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Applying for Special Plates in California

SUMMARY: Applying for California Specialty License Plates

Depending on your plate type, you can typically order special CA license plates in California online, in person, or by mail. Applicable fees vary by plate and personalized plates carry an extra fee. You can renew special plates upon registration renewal. Lost or damaged plates are replaced by mail or in person. You also have the option of transferring your CA specialty plates to another vehicle you own.

Detailed information about applying for specialty license plates in California, including fees and application forms, is provided below.

Need to know more about your specialty license plate choices? See our page about the types of specialty license plates offered in CA.

Applying for Specialty Plates

Specialty California license plates can be ordered from the CA Department of Motor Vehicles:

  • Online.
  • By mail.
  • In person.

NOTE: Some license plates can be ordered ONLY by mail or in person.

Online

The CA DMV offers online order of specialty license plates in certain cases.

The DMV will mail some online orders directly to you; however, certain plates require pick up at your local DMV office.

Online Order Eligibility

You can order a specialty license plate online IF you already have a CA license plate.

If you are new to the state, see our page on registering your car in CA for more information.

Online ordering is available for:

  • Personalized standard plates (also called “environmental plates"), for any vehicle.
  • Special interest plates, EXCEPT collegiate and firefighter plates. Special plates ordered online:
    • Must be for personal or commercial vehicles ONLY. (Plates for trailers or motorcycles can be ordered by mail or in person.)
    • Can be randomly assigned OR personalized.

How to Order Online

To order your specialty plate using the CA DMV online system, you will need:

  • Your current license plate number.
  • A form of payment (credit card or e-check).
  • The DMV location where you'll exchange your plates IF you order personalized plates.

Once you've completed your online order:

  • Randomly assigned plates will be delivered by mail within 6 weeks.
  • Personalized plates will be processed within 12 weeks. When they are available, you will:
    • Receive notification by mail.
    • Go in person to exchange your plates. (Don't forget to bring your current plates!)
      • You'll visit the DMV location that you indicated when you ordered your plates.
    • Pay registration renewal fees if your registration will expire in the next 30 days.

By Mail or In Person

You can apply for CA specialty license plates by mail or in person.

NOTE: Legacy plates may only be pre-ordered by mail. See our page on types of specialty plates for more information.

  • Complete the appropriate application form:
  • Include required documentation and/or certification for the plate type you are requesting:
    • Firefighter plate: Evidence of current service or retirement from fire service.
    • All other plates: Specific requirements are listed on the application.
  • Include payment for applicable fees.
  • Submit your application:
    • By mail to the address on the form.
    • In person at a CA DMV office.

NOTE: In ADDITION to the specialty license plate fee, you will have to pay registration fees if you are registering a car for the first time OR you're within 30 days of your renewal date.

Renewing CA Specialty Plates

All license plates expire and must be renewed annually.

To renew your personalized plate, special interest plate, or other specialty license plate, you must renew your vehicle registration.

Renewal fees vary based on the vehicle and location.

For more detailed information, please visit our page on renewing your registration in California.

Fees for CA Specialty License Plates

Specialty license plates have different fees than standard license plates.

NOTE: The fees below are plate fees only and DO NOT include your registration fees, which vary by vehicle and location.

The fees are:

  • Personalized plates:
    • Original: $48.
    • Renewal: $38.
    • Replacement: $38.
    • Retention: $38.
  • Special Interest plates: Vary based on plate type; please see the CA DMV specialty plate fees page for each type.
    • NOTE: If personalizing a special interest plate, you'll pay both the plate fee and the personalization fee above.
  • Military/honor plates (not available for personalization):
    • Original sequential issue: Free.
    • Renewal: Free.
    • Replacement: $20.
    • Retention: Not available.
  • Antique and historical plates (not available for personalization):
    • Fees vary and are listed on the application form.

Replacing CA Specialty License Plates

To replace a lost, stolen, or damaged specialty license plate, you will need:

Submit your replacement request:

  • By mail to the address on the form.
  • In person at a CA DMV office.

Transfer Your CA Special Plates

Unlike standard license plates, specialty license plates usually stay with the owner, not the vehicle.

If you sell your vehicle, you can:

  • Reassign your specialty plate to your new car.
  • Retain your specialty plate until you get another vehicle.
    • Retention fees may apply.
  • Release your specialty plate number back to the DMV.

Regardless of which of the above options you choose, you must:

Forms

REG 17

Application for special interest license plates connected to organizations or causes.

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