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. Utilizing our vehicle registration online services, you can save the time and effort dealing with the government's DMV system or having to go to the DMV in person by clicking here.


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. allows you to apply for lost or damaged disability plate sticker replacements by clicking here. You can also 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

Submitted by lgata on 12th Nov 2015

My friend bought vanity

My friend bought vanity plates. He put them on his car, but doesn't know what to do with the original license plates. Does he take them to the DMV? Thank you.

Submitted by Richgranger on 16th Dec 2014

I was told that seeing how

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?

Submitted by ace22catch on 11th Dec 2014

i bought a car and liscens,

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

Submitted by LillyJeanCosta (not verified) on 16th Jun 2012

I no longer want to keep my

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?

Submitted by myxownxme (not verified) on 2nd Mar 2012

so i finally just got my car

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?

Submitted by jahsue89 (not verified) on 3rd Feb 2012

i may be moving back to

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?

Submitted by calidriver (not verified) on 28th Jan 2012

Im moving to california, but

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)

Submitted by suswheels (not verified) on 23rd Jan 2012

I moved 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?

Submitted by KHester (not verified) on 14th Oct 2011

My son recently purchased a

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?

Submitted by bzboop (not verified) on 1st Aug 2011

Re: Disability Placard My

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 ...

Submitted by carmadeana12 (not verified) on 21st Jul 2011

I have been trying to

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???????????

Submitted by (not verified) on 7th Jul 2011

Please advise where to go

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

Submitted by Sherrie Risen on 22nd Jun 2015

What is the status of my

What is the status of my vanity plate request?

Submitted by Sioux52 on 3rd Nov 2015

What is the status of my

What is the status of my vanity plates?

Submitted by pflowers4588 (not verified) on 21st Jun 2011

bought a 2004 dodge 3500

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

Submitted by Anonymous on 4th Mar 2011

I think someone may have

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 . &

Submitted by Anonymous on 28th Feb 2011

I bought a new car( 2011 Kia

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 ?

Submitted by Anonymous on 23rd Feb 2011

I lost my front plate , what

I lost my front plate , what do I do?

Submitted by billp3 (not verified) on 1st Feb 2012

I lost my front plate in an

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?

Submitted by Anonymous on 4th Feb 2011

what about vanity plates

what about vanity plates where can i go?

Submitted by phrozt on 20th Nov 2014