bear bizarre, ridiculous and sometimes funny messages for other motorists to enjoy.
The bumper stickers on the list below are among some of the best that have been spotted on cars on the road or in parking lots, just make sure you don’t go overboard and end up covering the whole rear of your car – windscreen included – with your favorite bumper stickers!
24 Be Nice
In recent years, bumper stickers have spread into new and more interesting parts of the car, such as the rear windscreen. A lot of families seem to like those little stick figures group, which show off the number of kids and pets they have; a cuter way to get other drivers to back off than those “Baby on Board” signs. This particular sticker is a play on those stick figure families, showing two men being chased by a bear – one of whom is clearly struggling to escape their ursine pursuer. And that’s why you should always be nice to everyone!
23 Driver Carries No Cash
This is one of those bumper stickers which is funny at first glance but can suddenly become a little too real for many of the men reading this list.
It’s a play on the stickers which you see on delivery trucks and semi-trucks, only, in this case, it’s the driver of the car who carries no cash, and is therefore not worth robbing.
And why does this driver carry no cash? Why, because he’s married, of course; the implication being that his wife has taken all his hard-earned cash. It might be an outdated joke, but it’s still a funny one.
22 Honk If Parts Fall Off
It appears that the driver of this vehicle is also a little concerned about how roadworthy their car might actually be – at least if the message on the bumper sticker on their rear windscreen is anything to go by! These “Honk” bumper stickers have been around for decades – “Honk if you love Jesus” is one of the most common, but “Honk if you support our troops” is another popular version. This motorist is using the “Honk” bumper sticker as his own personal early warning system, asking other drivers to let him know if any parts fall off his car which shouldn’t.
21 Honor Student Gone Wrong
Proud parents love any opportunity to tell people they know – and even complete strangers – just how well their kids are doing. The Honor Roll system at American schools has allowed generations of parents to give their kids’ success an actual title, and schools have cashed in on this craze by making and selling bumper stickers announcing that “My kid is an honor student at…” followed by the name of their school. However, not all honor students go on to fulfill their early potential, as this amusing, if slightly depressing, bumper sticker illustrates. Sometimes honor students just go on to have ordinary lives like the rest of us.
20 Huge Financial Burden
Not all parents think of their children as precious little darlings who can do no wrong, however. Some are bluntly honest about the impact that having kids can have on your social life and on your bank balance.
This particular bumper sticker is a play on the popular “Baby on Board” signs, which are designed to encourage other drivers to back off, but which actually end up being the cause of many road accidents.
This parent is under no illusion that while they obviously love their kid very much, what they really have sitting on the back seat of their sensible family car is just a huge financial burden!
19 I Had A Life
“Get a life” is a pretty standard insult these days – and usually says a lot more about the person saying it that the one on the receiving end! The words obviously struck a chord with this driver, though, as they felt the need to buy themselves a bumper sticker explaining that they did one have a life – it was just that their job ate it. Clearly, someone has never heard of the importance of the work-life balance, although to be fair many people who have to work overtime or more than one job just to make ends meet would laugh at the idea that there is such a thing…
18 I Love Animals
Environmentalists and animal lovers are well catered for when it comes to the bumper sticker market. Charities and campaigning organizations produce bumper stickers by the bucket-load calling for bans on hunting, warning of the dangers of climate change and extolling the virtues of becoming a vegan. Needless to say, not everyone wants to be preached at by the car in front of them in a traffic jam, and so there are also plenty of bumper stickers which deliberately mess with these green-friendly slogans, such as the one above, reminding all those vegetarians and vegans out there just what they’re missing.
17 Keep Your Distance
Bumper stickers usually fall into one of two categories; those people who are trying to change people’s minds about something, and those which are poking fun at the people trying to change minds.
Sometimes, however, bumper stickers serve a purpose, such as the “Baby on Board” signs which are supposed to make other drivers more careful, but which actually cause more accidents.
This bumper sticker, though, would probably be a pretty effective deterrent for motorists trying to stop tailgaters; after all, who would want to get too close to a car with no ABS brakes, no airbags and no insurance?
16 My Driving Scares Me Too
Road rage has increased exponentially in recent years, making driving more dangerous for everyone. Motorists frustrated at being stuck in traffic jams or angered by the driving behavior of other road users respond aggressively, with 3% of drivers admitting to deliberately bumping another vehicle and 4% having got out of the cars to confront other people. Perhaps the best way to diffuse a potential road rage incident is to poke fun at your own driving in the first place, as in the bumper sticker above. Self-deprecating jokes can go a long way to calming the tension, and may even prevent road rage incidents from happening.
15 My Mind Was Changed By a Bumper Sticker
A lot of bumper stickers these days are designed to express opinions, with the intention of influencing the opinions of other road users.
You just have to look at how many bumper stickers start to appear around the time of political elections to see how many motorists think an adhesive piece of plastic is going to change the minds of their fellow drivers.
The bumper sticker above cuts straight to the point; who has honesty ever had their mind changed because of something that they read on the back of the car in front of them while stuck in traffic?
14 The Older I Get
The message on this bumper sticker is one that will be only too familiar to anyone who feels their best days are behind them. The line was a quote from American singer/songwriter Van Dyke Parks and inspired a number of songs by other musicians. American golfer Lee Trevino was also responsible for a similar quote - “The older I get, the better I used to be” – in response to questions about his record as a young golfer. Whoever said it first, it’s a sentiment that most older people can relate to and has probably encouraged a few wry smiles among motorists when they spot it.
13 Pizza Is My Spirit Animal
The concept of spirit animals is an important part of several indigenous civilizations, including native Americans and the Aborigines of Australia. Like many aspects of these cultures, spirit animals have been adopted more widely – you can even do quizzes online to find out what your spirit animal is. Not everyone’s spirit animal is an actual animal, however; some people feel that the object which best encapsulates their personality is something else and in the case of the owner of this bumper sticker, pizza. Most people like pizza, but this driver must really love it if they consider the Italian delicacy their spirit animal.
12 If You Can Read This
One of the earliest popular bumper stickers was the classic line “If you can read this, you’re too close” – an attempt to stop other motorists from tailgating. Since then, there have been lots of different variations on a similar theme, but perhaps one of the most intriguing is pictured in the image above. Not only does it suggest thanking a teacher for the following driver being able to read, but also to thank a soldier because they are reading it in English. Two professions that it is always worthwhile taking time to appreciate, especially teachers whose contributions are often underestimated.
11 Scientific Dirt Test
Some motorists spend hours of their free time keeping their vehicles looking in tip-top condition. From car washes to valet services, or even putting in a little elbow grease to wash and polish their car at home, it is easy to spot the drivers who take care of their vehicles.
Some cars, however, have just as obviously been left to collect dirt, and their owner clearly has no real issue with driving dirty and muddy vehicles around town.
One way of abdicating responsibility for this is the bumper sticker above, which suggests that this particular truck is undergoing a scientific dirt test.
Most political bumper stickers are in support of individual candidates, from those fighting to win local office to presidential candidates. However, sometimes people like to express more profound comments on political theories, particularly socialism, which still gets a very bad press in the US. Socialism is a political theory which advocates that the means of production should be owned or regulated by the community as a whole, with the population able to enjoy benefits like state education, free healthcare, and a supportive welfare system. As the bumper sticker points out, though, this is only a good idea until the government runs out of money.
9 Gasoline-Duct Tape Hybrid
The first hybrids may have only started appearing on roads in the late-1990s, but they are now a common sight. Using both gasoline engines and electric motors to improve fuel efficiency and reduce emissions, they are great news for motorists and the environment.
The vehicle above, however, which is clearly an old Ford Escort, is definitely not a hybrid – at least not in the conventional sense.
Although, as its bumper sticker states, and its rather dilapidated condition confirms, it is a hybrid of sorts, albeit a gasoline and duct tape hybrid. Old-school drivers do seem to enjoy poking fun at their more environmentally friendly counterparts.
8 Speeding For A Good Reason
Generally, it isn’t very funny when motorists drive too fast. Driving over the speed limit doesn’t just put them at risk, but their passengers and other road users too. A recent increase in the number of road fatalities in the US has been blamed on speeding, according to a study in 2017. However, we have all been in the situation where we have been tempted to drive a little faster than we should, in order to answer the call of nature; not everyone advertises that fact on a bumper sticker! It’s very unlikely that this bumper sticker would get the driver a pass from the police if they were pulled over for speeding through…
7 'Tis But a Scratch
Is there anything more annoying than getting into a fender bender that leaves your car with a very obvious – and expensive to fix – dent in its bodywork? There isn’t much you can do except drive around, dent and all until you can afford to fix the dent. This driver has obviously decided that the best way to deal with this issue is with humor – specifically a bumper sticker with a line from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. The line is spoken by the Black Knight, after he has lost a leg in a duel with King Arthur, but is ridiculously trying to downplay the extent of his injury.
The inspiration for bumper stickers can come from anywhere; pride in your family, political opinions, popular culture. Sometimes the inspiration comes from the actual car itself.
The owner of this Mazda Tribute is obviously a fan of Jack Black and his comedy rock band Tenacious D, and he soon saw the opportunity for a great gag when he looked at the rear of his car.
Tenacious D’s biggest hit was Tribute, a song which was a tribute to the “greatest song in the world” which the band had written and then forgotten – hence the very funny and obviously home-made bumper sticker.
5 Unmarked Police Car
Most motorists have experienced that surge of fear when they spot a cop car in traffic; drivers tend to slow down, and immediately make sure that they are performing all their maneuvers correctly. Of course, not all cop cars are easy to spot. Traffic police also use unmarked cars to catch badly-behaved motorists before they have a chance to correct any illegal moves. Of course, the vehicle in the image above is clearly not an unmarked police car – after all, it would defeat the purpose of using an unmarked car if the officers announced it to the public – but it will make other motorists look twice at the bumper sticker, just in case.
4 Well-Behaved Women Rarely Make History
Bumper stickers don’t always need to be confrontational, and they don’t even need to be funny. Traffic jams give motorists a captive audience for their views, and what better way to motivate others than by buying bumper stickers emblazoned with inspirational quotes from key figures in history and politics. And these quotes don’t always have to be from presidents; sometimes they come from people like Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, a Harvard professor, and historian. Her quote that well-behaved women rarely make history has inspired many women over the years – and who knows how many were inspired when they saw her words on a bumper sticker?
3 You Shall Not Pass
This bumper sticker is inspired by the classic scene in the first Lord of the Rings movie when wizard Gandalf the Grey defeats the Balrog in the Mines of Moria, only to apparently fall to his death (spoiler alert: he comes back later in the trilogy as Gandalf the White).
However, it also has a bit of a double meaning when you think about motoring maneuvers.
Is the driver of this vehicle just a huge fan of the J.R.R. Tolkien universe, or are they trying to give a subtle warning to other drivers that they shouldn’t even think about trying to overtake them?
2 We Ate Your Stick Family
Finally, the ultimate bumper sticker for those drivers who are fed up of seeing those happy little stick families on the rear windscreen of cars in front of them. Why not wipe the smiles off those stick figure’s faces by having a few zombies enter their world? The end result is something like The Waltons meets The Walking Dead. This is a particularly humorous version of the many anti-stick family bumper stickers which are out there and manages to include the weird popular culture obsession with zombies at the same time. Some drivers might get a little offended, but most will enjoy a good laugh.
1 And The Winner Is...
There are so many stereotypes about female Asian drivers, that the quality of their driving has become a standard joke, and provides plenty of material for stand-up comics. People see an Asian woman behind the wheel and regardless of how she is actually driving they instinctively expect that she is going to make mistakes. This particular Asian lady, however, decided to make the joke before anyone else did, with her warning bumper sticker, wishing everybody else on the road good luck. The prejudiced opinions of other motorists are not fair, but addressing them with humor is a good way to tackle the issue.
Sources: Medium.com, thetruthaboutcars.com,dmv.org, autoguide.com