If you are a first-time driver or need to replace your license plates, it is the perfect time to start thinking about your license plate options. In the state of California, you have the option to retain your license plate or apply for a new one,  but have you ever thought about a special interest plate? Special interest license plates are characterized as personalized license plates that allow the vehicle owner to customize their plate to their own preference. Whether for your commercial vehicle or just to add a little spunk to your vehicle, special interest license plates are an easy way to recognize your vehicle or to make it stand out from the rest.

 In the state of California, special interest license plates come in a variety of options to choose from and give the owner the ability to customize the text that appears on the plate as long as it complies with the state’s guidelines. Specialty plates are available for your car or truck, but some restrictions may apply for motorcycles. 

Continue reading to learn about how to apply for your special interest license plate and what you need to know. 

Pick your plate

California offers the option to receive a charity special interest license plate that allows you to support a variety of charities and local causes by donating a portion of the fees to the nonprofit organization or fund of your choice. Each charity plate comes with a graphic design recognizing a specific group or serving a functional purpose. With your charity plate, you can support your college, a wildlife conservation program or show love for your pets. If you choose not to go with one of the custom backgrounds, you can opt for the traditional California license plate option instead.

Once your preferred background has been chosen, you can decide whether you would like your license plate number to be sequential or personalized. Sequential license plate numbers are randomized numbers given to you by the state. You must provide your vehicle registration card before you can receive your license plate. The personalized plates number allows you to select any combination of letters, numbers and special characters as long as it is between 2-7 characters depending on the type of plate. Different license plates have specific character requirements, so be sure to do your research on the specific requirements for each type of charity plate. Just keep in mind, if you decide to choose special characters, you cannot use the online system at the DMV or the kiosks. 

It’s Application Time

Now that you have decided that the special interest license plate is the way to go, its time to start your application. You can find the special interest license plate application below:

Special Interest License Plate Application

Applying for your special interest license plate is a similar process to applying for a traditional license plate. Depending on whether you are applying for an original, replacement or you are looking to reassign or exchange your previous license plate, you will be required to complete different sections of the REG 17.

Price and Submission

Section one of the application asks you to select the type of plate you would like to receive. Section 2, asks you to input your personalized configuration choice and to select the type of vehicle the plate will be assigned to. For additional instructions on how to configure the personalized plate, you can follow the instructions located on the back of the application. Section 3 is only if you are applying to replace license plates that were lost or stolen and Section 4 is for drivers who wish to reassign, retain or release their license plate. Section 5 requests that you provide information about the purchaser and/or owner of the license plate. Once you have completed all the required sections, you must sign the application to certify that all information given is true and correct. 

Specialty license plates can range between $50 to $100 depending on whether you decided to personalize your license plate number. Most specialty license plates cost around $50 with a $48 fee to personalize the plate. If you are deciding to go with your own customized license plate, be sure that the license plate is one that you will enjoy because once the application is complete, the DMV will not refund you the money. All transactions made with a credit or debit card will be charged a 2.1% service fee.

Once your application is submitted, you can expect to receive your license within 6-12 weeks. Sequential license plates will be mailed to the most current address of the plate purchaser, while personalized plates will be available to pick up at your local DMV office. When you have received your license plate, remember to exchange your old license plates into the DMV location listed on your application. 

Special Restrictions

It is important to remember that the state of California reserves the right to reject any special interest license. The DMV panel review license plate applications and rejects those that are deemed offensive or inappropriate. If your application is rejected, you will be refunded the money and informed of the reason for rejection. The DMV keeps a system to document reported license plates that are already approved and are seen as inappropriate by others. Despite the DMV’s restrictions on foul or inappropriate language, many Californians still send in the most outrageous license requests. 

The DMV does not allow duplicate license plates, so if someone has already registered the license plate you will not be able to choose that option. This also prohibits replacing letters with numbers or vice versa, especially if it closely resembles the license plate of another. So, you can not register a personalized license plate for “N1CE” if someone already obtains “NICE” as their license plate number. Though you may be interested in a creative and unique license plate, failure to comply with the DMV’s restriction will result in the rejection of your application. 

If you would like to receive your very own special interest license plate, check out the DMV Website for more information. Remember that special interest license plates belong to the owner, not the vehicle, so if you choose to sell your vehicle the license plates are yours to keep. 







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