How to Customize Your License Plate


According to the Unofficial DMV Guide, most states require all registered vehicles to have a unique code that isn't already being used on another vehicle. You can customize your license plate to show off your personal style, show your support for a particular cause, say something special, or just create laughs. It does cost more money to order a customized plate versus a standard state-issued plate. The cost varies from state to state. Check with your local Department of Motor Vehicles office to determine price and availability of both the plate style and the letter or number combination you want to display on your vehicle.

How to Customize License Plates

  • Use the Unofficial DMV Guide to research and choose a custom design you want on your personalized license plate. This site has an updated list on all vanity license plates currently being offered for each state across the country.

  • Decide on the wording, phrasing, or numbering you want displayed on the customized license plate. Take into consideration the limit of numbers and letters that can appear on one plate. You should also check your state's DMV website to see if it has a list of unavailable phrases.

  • Call your local Department of Motor Vehicles office to see if the wording, lettering or phrase you want on your customized license plate is available.

  • Consider changing the spelling of your customized plate if the wording is already taken.

  • Check your state's DMV website or call the nearest DMV office to find out what paperwork must be completed and filed to order a customized license plate.

  • Research the fees associated with ordering a vanity license plate.

  • Determine whether you will order the customized license plate via mail or online. Many states including New York and California allow you to order customized plates online. The state of Illinois does not accept online orders and requires you to mail in a request form. Check your state's DMV website to see if they accept online orders.

  • Indicate if you're ordering customized plates for a passenger vehicle, commercial vehicle, motorcycle, or trailer on the registration form. You may also be asked if you own or lease your vehicle. California's DMV will not let you order a customized plate online without including this information.

  • Fill in information for customization on order form. Be sure to double check for errors.

  • Fill in your personal information, including name and address.

  • Pay for the customized plate and place your order. California's DMV only accepts major credit cards for online orders. Check with your local DMV about payment options before placing the order.

Tips & Warnings

  • Check your state's DMV guidelines about what to do if you make a mistake on the vanity or customized license plate registration form. For example, the Illinois Department of Motor Vehicles will not refund drivers for spelling or spacing errors made on the registration form.

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