Introduction

California has required license plates since 1905. There are many variations. The plates are issued when you buy a new vehicle and register it or turn in special interest license plates. Once you have your plates you will also need a new sticker every time you renew your vehicle's registration annually.

In California, passenger vehicles must display 2 license plates: 1 plate on the front and 1 plate on the rear. The DMV will issue you the appropriate number when you register your vehicle.

You also need 2 stickers on your license plate: The first sticker shows the year your registration expires and the second shows the month your registration expires.  At each registration time, you will receive an updated year sticker, but you will keep your same month sticker.

Special Interest License Plates

Many special interest license plates are available.  They may be ordered in sequential or personalized configurations.  Most of them can be ordered online.  There are additional fees for a special license plate.

 

License Plate Type Fees Support Original Fee Renewal Fee
Arts Council The fees support the California Arts Council. $50 Sequential
$98 Personalized
$40 Sequential
$78 Personalized
California Agriculture The fees support agricultural leadership development, career awareness and training activities. $50 Sequential
$98 Personalized
$40 Sequential
$78 Personalized
California 1960s Legacy The fees collected are used to support environmental programs. $50 Sequential
$50 Personalized
$40 Sequential
$40 Personalized
Collegiate The fee supports need-based scholarships for participating colleges and universities in California. $50 Sequential
$98 Personalized
$40 Sequential
$78 Personalized
Environmental The fee collected is used to support environmental programs. $48 $38
Firefighters The fees are deposited in the California Firefighter's Memorial fund. $50 Sequential
$98 Personalized
$35 Sequential
$73 Personalized
Have a Heart, Be a Star, Help Our KIDS The fees are deposited in the Child Health and Safety Fund. $20 Sequential
$50 Personalized
$15 Sequential
$40 Personalized
Lake Tahoe Conservancy The fees fund preservation, restoration and non-motorized trail projects in the Lake Tahoe area. $50 Sequential
$98 Personalized
$40 Sequential
$78 Personalized
Memorial The fees help California's law enforcement fight threats of terrorism. $50 Sequential
$98 Personalized
$40 Sequential
$78 Personalized
Pet Lovers The fees provides funding for no- or low-cost spay and neuter programs. $50 Sequential
$98 Personalized
$40 Sequential
$78 Personalized
Veterans' Organizations The fees are used by the California Department of Veterans Affairs to benefit participating county veteran service offices and to commemorate veteran organizations. $50 Sequential
$78 Personalized
$40 Sequential
$40 Personalized
Whale Tail (California Costal Commission) The fees help protect and restore the resources of California's coast and ocean. $50 Sequential
$98 Personalized
$40 Sequential
$78 Personalized
Yosemite Conservancy The fees are used by the Yosemite Conservancy to manage wildlife, restore habitat and repair trails in the Yosemite National Park. $50 Sequential
$98 Personalized
$40 Sequential
$78 Personalized

 

Special License Plates

Not to be confused with Special Interest Plates, there are other special license plates you can request.

License Plate Type Description Original Fee Renewal Fee
Amateur Radio Call Letters For holders of FCC amateur radio station licenses $20 $0
Antique Motorcycle For motorcycles manufactured in 1942 or earlier $15 $0
Disabled Person/Veteran For disabled persons as defined in VC 295.5 and VC 295.7. $0 $0
Exempt Vehicles owned or leased by government agencies    
Foreign Organization For employees of foreign organizations recognized by the U.S.    
Historical Vehicles For vehicles manufactured after 1922 which are at least 25 years old. $25 $0
Honorary Consul Corps For vehicles owned by officials who are citizens or permanent residents of the U.S. who are appointed by a foreign country.    
Horseless Carriages For motor vehicles with an engine of 16 or more cylinders manufactured prior to 1965 or any vehicle manufactured in 1922 or before.    
Livery This has been eliminated, but existing plates remain valid and can be renewed.    
Moped Mandatory on motorized bicycles.    
Press Photographer For newspaper, newsreel and television photographers, as well as camera operators. $20 $0
Special Equipment For special construction, mobile, cemetery equipment and implements of husbandry.    

For more information about any of these plates visit the ca.gov website.