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Car Registration Plates - General Overview

Car registration plates or vehicle registration plates are metallic or plastic plates that are attached to motor vehicles or trailers for the purpose of official identification. Car registration plates contain either numeric or alphanumeric codes that uniquely identify vehicles within the issuing region’s transportation department database.

Car registration is a legal necessity not only in California, but throughout the United States. Car registration plates in turn signify that your car has been registered. It is proof of your having paid all the taxes and fees needed to own a vehicle and take it on the road legally. Car registration is usually tied in with insurance registration in California.


Car registration plates in California have to be displayed both on the front as well as on the rear end of your car. The vehicle plate is usually the same even if you sell the vehicle. Specialty plates may be retained for use in a different vehicle, but you must give prior notification to the motor vehicle division of California – DMV. You are not expected to return your California car registration plate if you are moving out of the state. However, if you are new to California, generally a 20-day-period is allotted for re-registering your vehicles and obtaining California car registration plates.


Vanity plates have been a major hit since it was launched by the California Department of Motor Vehicles in 1970. Prior to that, all California car registration plates were primarily blue with yellow lettering.

A vanity plate is a personalized license plate. It can be customized according to your own taste and preferences. You can include specialized art as well as images relating to your areas of interest. Vanity plates come with an initial order cost and an additional renewal cost over and above the usual fees for vehicle registration.

If you want to upgrade from your standard California car registration plates to vanity plates you can do so online, using your credit card to place the order. You may also apply for a specialized plate by submitting a request form with a money order or a check.


Permanently disabled persons in California can apply for disability car registration plates, which give certain parking privileges. These types of car plates have no expiry date. However, they must display a tag showing current registration. These plates come free of charge except for the usual annual fee for vehicle registration. You will get a temporary placard for a temporary disability. A doctor’s certificate along with your application form is mandatory for a disability car registration plate. This is done to prevent abuse of the disability placard.

For replacing lost or damaged disability plate stickers as well as documents, you have to mail an application to the DMV placard division. You will get a temporary placard on payment of a nominal amount.

California car registration plates are also available for disabled veterans from the U.S. Armed Forces.


In California, you may apply for Horseless Carriage plates for vehicles manufactured before 1922 and Historic Vehicle plates for those manufactured after 1922. These plates also do not expire and remain the same even if the vehicle changes hands. There are also specific requirements for California custom and vintage vehicle registrations which are required for hot-rods, custom-built vehicles or vehicles built before 1975.

Complete the form at the top of the page to register your vehicle online

Reviews of Car Registration Plates - General Overview

I was told that seeing how I'm disabled if I put disabled plates on my truck it will lower my fees. Is this true?

i bought a car and liscens, how long does it take in california before the liscens plate, and registration are issued?

I no longer want to keep my vanity plates. Can I cancel these online and obtain a standard license plate issued by DMV? Do I need to come into DMV to take care of this?

so i finally just got my car that i bought in texas registered and it cost me about 500....anyway my front license plate was stolen yesterday .i didnt realize it until i got a ticket on my windshield this morning(which is why i didnt file a police report) i had to work so i made an appt for the dmv for the following morning..i now have two tickets worth about $100..i am forced to park on the street since my apt doesnt offer covered parking so i am paranoid about waking up to more ..i am short on money as it there any way i can contest these?...btw does ca let you print off temp registration or plates?

i may be moving back to california in may from hawaii and hawaii plates but have a california drivers license . i just renewed my registration. do i have to change my plates to california or can i keep them hawaii till next year?

Im moving to california, but i have illinois drivers license. can i keep my illinios Drivers license, and when i buy a new car in california, just register it in california. -does my drivers license have to match my number plates by state? -( i frequently will be traveling back and forth from illinios to california)

I moved to California recently from Washington State. I got CA license plates.

The title - "Vehicle Certificate of Ownership" is from Washington State.

Now, several months later, I want to sell my car. In California. So... I'm just wondering:

CA plates + WA title... is this a problem?

My son recently purchased a 1990 Honda Accord. The previous owners turned in the plates to DMV. He need to have the car registered. I want to get a quote on how much his registration will cost via the website; however, he has no license plates. All he has is the proof of ownership. How can i get a quote without the plate number?

Re: Disability Placard

My husband usually receives his 'new' blue disability placard prior to June in the years which the 'old' one expires ( in this case it was June 30, 2011 ) ...and now it is August 1, 2011 and still no Disability Placard. What is happening ? Whom do we contact? Thank you in advance

Mike Zaslawsky ...

I have been trying to register my vehicle since August of 2010. I paid the registration fees for the year. I was given a Temporary Operating Permit from August to November. No license plate, no sticker. Then I went back in on November and they told me there had been no word on the reason it hadn't come in yet. So they gave me another Temporary Operating Permit from January to April. Then the next time I came in they told me I had to pay half the fee for when the owner of the vehicle I bought it from made a bad check. I paid that. The next time I went in they told me I had to pay the same fee I paid for the bad check. I told them I had already paid it. They told me that there was no record of that. I was so angry, I went home and found my reciept and gave it to them. They called the main office in Sacramento and when they got off the phone with them, she told me that my records were locked in the computer and they couldn't get in the system. CRAZY. They gave me another extention for May to July 31st and assured me that I was going to recieve my plates and sticker by July. It's almost the end of the month and I have not recieved anything yet. What is it now???????????

Please advise where to go online to review Vanity Plate name requests?

bought a 2004 dodge 3500 dully and still haven't received the plats for it

I think someone may have stolen my front liscence plate and I've received not 1 but 2 violations because of this matter . What can I do as far as receiving new plates ? Will I be able to get a new liscence plate with new numbers as the old one was stolen ? Please advise . Thank you in advance ,

Anthony Falcon . &

I bought a new car( 2011 Kia Soule) Oct. 31st. Still haven't received license plates as of 2/28/11. Called Kia auto, they said to contact DMV. DMV stated to conract Kia. ???? What do I do now ?

I lost my front plate , what do I do?

I lost my front plate in an accident on the I-280 freeway. The CHP officer who responded to the call said it might be found, but not yet as of this time (2-1-2012).Can I request that another having the same ID be manufactured, or will I have to purchase a new, different set of 2 plates?

what about vanity plates where can i go?


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