What are Bumper Stickers?

Michael Pollick
Michael Pollick

Bumper stickers are small promotional stickers attached magnetically or chemically to a vehicle's bumper, although collectors may display bumper stickers by other methods. These stickers may promote a specific political party or opinion, favorite sports team, or humorous phrase. Bumper stickers can be ordered through the internet or found in gift shops and novelty item stores. Many printing or advertising companies can also create custom bumper stickers as promotional items or personal expressions.

Woman wearing a tank top shirt
Woman wearing a tank top shirt

One of the most common uses of a bumper sticker is political affiliation. Bumper stickers are relatively inexpensive to produce, so candidates often pass them out as campaign promotions. Politically active drivers may feel a sense of connection with a favored candidate once they display these bumper stickers prominently. Their vehicles become traveling placards, getting the politician's name circulating among potential voters. Some political bumper stickers may address a specific issue instead of a general political party. Expressing an opinion on a controversial topic may be easier through the judicious use of a political bumper sticker.

Another popular subject for bumper stickers is humor. Because space can be very limited on a bumper sticker, jokes are often honed to a few well-crafted words: "If you don't like the way I drive, stay off the sidewalk!" or "So many pedestrians, so little time." are typical examples of bumper sticker humor. Bumper stickers featuring joke messages are available for all different age groups and humor levels. Some bumper stickers can prove to be a little off-color, so keep in mind that the messages on your car's bumper are often a reflection of your true personality. Choose wisely when searching for humorous bumper stickers.

Other common bumper sticker themes include religious affiliations, hobbies, school affiliations, professional memberships and sports. Some people may be tempted to affix unsolicited bumper stickers on an unsuspecting victim's vehicle, but this would be considered misdemeanor vandalism in most jurisdictions. A more serious situation involving bumper stickers may involve employees and employers. Several cases of alleged wrongful termination have arisen from a dispute over an employee's bumper sticker. Usually a bumper sticker is protected as free speech by the First Amendment, but the owner of that sticker may not be fully protected from the actions of offended readers. When it comes to bumper stickers, keep in mind that they often speak for you long after you've quit paying attention to their contents.

Michael Pollick
Michael Pollick

A regular wiseGEEK contributor, Michael enjoys doing research in order to satisfy his wide-ranging curiosity about a variety of arcane topics. Before becoming a professional writer, Michael worked as an English tutor, poet, voice-over artist, and DJ.

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Discussion Comments


There is a legal difference between a bumper sticker written in bad taste and a legally obscene communication. The publishers of bumper stickers containing sexual innuendo or crude language are protected from governmental censorship under the First Amendment, but they can still be prosecuted for violating local community standards. If a particular bumper sticker incurs too much wrath, however, the publishers are more likely to simply pull it off the shelves or limit advertising to adult-oriented outlets. Displaying a patently offensive bumper sticker on company property could also be cited as part of a larger sexual harassment lawsuit based on a hostile work environment.


I understand that most bumper stickers are protected under the first amendment, but what about especially lewd or sexual ones? Nudity can be illegal in certain times and places, but am I ever protected from someone else's bad taste in bumper sticker?

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