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  • License Plates & Placards in Pennsylvania

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    The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) follows the current national trend of elevating license plates from identification tags to personalized forms of expression. But before plate choices can be made, you need to make sure your vehicle is registered and titled.

    Standard Plates

    Unless you alert PennDOT of your desire for a special plate when registering your vehicle, you will be issued standard Pennsylvania plates. These feature a blue license plate number on a backdrop of blue, yellow, and white. The word "Pennsylvania" stretches across the top, while the state's official Web address, www.state.pa.us, reaches across the bottom.

    Personalized Plates

    Personalized plates, also known as vanity plates, can carry a maximum of 7 characters made up of letters and numbers with the option of either 1 space or 1 hyphen. If you're a motorcyclist, your creativity, for obvious space reasons, is restricted to 5 characters.

    To apply you must:

    • Own a valid plate with a valid registration sticker, which you must surrender once your vanity plates arrive.
    • Complete an Application for Special Registration Plate.
    • Include a check made out to "Commonwealth of Pennsylvania" for $76.

    You can expect your vanity plates to arrive in the mail in about 10 weeks.

    Bear in mind that freedom of expression has its limitations when it comes to license plates. PennDOT will reject any plate request it deems offensive, so use sound judgment when applying.

    Organizational Plates

    Currently PennDOT offers over 100 Special Organizational plates with a heavy lean on colleges. All are made with the state's standard license plate colors―blue, yellow, and white―and include your organization's emblem on the left side with its name on the bottom.

    These plates are available for all vehicles except motorcycles or trailers. If you're interested, contact your organization's main office for an application.

    Amateur Radio Operator

    PennDOT will issue you a plate that displays your FCC-assigned call letters.

    To apply you must:

    Press Photographer Plate

    This is only available to full-time press photographers in either print or television. Your vehicle must be registered or co-registered in your name.

    To apply you must:

    Special Fund License Plates

    This is available for the following groups:

    Wild Resource Conservation Fund: The plate features an outdoor background with a river otter on the right side .

    Preserve Our Heritage: A train is the dominant feature of this plate, highlighting the state's railroad heritage.

    Pennsylvania Zoological Council Fund: Funds from this plate aid five of Pennsylvania's major zoos. A Siberian tiger graces the entire span of the plate.

    Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E.): The letters "D.A.R.E." are scripted in red on the left side of the plate.

    To apply:

    Due to space limitations, motorcycles are not eligible for these plates.

    Antique Plates

    PennDOT offers three types of special plates for older vehicles:

    • Antique plates are for vehicles more than 25 years old that are in a condition similar to the original specifications, either through maintenance or restoration. Replicas are not permitted.
    • Classic plates are for vehicles at least 15 years old that are in a condition similar to the original specifications, either through maintenance or restoration. Replicas are not permitted.
    • Collectible plates are for reconstructed vehicles that have undergone significant alterations to the original specifications, but have still been maintained in a collectible condition.

    To qualify for any of these plates, the vehicle must be primarily used for antique exhibitions, parades, and related activities. The vehicle may be driven one day a week for routine transportation use.

    The plates cost $75, and there's also a $50 certificate of title fee. These are one-time fees, as the plates are permanent and remain valid for the life of the vehicle, provided there's no change in ownership.

    No matter which plate you request, you must complete the Application for Permanent, Antique, Classic or Collectible Registration Plate (Form MV-11). The rest of the application procedure varies according to the type of plate, but specific instructions are clearly provided on the form.

    Mail all the necessary paperwork, along with your payment, to:

    • Bureau of Motor Vehicles
    • Special Tag Unit
    • P.O. Box 68293
    • Harrisburg, PA 17106

    Military Veteran Plates

    PennDOT provides special plates for the following wars and war situations:

    • Ex-prisoner of War
    • Purple Heart
    • World War II Veteran
    • Korean War Veteran
    • Persian Gulf War Veteran
    • Pearl Harbor Survivor
    • Vietnam Conflict
    • Expeditionary Forces
    • Operation Iraqi Freedom
    • Operation Enduring Freedom
    • Veteran Motorcycle

    Specific document requirements and fees for each situation can be found in full detail on the Application for Special U.S. Military Veteran Registration Plate.(Form MV-150)

    Surrendering Your Plates in Pennsylvania

    Pennsylvania requires residents to return their license plates after relocating to another state, and during other situations, including a sale or a lapse in insurance coverage.

    To return your license plates, submit a Surrender of a Registration Plate application (Form MV-141) and the license plates to:

    Bureau of Motor Vehicles
    Return Tag Unit
    P.O. Box 68597
    Harrisburg, PA 17106