California License Plates

California license plates play several important roles. Diestly they verify a vehicle’s registration as well as identify the type of registration. This much like other countries links you to the owner. Likewise since 1905, California has mandated license plates. Note that renewing vehicle registration annually is necessary. This for the renewal, new registration stickers (tabs) are provided for the year, which must be affixed to the license plates for validation.

California License Plates

Likewise you will note that license plates typically stay with the vehicle they were initially issued to. However, certain types of plates, such as personalized environmental, special recognition, or special interest plates, can be reassigned to another vehicle upon owner request and payment of applicable fees. Likewise also see the articles on changing your gender identity as well as how to change your address at the DMV.


License plates in California come in various sizes:

– Your automobile, commercial, and trailer plates are 12″ x 6″.
– Motorcycle plates are 7″ x 4″ (except for plates issued before July 1, 1970, which are 8″ x 5″).
– Identification plates for vehicles without automobile, commercial, trailer, or motorcycle plates are 7″ x 4″ (except for plates issued before January 1, 1981, which are 8″ x 5″).

The state offers a wide range of license plates to serve different purposes, including supporting causes like the environment, arts, education, and breast cancer awareness, as well as providing special recognition and identifying special status. Some types of license plates include standard plates, special interest plates (such as those supporting arts or the environment), special license plates (for recognition or historical purposes, among others), and decals and placards for bicycles, disabled person parking, and more.

See also  DMV Processing Times


Standard license plates in California

These are issued under various circumstances:

  • When purchasing a new vehicle.
  • In the event of lost, stolen, or damaged plates.
  • When surrendering special interest license plates.

Special interest license plates are available for automobiles, commercial vehicles, trailers, and motorcycles. Thus, offering a means to support causes of personal significance. Ordering these plates involves a portion of the fees being donated to the associated charity or cause. Likewise, providing support while raising awareness among fellow drivers. See also the article that I wrote on license renewal in California.

Special interest plates can be ordered in sequential (standard numbering) or personalized (custom numbers/letters) styles. Additionally, special license plates are available to recognize service, achievements, licenses, status, historical significance, occupations, and more. Categories encompass a range of options, including exemptions, recognition for service (such as Legion of Valor or Purple Heart), occupational plates (for dealers or dismantlers), legislative plates (Senate or Assembly), and apportioned plates for power units and prorate.

Furthermore, qualified individuals with permanent disabilities can obtain Disabled Person (DP) parking placards for parking privileges. Permanent placards are valid for two years, while temporary placards are valid for up to six months.

For off-highway vehicles, a self-stick decal serves as the “plate”. This which has to be affixed directly to the vehicle. Upon renewal, a new decal with a new plate number and expiration year is issued. This however with specific instructions provided for affixing the new plates. Lastly also read the article I wrote on DMV Renew Vehicle Registration.



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