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License Plates in California

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The moment license plates are lost, stolen or illegible they must be replaced. When you apply for a license plate replacement, there are two different kinds you can apply for:

  1. Substitute: replace regular or special interest plates that have not been personalized.
  2. Duplicate: replace personalized and some special interest plates.

Note: If BOTH personalized plates are stolen/lost they must be replaced with a new plate - duplicates will not be made.
In order to replace your license plates, you must:

  1. Visit your local DMV office.
  2. Present proper forms of ID.
  3. Hand in any remaining license plates.
  4. Fill in an application for replacement plates. Please see the list below for links to the appropriate forms for each type of plate.
  5. Pay the license plate replacement fees.


Regular Series

The different types of plates in the regular series include: Auto, Commercial, Trailer, Motorcycle, Permanent Trailer Identification, Disabled Person, Disabled Veteran, and Foreign Organization. Please see the proper application forms for regular series license plates. When you have completed the forms, take them to your local DMV office and submit them with the appropriate fees (see below).

Special Interest Plates

The following is a list of some examples of special interest plates: Arts, Collegiate, Firefighter, Ex-Prisoner of War, Memorial, Olympic Training Center, Veterans, Congressional Medal of Honor, Press Photographer and Purple Heart Recipient. Click on these links to access applications forms for replacing the different types of special interest plates - Special Interest Plate type 1 and Special License Plate type 2. When you have completed the forms, take them to your local DMV office and submit them with the appropriate fees (see below).


The fees for replacing a license plate or getting new plates vary depending on the type of plate you need. For more information on these fees please follow the link for Special Interest Plate Fees and Regular Series Fees.
Note: For disabled drivers, please see disability plates and fees.


Under California Law it is NOT mandatory to retain standard license plates from a vehicle when selling. The plates will remain with the buyer once the ownership of the vehicle has been transferred; however, if the plates are special interest or personalized then there are two options for the seller. One, keep the plates for another vehicle and two, release the plate to the buyer. Both options require the seller to fill out an application for the plates that will state whether you are retaining them for another car or releasing them to a new owner.


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