California License Plates

California license plates come in a variety of designs, often featuring iconic state symbols and slogans. Plates must display specific registration tags and stickers according to California vehicle laws. Vanity plates with customized letter and number combinations are popular extras. Read on to learn more about legal plate requirements, fees, special issues for electric vehicles, and more related to California license plates.

What do classic black plates, whale tail plates, and exempt license plates have in common? They’re all uniquely Californian. Learn more about the quirks and must-knows regarding California plates, from costs to electric vehicle policies to customized designs.

Are Plates Legal In California?

All road vehicles in California must display valid license plates on both the front and rear of the car. The plates must contain an identifying mix of letters, numbers, symbols, registration tags, and renewal stickers that follow state regulations. Operating a vehicle without properly registered and formatted license plates in California is illegal. Fines commonly reach $200+ for a first offense, and vehicles without compliant plates can be impounded. Keeping plates up to date and clearly visible is crucial for all California drivers.

What Plate Is Closest To California?

Of the 50 U.S. states, the license plate most similar in design to California’s is likely Arizona’s. Both feature a reflective white background with the state name written across the top. Letters and numbers follow in sequence underneath in black or blue print. However, while California plates can display a custom message after the identifying numbers, Arizona plates show the year followed by county or city codes instead. Both must include validating registration stickers and tags. But California offers more creative customization options overall.  

Does California Have Two License Plates?

Yes, California state law requires that two license plates be displayed on all vehicles – one on the front and one on the rear. The rear plate shows the full license plate number sequence and any personalized customizations chosen during registration. Meanwhile, the front plate displays the identifying plate number but omits customized name options. This two-plate mandate grew from law enforcement concerns over capturing complete plate data from passing cars or front-end collisions.

While Arizona and other states only mandate back plates, California explicitly requires both a front and back plate. Any California resident who fails to properly mount these two legal plates risks consequences like fines and impoundment.  

What License Plate Number Is California On?

What License Plate Number Is California On?

As the most populous state in the U.S., California has utilized vast sequences of license plate numbers over the years. In late 2022, new passenger car plates were up to approximately 9AAE999 in their numbering sequence. Meanwhile, plates issued in the last decade or two likely fall somewhere in the 6, 7, or 8-million ID ranges.

With specialty plates, all-numeric commercial plates, and other variations, specific plate numbers at any time depend on type. But California’s sheer size means that the numbering sequences on standard plates are always advancing into the millions to meet registration demand.

What Plate Is In California?

Several license plate designs qualify as legal issue in current California. Standard plates feature a white reflective background with blue letters, numbers, and graphic accents. Specialty plates exhibit colorful, symbol-laden themes highlighting state attractions. Commercial plates use all-numeric sequences. Legacy black and yellow plates remain valid for classic cars. Whatever the design, all plates must display expiration stickers, registration tags, front and rear matching numbers, and legible print to remain street legal in California.

Related this Post: How Can I Get A Black California License Plate?

What Symbols Can Be Used On A License Plate In California?

Personalized vanity license plates allow California drivers to feature their choice of letters, numbers, and approved symbols. Accepted symbols include dashes, spaces, periods, hearts, stars, plus signs, small images of a handicap logo, and more. However, plates cannot include symbols that may be found offensive. The California DMV prohibits certain symbols they feel could divert attention, including punctuation like question marks or exclamation points. All vanity plate designs must pass a DMV screening. So while symbols are allowed as accents, choices are still restricted compared to plain letter and number customizations.

What A California License Plate Means?

A California license plate contains coded information used to identify and register specific vehicles within the state. The plate’s letter and number sequence ties to the vehicle’s record in the DMV database. This allows law enforcement and agencies to access the vehicle’s registered owner, renewals status, fees paid, and more based on the plate. Special markings like stickers and tags must properly display this status. Additionally, graphic details often highlight state pride and landscapes. So the plate as a whole serves to validate compliance, enable vehicle identification, and exhibit classic state scenery all in one eye-catching package.

What Is A Ca Exempt Plate?

Vehicles with specialized non-commercial functions in California often receive Permanent Trailer Identification plates instead of regular registration. Also called CA exempt plates, these options are typically reserved for fixed-load equipment like small utility trailers, construction tools, generators, or cranes. To qualify, owners must file extensive paperwork proving full-time operational usage. If approved, these units pay lower one-time fees instead of needing continuous registration renewals. Exempt plates only allow limited work-related travel, never public roads. The “EXPMT” marked plates signal this special exempt status to law enforcement.

Is Los Angeles On A Plate?

While the city name “Los Angeles” itself does not currently feature on any California license plate designs, some specialty plates do showcase classic LA-area attractions. Examples include plates with scenic images of the Hollywood sign, Animation Studio legends Disney and Warner Brothers, or a surfer graphic labeled “Santa Monica Mountains.” Additionally, black and yellow throwback plates celebrating CA’s classic car culture likely picture vintage LA cruising. So even without an overt city name shoutout, Los Angeles’ quintessential sights, industries, natural landscapes and history inspire elements of several commemorative California plate themes available by special order.

Why Do Tesla’s Have No License Plates?

Tesla vehicles often forgo front license plates due to potential obstruction with sensor systems. Tesla’s autopilot and safety features utilize various cameras and sensors on vehicle fronts. While rear plates remain fully mandatory, California law allows flexibility regarding suitable front plate mounting on electric vehicles. Owners must still carry proof of registration.

But concerns over blocking systems justify this exemption, provided drivers take alternate steps to identify cars when needed. As electric vehicles advance, exemptions for plates, toll transponders, carpool access and more adapt legal flexibility around evolving technologies.  

Does A Tesla Need A Front License Plate?

Does A Tesla Need A Front License Plate?

Unlike standard California cars which require both rear and front plates, Tesla models have some legal flexibility regarding front plates obstructing sensors. While Tesla’s must still display rear California plates as usual along with registration stickers and tags, owners can apply for exemptions if they lack suitable front mounting areas that avoid blocking sensors.

This aims to enable testing of autopilot camera technologies. Owners must carry alternate registration proofs inside vehicles when relying on sensor-related exemptions. So long as sensory features remain potentially hindered, legal allowances permit Tesla’s to forgo front license plates in California.

How Much Is A License Plate In California?

Basic registration fees for new passenger vehicle license plates in California fall around $60 when combining state and local DMV charges. Standard plates have a one-time $53 fee if keeping the same sequential number over vehicle changes, while vanity plates with customized messages cost $98 initially plus pricier renewal rates. Add-ons like plate reservation or special environmental designs increase fees further.

Replacement plates for damaged or aging versions require $31 including stickers and tags. With fees scaling based on plate type ordered during registration, costs typically range $31-$150+ per vehicle to receive legal CA license plates.

What Letters Are Not Used On License Plates In California?

When issuing new sequential license plate numbers, the California DMV’s system does not utilize the letters I, O, or Q. This aims to prevent confusion with similar looking numbers or punctuation like 1, 0, or ‘?’. However, the excluded letters may still appear on specialty vanity plate designs if explicitly requested by owners during registration.

Since vanity plates allow paying customers to customize full letter and number combinations with approved symbols and formats, the DMV plate coding system can accommodate those three letters in paid vanity plates. But to maximize legibility in plates randomly assigned in sequence, I’s, O’s, and Q’s cannot be issued.

Do California License Plates Use Zeros?

Unlike other states, California license plates traditionally do not use leading zeroes on standard plate numbers. While any position in a plate sequence can feature zeros, DMV systems automatically drop unneeded leading zeros to minimize character volume. However, this is not the case with all-numeric commercial plates randomly generated through a distinct coding sequence containing leading zeroes by necessity of format.

Is It Legal To Put License Plate On Dashboard In California?

No, displaying a license plate inside a vehicle on the dashboard or front window rather than properly mounted externally is illegal in California. State law explicitly requires license plates to be clearly visible and securely fastened to the exterior front and rear of all vehicles at all times, with specific height, angle, and light reflection standards.

The only exception is when drivers have been granted special exemptions for front plates due to obstruction of sensory equipment on electric vehicles. Outside of this narrow allowance, all non-commercial vehicles must prominently display both legal plates externally to remain street legal.

Are Black License Plates With White Letters Legal In California?

Yes, California’s iconic legacy license plate design of black plates with white letters and numbers remains legal for model year vehicles from 1969 and earlier. This plate style holds special nostalgia for golden era cars still driving state roads today. As this throwback design diverges from more modern white plates with blue or black characters, these OG black and white plates signal a vintage vehicle in California. To keep these classics road ready, registered owners can maintain and renew the iconic plates alongside their historical registration status and enjoyed freedoms from smog checks.


With unique plate styles spanning black legacy plates to whale tail graphics to Tesla sensor exemptions, California’s license plate offerings showcase state history and innovations. All vehicles on public roads must display front and rear plates with proper registration stickers and visible positioning. Understanding plate codes, costs, electric vehicle allowances, vanity plate customs, and other quirks of California license plates ensures drivers follow proper registration laws.

Whether keeping a classic car road ready with old school plates or curious about the 7-digit blue numbering on the latest plate design, these recognizable plates make a statement wherever California dreamin’ takes you.

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