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Wondering why your neighbor has such a cool license plate? Maybe they’ve got a special design or a unique combination of license plate characters.

Whatever the case, they’ve applied for a custom license plate. 

Luckily, each state Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) offers special and vanity plates for an additional fee.  

Vanity Plates & Specialty License Plates

A vanity plate or personalized license plate is a type of tag you can apply for in which you get to create the combination of numbers and letters on the plate. 

In most states, you’ll be able to choose a combination of characters ranging from 2 to 8 digits. 

You’ll need to be sure to comply with the state’s requirements for decency and make sure that the combination is available. Most states provide an online search tool that will allow you to check a plate’s availability. You can also use our free license plate lookup for this purpose

In most states, you can choose a personalized plate that includes numbers, letters, and spaces.

The general rules for custom plates include:

  • No confusing combinations of characters. 
  • Character combinations cannot be too similar to existing plates. 
  • No sexual, vulgar, or offensive terms allowed. 

Custom plates will be approved and issued at your state DMV’s discretion. 

Special interest plates are also available for purchase in sequential format (standard) or personalized. 

Special license plates feature designs and wordings associated with different causes, charities, organization, sports teams, and interests. 

In some cases, a portion of your registration and plate fees will go towards the organization or cause associated with the plate. 

Both special plates and personalized plates will carry an initial issuance fee plus a renewal fee that will be added to your regular registration fees. 

How to Get a Custom License Plate

In many states, you’ll be able to browse and apply for your custom license plates online or by mail. 

Some states will require you to visit your local DMV office to apply. 

To get a custom license plate, you’ll typically need to:

  • Complete an application. 
  • Choose the design and character combination you want. 
  • Surrender your current license plates. 
  • Pay the plate fees. 
  • Provide any proof of eligibility, depending on the plate type. 

Once you get custom license plates, you’ll typically have the option to transfer them to another vehicle should you decide to sell, donate, or recycle your existing car that you ordered the plates for. 

Learn more about license plate requirements by state here.