Specialty License Plates

A license plate is a metal plate that you place on your vehicle for identification purposes.

There are various types of specialty license plates available in every state. Residents usually get the standard plate that has a combination of numbers and letters unless requesting a specialty plate. There are also specialty plates that are available for military service members, government officials and disabled individuals.

How to Select Your Custom License Plate

Residents can purchase a custom license plate with your words or numbers to add a personal touch to your vehicle. Environmental causes, favorite teams, colleges and so many more specialty places are there at the DMV to choose from. Pick your favorite at the DMV or online.

A personalized license plate can include symbols, letters and numbers. Many people have customized plates to highlight their university, Greek-letter organization or favorite sports team. Requirements vary by state. Some states like Delaware allow residents to obtain personalized plates to support animal welfare and environmental causes. For custom license plate ideas, review the sections below.

Before you create a customized plate, you must first decide what you want to highlight on your license plate. Many residents choose to order a custom plate based on a special interest such as raising awareness for cancer research or environmental causes. You could also have a license plate based on your:

  • University or college – Many college graduates choose license plates that are associated with their university to recognize their time there.
  • Greek-letter organization – Sorority and fraternity members make lifelong commitments to their organization. Having a custom license plate with your Greek letters is a unique way to display your organization.
  • Favorite sports team – Sports often serve as a way to unite people. Displaying your favorite team on your license plate not only shows your spirit but it can also connect you to other sports lovers.
  • Special interest groups – These types of license plates can feature a variety of philanthropic organizations and charities.

You could also choose to create a simple personalized license plate that is unaffiliated with the above-mentioned organizations. Many residents spell out their name, favorite sayings or funny statements with their plate. However, be careful with what you write. Many states reject customized license plate requests due to obscene language, slurs or use of unapproved characters like the asterisk. As such, it’s important to take all these factors into consideration before creating your custom plate.

Steps on How to Get a Custom License Plate

Once you have an idea of the type of custom license plate you want, you must follow a series of steps to obtain it. It is important to note that some of these steps may vary depending on the state. There are also some vehicle restrictions. In some states, only motorcycles and automobiles may showcase personalized plates.

Research State Custom License Plate Rules

Each state sets its own rules on what is required to obtain a custom license plate. In states such as Florida, you can have up to seven characters plus a space or hyphen on your personalized license plate. However, if the plate has a logo, you are only allowed up to five characters. Requirements can vary on:

  • Costs.
  • Documentation requirements.
  • Rules on customization.
  • Plate availability.

With this in mind, you should first consult with your state DMV before submitting your custom license plate request. Once you know it’s allowed, take note of the requirements and restrictions. For example, some colors cannot be used for customized plates as they are used to identify law enforcement or government vehicles. Knowing what is accepted will allow you to save time in creating your plate and ensure it doesn’t go against state requirements.

Custom License Plate Design

Once you have decided on the type of specialty plate you want, it’s time to flesh out your custom license plate ideas and narrow them down. One way to visualize how your plate will look is by accessing one of the many plate customization sites online. They allow you to place symbols and add colors. Through this, you can see what your personalized license plate will look like and make changes as necessary. Find below steps to follow when designing a license plate:

  • Start with your symbol or logo to frame the plate.
  • Choose letters and numbers that will best reflect your message.
  • Use a set color scheme to avoid color clashing.

Submission of Custom License Plate Request

To submit the request for the personalized license plate, motorists must file out an application in most cases. The application generally requires the following information:

  • Full name
  • Address
  • Vehicle information such as make, model and year.
  • Previous license plate information and desired custom plate.

In states like Arkansas, motorists must include their top three choices in the application, in case there is an availability issue. If you select a specialty plate offered by the state Department of Motor Vehicles, you may be required to provide additional documents. For instance, to obtain a veterans’ plate in Massachusetts, applicants must submit proof of their service and their honorable discharge.

As for the custom license plate cost, it varies from one state to the next and is based on the type of custom plate you are obtaining. However, it is common for states to charge an additional fee to renew the custom license plate registration annually. Once you have successfully submitted the request, the DMV must process your request. It can take anywhere from a couple days to a few weeks, depending on the state.

What do you do if your custom license plate selection is taken?

Once you have picked a personalized license plate, you must ensure that it is available, as two vehicles in the same state cannot have the same license plate. In some states, residents may search the state Department of Motor Vehicle’s database to see if their plate has been taken. If so, residents can re-design their plates. Find below a few tips for re-designing your plate:

  • Consider changing some letters to similar numbers to create the same effect. For instance, if “ILOVEU” is already taken, you could use “1L0V3U” instead. It’s a simple but effective alternative.
  • Replace a letter or number with a space to create a different license plate sequence that maintains its intended meaning.